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Test Recipes: Pan Pizza
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PostPosted: Fri Mar 17, 2006 4:09 am    Post subject: Test Recipes: Pan Pizza Reply with quote

Article Digest:
I love pizza - any kind of pizza. Traditional Italian style, Chicago deep dish, New York, Californian, and even those bagel pizzas. To me, every type of pizza has its charm. Sure, there are days where I feel like one type of pizza more than another, but in the end, I can't say that I dislike any of them. To me, the key of making pizza is the dough - generally this is what differentiates one pizza from the next. Pizza Hut's pan pizzas are particularly appealing to me as they have a crisp exterior and spongy interior. When I saw this recipe to recreate the pan pizza at home, I had to give it a try.

The April/May 2006 issue of Cook's Country Magazine had a couple of recipes that I really wanted to try: Pepperoni Pan Pizza and Oven-Fried Onion Rings. I tried the Pan Pizza first. It took me almost two hours to make this recipe the first time I tried it. The second go around was closer to ninety minutes from start to finish.

I started off by gathering up the ingredients I'd need for the pizza dough: 2 tablespoons (30 mL) extra virgin olive oil, 7 ounces (205 mL) nonfat milk, 2 teaspoons (8.4 g) granulated sugar, 2-1/3 cup all-purpose flour (please read on for clarification), 1 package (1/4 ounce or 7 g) active dry yeast, and 1/2 teaspoon (3 g) table salt. I knew from experience that Cook's Illustrated and Cook's Country do not use the USDA standard of 125 g per cup of flour (which is based on the sifted flour mass and is the conversion I typically use on this website). They assume you are measuring flour by the scoop-and-level method and that your bag of flour has settled somewhat, but not to its maximum reasonable compressibility (which has a density around 160 g per cup). At least in Baking Illustrated, the editors thought it would be helpful to include weights (in ounces) - but not in Cook's Country where this recipe comes from. After a little trial and error, I settled upon 140 g per cup of flour or a total of 330 g all-purpose flour (which is closer to 2-2/3 cup than 2-1/3 cup). So, you'll see the 2-2/3 cup (330 g) all-purpose flour in the recipe summary.

I heated the milk in the microwave to about 110F (43C). If you've got a Thermapen available, this is a great use for it because the readings are fast and accurate. On my microwave, this took about 45 seconds. I also preheated my oven to 200F (65C) to provide a warm chamber for my dough to rise in. Once the oven reached 200F, I turned it off and kept the door closed for it to cool slowly.

I put the 330 g all-purpose flour, yeast, and salt into a mixing bowl fitted with a dough hook and mixed on low to combine. (This step can be easily accomplished with a spatula and about five seconds.)

I mixed the olive oil, sugar, and milk together and slowly poured it into the flour mixture as the mixer continued to rotate on low speed. I then increased the speed to medium-low and let the dough hook do its magic.

After five minutes of kneading, the surface of the dough had what baker's describe as a smooth (almost powdery) texture. This is not an easy thing to write about and even with the picture, it's going to be hard for an inexperienced baker to determine what I mean. Cook's Country says the dough will be shiny, but I'm not sure what that means - it's rare that I see dough with these ingredients forming a surface capable of sharp specular reflections. So, just look for relatively smooth. The tactile feel of the surface should be slightly tacky, but not sticky. Grabbing the dough should not leave dough pieces on your (dry) hand. Sticking your finger into the dough will, however, cause dough to stick to your finger (especially to your knuckle hair if you have it - which you should wash well or else when the dough dries you may inadvertently pull out knuckle hair when rubbing you hands). I removed the dough from the mixing bowl and formed it into a ball (with my hands).

I'm working on a lightly floured silicone baking mat because it provides a relatively non-stick surface. Wet dough sticks to everything (including non-stick stuff), but once it dries a little it won't stick to the mat. In this case, after five minutes of machine kneading, the dough should be in such a condition that it doesn't stick to the baking mat. As a little added insurance, the baking mat is lightly floured. To lightly flour the mat, just take a few pinches of flour and throw it on the mat. Then use the palms of your hand and rub it all over. It'll be easy to tell what's been coated with a thin layer of flour and what hasn't. Working with a tiny bit of flour on the surface makes the dough easier to work with (the surface of the dough that touches the flour will pick up that little bit and that part of the dough will be temporarily drier and easier to work with). Such a small amount of flour will not affect the final consistency of the dough because it will hydrate pretty quickly and isn’t enough to alter the ingredient proportions in any measurable way.

I rubbed a thin layer of olive oil to the inside of a large bowl. Then I set the dough ball into the bowl, covered with plastic wrap, and placed it in the warm (but turned off) oven to rise for thirty minutes. We grease the bowl to prevent the dough from sticking to it. If the dough sticks to the sides of the bowl, it will somewhat inhibit the rising of the dough and that's bad. If there's a seam to your ball of dough, this should be placed on the bottom of the bowl to prevent excess gases from escaping as the dough rises.

While the dough was rising, I needed to make some pizza sauce. Store bought pizza sauce works just fine, but I opted to try the supplemental recipe in Cook's Country. I minced two cloves of garlic and put them in a saucepan with 1 tablespoon (15 mL) extra virgin olive oil. The saucepan was heated over low heat until the garlic was fragrant but not yet browned (about two minutes). Then I added a 28-ounce can of crushed tomatoes. This was cooked on medium until heated through and slightly thickened - about twenty minutes. This makes way too much pizza sauce - enough for six pizzas (maybe even eight). I'd scale the recipe down, but unfortunately, in my part of the United States, I can't seem to find crushed tomatoes in cans smaller than 28 ounces. Why crushed tomatoes? Crushed tomatoes are a canned product which is a mix of pureed tomatoes and diced tomatoes. Because pureed tomatoes are fully cooked, they have a fairly bland taste when compared to diced tomatoes which have only been blanched. The crushed tomato product combines these two into one convenient can. Most crushed tomato cans also contain salt, so I didn't have to add any to my pizza sauce.

I took two 9-in. round cake pans and poured three tablespoons (45 mL) extra virgin olive oil into each pan. It seems like a lot of olive oil to add to the pan, but the pizza doesn't taste oily when it's done. It does give a nice perfectly crispy texture to the crust. Speaking of round cake pans, you do have two identical ones right? It almost seems pointless to own one round cake pan as most cake recipes (and in this case, pan pizza recipes) are designed for two. Why? So you can layer the cakes - one round is just too short and squat. So, if you haven't bought round cake pans or need new ones, remember to buy them in pairs.

After I pulled the dough out of the oven, I split the dough in half and formed each into a ball. I flattened each ball into a round circle. I did this by hand, but Cook's Country recommends using a rolling pin. I didn't think it was necessary to dirty another tool. When the pizza dough was just a little smaller than the cake pan (9 inches in diameter), I picked it up and positioned my hands underneath the dough, holding the dough up with my fists. I guess it's sort of like adopting a defensive boxing position but with pizza dough draped over your hands. I then stretched the dough using my knuckles and the weight of the dough. (Sorry, no pictures - my hands were covered in dough.) Once the dough was a little bigger than the cake pan, I laid it on top of the olive oil and positioned it nicely within the pan. The elasticity of the dough pulled back a little to create almost a perfect fit. I did the same to the other dough and round cake pan. If you're not fast at shaping dough, simply cover the unused piece of dough with plastic wrap to keep it from drying out while you patiently work your dough into the desired shape.

Cover the cake pans with plastic wrap and place in a warm place (such as the slowly cooling oven) for twenty minutes to rise.

Now it's time to deal with the pepperoni and cheese. During this last rise time, it's a good idea to grate some mozzarella or run to the store and buy a bag of the pre-grated cheese. Normally, I'd scoff at the idea of using pre-grated cheese because a lot of ingredients are added to grated cheese to prevent clumping and mold growth. These extraneous ingredients can usually be tasted, but on a pizza with strong flavors like tomato sauce and pepperoni, this is not really going to be a problem. Also, pre-grated cheeses are typically lower in moisture which works very well on a pizza.

