Cast Iron Pizza



"One broccoli volcano with lava cheese coming up!"

What if I told you that "you could have anything in the world"? And what if I told you "so long as that thing is pizza"? What kind of pizza would it be? Gourmet pizzeria pizza from a restaurant that serves wood fired-pizza perhaps? What if I told you that you could make something like that at home? In under 3 minutes? Impossible, right? Well, in the kitchens of The Recipeless Cook... nothing is impossible!

This recipe is to pizza what the no-knead recipe is to bread. Not just a revelation, but a revolution. Using no special tools other than a vessel that was invented hundreds of years ago: a cast iron pan. You don't need a pizza peel, you don't need a pizza stone, you don't need a wood-oven, you don't need a Kitchenaid mixer... have you got a bowl, a spoon, a 12" cast iron pan and pizza ingredients? Then you're good to go, mister. Get ready for the revolution, we're gonna make making pizza exciting again!....

Ingredients

Dough

1 1/4 teaspoons yeast
1 cup water (warm)
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons sugar
2 1/2 cups all purpose flour

Topping

pizza sauce
cheese
etc.

CRUST

RISE: Mix all the dry ingredients for the dough in a large bowl, add the warm water, and mix with a spoon until combined. You can olive oil to the dough and/or inside of the bowl to help the rise. Cover the bowl and let the dough rise in a warm place for about an hour, until approximately doubled in size.

PREPARATION:  Punch the dough down, and flour a work board so the dough does not stick to it while you are working on it. You will be forming the dough roughly the diameter of the interior of your cast iron pan. Start by rolling it into a ball. (If the dough does not form into a smooth ball but shows cracks, you can smooth things out by kneading the dough a bit. Using the palm of your hand, mash and stretch the edge of the dough against the work surface, fold it back in, give the dough ball a quarter turn, and repeat the process until the dough is smooth enough to stretch into a pizza round).

To stretch it into a pizza round, start by pinching the edges and pulling them out (being careful not to stretch the center too much). This process goes faster if you hold the dough in mid-air by the edges, then turn it rapidly so that gravity causes the dough to stretch farther out. But once you have started to increase the size of the round, you should complete most of the stretching using this traditional method: place the somewhat-stretched dough over your two closed fists. Then give the round of dough a turn, repeating this motion. You can also separate your hands just slightly, to help the dough stretch a bit farther. This process will again cause the edges of the dough round to fall by way of gravity, and the center will stretch out. (Again, take care not to stretch the center too much, to avoid creating holes). You'll be finished when you have stretched the dough out to about or nearly the size of the interior of the pan. WARNING: Read the entire next section before you put the toppings on!

Making pizza dough is easier than it sounds, usually, but if it is not your thing, ok, just go out and buy a pizza dough!
 
TOPPING: I don't like to put too much on pizzas, because the ingredients won't cook properly, and they'll make the pizza too mushy. So put your favorite ingredients, but don't go crazy with that! I consider pizza sauce and cheese, and perhaps olive oil as necessary base ingredients. For the pizza pictured above, I used an usual pizza sauce: roasted red pepper spread (aka vegetable spread).  I like to smear olive oil all over the naked dough before placing the rest of the ingredients. Possibly dried herbs as well. Then the pizza sauce, then the vegetables, then a generous amount of cheese (the pizza pictured is swiss cheese and broccoli).

You are now ready to dress your pizza. But do not add any "hard" ingredients yet. You can start with the base of pizza sauce, oil, herbs (as shown in the picture). But you should wait until the pizza is in the pan before you add the rest of the ingredients. If you add everything at once, then when you try to put the pizza into the pan, everything will roll off and create a big mess! So get the rest of the ingredients completely ready and be prepared to add them very quickly! Timing is very important in this recipe!

COOKING

The blob that ate San Francisco,
when it was only 6 1/2 months old.
Heat the cast iron pan (dry) on your biggest stovetop round at medium high heat. (Placing the palm of your hand a couple of inches above the pan to feel the heat will let you know when it is ready). While you are waiting for the pan to heat up, turn the broiler on (high), making sure the oven rack is in the top position ( a few inches below the broiler element). Now you will need a way to slide the pizza into the pan. You can use a wooden, glass or plastic cutting board (as I did, shown), the back of a jelly roll pan or similar, or if you have it of course, a wooden pizza peel. Whichever tool you use, make sure the surface is well floured, to make the pizza easier to slide. Remember the pan will be hot, so you must not touch it! Now slide the pizza dough into the pan by shaking the board it is on over the pan. If the edges fold after it enters, you can leave it as is or try to flip them back over. To avoid burning the bottom of the pizza, remove the pan from the heat and place it on a heatproof trivet. Then working quickly, toss in the rest of the ingredients you made for your pizza, and top it off with cheese. Then quickly place it under the broiler. Now the fun begins!

Leave it under the broiler for one minute, turn the pan 180 degrees, and let it cook for another minute, watching carefully. Take it out and have a look. It will be done just as it is starting to turn dark brown, and/or slightly scorched (black) in places. Be careful to use oven mitts to remove the pan from the oven, and then remove the pizza from the pan with a metal spatula. Cut and enjoy!


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