Sunday, February 24, 2013

Foolproof Pizza Revisited

Since my first attempt at the foolproof pizza recipe left me with soggy bottom crust, I have since conducted more experiments to perfect the technique. What I've discovered is that I basically have to use the same techniques I found that worked with a pizza stone. Thus the methods put forth in the recipe seem to work for the author and a handful of other people, but not everyone. Here's what I did differently that works for me:

A Change of Pans
The original recipe called for the use of a 10" cast iron frying pan. Since mine was brand new and not very well seasoned, I opted to use my 10" round griddle pan. Switching out the pan meant I'd have to make a thinner crust pizza, but I was after a cooked bottom crust.

Left: My 15 yo griddle pan; Right: Very new fry pan
A Change of Oven Rack Position
I lowered my rack to the lowest setting. In the past this worked when I used a pizza stone.

Pre-Heat Pan
What made the original foolproof recipe so alluring was the promise that the pan would not need preheating. I'd like to know how that works because the only way I've gotten a crisp, cooked crust is to preheat my pan.

In fact, this simple act of preheating the pan is the key. I can use either pan. I may even be able to raise the position of the rack (though I haven't tried this variation). Again, when I used a pizza stone, and for those who use them: preheating the stone is what makes it work. Cast iron is no different.

Note: There is an added bonus to pre-heating the oiled pan at 500F--it seasons the pan. I haven't yet timed how long the pan should preheat. An hour is good, but I'm thinking in a pinch it only needs 30 minutes.

Pre-Cook the Crust
In a perfect oven meant to cook pizza one should be able to slide the pie in and have the crust cook perfectly while the top melts into bliss without burning. I've yet to achieve this harmony in my oven. My solution has been to pre-cook the crust with the sauce added. A pre-bake of 5 minutes gets the bottom nicely browned with the top crust golden. I remove it to add cheese and toppings and bake it for another 4-5 minutes.

The Dough
Since I was no longer using the frying pan and seeking a thick-crust pizza, I decided to take a shortcut and use a special  Pizza Dough Yeast I found at the store that requires no rising time. You mix it up and can use it right away. Yes, I'm an impatient sort who doesn't want to make my dough a day ahead, but I'm experimenting with cooking technique and will focus on the dough quality later. Now that I have a better cooking technique that produces a crisp, cooked crust, I shall focus on the dough. Not that the quick dough is bad, but it does leave a bit to be desired. I have a number of recipes to tinker with to see which one turns out the best possible pizza cooked at home on my cast iron round griddle.

Sorry there are no pictures of the finished pizzas. We eat them too quickly. I'll try to get some next time.

No comments: