Pan Pizza at Home

Pan Pizza at Home

Pan Pizza at HomeSarah found this recipe a few days ago, and we’ve been drooling about it ever since.

We don’t have two round 10-inch cast iron skillets, but we do have a 10.5-inch squarish one. Since the recipe is intended for 2 10-inch cast iron skillets, and the area of a rectangle is l×w (or l2 for a square) and the area of a circle is πr2, the ingredient downscale factor can be expressed thusly:

( 10.52 / 2( π(10/2)2 ) ≈ 71%

Thanks, Mr. Birch, for 9th grade algebra, and Mr. Krumwiede, for 10th grade geometry.

Ingredients

281 g bread flour
7 g kosher salt, plus more for sprinkling
8 g fresh cake yeast, or 3 g instant yeast (about 1/2 a packet of German instant yeast)
193 g water
6 g (a little less than a tablespoon) Extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for coating
1/2 recipe pizza sauce
240 g Full-fat, dry mozzarella cheese
Other topings striking your fancy
1 small handfull torn fresh basil leaves
40 g grated parmesan or pecorino romano cheese

Combine flour, yeast, water, and oil in a large bowl. Mix with a wooden spoon until no dry flour remains — I read about an enzyme on some people’s hands that inhibits the yeast metabolism and wonder if I am the source of my low-rise breads. The bowl should be at least 4 to 6 times to volume of the dough to account for rising. Not that my dough ever rises as much as it should.

Cover bowl tightly with plastic wrap, making sure that edges are well-sealed, then let rest in a warm place for at least 8 hours and up to 24. Dough should rise dramatically and fill bowl. Then add in the salt and work it in thoroughly. I read somewhere else that salt inhibits yeast metabolism. Or maybe I have salty, enzymey hands.

Form the dough into a ball by holding it with well-floured hands and tucking the dough underneath itself, rotating it until it forms a tight ball. Or as close as you can get it — this is a high-hydration recipe, so it’s going to be gloopy.

Pour 1 to 2 teaspoons of oil in the bottom of a 10.5-inch square cast iron skillet. Place the ball of dough into the pan and turn to coat evenly with oil. Using a flat palm, press the dough around the pan, flattening it slightly and spreading oil around the entire bottom and edges of the pan. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and let the dough sit at room temperature for two hours. After the first hour, adjust an oven rack to the middle position and preheat oven to 550°F, or as close as you can get it. Ours only goes to 250°C (482°F).

After two hours, dough should be mostly filling in the pan up to the edges. Use your fingertips to press it around until it fills in every corner, popping any large bubbles that appear. Lift up one edge of the dough to let any air bubbles underneath escape and repeat, moving around the dough until there are no air bubbles left underneath and the dough is evenly spread around the pan.

Top the dough with 3/4 cup sauce, spreading the sauce with the back of a spoon into every corner. Spread evenly with mozzarella cheese, letting the cheese go all the way to the edges. Season with salt. Add other toppings as desired. Drizzle with olive oil and scatter a few basil leaves over the top (if desired)

Transfer pan to oven and bake until top is golden brown and bubbly and bottom is golden brown and crisp when you lift it with a thin spatula, 12 to 15 minutes. Immediately sprinkle with grated parmesan or pecorino Romano cheese. Using a thin spatula, loosen pizza and transfer to a cutting board (it should loosen and slide out with little effort). Cut into slices and serve immediately.

10 thoughts on “Pan Pizza at Home”

  1. Sarah

    The bottom crust didn’t come out quite as crispy as we’d hoped. Next time we make one, we’ll finish the bottom on a stove burner and note our findings.

  2. ian in hamburg

    Wow, Cliff, that looks just so delicious. Too bad we don’t have a cast-iron pan! Do you think it would work just on a flat baking sheet anyway? How thick was that crust in the end?
    That’s an interesting note about the wimpy yeast. I’ve never noticed a difference, but then again I’ve been slowly drawing down my mega-supply jars of Fleischmann’s taken home from Canada.
    I think I recall telling you about salt killing yeast. At least that’s what I read in The Bread Bible, so I’m careful to add it after a bit and not right away. Never had a problem so far.

