By Greg B. Have you ever eaten so much pizza that it has become boring? I have. Well, to be honest, it’s not so boring, as I am almost totally satiated on it. And living next to/hanging out at Zella’s Pizzeria has been great, the beer selection is well thought out, the food is delicious, but after a year of this… I just wanted something more. And through this year, I’ve been thinking a lot about pizza, toppings, sauces (Zella’s has a roasted red pepper sauce… it’s amazing) and how they work together to create that delicious entity we think of at ‘pizza’. And in my research, I’ve also seen many different varieties of pizza, throughout the country. Coupled with this, a buddy of mine, Dan (you may remember him as the photographer of the Spiegelau beer glasses and the German Polka hall, Blob’s park here in MD) has been experimenting with different pizza styles, dough recipes and ways of cooking them (in particular, the grill). With so many pizza resources around, it’s no wonder the pizza sphere was thought of.
I don’t exactly recall how or when I got the idea for a spherical pizza. It must have happened in one of those crazy moments where the brain just imagines and combines things so common and typical, but in a brand new way, like the bacon pinata. But once this idea stuck, I couldn’t forget it. I mulled it over for a few weeks, joked among friends (they must have thought I was a bit insane), but finally I got the ingredients together, got organized, and set out to make a spherical pizza. With the my 7th grade memories of earth science and the general structure of this planet in my head, I think Dan and I created some new terminology, and perhaps, Baltimore’s newest style of food. But, like Carl Sagan said, in order to make apple pie from scratch, you must first create the universe. In this case, we created all the ingredients from near-really-scratch (using what the universe gave me, mostly), and received a generous gift of a doughball from Zella’s Pizzeria.
Sauce (magma?) Ingredients:
- 1 can (35oz) peeled tomatoes
- 1 can (12oz) tomato paste
- 1/3 cup water
- 3 cloves garlic, diced
- ~ 6 Fresh basil leaves
- ~ 1/4 cup fresh oregano
- pinch of salt and black pepper
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- 1 tablespoon crushed red pepper (optional, for those who want some heat!)
Dice the garlic while the olive oil heats up in the pot. Brown the garlic, remove from heat and add the can of peeled tomatoes. Using a potato masher, mash the tomatoes, add the water and the can of tomato paste. Then add the remaining ingredients, add a top to the pot and simmer for 1-2 hours, or until nice and thick. Taste occasionally, season and spice as wanted. My Italian roommate informed me that this was not how Italians made pizza sauce, as that remains uncooked until the pizza is cooked, but I didn’t listen to her, and for good reason (keep reading).
Pizza Sphere’s Inner, Solid Meatcore:
- 1.5lbs ground pork
- 1lb 80/20 ground beef
- 3 diced garlic cloves
- ~5 diced basil leaves
- ~1/2 cup fresh oregano
- salt/pepper to taste
- 1/2 diced red onion
I experimented with several sizes of meatcores, as I had yet to built a pizza sphere and was unsure about the amount and size of raw materials it would require. So, I combined the two different meats thoroughly by hand, mixed in the spices (Could have used more salt than I added), heated a pan with oil and slowly cooked the meatcores until cooked inside (I used a larger, misshapen meatcore as the cooked-ness tester) and then set them aside.
Pizza Sphere’s outer, less-solid grilled veggiecore:
Every good pizza has a good topping. But the intriguing difference with the pizza sphere is it has no real ‘toppings’, as they will be internalized. So, the planet earth has a core that consists of a liquid outer core and a solid inner core. Thus, the grilled veggie outer core was decided upon as a topping! Grilled red, green and orange peppers, red and yellow onions and yellow squash all went into this medley of grilled vegetables which were grilled, chilled, charred skins removed and veggies used. But what would hold them in place around the meatcore?
