This is a take on the classic Italian pizza with fresh basil, whole milk buffalo mozzarella (yes, from a water buffalo) baked in a woodfire oven and topped with fresh torn basil leaves. Even if you don’t have a woodfire pizza oven, the Baking Steel allows you to cook at temperatures similar to a blazing hot woodfire oven inside in a traditional oven that sears the dough. The secret to great pizza is the speed at which the dough cooks and a Baking Steel mimics the super high temperature of the stone of a woodfired pizza oven minus the smoky house.

1 baseball sized tomato, sliced

3 tablespoons olive oil

Pinch of salt

Pinch of pepper

Pinch Italian herb seasoning

Prepared pizza crust

¼ cup red sauce

8 ¼-inch slices full-fat buffalo mozzarella

8 fresh basil leaves

4 teaspoons olive oil, divided

1 teaspoon fresh black pepper

2 tablespoons shredded provolone

Additional fresh basil leaves

First make the candied tomatoes. I used Cherokee Purple heirloom tomatoes. This recipe works with any heirloom tomato that is meat and less watery. Slice into half inch slices. Place the slices on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. Drizzle 3 tablespoons olive oil over the tomatoes, followed by pinch of salt and pepper. Sprinkle a pinch Italian herb spice over each tomato. Bake for 1 ½ hours at 300 degrees.

On your pizza peel, sprinkle wheat flour or cornmeal under the prepared crust. Spread the pizza crust on the peel. For this recipe I used a prepared pizza crust. Layer ¼ cup red sauce on the crust, stopping about 1 inch from the edge. Place 8 ¼-inch slices of buffalo mozzarella on the pizza. Layer with 8 fresh basil leaves on each mozzarella slice. Drizzle 2 teaspoons olive oil over the pizza and sprinkle fresh ground black pepper. Sprinkle additional layer of shredded provolone over the top of the pizza. Then, layer the sliced candied tomatoes on top last. Bake in 800 degree woodfire pizza oven, turning at appropriate times near the fire to cook evenly — about 3 minutes. When removed from oven, drizzle remaining 2 teaspoons olive oil over the outer crust. Add additional fresh basil leaves, then cut and serve.

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Written by Chef John O'Neil

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