Gay Jones trains her red Nikon Color Pix digital camera on a colorful Thai chicken pizza, framing the edible masterpiece just so for the next shoutout on social media.
Her husband, Craig Jones — honored as the Grill Mayor in 2012 by the Food Network — found himself on a pizza-making jag after he agreed to teach a class using his Big Green Egg, a kamado-style grill/oven/smoker.
Always the thorough (OK, maybe a bit obsessive) teacher, Craig set to work making pizzas every night for dinner. After 45 days straight, he adds, “I felt I could hang with the big boys.”
But because not everybody has a Big Green Egg, Craig has moved to perfecting pizzas in the builder-grade electric oven that came with the couple’s Lee’s Summit home.
“I like to write recipes so others can follow them,” says Craig, who works as a systems manager for Sprint by day. “I don’t want it to be just my deal; I want to teach people about it.”
Craig’s constant experimentation has led to his own signature cold-fermented dough recipe made from “00” flour, a finely ground soft wheat flour used to make authentic Neapolitan pizza. He shapes the pizza directly on a peel, then cooks it for 4 minutes on a pizza steel (3/8-inch solid steel, not a stone) in a 550-degree oven. The result: a supple, nearly paper-thin crust that is golden, with air pockets on top and speckled with char on the bottom.
“It’s as close as you can get to an Italian wood-fired oven cooking style,” he says. “I’m not saying it is the same thing, but it’s really close.”
In addition to teaching classes, the Joneses market a smoked nut blend they call Savory Addictions, available at gourmet stores and bars around town. And Craig is fast becoming a familiar voice on local social media, both on his own (on Instagram @craigjones_grillmayor) and as a moderator of a private Facebook group.
Look for his posts (with photos by Gay) on the Chow Town blog.
Craig Jones: KansasCity.com/chowtown; Facebook; Instagram @craigjones_grillmayor
Grill Mayor’s Cold-Fermented Pizza Dough
Makes 3 (12- to 14-inch) pizzas
22 1/2 ounces 00 flour or bread flour
1 1/2 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons kosher salt
2 teaspoons instant yeast
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
15 ounces warm water (105 to 115 degrees)
Put the bread flour, sugar, salt and instant yeast in a food processor and pulse to 4 times until combined. Add the olive oil and water. Run the food processor until the dough forms a ball that rides around the bowl above the blade, about 15 seconds. Continue processing 15 seconds longer.
Transfer the dough ball to a floured surface and knead 2 to 3 times by hand, until a smooth ball is formed; be careful not to overwork the dough.
Divide the dough into 3 even parts and place each in a zip-top freezer bag. Place in refrigerator and allow to rise at least 1 day. (Dough will keep for up to 5 days.)
At least 2 hours before baking, remove dough from refrigerator and shape into balls by gathering dough toward the bottom and pinching shut, placing the seam side down. Flour well and place each in a separate medium mixing bowl. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and allow to rise at warm room temperature until roughly doubled in volume.
Preheat oven to 500 degrees. Place the pizza stone on the top rack and heat for 20 to 30 minutes.
Press dough into rough 8-inch circle, leaving outer 1 inch higher than the rest. Gently stretch dough by draping it over your knuckles to produce a 12- to 14-inch circle about 1/4-inch thick.
Salt pizza dough with kosher salt. Brush dough with garlic oil mixture. Sprinkle 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper. Add sauce, half the cheese, topping ingredients of your choice.
Transfer pizza to a peel covered with parchment paper and slide onto the pizza stone; cook for 8 to 10 minutes. Halfway through the cooking time, turn the pizza and add the second half of the cheese. Remove pizza from oven and allow to rest on a wire rack for 5 minutes before slicing.
Per 1/8th of one pizza: 110 calories (17 percent from fat), 2 grams total fat (trace saturated fat), no cholesterol, 20 grams carbohydrates, 3 grams protein, 157 milligrams sodium, trace dietary fiber.
Grill Mayor’s Favorite Pizza Red Sauce
Makes about 2 cups
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/4 cup grated onion (use the large holes of a box grater)
1 1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon kosher salt
2 medium garlic cloves, minced or pressed through garlic press (about 2 teaspoons)
1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes
1 tablespoon brown sugar
2 tablespoons coarsely chopped fresh basil leaves or 2 teaspoons dried basil
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme leaves
1/2 teaspoon dried tarragon leaves
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
Fresh ground pepper
Melt the butter in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add onion, oregano and kosher salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, until liquid has evaporated and onion is golden brown, about 5 minutes.
Add garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Stir in tomatoes, sugar, dried basil, onion powder, garlic powder, thyme and tarragon; increase heat to high, and bring to a boil.
Lower heat to medium-low and simmer until reduced to 2 1/2 cups, 25 to 30 minutes.
Remove sauce from heat and stir in oil and fresh basil. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper to taste.
Per 2-tablespoon serving: 42 calories (49 percent from fat), 2 grams total fat (1 gram saturated), no cholesterol, 5 grams carbohydrates, 1 gram protein, 184 milligrams sodium, 1 gram dietary fiber.