Ch. 24: A Cheesy Pan Pizza Fail

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I’ve never met a soul on (insert religious deity) ‘s green Earth that doesn’t love pizza. It’s one of those foods that’s hard to screw up. I mean- anything smothered in marinara sauce and sprinkled with handfuls of cheese will end up good! I’d been baking a lot of sweet things lately and so I wanted to change it up and do something still in the baking realm, but definitely on the savory side. I found this recipe for a beloved Cheesy Pan Pizza from Food52- an online food community of sorts that gathers a bunch of recipes from all different sources under one umbrella. Kristen, one of their editors, actually shot an at-home demo of this while under lockdown which left me drooling for its entire duration. The recipe, originally from King Arthur Flour, was so incredibly simple with the promise that it was “fool proof.” Well, spoiler alert, it’s not. 

I should forewarn that this isn’t a “throw things together and bake” kinda recipe- so sit back cause it takes some time. The dough starts off simply by weighing out your flour and mixing it together with salt, instant yeast, water and olive oil. As with all bread recipes, I always weigh my ingredients versus using the cup measures for better accuracy. The dough is so simple, it can be mixed entirely with a spoon. It then gets a series of folds, which is basically folding the edges of the dough into the center from all corners then letting it rest for five minutes. The folding technique replaces kneading for this bread, which helps to demystify the entire process. This folding action is done a total of four times- with the dough getting significantly smoother after each time. The dough then gets covered and refrigerated for at least 12 hours- like I said, if you want pizza, you have to wait. Pull out the dough at least three hours before you want to eat, and grease up a pan with some olive oil. KAF recommends cast iron but assures that the pizza can work in anything from a metal cake pan to a square glass pan. I went with a cake pan cause i didn’t know where our cast iron was, and frankly had no idea how to season it. The cold dough is pressed into the pan and given those signature dimples ala focaccia (insert heavy breathing). After a two hour rise, the dough is soft and jiggly, ready for handfuls of mozzarella cheese. The recipe is pretty strict on only using a couple spoonfuls of sauce dolloped on top which I followed, not wanting to be a rebel. The pizza then gets baked until the cheese is bubbling and the top is golden brown before it can be served hot from the oven. 

Now everything looked perfect up until it went into the oven. I checked on it a few minutes before it was supposed to be done and saw that the top was browning way too quickly. I also had a feeling that the dough wasn’t quite done cooking, so I brought it down to the bottom rack and covered the top with foil. The resulting pizza was just skirting the line of being fully burnt at the edges, and the cheese was not bubbly and gooey as described. Really, that’s on me as I chose to use cheap pre-shredded mozzarella which probably didn’t melt as well because it’s coated to keep the shreds from sticking. The pizza would also not come out of the pan, regardless of what I did. It was focaccia all over again! I managed to get a spatula underneath and scrape it out, ruining any chance of the crispy crust that I was promised. Perhaps cast iron is the way to go as it has all that rough surface to prevent sticking. The pizza that I did manage to get out tasted good- having a nice pillowy dough similar to a deep dish with just the right amount of sauce to prevent it from being soggy. Really, all it was missing was the melty cheese and crispy exterior which would have taken it to the top. I can’t say that it was the best cheesy pan pizza that I’ve ever had, but hey, it made for a good lunch and we had no leftovers. 

Full Recipe | Method reprinted with permission in Food52,
originally from King Arthur Flour:

https://food52.com/recipes/82857-crispy-cheese-pan-pizza-recipe

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