Cast Iron Pan Pizza
WHY THIS RECIPE WORKS: We started with a simple stir-together dough of bread flour, salt, yeast, and warm water; the warm water jump-started yeast activity so that the crumb was open and light. Instead of kneading the dough, we let it rest overnight in the refrigerator. During this rest, the dough’s gluten strengthened enough for the crust to support the toppings but still have a tender crumb. Baking the pie in a generously oiled cast-iron skillet “fried” the outside of the crust. We also moved the skillet to the stove for the last few minutes of cooking to crisp up the underside of the crust.
For the crispy cheese edge known as frico, we pressed shredded Monterey Jack cheese around the edge of the dough and up the sides of the skillet. For the sauce, we crushed canned whole tomatoes (which are less processed and therefore fresher-tasting than commercial crushed tomatoes) by hand, which allowed some of their juice to drain so the sauce would be thick enough to stay put on the pie, and then pureed them in the food processor with classic seasonings—no cooking required.
2 cups (11 ounces) bread flour
1 teaspoon table salt
1 teaspoon instant or rapid-rise yeast
1 cup (8 ounces) warm water (105 to 110 degrees) Vegetable oil spray
1 (14.5-ounce) can whole peeled tomatoes
1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 garlic clove, minced
¼ teaspoon sugar
¼ teaspoon table salt
¼ teaspoon dried oregano Pinch red pepper flakes
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
4 ounces Monterey Jack cheese, shredded (1 cup)
7 ounces whole-milk mozzarella cheese, shredded (1¾ cups)
- FOR THE DOUGH: Using wooden spoon or spatula, stir flour, salt, and yeast together in bowl. Add warm water and mix until most of flour is moistened. Using your hands, knead dough in bowl until dough forms sticky ball, about 1 minute. Spray 9-inch pie plate or cake pan with oil spray. Transfer dough to prepared plate and press into 7- to 8-inch disk. Spray top of dough with oil spray. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 12 to 24 hours.
- FOR THE SAUCE: Place tomatoes in fine-mesh strainer and crush with your hands. Drain well, then transfer to food processor. Add oil, garlic, sugar, salt, oregano, and pepper flakes and process until smooth, about 30 seconds. (Sauce can be refrigerated for up to 3 days.)
- FOR THE PIZZA: Two hours before baking, remove dough from refrigerator and let sit at room temperature for 30 minutes.
- Coat bottom of 12-inch cast-iron skillet with oil. Transfer dough to prepared skillet and use your fingertips to flatten dough until it is ⅛ inch from edge of skillet. Cover tightly with plastic and let rest until slightly puffy, about 1½ hours.
- Thirty minutes before baking, adjust oven rack to lowest position and heat oven to 400 degrees. Spread ½ cup sauce evenly over top of dough, leaving ½-inch border (save remaining sauce for another use). Sprinkle Monterey Jack evenly over border. Press Monterey Jack into side of skillet, forming ½- to ¾-inch-tall wall. (Not all cheese will stick to side of skillet.) Evenly sprinkle mozzarella over sauce. Bake until cheese at edge of skillet is well browned, 25 to 30 minutes.
- Transfer skillet to stovetop and let sit until sizzling stops, about 3 minutes. Run butter knife around rim of skillet to loosen pizza. Using thin metal spatula, gently lift edge of pizza and peek at underside to assess browning. Cook pizza over medium heat until bottom crust is well browned, 2 to 5 minutes (skillet handle will be hot). Using 2 spatulas, transfer pizza to wire rack and let cool for 10 minutes. Slice and serve.
Photo credit: Carl Tremblay