Michael O'Malley remembers every detail of the wood-fired pizza he ate in Barcelona. The Pomona College art professor was there to study Gaudi, but it was the dough that really moved him: "The tender, chewy crust. The hint of ash. The dryness of the oven embedded in the crust. I made a pact right then that I was going to build an oven and learn to make pizza," he says. In the following 15 months, he baked some 400 pies (using his own wild yeast culture) at his then-home in Pasadena.
This weekend at Machine Project, O'Malley will share tips and secrets and walk aspiring pizza chefs through the entire process during a two-day dough-and-oven workshop. He'll provide the flour. All you need to bring is some basic tools (mixing bowl, wooden spoon, electric mixer, container with lid), toppings of your choice and a willingness to spend Sunday with some very hot bricks: Students will assemble and fire a temporary oven themselves, learning enough to construct one at home. Sounds arduous, yes, but O'Malley makes a convincing argument against using a regular old oven.
"The brick oven has this incredible thermal mass that is radiating heat from all directions into the pizza," he says. "In order to have a truly tender crust, you need to go light on the salt, have a wet dough -- and a temperature of about 750 degrees. The intense heat allows the crust to have that explosive oven spring." The best part? It takes only two minutes instead of the standard 10.
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SHOW ME HOW
Machine Project: 1200 N. Alvarado St., Los Angeles; (213) 483-8761. Dough on Sat., Sept. 12, 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Oven on Sun., Sept. 13, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Combined workshop $20-$25.