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My Pizza Oven: Aaron 'DoubleA' Harris

We got wind of Aaron "DoubleA" Harris's oven when he chimed in on the Awesome Pizza in Kentucky? Talk topic. You know what happens when you mention you own a wood-fired oven around these parts, don't you? You get yourself a place in the hot seat. Let's get Aaron in there now.... —AK

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[Photographs: Aaron "DoubleA" Harris]

Name: Aaron "DoubleA" Harris
Location: Bowling Green, Kentucky
URL(s): aa.speedgeeks.org/pizza

When did you put it in? Did you build it yourself or have someone build it?

It took about a year to build. My father-in-law and I first broke ground in June 2009, and the first firing was June 2010. My original plan was an Alan Scott oven, but while laying the block I decided to take the easy way out and called Forno Bravo.

Like most of my home projects, the oven is in "finished enough to use" state. I've been too busy making pizzas to put a finish on it.

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How often do you use it?

We usually fire it up at least twice a month.

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Do you cook anything besides pizza in it?

Can't let that heat go to waste. Most of the time we'll throw a pot roast in the day after a firing. I've baked bread a few times with varying degrees of success, most recently 30 loaves of rosemary bread on Christmas Eve. There is a certainly an art to hearth bread-baking.

What style of pizza do you normally do?

Mostly I make a Nearly-politan crust then let people pick their own toppings/crust/sauce on firing day. They vary from the ordinary (pepperoni), to the California/Artisan style. The only other type I make is Chicago deep dish, but only in the winter.

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What's your favorite topping or topping combination to make?

I'm boring. I keep mine to three toppings or less. My favorite is pepperoni, sausage, and jalapeƱo (above).

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My wife comes up with the interesting stuff. Her favorite is her "Mediterranean Salad Pizza" (above). It's pesto, Kalamata olives, artichoke hearts, mushrooms, fresh mozzarella, tiger shrimp, spring mix, and balsamic vinaigrette.

Do you cook for friends/neighbors?

Absolutely. It's way too much work to fire up the oven to cook for four people. We usually have anywhere between 12 and 25 people come over for a firing and everybody helps out.

What does your family think of your pizza madness?

They don't really understand my constant tweaking of the dough recipe. Especially when I start rambling about hydration or rise times.

The Pizza Cognition Theory states that "the first slice of pizza a child sees and tastes ... becomes, for him, pizza." Do you remember your first slice? Where was it from, is the place still around, and if so, does it hold up? On that note, has your taste in pizza evolved over time?

The only pizzeria in my hometown (population 6,000) growing up was a Pizza Hut. So it was that or frozen Jeno's. Pizza has always been my favorite food, but it wasn't until five years ago that it turned into an obsession.

Where do you go for pizza in your area (when you're not making your own)?

I'll admit it: Pizza Hut. For the simple reason it's a mile from my house. Otherwise it's the Brickyard Cafe or The Bistro.

What one thing should NEVER go on a pizza?

Flaming logs. And salad (my wife disagrees though).

Most unusual pizza you've ever eaten?

I made a crustless pizza for my wife when she was pregnant. The "crust" was actually ground beef.

What's the farthest you've traveled for pizza?

Usually when traveling with the family, I'll find a place that's only 50 miles out of the way. I don't really want to torture the kids too much. But I always eat pizza when I'm traveling on business. I've had great pizzas in San Antonio, San Francisco, and Salt Lake City. However, my favorite all-time slice was from the Domino's in the Cancun Airport. After five days of gourmet Mexican cuisine, I just wanted a taste of America. Even if it was $8 a slice.

Who would you like to see interviewed next?

Home oven, I'd like to see Keith Wiley's oven. With its herb plant box, it's the most unique oven I've seen. I'd also like to see Doug Horn of Dough Pizzeria Napoletana in San Antonio. Simply amazing.

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