We had our family and some family friends over for Big Bill pizzas on Sunday. Because it was a Sunday, I was determined not to still be up at midnight, which is the time I normally end up going to bed after baking in Big Bill my clay oven following a pizza party.
So I kept the pizza do rather small this time, and choose to bake mostly focaccia and ciabattas which require little handling. I made 1.5Kg of focaccia dough (with roasted garlic and thyme), 2Kg of ciabatta, 1Kg of orange and fennel brioche, all using sourdough starter without dried yeast. I mixed these dough in the morning, giving them a long slow 1st fermentation.
I originally wanted to make this Tuscan pork ribs and bean stew from last year, but saw some pickled bamboo in the shop and changed my plan. I absolutely love pickled bamboo, and it’s the first time I’ve seen them here. And what’s better is they were made by a Taiwanese locally. Then on my way to buy ribs, I also saw a spaghetti melon (also known as sharks fin melon), and decided to buy that too. I also picked up some seasoned ground rice for another famous pork dish. So in the end, I bought 3Kg of ribs to be cooked 3 ways.
I started the fire in Big Bill around 3:30pm, and also started making 4Kg of pizza dough in my bread maker in 4 batches. When people started arriving around 5pm, I scraped out my 80% hydration very sloppy focaccia dough into two trays and spread them out. Then I shaped the brioche into 2 loaves. These all went into the fridge while we get on with the pizzas and have some fun!
The kids absolutely loved making them own pizzas and devouring them. We had to beg to get a taste! I was a little sloppy with looking after the fire today, so Big Bill wasn’t as hot as usual. It actually turned out well, because the kids tend to make thicker pizzas, which requires a slower fire to stop it burning on the outside while the inside is still raw.
We finally also got to make some precious grown up pizzas while the kids play and run off their energy.
I ended up with 1 whole Kg of pizza dough leftover, so I quickly came up with a plan, rolled it out and topped with all the left over toppings, rolled it up, then sliced thickly and turned them into a pan of roulade rolls. These can rise further while the focaccia and ciabatta bakes. At the same time, I also took the focaccia and brioche dough out of the fridge.
After all our guests left around 8:30pm, I sweep Big Bill out and wiped the hearth clean, then chucked the two pans of focaccia in at ~220C. They cooked for 20 minutes, then it’s the ciabatta’s turn at ~190C for 30 mins.
The roulade rolls, a mushroom and carrot loaf, and the brioche loaves went into Big Bill at ~160C for 1 hour. The orange and fennel brioche came out golden and beautiful, and smelled as good as I remembered it from last year.
Finally, 2 pots of spaghetti melon and ribs, a pot of pickled bamboo and ribs, and a pot of seasoned ground rice ribs over a bed of taro (粉蒸肉) went into Big Bill at ~110C. The ground rice ribs are traditionally done in a steamer, but I used a lidded pot so the meat can practically steam in its own juice (plus a little water). The temperature is the lowest I’ve put the meat into Big Bill, and I was a little worried the meat won’t cook properly.
The second morning I woke worrying about the pork. But my worries were a complete waste because the meat came out tender and melt-in-the-mouth as usual. The temperature of the oven was still ~90C in the morning. We tried all three dishes that night, and Kiwi Bird loved the rice coated ribs so much, he ate most of that pot by himself – definitely a dish I should repeat more often!
Recipes you might be interested, and more to come: