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Pizza – Crispy Cheesy Pan Pizza

Our friend Shawn started making this pizza in June. He has made it at least three times since. How do I know? I check his Instagram. So on a Zoom call with a few friends a couple of weeks ago, we all decided to make this pizza on the same day and enjoy it together on our next Zoom in two weeks. That was last Thursday. It was such a fun way to Zoom with friends.Crispy Cheesy Pan Pizza

If you are on social media, I can’t imagine that you have not seen this recipe. But just in case here it is. That said, you really need to also make Marcella Hazan’s Tomato Sauce. (Scroll to the end of this post for the simplest sauce you will ever make.) It goes against everything I thought I knew about Italian red sauce, BUT it is beyond delicious. And so I beg you; do not make the crust without this extraordinary yet unusual sauce.

Oh, one more thing you need to know.

This is a multiple-day preparation recipe. The pizza dough rises in the refrigerator over a two or three day period. And the sauce is better if you make it ahead of time too. I made my dough on Tuesday. Others made it on Monday. I made the sauce on Wednesday. And I made the pizza on Thursday. Each process takes less than an hour each day, but there is resting time for the dough the day you make it, and the day you use it. Plan accordingly.

King Arthur Flour 2020 Recipe of the Year

Crispy Cheesy Pan Pizza

Pizza Dough Ingredients

Crust
2 cups (240g) King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon instant yeast or active dry yeast
3/4 cup lukewarm water
1 tablespoon olive oil

1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil for the pan
A bit more olive oil for your hands and the rising bowl.

Topping
8-12 ounces mozzarella, grated – have enough to cover the dough to the pan’s edge completely)
1/2 cup-ish Marcella Hazan Tomato Sauce – Recipe below –  (The King Arthur recipe does not call for this sauce. They say to use any pizza sauce you want, but don’t!)
freshly grated hard cheese

Fresh basil, oregano, and thyme, roughly chopped for sprinkling on top after baking

Special Equipment: Glass or ceramic bowl that is three times larger than the dough on the day you make it.

Preparation

Weigh your flour; or measure it by gently spooning it into a cup, then sweeping off any excess.

I followed the recipe down to the flour brand.

Place the flour, salt, yeast, water, and 1 tablespoon olive oil in a medium-large mixing bowl.

Stir everything together to make a shaggy, sticky mass of dough with no dry patches of flour. This should take about 1 minute by hand, using a spoon or spatula. Scrape down the sides of the bowl to gather the dough into a rough ball; cover the bowl.

After 5 minutes, uncover the bowl and reach a bowl scraper or your wet hand down between the side of the bowl and the dough, as though you were going to lift the dough out. Instead of lifting, stretch the bottom of the dough up and over its top. Repeat three more times, turning the bowl 90° each time. This process of four stretches, which takes the place of kneading, is called a fold.Crispy Cheesy Pan Pizza

After rising in the refrigerator for two days

Re-cover the bowl, and after 5 minutes, do another fold. Wait 5 minutes and repeat; then another 5 minutes, and do a fourth and final fold. Cover the bowl and let the dough rest, undisturbed, for 40 minutes. Then refrigerate it for a minimum of 12 hours or up to 72 hours. The dough will slowly rise as it chills, developing flavor; this long rise will also add flexibility to your schedule.

About 3 hours before you want to serve your pizza, prepare your pan.

Pour 1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil into a well-seasoned cast-iron skillet that’s 10″ to 11″ diameter across the top, and about 9″ across the bottom. Heavy, dark cast iron will give you a superb crust, but if you don’t have it, use another oven-safe heavy-bottomed skillet of similar size, or a 10″ round cake pan or 9″ square pan. Tilt the pan to spread the oil across the bottom. Then use your fingers or a paper towel to spread some oil up the edges, as well.

Transfer the dough to the pan and turn it once to coat both sides with the oil. After coating the dough in oil, press the dough to the edges of the pan, dimpling it using the tips of your fingers in the process. Crispy Cheesy Pan PizzaThe dough may start to resist and shrink back; that’s OK, just cover it and let it rest for about 15 minutes, then repeat the dimpling/pressing. At this point, the dough should reach the edges of the pan; if it doesn’t, give it one more 15-minute rest before dimpling/pressing a third and final time.

