Saturday, November 30, 2013

Pizza Pi - Kitchen Engineering

Saturday was work around the Range.  The kitchen is getting ready to be gutted after the holidays, the floor already stripped down to its last ugly layer of floor covering , the 1930's cupboards (covered with contact paper) to be replaced by white wood cabinets and a really cool antique sink and drain board, against a different wall so this whole area will be prep space from which I can look out onto the tall spruces while I make my bread.

But not today.  Today was for checking on supplies, such as refreshing the emergency water and rations. Holding up one of these water containers is not easy, so how to get water in it with no physical effort and without having to watch it?

Meet the water-nator!
Supplies refreshed, it was time for a late unch.  I had a hankering for pizza, one of the big thick Chicago style ones with a crispy base, thick moist interior and piping hot toppings.  But they want $20+ around here for a deep dish delivered. But I don't have a pizza stone to ensure a crisp crust (which also take forever to heat up, making them great for a crust but about as energy efficient as the Bat Truck on a steep grade). To get the pizza I want, I need a high-temperature cooking surface to crisp the bottom of the pizza and a high-temperature cooking environment to rapidly cook the top.

Cast Iron to the RescueIt's not just for cornbread any more.  It's  going to give me the thermal mass I need to cook and lightly char a pizza base before letting the oven rise and cook the dough. And I've always got cast iron skillets and their covers lying around. 
Cast Iron Deep Dish Pizza

Start with one loaf of bread dough. Make your own or thaw out one you've made (or bought frozen, but keep it wrapped in plastic wrap tightly  so it doesn't rise as it thaws). Roll it into a 14 inch round and place in a very lightly oiled (and well seasoned) cast iron pan (this was a No. 8, the base of which is 9 inches wide) putting the dough up the sides of the pan a ways to form a thick rim.  Actually the rolling pin didn't work that great, stretching and shaping it with my hands while cursing in a combination of Gaelic and Norwegian did the trick.

Top with -

1/2 to 3/4  of a 15 ounce can tomato sauce (depends on how saucy you like it)
3 to 4 Tablespoons of tomato paste
3 Tablespoons of  grated Parmesan
2 teaspoons assorted dried Italian herbs (I used basil and oregano)
1/8 teaspoon, or to taste, crushed red pepper
a couple dashes of seasoning salt (I used Jane's Krazy Salt).

How about BACON! (pre -cooked but not too crispy)
caramelized onion
and a handful of pineapple

Topped with about a cup and half of mozzarella
MMM Bacon!

Heat the pan on the stove burner on Medium High for 3 minutes.  This is key to getting a good crust is having the dough cooked at a high temperature.  Doing this uncovered on the stove with the cold pan works much better than trying to preheat the pan and wrestle the dough into it without burning yourself.  The pizza won't change in appearance, but the pan will be nice and HOT.

At 3 minutes, place in a preheated 475 F. oven.  Bake for 14-18 minutes, uncovered, until golden brown.
The cast iron mimics the commercial pizza oven's tremendous heat which cooks the pies quickly, yielding a crust that's every so faintly charred on the underside and rim, but moist and tender inside, with a sauce and toppings that's bubbling hot but not dessicated.

You could probably bake this in an ordinary round pan, but the cast iron gives it a great finish and the handle makes it a breeze to get in and out of the oven. When it comes out of the oven you can easily slide it to a cutting board to cut into slices.  This made big thick slices, enough to feed three or  four people. If you use a bigger pan, the dough will be thinner, but the concept will still work.
You could use whole wheat or sourdough dough for a different taste, sausage and spinach and mushroom instead of bacon/pineapple (with some fennel in the sauce), pepperoni and black olives, anything would work.
Get a sturdy plate and a knife and fork, it's ready!  But the best part  - it was better than the local Chicago style pizza place, the thick Amish Smoked Bacon being much tastier than their "ham" topping. Plus it was a  fifth of the cost of one their large deep dish and with thawed dough, on the table in 30 minutes. 


  1. Scherie is gonna try this (the pizza, not the waternator). Thank you.

  2. Genius.

    Somewhere around here I have a real old, heavy 15" cast iron skillet usually reserved for group breakfasts on campouts. I'll give it a try.

    You referenced a cover for the skillet, but didn't say whether you cooked it in the oven covered or uncovered. Which works best?

  3. Nosmo King - uncovered (thanks, I added that to the directions).

  4. Cast iron pan?? I learned something today. I have been thinking about pizza for days now. When we make home made pizza it brings everyone together in the kitchen. Another will written post.

  5. Pizza Dough

    1 1/2 cups warm water
    1 pkg dried yeast
    2 T shortening
    2 tsp salt
    1 1/2 cup flour

    Beat with mixer 2 minutes

    Add 1 1/2 cups flour

    Blend with spoon, cover, let rise 1 hour.

    This is my mom's recipe and it makes incredible crust and is super easy. I use my Kitchen Aid stand mixer and it only takes about five minutes to put together.

  6. This is so much smarter than using a stone, thanks for such a great idea! Can't wait to try this.

    You will keep us posted on the kitchen renov, right? That sounds like fun, messy and disruptive, but FUN.

  7. Why did I not think of this?? Especially since I use a cast iron skillet to heat up cold pizza. SMH

  8. You are so sharp, my friend ! Gosh I wished you lived closer !
    Love and wishes for a fantastic holiday season.

  9. You made me have to go to the grocery store, I'll have you know.

  10. How do you like the stone rolling pin compared to the hard maple ones? Do you use them pretty much for everything or only some recipes? Does it have to be seasoned/wet/dry/frozen/heated?

    And I thought I was well-equipped with a D.O. Camp Oven, 12 inch skillet with lid, Griswold muffin pan and two 8 inch Wagner Skillets.

  11. heresolong - I will try that out. Thanks!

    Windy Wison - I have both wood and marble but I like the marble because I can chill it in the freezer. When you make a pie crust or laminated pastry,you've got to keep the butter in it from melting as you work it, otherwise you end up with soggy pastry. When your goodies hit the oven, you want thin sheets of solid butter that will melt in the heat of the oven causing the laminations that give pastries their flaky consistency.

  12. Thanks for the great Pizza Idea, never thought of using the Cast Iron skillet...I do have a Pizza Stone, but I want to try this way.

  13. Yet another good use for my cast iron collection! Thanks, Brigid!

  14. I used your pizza method tonight - turned out great - definitely doing it again! Cheers, Brigid :-)


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