In my experience when our customers first see the traditional wood-fired oven on the patio of our teaching kitchen, their first question is typically, “Is that a pizza oven?”
The short answer to that question is always yes, but the more simple truth is: It’s really just an oven. What I mean is this: Anything you cook indoors in your home oven can be cooked in a wood-fired oven.
And while ovens are a major convenience in today’s kitchens, they are not considered a modern convenience. In fact, archeologists have found various types of earth and clay ovens dating back to over 20,000 years ago, but the major empires of the Mediterranean Sea, namely Egypt, Greece and Italy, are where we find the best examples of our inspiration for modern wood-fired ovens.
It is in Italy, in the ruins of Pompeii, that you will find unearthed domed ovens that stood at the center of homes and as the focal point of public gathering spaces. These intricate clay brick ovens are incredibly well-engineered, and are the basis for the modern refractory brick ovens you’ll see in restaurants and the backyards of serial entertainers alike.
On this week’s Cooking with Fire, my co-host Chef Tom Jackson and I will be tackling the foods of Italy, discussing how the country has evolved and developed cooking in wood-fired ovens over the centuries. From roasting meats, to baking dessert, to yes, even pizza, we’ll explore how these wood-fired ovens have stood at the center of Italian cuisine for thousands of years.
- 325g warm water (110 degrees F)
- 5g dry active yeast
- 500g Antimo Caputo "00" flour
- 10g salt
- Pour the warm water into the bowl of a stand mixer. Sprinkle the yeast over the water. Add the flour, then the salt. With the mixer fitted with the hook attachment, mix on medium-low until flour is incorporated (1-2 minutes). Once all ingredients are incorporated and a ball is formed, mix 8 minutes.
- Transfer to an oiled bowl. Cover with plastic wrap. Let rise until doubled in size.
- Turn out onto a floured surface and divide into three portions. Roll each third into a ball, place in an oiled container. Cover. Refrigerate at least half an hour before use.
- 1 (28 oz) can Strianese San Marzano Tomatoes
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 tablespoons fresh basil, minced
- 1 1/2 tablespoons sugar
- 1 1/2 teaspoon salt
- Combine ingredients. Bring to a simmer. Simmer 10 minutes. Taste and adjust seasoning.