Pepperoni is very fatty. This fat becomes liquid and flows freely when heated, which is exactly what's going to happen as the pizza cooks in the oven. So, the fat needs to be removed prior to baking or else the top of your pizza will be a giant pool of orange oil. Cook's Country solves this problem by microwaving. I usually get rid of the oil by heating the pepperoni in a pan. I did it the Cook's Country way this time. I laid out sliced pepperoni on a plate lined with a paper towel. I then covered the pepperoni with another paper towel and microwaved for thirty seconds. Thirty seconds may have been a few seconds too long as some of my pepperoni was quite dry, but the oil was cooked out of the pepperoni and very quickly. To accomplish the same goal, it usually takes several minutes on a pan. In the picture I show two pepperoni slices that have not been cooked (far left) as compared to the microwaved pepperoni.

Once the dough has risen a bit and fully conformed to the cake pan, it's time to top the pizzas. Increase the oven temperature to 400F and top the pizzas while the oven preheats.

The Cook's Country recipe is for a plain pepperoni pizza, but I thought a little green could make the pizza a bit more colorful and flavorful. I did this by adding thin strips of julienned Anaheim chiles. First, a layer of pizza sauce needs to be added. The magazine's article said that the pizza sauce recipe was good for four pizzas, so I was determined to use a quarter of the sauce for each of the pizzas. This is a very bad idea because too much pizza sauce makes the pizza soggy and the toppings slide off as you eat the pizza. So, use a moderate amount of sauce - just enough to coat the pizza dough but not cover it. This means you'll have a lot of pizza sauce left over. I applied the pizza sauce in a circle extending from the center to almost the edge of the pizza, leaving about 1 cm of untouched dough along the circumference.

Next, I topped the pizza with 1 cup grated mozzarella cheese (or a mix of mozzarella and cheddar) followed by the toppings of my choice (pepperoni and Anaheim chiles). If using toppings that are high in oil (like Italian sausage) or water (like mushrooms), it's necessary to cook them first to extract the oil and water so the liquid isn't deposited on top of the pizza. All raw toppings that can't normally be consumed raw should also be cooked first (chicken, ground beef, etc.).

I baked the pizzas in the 400F oven on a rack set in the center position for twenty minutes - when the cheese fully melts and just starts to brown at the edges.


After pulling the pizzas out of the oven and allowing them to rest a couple minutes, I cut them into quarters and served. The crust was flavorful (although not quite the same flavor as Pizza Hut's) and the texture was dead on - crispy on the bottom and fluffy and chewy on the inside. Having all that extra pizza sauce means I'm going to have to make more pizzas, but with this recipe for pan pizza, I don't mind at all.

Pepperoni Pan Pizza (makes two 9-in. pizzas)
Pizza Sauce (makes enough for 6 to 8 pizzas)
1 Tbs. extra virgin olive oilheat over low until fragrantheat over medium until thickenedseason to taste
2 garlic glovesmince
28-oz. crushed tomatoes
salt & pepper

Pizza Dough
Preheat oven to 200F (95C) then turn off
Lightly grease a large bowl with olive oil
2-2/3 cup (330 g) all-purpose flourmixknead with dough hook 5 min.shape into ballshape into ballplace into greased bowl and cover with plastic wraplet stand in warm oven (turned off) 30 min.divide in half
1 package (1/4 oz. or 7 g) active dry yeast
1/2 tsp. (3 g) table salt
7 oz. (210 mL) nonfat milkheat to 110F (43C)mix
2 Tbs. (30 mL) extra virgin olive oil
2 tsp. (8.4 g) granulated sugar

Pepperoni Pan Pizza
Preheat oven to 400F (205C)
3 Tbs. (45 mL) extra virgin olive oilcoat bottom of 9-in. round cake panlay dough on top of oil in panrest, covered, 20 min.lightly coat leaving 1-cm circumference uncoatedsprinkle liberallylay pepperoni to cover cheesebake 400F (205C) 20 min.
1/2 portion pizza doughroll and stretch to 9.5-in. circle
4-6 Tbs. (60-90 mL) pizza sauce
1 cup (110 g) grated mozarella cheese
about 16 slices of pepperonimicrowave 20-30 sec. with paper towels

General Pizza In Pan Layer Diagram
1 cup (110 g) grated mozzarella cheese
thin coating of tomato sauce
pizza dough
3 Tbs. extra virgin olive oil
9-in. round cake pan

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Joined: 27 Sep 2005
Posts: 15
Location: Florida

PostPosted: Fri Mar 17, 2006 6:13 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I don't have a dough hook attachment for my mixer, so I make all of my bread dough manually. About how long do you think this dough would be kneaded by hand? I'm guessing around 10-ish minutes.

