The Pizza Lab: Foolproof Pan Pizza
I've got a confession to make: I love pan pizza.
I'm not talking deep-dish Chicago-style, with its crisp crust and rivers of cheese and sauce. I'm talking thick-crusted, fried-on-the-bottom, puffy, cheesy, focaccia-esque pan pizza of the kind that you might remember Pizza Hut having when you were a kid, though, in reality, most likely that pizza never really existed—as they say, pizzas past always look better through pepperoni-tinted glasses.
It would arrive at the table in a jet-black, well-worn pan, its edges browned and crisped where the cheese had melted into the gap between the crust and the pan. You'd lift up a slice, and long threads of mozzarella would pull out, stretching all the way across the table, a signpost saying, "Hey, everyone, it's this kid's birthday!" You'd reach out your fingers—almost involuntarily—grasping at those cheese strings, plucking at them like guitar strings, wrapping them around your fingers so you could suck them off before diving into the slice itself.
The way I see it, there are three basic difficulties most folks have with pizza:
Problem 1: Kneading. How long is enough? What motion do I use? And is it really worth the doggone effort?
Problem 2: Stretching. Once I've got that disk of dough, how do I get it into the shape of an actual pizza, ready to be topped?
Problem 3: Transferring. Okay, let's say I've got my dough made and perfectly stretched onto my pizza peel. How do I get it onto that stone in the oven without disturbing the toppings or having it turn into a misshapen blob?
This recipe avoids all three of those common pitfalls, making it pretty much foolproof. To be perfectly honest, every single one of these steps has been done before, and none of it is rocket science. All I'm doing is combining them all into a single recipe.
You can jump straight into a full step-by-step slideshow of the process, or find the exact measurements and instructions in the recipe here, or read on for a few more details on what to expect and how we got there.