Two Crusts Are Better Than One – Stuffed Spinach Pizza

There is a pizza place here in town that has always had the best stuffed pizza I’ve ever had. It’s long been my favorite slice anywhere, and yet, I’ve never even attempted a stuffed pizza! This recipe is along the same lines as my local spot – not an exact match, but it gets us moving in the right direction – and I plan on trying this out soon. As always, photos and a review will follow soon.

Let me know how it works out for you. Enjoy!

Ingredients

  • 1 (1 pound) loaf frozen bread dough, thawed
  • 1 (10 ounce) package frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
  • 1 cup chopped fresh mushrooms
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon pepper
  • 2 cups shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese
  • 1/2 cup pizza sauce
  • 2 tablespoons shredded Parmesan cheese

Directions

Place dough in a greased bowl, turning once to grease top. Cover and let rise in a warm place until doubled, about 1 hour. Punch dough down; divide into thirds. On a lightly floured surface, roll one portion of dough into a 10-in. circle. Transfer to a 9-in. springform pan coated with nonstick cooking spray. Press dough onto bottom and up sides of pan.

In a bowl, combine the spinach, mushrooms, onion, salt and pepper. Sprinkle half of the mozzarella cheese over crust. Cover with spinach mixture; sprinkle with remaining mozzarella. On a lightly floured surface, roll out a second portion of dough into a 10-in. circle; place over cheese layer. Pinch together top and bottom crust. (Save remaining dough for another use).

Bake at 400 degrees F for 25-30 minutes or until lightly browned. Spread pizza sauce over top crust; sprinkle with Parmesan cheese. Bake 5-6 minutes longer or until cheese is melted. Let stand for 5 minutes before cutting.

Delfina's Broccoli Rabe Pizza Recipe – My Next Pizza Visit to San Francisco

Recently, Alicia and I met up with some friends on a sunny day in San Francisco and headed out to find a little neighborhood pizza joint called “Pizetta 211.” 2 hours later, and five pizzas later, we were all more than happy we had found the place and that got me thinking about other great places that were within striking distance from home that we could try. I think I’ve found our next destination, San Francisco’s own Delfina. Now I am a sucker for Broccoli in general, but broccoli pizza? You get out of here with that broccoli pizza. I love it! Below is a recipe (found in Sunset Magazine) for Delfina’s Broccoli Rabe Pizza – I’ll make sure to order one when we make the trip down and let you know if it lived up to my home version. I have a feeling it just might 🙂

-Ryan

Pizzeria Delfina’s dough, adapted for baking in a home oven, is the best we’ve ever tried―smooth and supple. The secret lies in how you stretch it. Pizzaiolo Anthony Strong demonstrates in the photos below left.

Delfina’s Broccoli Rabe Pizza
Also on MyRecipes.com

Makes: 3 (12-in.) pizzas, plus dough for 3 more pizzas Time: About 2 hours, plus rising time Note: You can use regular flour, but for a truly awesome crust, go for highprotein Italian “00” (fine-milled) flour.

Dough:

  • 1 tsp. fresh yeast
  • 1½ tsp. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 lb., 14 oz. (about 6 cups) “00” pizza flour, preferably Caputo*, or all-purpose flour
  • 3 tbsp. kosher salt*

Topping:

  • 10 oz. fresh mozzarella packed in liquid
  • 1/3 cup liquid from mozzarella container
  • 1/4 cup shredded caciocavallo or parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 cup each heavy cream and buttermilk
  • 1/2 tsp. kosher salt, divided
  • 1 lb. broccoli rabe (about 1 large bunch)
  • 2 garlic cloves, well smashed
  • 4 tbsp. olive oil
  • About 1/4 tsp. red chile flakes
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/3 cup oil-cured black olives (soaked in water and drained if salty), pitted and torn in half
  • Extra-virgin olive oil for drizzling

Make dough:

1. Put yeast, oil, and 2 cups plus 1 tbsp. cold tap water in bowl of a stand mixer and mix, using dough hook, on lowest speed 5 minutes, or until yeast has completely dissolved. Add flour and mix another 8 minutes.

2. Cover bowl loosely with a dampened towel and let dough rise 20 minutes.

3. Add salt and mix on low speed until incorporated and dissolved, 7 minutes.

4. Turn dough onto a lightly floured work surface and cut into 6 equal portions. Roll each into a tight ball. Place on a lightly floured tray.

5. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and let rise at least 4 hours at warm room temperature. Dough balls have risen properly when they are soft, pillowy, and full of air.

