Pizza crust: A cast iron skillet is your secret ingredient

Perfect Pizza Crust at Home?

by Brian Ricci

Making a satisfying pizza crust can be difficult at home. For one, our ovens don’t get hot enough to bake high-hydration doughs, and if they did, most likely we would be setting our sensitive smoke detectors off whenever we tried. Let me suggest an alternative: cooking with cast iron.

Cast iron pans are inexpensive, durable and versatile. The recipe that follows is for a flatbread pizza and can easily be adapted into a naan or scallion pancake recipe.

Ricotta-and-Salad Topped Homemade Flatbread
Serves: 2

Ingredients
For the flatbread:

  • 1/4 teaspoon active dry yeast
  • 2 cloves garlic, grated/microplaned
  • 1 tablespoon thyme
  • 1 pinch sea salt
  • 1 pinch sugar
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil, plus more for coating the bowl
  • 3/4 cup warm water—about 110 F—not too hot or it will kill the yeast

For the topping:

  • 1/2 cup ricotta cheese
  • 6 leaves lacinato kale (also known as dinosaur kale), shredded
  • 1/2 cup Parmigiano Reggiano, shaved (with a peeler)
  • 1 lemon’s worth of zest
  • 3 tablespoons capers
  • 1 shallot, thinly sliced
  • 4 strips cooked bacon or four slices of prosciutto
  • 1/4 cup sherry vinegar
  • 3/4 cup olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Directions

  1. In a large mixing bowl, add yeast, garlic, herbs, sugar and all-purpose flour and whisk.
  2. Make a well in the dry ingredients and add olive oil and 1/2 cup of warm water to start. Stir with a wooden spoon. Add more water as needed until a dough forms. Wait 10 minutes and add sea salt. Mix for another minute.
  3. Transfer to a clean, well-floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic—about 2 minutes—adding more flour as needed to prevent sticking.
  4. Allow dough to rest, covered with a towel for 15 minutes.
  5. Resume hand kneading of dough—gently pulling and turning dough over to develop elasticity. This will take about 5 minutes.
  6. To round the dough, make a cage with your hands with the dough inside it. Move your hands clockwise, tugging slightly at the dough—this will develop tension in the dough and help to shape it.
  7. Move the dough into a lightly oiled bowl and cover with plastic wrap or a damp towel. Place in a warm area to rise for 1 hour.
  8. The dough should now be double in size. Cut dough into 6 even pieces, arrange on a clean surface and lay a damp towel on top. Let rest again while you prepare your pan and toppings.
  9. Heat your cast iron pan to medium-high heat.
  10. Toppings: In a large mixing bowl, add kale, Parmigiano, lemon zest, capers, bacon/prosciutto, sherry vinegar and olive oil and mix.
  11. Taste and lightly season with salt and pepper as needed.
  12. Roll your doughs out thinly to about 1/8-inch thick and lightly coat the pan in olive oil.
  13. Place one dough at a time in the pan and cook until the bottom begins to blister slightly—about 2 minutes. Then flip, place a dollop of ricotta cheese on top and spread around with the back of a spoon. Place into a 375 F oven for 2 minutes.
  14. When each flatbread is done, remove from the pan and top with salad mix.

Brian Ricci is a chef living and working in Philadelphia.