It’s been nearly a year since I first cracked open the pages of the Bread Illustrated cookbook. In that time, I’ve made a few different pizza variations. There was the fluffy, cloud-like thick-crust Sicilian-style pizza. There was a thin-crust flatbread style pizza. There were the calzones, which I ended up baking a second time with a proscuttio/cheese mix that was delicious.
My most recent pizza attempt was for a recipe that seemed to be too easy to be true: skillet pizza. This recipe is in the first chapter of the book, “Starting from scratch” – a.k.a., foolproof recipes that just about anyone can do. As such, I had somewhat low expectations. I didn’t expect it would measure up to the other (very delicious) recipes I’d tried. As it turns out, I was pleasantly surprised.
The skillet pizza dough is simple to make and doesn’t take much time. There’s no stand mixer required – instead, you pulse together bread flour, yeast, salt, olive oil, and some ice water in a food processor to form the dough. I used a whole wheat bread flour, which made for a delicious crust.
The dough is then kneaded together by hand, then left to rise for a couple of hours. The recipe includes an easy tomato sauce recipe (which I bungled by forgetting to drain the liquid from the canned whole tomatoes – it was salvageable, luckily) and recommends simple toppings: some fresh mozzarella and fresh basil. You could probably add a little more, but this isn’t a super hearty crust and the bake time is pretty quick, so I think going heavy handed on the toppings could easily result in a sad, soggy pizza. I erred on the conservative side and stuck to the recommended toppings, and it was quite tasty.
The uniqueness of this recipe is how the dough is baked. The recipe yields two smallish (11 inch) pizzas. You roll out each piece – the dough rolls very easily, by the way – and put it in an olive oil-coated skillet. You cook it on high on the stove top for 3 minutes (make sure the sauce doesn’t dribble out, or it could get a little burny), then pop it in a hot, 500 degree oven for 7 to 10 minutes.
My timing was a little off for the first pizza, and the oven wasn’t entirely done preheating when I popped the pizza in, so I finished it off with a couple of minutes under the broiler before serving it.
Tip: Don’t forget that the handle of the skillet will be BURNING HOT. I very nearly forgot – that would have been disastrous.
We drizzled our pizzas with some Nona Pia’s balsamic reduction (straight outta Whistler) and dug in for an unexpectedly delicious – and very easy – pizza dinner. The pizzas were sort of personal-pan sized. I ate about three quarters of one, while Cedric ate one and the rest of mine.
Bread Illustrated keeps on surprising me – just when I think I’ve baked all the best looking recipes, an unexpected hit emerges. Three cheers for skillet pizza!
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