Make topping:

6. With flat side of a chef’s knife, mash a third of the mozzarella into a pulverized mass. Dice remaining mozzarella into 1/2-in. cubes. In a medium bowl, mix both mozzarellas with mozzarella liquid, shredded cheese, cream, and buttermilk. Season with 1/4 tsp. salt.

7. Cut broccoli rabe into 1-in. sections, discarding tough lower stems.

8. In a large frying pan over very low heat, cook garlic in oil, stirring often, until transparent, about 5 minutes. Add chile flakes and toast for a second, then add broccoli rabe. Stir in remaining 1/4 tsp. salt and several grinds of pepper.

9. Crank heat to medium-high and cook broccoli rabe, stirring, until liquid starts to evaporate and broccoli rabe is tendercrisp, 5 to 7 minutes.

Make pizza:

10. Heat a pizza stone or baking sheet on lowest rack of oven at 550° (or as high as oven will go), at least 30 minutes.

11. Set 1 dough ball on a well-floured pizza peel or baking sheet and stretch into an 11- to 12-in. circle (see photos above).

12. Spread about 2/3 cup cheese mixture over dough. Top with 1/2 cup broccoli rabe, a pinch of chile flakes, and 2 tbsp. olives.

13. Shove pizza onto stone. Bake 5 to 6 minutes, or until puffy and browned. Drizzle with oil. Repeat with 2 dough balls and toppings (top remaining 3 differently or freeze).

Cheese and Herb Pizza Recipe – My Favorite Pie

When Ryan asked me to collaborate on his pizza website I knew this was a great opportunity to share my trials and tribulations on pizza making. It was also a great opportunity to find that passion I once had in “Finding the Perfect Pie!”  When Ryan began his pizza quest I hopped on his pizza wheel, on the East Coast, and began my journey of tossing the perfect dough. While I haven’t gotten my recipe 100% perfect it’s pretty darn close. Recently, I had been fighting with a soggy-ish crust, which lead me to post a question on his blog.  After answering my question he then asked me to be a co-author. How exciting!

Now that pizza making is second nature to me it’s found it’s way into the weekly rotation of dinners.  It’s become a bit hum drum to say the least. When I first started out I experimented constantly with different toppings and tried recreating pizzas we had in restaurants. One in particular is from a restaurant here in NH, Nonni’s (http://www.nonnisitalianeatery.com).  Their cheese and herb pizza was unique. Sweet and salty, my two favorite combinations.  Once home, I was able to recreate the honey and roasted garlic paste used as the sauce and the rest is history.  I have never actually measured any of these ingredients.  These amounts are not exact.  You made need two heads of roasted garlic to make the sauce depending on how big your pizza is.

Cheese and Herb Pizza a la Aimee

Honey and Tyme Paste-

1 Head Roasted Garlic

1-2 Tbsp Honey

1 Tbsp Fresh Thyme

3-4 Tbsp Olive Oil

Salt to taste

Fresh Mozzarella

Preheat oven to 400.  Cut 1/3 off the top of a head of garlic to expose all the cloves.  Place on a sheet of foil. Sprinkle with 1 tsp of olive oil and a bit of salt.  Wrap the foil to around the garlic to create a pouch. Roast for 45 min. Uncover and roast for 15 min more or until the garlic is a deep golden brown.  Remove from oven and let cool.  In a small bowl squeeze out all the garlic.  Add the honey, thyme and olive oil and mix well. All the flavors should be balanced and you should be able to taste them all. Add enough olive oil to make a spreadable paste.  Add salt and pepper to taste.

On your dough spread s substantial amount of paste  add your mozz and bake until bubbly and brown.

The Elusive Crispy Crust – Tips on Getting a Snap

Reader Aimee writes:

“So how about you tell me why my pizza won’t friggin’ get a crusty bottom!  It tends to be a wee bit on the floppy soggy side.  The top seems to cook the quickest. I tried drying my fresh mozz for a bit and using less sauce, didn’t work. Do you still use pans or do you use a stone now? I use a stone.”

Great questions Aimeee! I think this is probably a big issue for a lot of home chefs for many reasons. Let’s talk about some of them now.

