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Eric Akis: Sunny days call for pizza on the grill

Rounds of pizza dough are grilled on one side, inverted onto a work surface, topped, and then set back on the barbecue until hot, cooked and delicious
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Tasty pizza, with a smoky, lightly charred crust, cooked on a barbecue. ERIC AKIS

I was making homemade pizza last weekend and the weather was warm, so I decided to cook it outdoors. I did not do that in a wood-fired pizza oven, because I don’t have one. But like many folks, I do have a barbecue, a place where you can tastily grill a pizza, which is what I did.

The trickiest part is getting the pliable round of pizza dough flat on the grill, but the tips below will guide you. Once grilled a few minutes on one side, you then transfer the now easier to move pizza crust to a work surface, setting it grilled side up. That side of the pizza is then adorned with your preferred toppings.

The next step is to turn one side of the barbecue off, and leave the other side set to medium-high. You then carefully set the topped pizza on the unlit side of the barbecue, close the lid and cook it until the cheese is melted and the dough is cooked, lightly charred and has a pleasing smoky taste.

I made my own dough and provided a recipe, but you could also use store-bought pizza dough, if desired. I did not give exact measurements for most of the toppings, just suggestions on what you could use to create a fine tasting pizza, according to your tastes.

How to grill a pizza

1. Preheat barbecue to medium-high, about 400 F in the chamber. Once your pizza dough has been formed into a round, brush the top of it lightly with olive oil. Grab on to the two corners of dough closest to you and, in one motion, as you would when placing a tablecloth on a table; lay it down flat on the grill. Don’t worry if the dough is not perfectly shaped. Grill dough two to three minutes, until the bottom is golden and has grill marks.

2. Set pizza, grilled side up, on a baking pan or wide plate, and then top with sauce, cheese and other desired toppings.

3. Turn one side of the barbecue off; leave the other side set to medium-high. Carefully set the topped pizza on the unlit side of the barbecue. Close the lid and cook eight to 10 minutes, until cheese is melted and dough is cooked.

Grilled Pizza

Rounds of pizza dough are grilled on one side, inverted onto a work surface, topped, and then set back on the barbecue until hot, cooked and delicious. Recipe could be doubled or further expanded.

Preparation time: 30 minutes

Cooking: 10 to 15 minutes per pizza

Makes: two (nine- to 10-inch) pizzas

1 homemade (see Recipe below) or store-bought (1 lb.) pizza dough

• all-purpose flour, for shaping the dough

• olive oil

• 2/3 to 1 cup tomato sauce, strained tomatoes (passata) or pizza sauce, or to taste

2 cups grated mozzarella cheese, or to taste

• assorted sliced, diced, cooked and/or crumbled toppings, to taste, such as bell peppers, mushrooms, zucchini, roasted vegetables, caramelized onions, pepperoni, Italian sausage, prosciutto, goat cheese, fresh basil or oregano, arugula, sun-dried tomatoes, olives, cherry tomatoes, red pepper flakes and/or pesto

Preheat barbecue to medium-high, about 400 F in the chamber. Lightly flour a work surface. Cut pizza dough in half. Flour your hands and press and form each half piece of dough into anine- to 10-inch round. Set each round on its own wide plate or baking pan. Lightly brush the top of each dough with olive oil, and then bring out to the barbecue.

Grab on to two corners of one of the rounds of dough, the corners closest to you, and in one motion, as you would when placing a tablecloth on a table, lay it, oiled-side-down, flat on the grill. Don’t worry if it’s no longer perfectly round in shape.

Grill for two to three minutes, or until the bottom of the dough is richly coloured and has grill marks. Transfer this pizza crust back to the plate or pan, setting it grilled side up. Repeat these steps with the other round of pizza dough.

Spread one of the grilled pizza crusts with sauce, and then top with mozzarella cheese and your other desired toppings.

Turn the heat off one side of your barbecue; leave the other side set at medium-high. Carefully set the pizza on the unlit side of the barbecue. Close the lid and cook eight to 10 minutes, or until the cheese is melted and the dough is puffed and cooked. Top the other pizza crust while the first one cooks.

When the first pizza is cooked, check the bottom of the dough and if you would like it more richly coloured, slide the pizza to the lit side of the barbecue and cook one minute more.

Transfer the cooked pizza to a cutting board. Set the next pizza on the barbecue to cook while you cut and eat the first one.

Pizza Dough

This pizza dough, made in a stand mixer, can be used for the grilled pizza recipe above.

Preparation: five minutes, plus dough rising time

Cooking time: none

Makes: dough for two grilled pizza

2/3 cup lukewarm (not hot) water

1 tsp active dry (traditional) yeast

1/2 tsp granulated sugar

1 Tbsp + 1 tsp olive oil

1 1/2 to 2 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 tsp salt

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook, combine water, yeast and sugar. Let stand five minutes. Now mix in 1 Tbsp olive oil. Add 1 1/2 cups of flour and mix on medium speed until dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl. If it’s still quite sticky, gradually mix in some of the remaining flour until it does pull away from the sides of the bowl. Add the salt and mix and knead dough five minutes.

Grease a deep bowl with 1 tsp olive oil, set dough in it, cover and let rise at warm room temperature until doubled in size, about 75 minutes. The dough is ready to use.

eakis@timescolonist.com

Eric Akis is the author of eight cookbooks. His columns appear in the Life section Wednesday and Sunday.