Cover the crust and let it rise for 2 hours at room temperature. The fully risen dough will look soft and pillowy and will jiggle when you gently shake the pan.

I was concerned that I had too much olive oil in the pan. I conferred with Shawn, and he said I was OK.

About 30 minutes before baking, place one rack at the bottom of the oven and one toward the top (about 4″ to 5″ from the top heating element).

 

Preheat the oven to 450°F.

Let The Pizza Assembly Begin

When you’re ready to bake the pizza, sprinkle about three-quarters of the mozzarella (a scant 1 cup) evenly over the crust. Cover the entire crust, no bare dough showing; this will yield caramelized edges. Dollop small spoonfuls of the sauce over the cheese; laying the cheese down first like this will prevent the sauce from seeping into the crust and making it soggy. Use more mozzarella if you need it to cover the dough. Now add any additional toppings you choose*. Sprinkle on the remaining mozzarella and a generous amount of freshly grated Parmesan.Crispy Cheesy Pan Pizza

Time to Bake

Bake the pizza on the bottom rack of the oven for 18 to 20 minutes, until the cheese is bubbling and the bottom and edges of the crust are a rich golden brown (use a spatula to check the bottom). If the bottom is brown, but the top still seems pale, transfer the pizza to the top rack and bake for 2 to 4 minutes longer. On the other hand, if the top appears fine but the bottom’s not browned to your liking, leave the pizza on the bottom rack for another 2 to 4 minutes. Home ovens can vary a lot, so use the visual cues and your own preferences to gauge when you’ve achieved the perfect bake.

Look at that cheese caramelization. And that crust is golden brown.

Remove the pizza from the oven and place the pan on a heatproof surface. Carefully run a table knife or spatula between the edge of the pizza and side of the pan to prevent the cheese from sticking as it cools. Let the pizza cool very briefly; as soon as you feel comfortable doing so, carefully transfer it from the pan to a cooling rack or cutting surface. This will prevent the crust from becoming soggy.

Serve the pizza anywhere from medium-hot to warm. Kitchen shears or a large pair of household scissors are both excellent tools for cutting this thick pizza into wedges.

Side Note on Pizza Toppings

If you are using Italian sausage or any other raw meat, cook it first to remove excess fat. The sauce recipe will tell you to discard the onion. Don’t!  Save it and chop it up and use it as a topping on the pizza.

Marcella Hazan’s Tomato Sauce

Before you read the recipe, just know that I probably had the same reaction that you will have. The ingredients are minimal and seem bland.  Trust me on this.  This sauce is a vehicle to allow for your cheese and toppings to shine. It does that perfectly.

Ingredients

2 lbs of tomatoes ( or 28-ounce can of whole San Marzano tomatoes)
1/4 lb butter (one 4 ounce stick)
one medium yellow onion, peeled and halved
Salt, pinch or two
1/4 teaspoon granulated sugar

Preparation

Combine the tomatoes, their juices, the butter, sugar, and the onion halves in a saucepan. Add a pinch or two of salt.Crispy Cheesy Pan Pizza

Place over medium heat and bring to a simmer. Cook, uncovered, for about 45 minutes. Stir occasionally, mashing the tomatoes with the back of your spoon or potato masher.

Crispy Cheesy Pan Pizza
This sauce is ready for the pizza.

Remove the onion before using the sauce. Use the onion as a topping or save for another meal.

Freeze the remaining sauce for another pizza or use it on pasta.  BTW, this recipe makes enough sauce for a pound of pasta.

One Final Comment

I do not own a 10″ cast iron skillet. I have a 12″ and a 15″. The twelve-inch pan would be too big for the recipe. So I used my fifteen-inch pan and doubled both recipes. (What you see are the recipes for the ten-inch pan). That pan-to-dough ratio worked out perfectly.  I did not need to double the sauce recipe as I have quite a bit leftover.

Download Printable PDF Here: Marcella Hazan’s Tomato Sauce

Download Printable PDF Here: Crispy Cheesy Pan Pizza


That is all for now.

Cheers,

 

Rick & Gary


 

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