I love homemade pizza dough. After eating that, it's hard to go back to the crap delivery kind. I also really enjoy pan pizza, so I'll definitely be trying this one out. <3
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Michael Chu

Joined: 10 May 2005
Posts: 1654
Location: Austin, TX (USA)

PostPosted: Fri Mar 17, 2006 6:55 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Yep, about 10 minutes of kneading will do it. For others without a dough hook here are my instructions:

If you don't have a dough hook on your stand mixer, just incorporate the liquids and solids using a wooden spoon or a stiff spatula (I like using silicone because it cleans up pretty easily). When the dough comes together into a scrappy ball, just put that onto a lightly floured surface and knead. Proper kneading technique involves pushing with the palms of your hands away from your body, dragging part of the dough with your palm. The idea is to create friction as you push against the dough. Then fold over the part that you pushed out and push again. Every couple times you push and fold, rotate the dough 90&3176; and repeat. Do this for about ten minutes (use a watch or a clock - time will feel like it's slowing down while you knead the dough). The surface of the dough should not be sticky and should be fairly smooth by this point in time.
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PostPosted: Fri Mar 17, 2006 6:50 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I used to make pizza like this all the time (I don't have as much time between when I get home and when I serve dinner now that I have a two-year-old). I recommend adding a couple of teaspoons of chopped garlic with the olive oil - it gives a very nice flavor to the crust.
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PostPosted: Fri Mar 17, 2006 6:50 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I too made this recipe from Cook's Country, and while I had a less successful sauce, I found the dough to be almost spot-on once it had been baked-- very tasty. It rose a little thick, though, so I think I'm going to work harder next time at getting the center area of the dough thinner and make the crust thicker.

As for the hand-knead time, I agree that 10 minutes should do the trick-- I did mine partly by hand because I'm still learning to get the feel for dough texture, and even I could tell that it came together and became smooth in less time than my usual pizza crust recipe (which can take 15 minutes). This is a good firm dough, probably thanks to those milk proteins. (So many bread recipes call for powdered milk these days...)

The pepperoni par-cooking is such a benefit-- I picked that up from Cook's Country's little "send in your own tips" section at the front a couple months ago, and I'm glad to see that the Test Kitchen folks have integrated it into their recipes! Another tip I picked up was, instead of warming an oven up, I throw a half-full (or slightly more) mug of water into the back corner of the microwave and heat it until boiling or nearly so. Leave it in there and, when it's time for the dough to rise, put the oiled bowl in there containing the dough and covered with a tea-towel or plastic wrap. The hot water will warm the whole microwave for several hours-- I heat up the water again when bench-proofing (dough rising in the pans-- I stack them with a piece of cardboard in between to keep them separate).

The obvious drawback is doing without your microwave for the duration of the rise, so you have to work around it for the pepperoni thing.

At any rate, the whole recipe was awesome, and as of last night (another pizza-making frenzy for work potluck) I have about a quart of really good slow-simmered sauce to put to work, so I'll make pan pizza again quite soon. I bet when she gave me those cakepans for Christmas, my sister thought I'd be baking cake, but I've only made pizza in them!
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PostPosted: Fri Mar 17, 2006 9:38 pm    Post subject: Whole Wheat Reply with quote

Any good recommendations on substituting whole wheat flour? Maybe half and half? The weights might not work out?
Love your site!
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PostPosted: Fri Mar 17, 2006 11:56 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I love the idea of pre-cooking the pepperoni.

One thing I've found to be really helpful is pre-baking the dough for a few minutes before putting on the sauce and toppings. Otherwise, I have problems where the dough is still too doughy underneath all the toppings, requiring eating it with a fork, or cooking it so long that the edges start to burn.
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PostPosted: Sat Mar 18, 2006 2:14 am    Post subject: Topping Tips Reply with quote

One thing I've found to be really helpful is pre-baking the dough for a few minutes before putting on the sauce and toppings

For those that would consider this route, be warned! Some ovens will accelerate the 'golden-brown'-itude of your outside crust and leave you with perfect inside dough and a super crusty outside! Not quite the flaky quality you may desire.

