We eat a lot of pizza in the Bronski household. I may have mentioned this a time or two on the blog in the past. The reasons are many. Three immediately come to mind:
1) Kelli’s side of the family has a tradition of ordering pizza on Sunday nights for dinner, which we’ve carried over by making a gluten-free pizza in our own household. Not every Sunday night. And not always every week. But pretty darn close.
2) I love pizza, and grew up eating my share of it – New York style thin crust, Sicilian, Chicago style deep dish.
3) Marin loves it. (Charlotte does, too.)
While we have our favorite go-to pizzas, we’re also always on the hunt for fun new flavor combinations of toppings, or for improved versions of old recipes. In the case of today’s Friday Foto recipe, we – or should I say, I – was on a quest.
During my childhood, we’d sometimes go out for dinner to a pizza place called My Pie. They made some of the best deep dish pizza I’ve ever had. It started out in the Midwest, and eventually grew to some 40 locations across a good chunk of the country. Apparently, those places are all gone now, save for one or two My Pie II locations run by the original founder’s son, which resemble nothing like the My Pie I went to more than 20 years ago.
The flavors of that pizza still come to me after all these years. And yet, those flavors are something I’ve never had in a gluten-free pizza. It was time to change that. I started doing some research. What made deep dish pizzas like the one at My Pie taste so distinctive? How could I authentically translate those secrets – whatever they were – into an awesome gluten-free pizza?
I’ll spare you some of the boring particulars of my research. More importantly, let me tell you what I decided needed to be done in order to make a gluten-free version of a My Pie deep dish pizza:
1) I wanted a gluten-free dough that I could press into the pan with my hands, and which required little or no par-baking before adding the sauce, cheese and toppings.
2) I wanted heat – I’m talking 500 degrees Fahrenheit – in order to mimic the intense fire of a proper pizza oven.
3) I wanted a sauce that was fresh – never cooked, boiled, or otherwise heated – before it was added to the pizza.
4) That pizza sauce had to have San Marzano tomatoes. This requirement may seem particularly nit-picky, but it has proved crucial. I first heard about San Marzano tomatoes from my brother-in-law, Peter, who works in the supermarket business. They are grown in a specific part of Italy and imported to the United States. Despite their higher cost, he said, they flew off his store shelves. I was initially reluctant to try the SM tomatoes for two reasons – I wondered if they could really be all that different from conventional canned tomatoes, and I wasn’t thrilled about the fact that they were shipped from Italy to the US, when we have perfectly good tomatoes right here. But the more I researched pizza, the more I found that all the best pizza places were using sauces made from SM tomatoes. I caved. (And boy am I glad I did, but more on that in a minute.)
Side note: The SM tomatoes are usually sold canned either whole or diced, in San Marzano tomato sauce, usually with a single, whole basil leaf tucked in there for good measure. However, Kelli has since found US-grown canned San Marzano tomatoes (sans basil leaf), for less money, and with just as much flavor. On any given day, there’s a good chance you’ll find half a dozen of those cans in our pantry. (We’re also growing SM tomatoes in our garden…stay tuned!)
Finally 5) The pizza needed a healthy dose of dried oregano and dried basil.
And the result? It took several iterations, but we finally nailed it. I can honestly say there have been few times in my life when I’ve taken a bite of a food and been so instantly transported, reminded of a particular time and place. As best as I can remember, this gluten-free pizza is a mighty close approximation to the My Pie pizza I was trying to replicate from memory. This accomplishment alone was satisfying, but the taste and texture really put me over the moon. Hopefully, the recipe does the same for you:
San Marzano Deep Dish Pizza
Makes one 9×13-inch pizza
1 1/2 cups warm water
2 tbsp sugar
4 1/2 tsp active dry yeast
2 tbsp olive oil
2 tsp xanthan gum
2 tsp salt
2 2/3 cups + 2 tbsp Artisan Gluten-Free Flour Blend
1 14.5-ounce can San Marzano tomatoes
Shy 1 tbsp dried basil
1/2 lb mozzarella cheese
1. Preheat the oven to 500 deg F.
2. In a large bowl, combine the water, sugar and yeast. Let stand for five minutes, allowing the yeast to activate and become foamy.
3. Stir in the olive oil, xanthan gum and salt.
4. Mix in the flour to form a dough. Drizzle lightly with olive oil, and roll to coat.
5. Generously olive oil the bottom and sides of a 9×13-inch baking pan. Press the dough into the pan, and use your fingers to work up a 1/2-inch lip around the edges to contain the sauce, cheese and toppings.
6. Cover with a kitchen towel and let rise 30 minutes. At about 20 minutes, re-press the sides to make them just a bit taller, but resist the temptation to press the bottom. (You don’t want to lose all that beautiful rise in the dough!)
At this point, the recipe diverges slightly. The deep dish pizza dough requires about 20 minutes of bake time at 500 deg F in order to fully cook. If you’re using the sauce on top of the cheese, or using high-moisture mozzarella cheese on top of the sauce, follow step 7a. If you’re using a lower-moisture mozzarella cheese on top of the sauce, follow step 7b. (The latter step – 7b – prevents the cheese and toppings from cooking too much before the dough is also done. Either way, and whether you do the sauce on the cheese or the cheese on the sauce, you want your dried basil and oregano added on top of the sauce itself.)
7a. Add the sauce, oregano, basil, cheese, and toppings, and bake for 20 minutes.
7b. Par-bake the naked crust for 5 minutes. Then add the sauce, oregano, basil, cheese, and toppings, and bake for 15 additional minutes.
8. Let sit for 5 to 10 minutes before slicing.
This recipe is: gluten-free, egg-free, peanut-free, tree-nut-free, fish-free, shellfish-free.
Note: For the San Marzano tomato sauce, either used diced tomatoes for a chunky pizza sauce, or use a handheld immersion blender (or other method) to puree diced or whole SM tomatoes to make a smooth pizza sauce.
P.S. In the interest of bloggerly love, we’ve also posted this recipe over at Simply Sugar & Gluten-Free’s Slightly Indulgent Tuesday post.