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.
I’ve always preferred a cooked tomato sauce on my pizza, so that is what I use in this recipe; but if you prefer an uncooked sauce, that will surely be delicious as well.
Crispy Edged Cheese Pan Pizza
You can adapt this recipe to your tastes by adding various toppings such as pepperoni, sautéed mushrooms, etc.
1 recipe tangzhong pan pizza dough - recipe here
~1¾ cups tomato sauce - recipe here
~8 ounces shredded cheese (I like to mix ~5 ounces whole milk mozzarella with 3 ounces sharp white cheddar, but you can vary the ratio and total to suit your tastes) - Just be sure the mozzarella cheese isn’t the fresh version. Dry cheese is necessary for the cheese to brown and crisp.
½ ounce grated Parmigiano-Reggiano or other Parmesan cheese
~2 tablespoons room temperature butter
Spread the soft butter onto a half sheet pan, spreading so that the butter covers the bottom and the sides of the pan. Combine the mozzarella, cheddar and parmigiano (or whichever cheeses you choose). (NOTE: grate your own cheese! Pre-grated cheese contains an anti-clumping ingredient, which is exactly what we don’t want here.) Press small bits of the cheese along the edges of the pan, saving the remaining cheese for the top of the pizza.
Remove the dough from the refrigerator and place it on a lightly floured surface. Lightly flour the dough, and press it into an oval disk, but make sure to retain the rim around the outer edge. Press the center of the oval while slowly pulling the dough outward, in order to replicate a pan shape with a lip. Lift and stretch the dough, letting gravity help form it into an oval. If it fights back and shrinks when you lay it back on the board, let it rest for a few minutes, then stretch it out again. Repeat this process until your dough is approximately the desired size. (NOTE: don't use a rolling pin to roll out your dough because this flattens the edges and alters the beautiful shape.) Lay your dough in the buttered and cheesed pan and carefully pull and stretch the dough so that it partially fills the pan. Lightly brush the top of the dough with olive oil, then cover with plastic wrap. Push the dough outward from the middle so that it fills up the pan. You may need to let it rest for 5 minutes before pushing it outwards again. Repeat until the dough touches the sides of the pan. Let it rest so that it can rise one final time before baking (~1—1½ hours for cold dough, ~45 minutes for room temperature dough). Preheat oven to 500°F.
Remove the plastic wrap from your rested pizza dough. Top your pizza with tomato sauce (my recipe for sauce is here). Lightly sprinkle cheese mixture evenly over the top. Bake in a preheated 500°F oven for ~10-15 minutes. I like to bake the pizza on the bottom rack as it results in a nicer crust, but it is necessary to keep a close watch in case the bottom of the crust begins to brown too much.