Please Check Below for Our Area's Spare-the-Air Alerts.
Do not use the wood-fired oven if there is an alert!
Do not use the wood-fired oven if there is an alert!
The Italian Wood-Fired Pizza Oven at Hacienda Sonoma
The pizza oven makes for a fun night with a group. Enjoy a game of bocce while you heat the oven, a glass of wine while you enjoy the view of the vineyard, and if you’re visiting in the summer, the heavenly smell of the lavender field.
Cooking in a wood-fired oven is very fast (a pizza takes only about 90 seconds!) but there’s a bit of planning that goes into a night of wood-fired cooking. The oven takes an hour to come up to temperature after you build your fire, and if you’re making your own dough, you’ll need to start that at least 3 hours before you plan to cook. We have a stand-mixer and a dough hook which will make the job easy. If you plan to buy your dough, Whole Foods in Sonoma sells pre-made dough balls, and with a day’s notice, you can call Café Citti and can usually buy some there (4 blocks north: 707-833-2690). There’s also the chopping and prep of your toppings, some of which should be cooked ahead, like sausage, so wood-fired pizza night is not something you can decide to do last-minute. All of the information you’ll need is in a cookbook at the end of our kitchen island. It has lots of pictures of what everything should look like at each stage.
1. The wood. Boxes of wood can be purchased at the Kenwood Market, just five blocks north of us. One box will give you some kindling and will be almost twice what you’ll need for one session of cooking. I use a few sticks of kindling on the bottom (with some scrunched up newspaper between), then four logs crosswise on top. Do not overload the oven, or you’ll have to wait hours before there’s room to cook and the oven will be so hot you’ll burn your pizza. Also, our type of oven is not intended to be used as a fireplace – it’s meant to expand and contract with heat (sometimes leaving hairline cracks which are expected) but a huge raging fire made from more than 6 logs at a time will cause serious cracks that need to be repaired. Our oven tends to be at just the right temperature after an hour; just enough time for a round of bocce and a glass of our local crop while you wait! Once you push back the embers to the side of the oven (there is a wire brush under the oven) and wait about five minutes for the heat to disperse, you’re ready for pizzas.
2. Pizza prep. There are wood pizza peels (the paddles) hanging next to the pizza oven for making your pizzas, as well as some ceramic ones at the end of the kitchen island. Flour these well, because your pizza must slide off easily onto the deck (floor) of the oven. Do not use the wood peels to pull the pizza OUT of the oven – there is a metal pizza peel for rotating your pizzas and pulling them out – it’s stored under the pizza oven. Also, please do not wash the wood peels in the dishwasher- they’ll warp and fall apart; a little hot water and dishwashing liquid is all they need. Try to keep your toppings fairly thin – if you load it up a few inches deep, your crust won’t get a nice crispy light texture – it’s better to make more pizzas than heavier ones. You’ll get more variety this way, too – everyone can make their own variations, and they’ll come out of the oven almost faster than everyone can eat them. Also, try to keep the cheese from spilling over the edge of the pizza dough – it will stick to the oven floor and make the whole process a sticky challenge.
3. Cooking. The following video shows a good close-up of cooking a pizza. The whole process only takes about 90 seconds (sometimes a little more if you’ve already cooked a few pizzas). Turn the pizza 1/3 turn every 30 seconds or so. One technique not shown in the video is the final step of “doming” the pizza – you lift the pizza on the peel up near the dome of the oven for about 10 seconds – this helps brown the top nicely and fully melts the cheese. If you plan to make lots of pizzas, you may need to take a 10 minute break after 4 or 5 pizzas, pull the embers back to the center of the oven, maybe add a small log if the fire is getting low, and let the deck of the oven heat up again. http://bit.ly/JQatrH
At some point in the evening, you’re going to want to speak Italian. :o)
Apri il vino (ah-pree il vee-noh): Open the wine. (“Per l'amor di Dio!” "For the love of God!)
Cin! or Alla Salute! (cen) (alla sa-loo-teh): The Italian toast, "Cheers!"
Buon Appetito! (boo-on appeh-tee-toh): Enjoy your good meal!
Complimenti alla cuoca! (com-plee-men-tee alla coo-oka): Compliments to the cook!
5. When you’re finished cooking, push the embers to the back of the oven to cool down. Give the oven a check before you go to bed or go in for the night – the embers should safely stay in their place, but on a windy night, it’s better to be sure. The outside of the oven does not get hot to the touch, but the inside of the oven will stay warm for hours. This is normal. If you intend to cook the next day, remove all of the embers and ash (only fully cooled ones!) and discard in the gray trash bin prior to starting another fire. There is a hand held brush and dustpan for this under the countertop.