“It’s like writing a poem, making a pizza,” said Sophia Loren when interviewed on Desert Island Discs about why she would choose a pizza oven as her desert-island luxury. And having spent some time with a brilliant new pizza oven from Sage, I understand where she’s coming from.
OK, my early efforts weren’t exactly poetry – more doggerel, really – but I am now completely enchanted by the business of lashing together my own pizzas.
The Pizzaiolo – it means “pizza chef” – is no ordinary domestic pizza-maker. It claims to be the only domestic benchtop oven to replicate the searing 400ºC of a brick oven. It’s also foolproof: even my cack-handed first runs featuring badly made dough and chronic topping overload were delicious, with leopard-spotted, gorgeously charred bases and ingredients ready in two minutes. Despite the Hades-like temperature, they were also fresh and juicy.
You could build a brick oven in your garden and bring it up to temperature by burning wood, but the Sage oven is just plug and play and sits pertly on a kitchen worktop. It doesn’t just deliver a brute whack of 400ºC, either. Heat is applied to the pizza in three algorithm-coordinated ways. The deck – a circle of cordierite stone – applies conductive heat to the underside of the base. There’s a source of radiant heat directed at the outer ring of the upper crust, and ambient convective heat, focused by parabolic deflectors, to cook the toppings without burning them.
The machine allows you to get as deep as you like into the detail or keep it simple. Dough is a huge issue with pizza, and after several attempts – some good, some less so – I settled (for now) on frozen dough. It’s amenable and lasts a couple of days once risen from its frozen state.
Be warned, however. It’s hellish in the Pizzaiolo – there’s no way to keep it from looking burned inside. And you will have pyrotechnic events when a stray bit of mozzarella catches fire. The machine also smokes from around the door seal (it’s meant to), so either use with a good extractor fan on, or open windows.