Homemade Cast Iron Skillet Pizzas
I feel lucky to have been part of the first generation of “Pizza Kids”. The late 80’s/early 90’s were the pinnacle of cutting edge frozen pizza innovations including, but not limited to: Hot Pockets, Bagel Bites, Pizza Pockets, Totinos Party Pizzas, Pizza Rolls, Stouffer’s French Bread Pizza, and It’s not delivery, it’s DiGiorno.
As kids, we convened around the pizza pie at birthday parties, sleep overs, and after sports games--even if we didn’t win. We easily persuaded our overworked parents to regularly order pizzas for dinner, and while we stuffed our faces, they evaded the drudgery of cooking dinner and washing dishes.
There were no real health concerns for those of us who chronically consumed pizza, after all, The Ninja Turtles ate pizza every night, and they were fit and strong as hell. Cartoon mascots like The Noid and Little Cesar added even more fuel to our pizza obsession. And as we grew up and moved away from home, pizza became a dependable, social, and cheap meal that gave us nostalgic comfort.
None of us have really ever gotten tired of pizza, I think. Unfortunately, buying a nice pizza with quality ingredients can get expensive, especially in bougie spots with wood fired pizzas and a hip atmosphere. The downside of cheap pizza chains are the low quality ingredients. If you are over 25, the cheaper options can wreck your gut and give you a regretful pizza hangover, the human body’s natural reaction to shitty ingredients. Chains are able to sell their pies dirt cheap for a reason--they use the cheapest ingredients they can get their saucy little paws on. If you make pizza yourself, you can have high quality pizza for less than chain prices.
I make pizza at home because:
It’s insanely affordable
I can control what ingredients I use
The clean up is a breeze
I can’t get enough pizza
I make a batch of dough that produces 4-200 gram dough balls; the dough can last in the fridge for up to 2 weeks or in the freezer for a month. You can have a hot pizza in about 45 minutes if you have dough balls ready to stretch in the fridge.
This dough recipe is based on the Overnight Pizza Dough recipe in Ken Forkish’s book “Flour Water Salt Yeast”. Ken’s book has improved my bread making technique immensely. If you are ever in Portland, visit his pizzeria, Ken’s Artisan Pizza, and his bakery, Ken’s Artisan Bakery.
a) because I bought a lot and I needed to use it up
b) It’s an ancient wheat grain that is more easily digested when compared to most modern flours. Einkorn gives the dough an additional depth of flavor, and the texture and pull of the dough won’t suffer one bit.
The Cooking Surface
Typically, homemade pizzas are cooked on a pizza stone in a VERY hot oven in order to replicate a pizza oven and get the bottom of your pie super crispy. When you use a stone, however, you need to use a pizza peel to transfer your pie to the oven. Pizza peels can take time to get used to and they are intimidating if you have never used one.
This pizza is cooked in a cast iron pan--cast iron has the ability to maintain a high and steady heat. Because the pizza is cooked in a cast iron skillet, you won’t need to worry about purchasing a stone or learning using a peel.
The oven rack is placed as close to the bottom of the oven as possible, allowing the bottom of the pizza to get crispy while allowing the top of the pie to cook without quickly burning.
Fixins The toppings I use in these recipes can be interchanged with any toppings you have available. You want to use tomato sauce and mozzarella? Great! You want to do a garlic cream sauce with potato, shaved truffle and rosemary? Do it--and Invite me over. If you are planning on using vegetables that take longer to cook, like carrots, mushrooms, potatoes, or beets, be sure to par cook them before putting them on your pizza. That way you can guarantee that your pizza and toppings are done at the same time.
Pizza Dough Recipe: Yield: 4-200 gram dough balls Active Time: 45 minutes Total Time: 18 Hours
375 grams Bread Flour (If you don’t have Bread Flour, AP works fine)
125 grams Einkorn Flour (You can substitute whole wheat for einkorn, or you can do a 100% white flour dough instead)
10 grams Kosher Salt
⅛ teaspoon instant yeast
350 grams Filtered Water at 90 degrees F
Put the yeast in a small bowl with a few tablespoons of the measured out 90° water and set aside. In a separate mixing bowl, blend the flours together and add the rest of the 90° water. Mix by hand until no dry spots remain. If needed, you can add additional water 1/4 teaspoon at a time, but be careful not to over-hydrate. Cover the dough with a dish towel or plastic wrap and set aside for 30 minutes.