Pizza Sphere’s Bacon Tapestry:
Solution! What good would a crazy innovation be without bacon? The answer was deceptively simple. Weave 1lb of bacon together, then bake in the oven at 350F until cooked, but not cooked enough to be crispy (it still had to be pliable!). Bacon weaves are easy, and in this case I got a 40% less fat bacon (no more bacon fires for me if I can help it!). Simply lay out 10 strips of bacon in one direction (be sure to alternate the sides of the bacon, one end of the length tends to be thicker than the other, so just make sure the 10 strips alternate at the ends thick-thin-thick-thin, etc). Then weave another 10 strands in. Bake, remove, let cool a little bit.
Pizza Sphere’s Cheese Mantle:
While the very inner core of the pizza sphere had to be cooked before final assembly, the outer layers would probably receive some heat and be able to cook on their own. This being said, I wanted a uniform distribution of the cheese mantle inside my pizza sphere! So, I took 1lb of whole milk mozzarella cheese, sliced it thin and layed out a large rectangular-ish shape on a baking tray covered in aluminum. Make sure the cheese overlaps a bit. Bake a few minutes, or until the mozzarella melts and becomes one large sheet of cheese. Try not to cook it, but melt it together. Remove and let cool until pliable and you can easily peel it off the aluminum in one piece without ripping it.
Pizza Sphere’s Outer Crust:
What would a planet-like pizza sphere be without a crust? And while I am not the best baker or dough maker around, the people at Zella’s are. Using ground cornmeal, we spread out the dough as best we could (with Dan even performing the classic toss-the-pizza-in-the-air method). The stage was not set for creating the pizza sphere.
Given the fact that this sphere was huge, we really had no option but to grill it. So, I lit my charcoal and let it get nice and hot, a 2-3 briquettes thick layer, the entire grill over. Once we had good coals, we combined the elements together.
Second, cover the cheese mantle in your sauce. Place the bacon/veggie/meatcore in the center, and again, roll everything up.
Third, cover your dough in sauce, then place the cheese mantle/sauce/bacon tapestry/veggie/meatcore in the middle and roll up.
Fourth, roll out some aluminum foil, cover the dough in foil. This wont be on the grill long, but the aluminum will help it hold shape for the time being (in the future, I want to fry this).
OK, so this is a slightly difficult part… cooking time. We tended to use our olfactory senses here. Standing in the cold, we placed the spherical pizza on the grill, added the cover, and stood around enjoying a beer while the pizza sphere cooked. And we cooked it essentially until we smelled ‘burning’, which wasn’t really a bad metric, as a well cooked pizza may have a few darker portions of the crust. Then we flipped the pizza, waited again a few moments and brought it in to check it out. Turns out, it was cooking perfectly on the grill in the aluminum. So we brought it back out and kept rotating and cooking, until all ‘sides’ had roughly been in contact with the grill. Also, some of the crust had cooked and cracked, allowing the molten cheese mantle to ooze out and begin to catch fire on the grill. We brought an end to our pizza volcanism, and brought it inside.
The pizza was a masterpiece. Not only had it worked many times better than I had anticipated, but when I gave the pizza sphere that famous 1/8 sphere removed slice image that we’ve all seen of the core of the earth, it gave a beautiful image of the inside of the pizza sphere, layers easily identifiable. The pizza was also equally delicious to eat. The sauce was a bit spicy, which helped balance out some of the fats from the meats. The grilled vegetables brought a nice sweet element to the inner meat sections, and the crust was grilled, smoky and flaky on the outside. I couldn’t have asked for a better meat sphere!
Pizza Sphere Ideas – The Future -
While this may be an excellent choice for a Superbowl food, I’ve been thinking about making a smaller, more personal sized sphere. Maybe the size of a baseball (this sphere is 1.8kb/3.96lbs in weight… the size of a bowling ball!). This way they could be deep fried with ease, keeping a more uniform sphere shape and more uniform cooking. So stay tuned for this idea to see if it comes to fruition! As for beers to pair with this, I had a few bottles of Troegs Nugget Nectar, which might be one of the best overall ‘pizza’ beers around. Malty enough to match the carbs, hopped enough to cut any fat and sauce to refresh the palatte, this beer has come in handy for food pairings a number of times and for the pizza sphere, it appears to be a great match. And so, in the words of my buddy Jon, “late night drunken snacking just entered the world of spherical deliciousness’. I certainly hope so