Making Pizza by Ben Hoffman

September 18th, 2015 - Posted by

My life has been focused around two main goals over the last decade: winning Ironman Hawaii and building amazing pizzas.

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Generally speaking, winning a world title is probably a fair bit harder, but that doesn’t mean that it creating thin crust masterpieces has come without some trial and error. Burned crust? Many times. Over-saucing and over-topping leading to sogginess? Definitely. The perfect pizza? Still in pursuit, but getting closer…

 

The pizza is one of my favorite foods, and often my pre-race meal. Almost every city and country has this staple on tap if you are traveling, and most of the ingredients are readily available if you want to build your own. It certainly ranks as a bit of a “comfort food,” but it can be fairly healthy, and sometimes that comfort and familiarity is helpful in calming pre-race nerves. Finally, this is pizza I’m talking about, people. Do I really need to say much more…?

 

So what have I learned in my many years of pursuing the perfect pizza? Just call Domino’s! Just kidding. Here’s a few rules to follow, and some instructuons for the way I make most of my pizzas now:

 

  1. Get a pizzaIMG_8685 stone. Although this isn’t the way I have been cooking my pizzas lately, it’s a great kitchen utensil to own, and will bake a pizza more evenly and quickly. Emile Henry out of France would be my suggestion.
  2. Make your own crust. This adds a little time, but it’s seriously easy to do and worth it. If you don’t have time or the inclination, stop at a local pizza place to buy some of theirs (most places will do this), or purchase pre-made dough at the grocery.
  3. Get creative, or keep it simple, but make sure things are fresh. We grow our own basil and tomatoes for margherita pizzas, and have even made our own sauces (still perfecting this one…).
  4. Generally speaking, hotter than you might think is better. For the oven, I aim for 450, and for the grill, closer to 500-550. Depending on your altitude, pizza construction, etc., this will vary a bit, but that’s part of the fun and challenge.
  5. From learning to toss and stretch your pizza dough to the optimal thickness, to spreading the right amount of sauce and ingredients, pay attention to what works and what doesn’t. I would generally say less is more. As in, aim for thinner crust, less sauce, and fewer ingredients.

 

 

My current “pursuit of pizza perfection” has led me to the following recipe, found online at:

http://www.thekitchn.com/how-to-grill-pizza-cooking-lessons-from-thekitchn-120920

 

As always, feel free to adjust as you see necessary… Experimentation can lead to great things!

 

When you grill pizza, you need to have everything ready to go — all the toppings, the sauce, the cheese. This is because the key to pizza on the grill is to top the pizza after you’ve put it on the grill. It also helps if you cook the dough for a minute or two, flip it, and then top it.

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What You Need

Ingredients
1 ball pizza dough (about 1 pound), store-bought or homemade
1/2 to 1 cup tomato sauce, store-bought or homemade
Cheese such as torn mozzarella, grated Asiago or Swiss, and grated Parmesan
Toppings such as herbs, thinly sliced vegetables, pepperoni and salami, prosciutto, chopped greens such as kale, or diced tomatoes
Olive oil

Equipment
Grill, gas or charcoal
Brush
Metal tongs
Metal spatula

Instructions

  1. Heat the grill: You should heat it quite hot;my grill was about 600°F with the lid on while baking this particular pizza. Aim for at least 550°F. If you have a choice on your grill between direct and indirect heat, set it up so the pizza is over direct heat.
  2. Gather your ingredients and toppings:Set up a table or bench near the grill so you have easy access to everything. Good grilled pizza is as much about the organization and logistics as it is about actual cooking!
  3. Also have your tools close to hand:You will want a pair of long metal tongs. A spatula may be helpful, although not absolutely necessary. You may want a hot pad or oven mitt if your grill lid gets hot.
  4. Prep your dough:It should be stretched or rolled out into a thin circle. (Circle-ish — as you can see, my pizzas usually resemble continents more than they do the moon!)
  5. Brush the dough with olive oil: Brush one side of the dough with oil; this is the side you’ll lay down on the grill.
  6. Grill one side of the pizza: Take the lid off the grill. Lay the dough round on the grill with theolive-oil side down. Brush the top of the dough with a thin layer of olive oil, too. Let the dough cook for about 3 minutes, with the lid off, or 1 to 2 minutes with the lid on. Use the tongs to lift up the dough from time to time, checking on how it is doing. You want grill marks on it, but you don’t want the dough to get crispy; it should be just set.
  7. Top the pizza: Flip the dough over with the tongs or spatula. The dough should come up easily and flip without tearing. Now is where your organization comes in! You need to top the pizza quickly. Spread on a thin layer of sauce, some cheese, and toppings. It shouldn’t be too heavily loaded, or the pizza won’t cook well.
  8. Cook the pizza: Put the lid on and cook for 3 to 5 minutes. Use your sense of smell; if the pizza smells like it’s scorching, take the lid off and move the pizza to a cooler part of the grill or turn the heat down.
  9. Remove the finished pizza: Remove the lid and check the pizza. The edges should be crisp and well-done, and the cheese should all be melted. Drag the pizza off with the spatula or tongs. Let cool for 3 minutes, then cut into pieces and eat!