A suggestion: Melt some butter/margarine or use a light oil to coat the outer rim of crust. This will mitigate some baking acceleration. Also, depending on how you spice this coating (garlic, salted, whatever), you may well add some extra kick to your crust!
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PostPosted: Sat Mar 18, 2006 6:57 am    Post subject: More suggestions Reply with quote

for pizza cheese I like to use 2/3 motz and 1/3 munster, the texture and flavors really bled well. I also like cornmeal on the bottom of the pan, dosen't make a difference to me that it's already oiled, I like the added crispy texture. Last thought, if you don't hace round cake pans, a rectangle one will work just fine in fact I prefer to make them rectangular (less work, cute square slices)
still adore this site. Heather
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PostPosted: Tue Mar 21, 2006 3:09 pm    Post subject: Crisper Crust Reply with quote

I make a similar pan pizza, but use a pre-heated 12" cast iron skillet. This gives me a crisp outer layer to a chewy crust.
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PostPosted: Thu Mar 23, 2006 12:24 am    Post subject: sauce for 2 pizzas Reply with quote

easy sauce for two pizza without the large can of tomatoes, 1 can tomatoe soup, 1 small can of tomatoe puree, spices - usually 2 garlic cloves, dried oregano 1 tsp, dried basil leaves 1 tsp, 1 TBSP sugar, and 2 TBSP vinegar(better with red wine vinegar) mix together and add salt and pepper to taste. Commercial sauces are often lacking in taste(spice). Can also use crushed chili flakes for more spice or grated parmasean cheese.
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Location: Los Alamos, NM

PostPosted: Thu Mar 23, 2006 4:54 pm    Post subject: High Altitude Reply with quote

Has anyone tried this at high altitudes? I live in Los Alamos, New Mexico (~7000 ft above sea level) and am curious what adjustments, if any, might need to be made.
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PostPosted: Fri Mar 24, 2006 1:28 am    Post subject: Adjustments for baking while high and dry Reply with quote

As far as I know, and this is from reading and not personal experience, the adjustments for yeast breads at high altitude are these:

--Flour tends to be drier on the shelf and dries out more quickly at high altitude. I've read that you should be conservative with the flour, as you'll probably use 1/4 to 1/3 cup less flour than the recipe calls for (for the given amount of water) for a dough of this size. Aside from your altitude, the fact that you're in dry country should be reason enough for dry flour.

--Dough rises faster, so ignore whatever times the recipes suggest and catch it when it has doubled. If it was a really short rise, punch it down aggressively and let it rise again-- more flavor that way.

--Dough dries out faster, so when you've put it down for a rise, make sure it's completely coated in oil (helps prevent the "skin" that forms on doughs that dry out) and you might even dampen the tea-towel or washcloth you throw over the bowl. Another possibility is using plastic wrap to cover the oiled bowl/dough while the dough rises, and put the plastic wrap in contact with the dough to eliminate even more air. (This is also good for anything that forms a skin (e.g. pudding) when left in contact with the air.) If you put it aside for any reason, do something to keep the moisture in.

I don't know about baking temperature-- what I've read says that you add 25F for quickbreads and such, but don't do so for yeast breads. You might have to experiment a bit with temp and time.

As you said, you're in Los Alamos, and for those of us who've never been there, we get the idea that the population might still be mainly physicists and engineers, so you might just pose this question to the man-on-the-street. :^)
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PostPosted: Sun Mar 26, 2006 3:58 am    Post subject: High Altitudes Reply with quote

Thanks! I shall do some experimenting this week and post my results. ^_^
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PostPosted: Wed Apr 05, 2006 5:29 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thank you for sharing your exquisite attention to detail with those of us, while process hogs, don't always get things "right." I am and will continue to be a Cooks Illustrated fan, but you make them look downright sloppy. Specifically, in this test, you point out the actual gram measurement of a cup of flour. I have always wondered why Cooks doesn't do this, as well. Of course it can make the difference between almost and a-ha! Your pictures, precise timing, target temps for cooking processes and equipment layouts allow me to be mucho mise-en-place avoiding the distraction and frustration of mid-cooking foraging around.

And you give measurements of salt and pepper. A blessing. "To taste" causes me to panic. You have made my quest for great cooking much more satisfying. Details matter!
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