Crispy Edged Cheese Pan Pizza

I’ve never been to Detroit, so I guess I’ve never tasted an authentic Detroit-style pizza. The closest I’ve come is Brown Dog Pizza in Telluride, Colorado; they have a “Detroit-style” pizza there, and if it’s anything like the real thing, then I’m a fan. With this recipe, my goal is not to replicate Brown Dog’s Detroit-style pizza, but rather to incorporate some of its best elements into my own pizza.

While I understand that Detroit-style pizza is traditionally baked in industrial steel trays, I prefer to make pan pizza in half sheet pans as they are just deep enough to give the crust a chewy and soft interior, but not so deep as to become bready. I’ve also used my half sheet pans enough that they are now perpetually seasoned, which isn’t necessary but is really nice. But to be honest, the real reason I don’t use an industrial tray is because I already have so many specialty pans, and so I’m unlikely to add another one unless it feels truly necessary.

A very important element of this recipe is the cheese. Detroit-style pizzas rely on Brick Cheese for flavor, using so much that it spills over the edges of the crust and onto the pan itself, resulting in a crackly and textured crust. Additionally, the sauce tops the cheese rather than vice versa. Brick cheese isn’t available around here, but a combination of sharp white cheddar, whole milk mozzarella (not the fresh kind), and Parmigiano-Reggiano gives the perfect balance of flavor and meltability. When the sauce tops the cheese, a lot more cheese is necessary so that the sauce doesn’t overwhelm the cheese. As much as I love Brown Dog pizza, it is so filling that I can’t eat more than a slice without going into a cheese coma. My solution is to conserve cheese by adding it directly to the pan’s edges, with another lighter layer on top of the sauce. Using butter to grease the pan helps the shredded cheese stick, while also aiding in the browning processes of both the cheese and the crust. Read more.

Tangzhong Pan Pizza Dough

This dough recipe is identical to the one found here, but with different quantities in order to fill a half sheet pan. This pizza dough is very hydrated because it uses the bread making method known as Tangzhong.  Popular among Japanese and Chinese bread makers, the Tangzhong method results in an incredibly light and moist dough.  The method is simple: whisk together 5 parts water with 1 part flour (by weight), then heat the mixture.  It should thicken and become gelatinous.  Let it cool briefly (so as not to kill the yeast), then add it to the remaining ingredients. I like to add some of the extra water to the still hot gelatinous mixture to speed the cooling process as well as thin the mixture which helps it better incorporate into the flour mixture.

The type of flour makes a big difference when it comes to pizza dough.  A high protein flour gives the crust a chewier pull, so you should try to use a high protein flour (as high as you can find).  At most grocery stores, the highest protein option is a bread flour (12-13% protein) which works beautifully.  But an even better option than run-of-the-mill bread flour is King Arthur Hi-Gluten Flour (14% protein), which is available online.  The following recipe is designed for a high gluten flour, which will need a bit more water than other flours in order to properly hydrate.  If you are using regular bread flour, make the noted adjustments. Read more.

Overnight Yeast Waffles

I always love to cook up something special for breakfast on Christmas morning. But I love my sleep even more, so I tend to prepare my favorite breakfast recipes the night before rather than the day of. I often joke that sleeping is my superpower ( I can sleep anywhere and I can sleep a lot); the probability that I’ll wake up early enough to cook breakfast for everyone else is pretty slim. Accordingly, the batter for these yeast waffles must be made the night before so that the the batter can rise overnight. In the morning, simply plug in the waffle maker, stir the sugar and baking soda into the batter, and soon enough you’ll have a platter full of crispy waffles.

White rice flour (which is readily available at grocery stores) adds a crispy crust to the surface of the waffles, while the yeast causes them to become airier than traditional waffles. To make chocolate chip waffles (which all chocolate lovers should do, in my opinion), add ~ 1½ cups of the batter to the waffle iron, sprinkle with chocolate chips (~⅓ cup for a 9”x9” waffle), and finally top it all off with enough batter to partially cover the chocolate chips. Both mini and regular chocolate chips work well (I’ve tried both), but I think I prefer the mini chips because they melt better. My absolute favorite is shards of chopped bittersweet chocolate, but I don’t recommend using them unless you have enough extra time to really clean your waffle iron as the chocolate shards stick. Read more.

Collard Green Pesto Pizza

A cross between my father’s Italian-American heritage and my mother’s Southern childhood, this collard green pesto pizza combines culinary traditions in exciting ways. Being from the northeast, I grew up without ever seeing collard greens at home or in grocery stores. I never even tasted them until about six months ago, when I was experimenting with vegetables out of which to make pestos. I love pesto, especially on pizza, so the idea for this recipe ended up being a no-brainer as soon as I tasted my collard green pesto. A vegetable pesto has the power to transform pizza night, taking it in a different yet delicious direction.

This particular pizza omits the layer of cheese that figures on most other pizzas, so let me explain. It’s not that I don’t love cheese, I do; however, I feel that it is often unnecessary. When I come up with pizza recipes, I prefer to go without the cheese layer - believing that a pizza that is great without cheese will be great with cheese as well. Consequently, this pizza isn’t nearly as heavy as a cheesy one, which also means that the vegetable topping gets to play a more prominent role. But if you love cheese on your pizza, by all means add a layer of cheese - it will be phenomenal. Read more.