Recipe NotesIMG_8687

  • Every grill is different! You know your grill and it cooks differently than mine. Your pizza may take longer or shorter depending on how hot the grill gets and where your areas of direct and indirect heat are. Consider your first pizza a sacrifice to learning just how to control your grill temperature.
  • Cooking times will vary! On that same note, of course, you need to keep an eye on the heat. This method works perfectly every time on my own grill, but the timing depends on how thin you stretch your dough, and how hot your grill gets. Flipping the dough gives you an extra measure of control and certainty, though, that the crust will be cooked through by the time your toppings have melted and warmed.

-Ben Hoffman

www.benhoffmanracing.com

@bhoffmanracing

What’s for Dinner? By Kelly Williamson

August 18th, 2015 - Posted by
What's for Dinner? By Kelly Williamson
One of the most common questions I get when talking to fellow athletes is that of my diet. People always want to know what I eat when racing (fairly simple, a lot of gels), but also what our diet looks like regularly. Do we eat gluten free or vegan? Do I eat 6,000 calories a day? What do I eliminate, especially going into races? How strictly do we eat?

 

I always enjoy this topic because, while my husband Derick and I eat very healthy, we also eat balanced and we make it a goal to enjoy what we consume. To answer the above: No, we do not eat gluten-free. I’ve never tried eating vegan, but never had much of an interest. I did ‘think’ I was gluten-intolerant about 9 years ago when I was having some stomach issues. I eliminated my evening beer for a few days, then I came home one night with a 6-pk of beer in hand. Derick asked me what I was doing with it. My response was, “Yeah, I don’t think it’s the gluten.” (Some self-control, right? Turned out, I had gallstones and later had my gall bladder removed! Poof..stomach issues resolved!) I have no idea how many calories a day I eat; I don’t count them. I don’t eliminate anything, regularly or as I head into big races. I figure there are enough other stressors; no need to deprive myself of the things I enjoy (such as coffee, chocolate, ice cream and good beer); especially if I know they directly are not going to negatively impact performance. I would not say we are strict with our diet; but we eat ‘consciously’. I try to focus on assuring that I get enough calories, protein and good quality foods, especially after workouts; but at the same time I listen to my body and eat more when hungry and a bit less when I feel full. I’m a huge fan of fresh lemon in water, which I can sip on most of the day. One weakness I have is that I am a meal eater. I grew up in a family that ate 3 meals a day. I like to be hungry for meals, and enjoy them. I often don’t need a lot of snacks because often times, I’m wrapping up a workout right before a meal; so in lieu of a ‘recovery smoothie’, I often just go straight for a full meal. Derick and I often realize we probably eat healthier than we think, because any time we travel, we find we come home craving our usual staples; good coffee in the morning, a solid breakfast, avocado/veggie/turkey sandwiches for lunch, dark greens, salmon…and of course our favorite indulgences to stay balanced.
What's for Dinner? By Kelly Williamson
 
On this note, I wanted to share with y’all one of our favorite go-to dinners. Almost every night we have a massive salad, which includes some mixture of the following:
Dark greens (spinach, kale, and/or swiss chard) – Berries (often blueberries and raspberries) and/or Apple – Red onion – Nuts (pecans, almonds, walnuts or sunflower seeds) – Quality cheese (fresh soft mozzarella or goat cheese) – topped with a vinegar based dressing and a creamier dressing (my favorites are Briannas Blush Wine Vinaigrette and Delmonico’s Ranch). I’ll always add beets if we have them cooked up. I love lots of color and variety among veggies, fruits, nuts and cheese. 

 

Derick has affectionately termed these “Kelly Salads” and he would like to see me start selling them. I just see them as dinner! This is always ‘part’ of our meal, rarely the entire meal. We often make ‘quinoa bowls’, which include:
Quinoa (cooked in chicken broth to add flavor) – Chopped bell peppers – Garlic and onion – Chicken sausage (often a flavored kind, Aidells makes some great ones especially spinach and feta or habanero and green chili; Open Nature is very good as well) – topped with a bit of shredded cheese. And you can easily get creative with these; toss in tomatoes, black beans, avocado, or whatever else you prefer. 

 

Of course, no lunch or dinner is complete to me without something sweet. After lunch it may be some sea salt dark chocolate (Lindt makes a great one and pretty inexpensive) or a chocolate chip cookie, and after dinner most nights I have a small bowl of ice cream. Actually, who am I kidding; every night I eat ice cream. My favorite is cookies and cream with some peanut butter mixed in.

 

When I begin to prepare dinner, I love to open a good beer, relax, and slowly start the preparation process; often after taking our pup for his evening play, it means the day is done, and whether it was good or bad; it’s time to put it behind you and settle in to the evening. While we often prepare simple meals, I find that after all the workouts and the ‘going’ all day long, the process of dinner prep is one of the most relaxing times of the day when Derick and I can turn on some good music, catch up and often talk about things non-triathlon related. When your husband is also your coach, this is something we both often crave! 

-Kelly Williamson
kellyhwilliamson.com
@khwilliamson