  • Temperature – this is, of course, the obvious first tip to getting crispier results out of your pizza. Many recipes you see – maybe even some recipes on this very blog. Yikes! – will have you preheat the over to 400, 425, 450, something like that. ALWAYS DISREGARD this advice. Commercial pizza ovens operate in the neighborhood of 800 to 1100 degrees, so in order to get even remotely close to the pizza you know and love, you need to crank your oven up to the highest possible setting! For me, this means setting it to 550+. I saw “+” because my oven has a knob which allows me to select “bake” or “broiler” as well as a temperature dial which goes to 550 and then continues on to “broiler.” The double up in terms is a bit confusing, but I think what I’m doing what I set it to “bake” on the mode knob and “broiler” on the temperature knob, I’m asking the oven to try to keep the heating element on as long as it possibly can at the highest temp it possibly can. Goal achieved. Now, because you are running your oven hotter than before, hopefully more liquid will evaporate off your pie and out of your crust which will equal a crispier end product.
  • Preheat – Preheat your oven and let it sit at full temperature for at least 45 minutes to an hour before trying to bake in it. Especially if you are using a pizza stone, this will allow the stone to absorb all the heat it possibly can, as well as the sides of the oven, ensuring that you get the hottest bake out of your oven as possible. I know that my general theme on this blog is that time is the most secret of all ingredients and here it is again – don’t rush pizza, and as Alton Brown says, “your patience will be rewarded.”
  • Baking Stone – This is a big must for a crispy pizza crust. Again, commercial ovens have stone floors in them, not metal, so we can all take a tip from the pros and duplicate this scenario at home. Baking stones are beneficial for two main reasons:

    1) Baking stones absorb and store heat, so while your oven can only generate so much heat, the stone will store much of that heat and radiate it back out to the surrounding oven space. This will not only allow you to achieve temperature higher than what your oven would normally be capable of, but will also regulate heat loss when you open the oven to check on progress. In addition, it will also regulate how wide of a temperture swing occurs as your oven sycles the heating element on and off. Think even heat.

    2) Baking stones absorb water. They have small holes in the surface unlike metal baking pans, so they have the ability to capture and dissipate water. This is a good thing.

    The quick science behind a baking stone (or pizza stone – same thing) is as follows. The stone is both intensely hot and moderately porous. When the dough hits the stone, the water in the dough instantly wants to turn to steam and get the heck out of there, and since there are small air pockets in the stone, the steam has a space to move into. In essence, the stone both causes, and then absorbs, the steam trying to escape from the dough. Again, less moisture, more crispy. Soild petal pizza pans give the water nowhere to go, so the water is either retained in the dough, or must make its way to the surface of the pie before escaping.

  • Dry your ingredients – This may sound funny, but it really really helps out a lot. Especially when you are trying to make a pizza with a lot of fresh veggies! Vegetables and wet cheeses are notorious for releasing a ton of water once they hit the oven, so simply chop everything up before hand, lay it down on a kitchen towel, and fold the towel over so the water from the fresh cut veggies has somewhere to escape to before it hits your crust. I do this with my fresh mozzarella as well and I even take this theory a step further: One I’ve got everything sliced and drying in towels, I place the towels on top of the range where the radiant heat of the pre-heating oven moves up into the veggies and gives them a more thorough drying. Be careful with oven-drying the cheese though. I got a little careless last weekend with some cheese in a towl on the top of a hot oven and when I went to open up the towel, I found that I had glued it together very thoroughly with six dollars of nice fresh mozzarella! Never got that damn towel clean either!
  • Use less stuff – It is always tempting to over top your pizza, but here is a tip: don’t. In general, take whatever your natural instinct is for topping pizza is, and then consciously dial that bake 30%-40%. Pizza is a balancing act between bread, cheese, sauce and toppings, but zen philosophies aside, you’ll find that if you give everything a little breathing room, your cheese will stick to your crust better (no sliding off with the first bite), your pizzas will be crispier, and most importantly, you won’t be as full after eating a slice which means you can eat more! Who can argue against that??

Finally, let’s address one of Aimee’s specific problems she has had trying to combat the floppy soggy crust syndrome.

  • The top seems to cook the quickest – pay attention to how your oven cooks your pizzas and where you are putting your oven racks. If Aimee seems to always have an overcooked top, and an undercooked bottom, she should consider moving her pizza stone down to the next lowest baking rack. Even though we’re talking about the interior of a 550+ degree oven, the laws of thermodynaics still apply: heat rises. A too-quickly-cooked top means that her pizza is too high in her oven and the heat that pools at the top of it is cooking the top of the pizza faster than the bottom. To learn an oven, I would start the stone at the lowest possible rack setting, and then based on how the bottom of the crust turns out, I might move one or two spots up the next time around.