    1. cliff1976

      I’m going to let you in on a little secret: this is our second attempt with this recipe. The first attempt, we didn’t have a cast-iron pan, either. What we used then were enameled steel pie pans (Dr. Oetker brand; found ‘em on Amazon). Those mostly worked too. I think whatever you do, you’re going to need a pan with walls for this dough. The final rise is in the pan, and the yeast are stretching those strands of gluten as far and as wide as they can across the olive-oil slicked surface. Of course, if you’re going to not go the no-knead route, then you don’t need as much moisture or the yeast to get their stretch on. You’ll be doing that for them. So, I would guess that going panless implies going non-kneadless.

      You are correct sir, that the salt tip came from you. It was here: the thread on our expat blogger discussion board comparing yeast. I am pretty sure it was Mausi who told me about the enzymes on some people’s hands, but I couldn’t find any evidence of that.

      That crust ended up being just about an inch tall. While we were in Rome last month, we sought out a particular pizza joint with rave reviews, and it had fluffy, soft crusts under luscious cheese and sauce, partially pre-baked in the display case, waiting for me and Sarah to come along and request the full-on bake and snarf it up. Sarah and I both have been lamenting the lack of thick-crust pizzas here in Germany (barring Pittsa Hoot). But not anymore!

      One thing I think our recipe write-up forgets is that we pre-heated our pizza stone as high as the oven would go for about an hour, trying to get a high, even heat on the top and bottom of the pan. Our toppings got critical before the bottom crust, so like she said, we’re going to try a stovetop finish on the next attempt.

      On cold winter days like these, I don’t mind the extra heat leaking into the kitchen.

  3. Mom

    One of my favorite memories of my grandmother’s kitchen is when we made pizza. First I got to use my hands to spread the oil on the pan. Then Aunt Mary flopped a hunk of dough on it and told me to make it fit all the way around, especially into the corners. I never could get it to stretch and she always had to help, but I remember that I got better at it. That particular movement, fingers together and hands straight, was more like harassing the dough to the edge of the pan.

    Yours looks delicious. Congratulations for pursuing perfection!

    Love,
    Mom

  4. Steven

    That looks REALLY tasty.

    1. Sarah

      Thanks! It was outrageously good. I like the typical thin pizza you find around most of Germany, but when I have that visceral, bone-deep ‘pizza’ craving, I want this stuff.

  5. cliff1976

    More on the yeast topic:

    After reading this, I’m not entirely convinced that the German yeast is wimpier. Maybe our kitchen is just too cold (though we provide warm rising areas) or we are missing the windows by letting stuff rise TOO long or overyeasting such that the gas is consumed before the flour is ready to stretch.

    So we must press on in the relentless pursuit of pizza (and bread in general) perfection!

  6. cliff1976

    Another hint: it seems to work really well to put the pie in with just the sauce for 10 minutes first, and then take it out and quickly dress it with the toppings before baking it an additional 10 minutes. That way we didn’t need to finish the bottom of the crust on the stove to firm it up and it was fully baked all the way through to the toppings layer.

    Thanks to “Tuscan Foodie” on the Serious Eats site for this tip!

  7. cliff1976

    I updated the recipe a bit. Our best-ever results were done with 8 g of fresh cake yeast (in your grocer’s dairy cooler, probably). We’ve had mixed results with the instant yeast packets, but tonight’s pie was an out-of-the-park home run. Use this yeast conversion calculator; we found it very helpful: http://www.traditionaloven.com/conversions_of_measures/yeast_converter.html

  8. cliff1976

    Scaling the crust ingredients down to 75% of the measurements above seemed to help get the crust all the way done without burning the toppings, too:

    ### Ingredients #
    - 211 g bread flour
    - 5 g kosher salt, plus more for sprinkling
    - 6 g fresh cake yeast, or 3 g instant yeast (about 1/2 a packet of German instant yeast)
    - 145 g water
    - 4.5 g (a little less than a tablespoon) Extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for coating

What's your take on it?