Holy Smoke! That's a wood-fired oven

Holy Smoke! That's a wood-fired oven

Pizza. This true Italian delicacy was originally made with thin crust and baked in a wood-fired oven allowing for prolonged heating from the floor and making the dish rich with flavours of coal. Today, flavours of mango, apple and even strawberry can be relished in it! 

The method is simple and the story interesting, dating back to the origin of the thin crust pizza. Until the late nineteenth or early twentieth century, pizza was sweet, not savoury with topping of honey or sugar. The present-day pizza originated in Naples. “In 1889, Queen Margherita, visited Italy’s third largest city where the chef thought of presenting her with a new dish. He rolled the dough very thin, added tomato sauce, tomatoes, basil leaves and mozzarella cheese to it and cooked it in a traditional wood-fired oven. These toppings represented the red, green and white colours of the Italian flag. When it was presented to the Queen, she enquired the name of the dish and the chef replied, ‘Since it is specially made for you, it is Pizza Margherita,” informs Chef Dheeraj Mangothra of Drool Kitchen.

The true story reflects the trend of wood-fired oven pizzas which are now becoming popular in Delhi restaurants too. The Pan American or PAN pizza was more popular among Delhiites who prefer thick pizza base but tastes are changing now. More so, because the need for a healthy option is ruling the minds of gourmands and subsequently, chefs.

“For thin crust pizza, a very thin rolled crust with less or no cheese is cooked in woodfired oven at 270 degrees. The best part about a wood-fired oven is that one can use different woods – mango, apple, strawberry or bamboo in it and each gives a distinct flavour to the pizza,” says Chef Naval Kishore of Cocoa House. The smoky flavours add to the taste of vegetables!

The wood-fired oven pizzas are gaining popularity because of these flavours and because they are light to eat. “Authentically, wood-fired oven pizzas are made with whole wheat rather than refined which make them healthier,” shares Chef Antonio, who is also into manufacturing wood-fired ovens. “One can also make pies (like American pie, apple pie and Italian banana pie) and bake garlic and other breads in this oven.”

Chef Dheeraj experiments with this oven in his kitchen to make beer canned chicken. “Insert an inverted can of beer in the hollow side of whole chicken after marination and then keep it in wood fired oven. The beer is absorbed by the chicken which becomes succulent with smoky flavours!”

“The request for wood-fired ovens has increased by 80 per cent in the last year in Delhi and almost every new restaurant wants to install one. But the belief that these ovens can only be used for cooking Italian dishes is incorrect as Indian kebabs cooked in wood-fired ovens taste smokier and better. The cost incurred in a wood-fired oven is much less than the usage of gas because the oven allows the heat to remain long after the fire dies out,” Chef Antonio sums up.

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