    Interesting technique: many home pizza chefs bake with their pizza stones as low in the oven as possible to get the stone as close to the heating element as possible, then, when they have checked the bottom and it is looking nice and crisp, they move the pie to their oven rack which has been positioned at the very highest spot in the oven to finish off the top. This gives you precise control over how done the bottom and top of the pie are when it finally comes out of the oven. I personally use this technique often, but if I could find that sweet spot in my oven where I didn’t need to do it, I wouldn’t

I hope this has been enlightening and helpful and I hope to see photos of reader Aimee’s improved crispy crusts real soon! Please submit any other questions you guys may have and I’ll answer as best I can. If there is any last tip I could leave you with, I would simply repeat myself in saying that time is the only secret ingredient. So many people are looking for quick eats and dinners in 30 minutes or less, but when compared to dinners that took you 3-4 days to prepare, they all start to taste like fast food!

Spend some time with your food.

Talk soon,

Ryan

Thanksgiving Pizza from… Not Martha!

This was too good to not pass on to you. It’s a Thanksgiving pizza… pie! The Not Marthas, over at wearenotmartha.com created this genius Thanksgiving invention, complete with homemade cranberry sauce, turkey, herbs, and what else, an apple pie in the middle! I personally consider it a step towards the futuristic meal-in-a-pill – just this pill is about 16″ in diameter. What can I say, they’re working on it!

Check out the Thanksgiving Pizza Pie at wearenotmartha.com.

White Pizza from the New York Times

Winter Squash, Onion and Pine Nut Pizza (from the NY Times)

This flavorful autumnal pie uses winter squash purée as the pizza topping; the purée is spread like a sauce on the crust. You can find puréed winter squash (sometimes labeled as “puréed acorn squash” or “puréed butternut squash”) in the freezer section of most markets — thaw according to the package instructions before using.

  • Yellow cornmeal to dust the pizza stone (or nonstick spray to grease the baking sheet)
  • 1 pound fresh dough (from a pizza shop) or a frozen dough, thawed; or prebaked pizza crust – Or even better, try making your own dough!
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 medium yellow onions, halved through the stem, then thinly sliced
  • 3/4 cup frozen winter squash purée, thawed
  • 2 teaspoons minced sage leaves or 1 teaspoon rubbed sage
  • 1/4 teaspoon grated or ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 1/2 ounces Parmigiano-Reggiano or Grana Padano or pecorino, finely grated
  • 1 tablespoon pine nuts

1. Preheat pizza stone or oven. If using a pizza stone, preheat it in the oven at 450 degrees Fahrenheit for 30 to 45 minutes; if using a pizza tray or a large baking sheet, preheat the oven to 450 degrees.

2. Prepare the crust. If you’re using fresh dough on a pizza stone, dust a pizza peel lightly with cornmeal. Add the dough and form it into a large circle by dimpling it with your fingertips. Pick it up and shape it by slowly turning it by its edge, stretching that edge all the while, until the circle is about 14 inches in diameter. Set it cornmeal side down on the peel.

To use fresh dough on a pizza tray or a large baking sheet, grease the tray or baking sheet lightly with nonstick spray. Lay the dough on the baking sheet and dimple it with your fingertips — then pull and press it until it forms a circle about 14 inches in diameter on the pizza tray or a 12-by-7-inch, somewhat irregular rectangle on the baking sheet. If you’re using a prebaked crust, place it on a cornmeal-dusted pizza peel or on a greased pizza tray or a large baking sheet.

3. Heat a large skillet over medium heat, then swirl in the oil. Add the onion slices, reduce the heat to very low, and cook, stirring often, until soft, golden and very sweet, 20 to 25 minutes.

4. Meanwhile, stir the squash purée, sage, nutmeg, salt and pepper in a medium bowl until uniform. Spread this mixture evenly over the prepared crust, leaving a 1/2-inch border at its edge.

5. Top with the caramelized onions, then sprinkle the finely grated cheese and pine nuts over the pie. Slide the pizza from the peel to the very hot stone, or place the pie on its tray or baking sheet with the pie either in the oven or on the section of the grill grate that’s not right over the heat source.

6. Bake or grill with the lid closed until the crust is golden and somewhat firm to the touch, perhaps even a little darkened on its bottom, 16 to 18 minutes. Check fresh dough occasionally to prick any air bubbles that may arise so you’ll have an even crust on the pie. Slip the peel back under the pie to get it off the stone, or set the pie on its tray or baking sheet with its pie on a wire rack. Cool for 5 minutes before slicing. If you want to make sure the crust stays crunchy, consider transferring the pie directly to the wire rack after a minute or so.

Breakfast Pizza and Test Dough

Tonight I was testing a new dough formula (think secret ingredients) and came up with a few simple combinations, and photos, that I hope get your mouth watering and your brain looking around this here blog for a good dough recipe to try out in your own kitchen. One was a simple pie with fresh tomato, provolone, and parmesan. The other was a breakfast pie with my breakfast potatoes from this morning, two raw eggs, ricotta, parmesan, and white truffle oil. There were both fabulous, and we all agreed that the secret ingredient was promising to boot! Here’s to inspiration!