After 30 minutes, add the salt and water + yeast mixture to the dough and combine everything entirely using the “pincer method”. Cover the dough and let it rest for 30 minutes.
Next, you need to fold the dough. After folding twice, coat the inside of the bowl with olive oil to discourage the dough from sticking as it rises. Cover the bowl and set aside on the counter at room temperature until the dough is 2-3 times bigger than its original size (takes about 12 hours).
When the dough is ready, carefully ease it onto a lightly floured work surface. Dust the top of the dough very lightly with flour, and using a bench scraper or a knife, divide the dough into 4 equal pieces. You can double check the weight with a digital scale, but it’s not necessary--they should be 200 grams or 7 ounces each give or take.
Shape the dough balls and place them on an oiled sheet pan; brush tops of the balls with oil. Wrap the pan well with plastic. If the pan isn’t properly wrapped or covered, air can get to the dough and dry it out. Refrigerate dough balls until you are ready to use (at least 6 hours). This pizza dough can last in the fridge for up to 2 weeks. The longer the dough sits in the fridge, the better the flavor gets.
Stretching the Dough When you are ready to make pizza, move your oven rack to the lowest position and preheat to 525° (or as high as your oven can get). Place a dough ball on a lightly floured work surface and lightly dust the top. Using your fingers, gently press the dough, flattening it and pressing it outwards at the same time. Rotate and pick up the dough while you are stretching it to help prevent the dough from sticking to the work surface. The goal is to flatten to dough out until it is the size of the bottom of your 9” cast iron skillet. Don’t worry about getting the dough perfectly round. Once the dough is stretched the desired size, transfer it to the dry, clean cast iron skillet.
When the dough is in the cast iron, cover the pie with your toppings leaving a quarter inch of so on the outer edge clear of toppings. Once topped, place the pan on the bottom shelf in your oven. The Pizza will take 10-14 minutes to cook depending on your oven and the thickness of your dough. Rotate the pan halfway through the cooking process to promote a nice, even cooking.
When I want to check and see if my pizza is ready, I take the pan out of the oven and place it on the stove, then I use a metal spatula to reach under the pizza and lift it up to tap the underside of the pizza. When the pizza is ready, the bottom will be hard and crispy. If the top needs more time, put it under the broiler for a minute or two. Remove the pizza from the pan using the metal spatula, and transfer it to the top of a cooling rack. Let it cool for 5 minutes, then slice it up and enjoy.
As stated earlier, you can top your pizza with anything you want. These are the 3 pies I made for the example pizzas:
1: Bagna Cauda, Fontina D’aosta, Pecorino Romano, Thyme Flowers, Schmatlz (rendered chicken fat)
This one was my favorite. I had some type of neurological malfunction while I was making this pizza--I kept repeating the phrase (so Roman...SO Roman) over and over
again. Bagna Cauda is a traditional Piedmontese “hot dip” that is typically eaten by dipping raw vegetables and bread into it--similar to fondue. The first time I ever had Bagna Cauda was in Naples, our host’s dad had made some and they graciously shared with us--four of us sat down and ate a jar of the stuff along with a loaf of crusty bread and probably 8 ounces of some type of table cheese. This was our pre-dinner snack aka antipasto. And don’t worry, sharing my bagna cauda recipe is on my list of things to do. I think the reason why I kept repeating “SO ROMAN” was probably attributed to using (real) Pecorino Romano, which was given as a ration to marching Roman legions, and the bagna cauda, which reminded me of Gaurum. This pizza is
something you could imagine eating in Rome prior to explorers bringing tomatoes, peppers and eggplant back from the New World. The schmaltz added a rich, savory, and roasty base note to the whole pie, and the thyme gave it a nice earthy, woodsy-forest flavor.
2: Point Reyes Blue Cheese, Garlic Honey, Schmaltz
Point Reyes Farmstead Cheese makes one of my favorite Blues . Baked blue cheese does something special as it melts down into a mass that turns golden brown. I had some garlic fermenting in honey, so when the pizza came out of the oven, I drizzled that all over the pie. It was shockingly good.
3: Schmaltz, Rosemary, Pecorino
There’s nothing wrong with making a plain Jane simple pizza.