-Ryan

New Pizza Flours from Central Milling

Hello. Have I extolled the virtues of contacting and subsequently ordering fabulous flour from Nick over at Central Milling lately? Well let me tell you, I just received four bags of his latest and greatest “00” flour – two bags reinforced, two bags normal – and can’t wait to get started putting it through the pizza paces. I’ll let you know as soon as I’ve completed a few test pies, until then, how about to email him and order some of your own?

Talk soon,
Ryan

Oven Dried Tomatoes – Your New Favorite

There was a great, quick little article about oven drying tomatoes in Food & Wine magazine recently, so I decided to go ahead and give it a try. The product is an awesome dried tomato that is much less tough and ‘raisiny’ than sundried tomatoes – and they make GREAT pizza toppings! They are soft and easy to bite through while remaining sweet and carmelized tasting. The best of both worlds! Try this recipe out today and you’ll agree, oven dried tomatoes are your new favorite 🙂

Update: The tomatoes made a guest appearance in a recent video.

INGREDIENTS

  • 8 pounds firm but ripe plum tomatoes, cored and halved lengthwise
  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for packing
  • 2 heads of garlic, cloves separated but not peeled
  • 12 large thyme sprigs
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper

DIRECTIONS

  1. Preheat the oven to 325° and position 2 racks just above and just below the middle of the oven. Working over a medium bowl, pry the seeds and pulp out of the tomatoes and discard. Pour 1/4 cup of the olive oil onto each of 2 very sturdy, rimmed, light-colored baking sheets. Arrange the tomatoes cut side down on the baking sheets and scatter the garlic and thyme all around. Make a tiny slit on each tomato.
  2. Bake the tomatoes for about 45 minutes, until the skins begin to wrinkle. Shift the pans from top to bottom halfway through. Carefully pinch off the skins. Flip each tomato and bake until the surface looks dry, about 1 hour. Flip the tomatoes again and continue baking until the surfaces look dry but the tomatoes are still slightly plump, about 2 hours longer. Season the tomatoes with salt and pepper and let cool completely.
  3. Discard the thyme sprigs and peel the garlic cloves. Layer the tomatoes with the garlic in five 1/2-pint jars. Add enough olive oil to cover the tomatoes by at least 1 inch. Slide the blade of a knife along the side of each jar to release any air bubbles. Seal the jars and refrigerate for up to 2 months or freeze for up to 6 months.

My Latest Variation on a Thin Crust Dough Recipe – Bacon Grease Anyone?

Hi Ya’ll,

Just wanted to share with you my latest variation on my dough along with a new little video I shot for you the other day. Things to note in this new variation: Vital Gluten, malted syrup, bacon grease, and a rolling pin! Enjoy.

Recipe

  • 22.5 oz of flour
    • First put in 2oz of vital gluten
    • Then 20.5oz of all purpose flour
  • 1T malted syrup
  • 2tsp salt
  • 1tsp Instarise yeast
  • 2T bacon grease
  • 1.75c + 1T warm water (’bout 100 degrees)

Toss all the ingredients into your stand mixer and mix on slow ’til everything comes together – should be about 2-3 minutes. Once it looks like a chunky, cohesive mass, turn the mixer off and let the dough sit for 10-20 minutes with a nice clean shower cap over the top of the mixer bowl – many people like to put a towel over the top of the bowl, but many other people claim that the towel absorbs the moisture in the air, which isn’t great for the dough, so I like the shower cap. Reusable as well 🙂 Once at least ten minutes is up, start mixing again on slow for 15 minutes. After 15 minutes, turn the mixer off and rest for another 10-20 (remember that shower cap). Finally, pull the dough out and form 4 10oz balls and place into air tight containers (this could be tupperware, plastic bags, etc). Put the containers in the fridge and let them hang out for two to three days. After at least 48 hours, pull the dough out two hours before you plan to bake the pies. One hour before you want to eat, put your stone in the oven, crank it up as hot it will go, and let it pre-heat for the last hour. Lastly, pull your dough out onto a lightly dusted counter, flatten your ball out with your knuckles – try pushing the bubbles that have formed out to the outer rim of the dough. I’ve been playing with a rolling pin recently and liking it a lot, so grab a floured rolling pin and do some rolling out til you get a nice flat disc going. Lastly, pick it up and slap it back and forth to dust off the excess flour, toss it a few times to get that final thin stretch, then plop it on a peel, top it, and slide it in the oven. If your oven gets nice and hot, you won’t need to cook it more than five minutes or so. Enjoy!