cast iron

cast iron pizza

If you're like me, celebrating the New Year with sequins, sparkles, streamers, and bubbly is a must. This year I plan to wear the shortest black sequin dress, the reddest lipstick imaginable, and the cutest blue suede heels. I will dress myself up, put my lipstick and phone in a teeny tiny purse that costs way too much, and cross my fingers that there is no more than an inch of snow on the ground. Because I'm not really sure how I will get from point A to B with my New Year's attire in these northernly conditions. But this is what we have to do. This is what it takes to look good. We must brave the harshest elements and put on a smile, because next year is going to be amazing and we are going to bring in this new year with style. I plan to get started on the right foot, hopefully a non-frost bitten foot, a nicely manicured foot, with fuchsia pink polish or gold, it's undecided.

However, if you're the type of person that would rather stay in the warm cozy confines of your exquisitely decorated house, well, then you're probably smarter than me. I imagine you will decorate your house with sequins, streamers, and balloons. You will chill the champagne and plate the d'oeuvres. You'll put on your best dress, and maybe some red lipstick. This sounds nice. I'm starting to get jealous. 

If you are planning to stay home this New Years, throw a party, attend a party, or just spend some quality time with your family, might I suggest throwing a super fancy gourmet pizza party? Not the type of pizza party you had when you were young, where your mom cut English muffins in half, you decorated them with your favorite toppings, and then baked them in the oven. I mean a gourmet, delicious, similar-to-wood-oven pizza party. 

Mr. H's papa got a lovely artisan pizza book from Santa. After skimming through a couple of chapters, I stumbled upon a new pizza technique. Instead of cooking on a pizza stone (which is totally awesome), these pizzas are cooked in a cast iron skillet. You will be so impressed with the results. The pizza tasted as though it just came out of a wood oven. The crust was light and airy, but crispy on the outside. There were even a few bubbles in the crust like you see in wood fired pizza. After baking in the cast iron pan, the pizza is transferred to the oven to broil, where the cheese and vegetables can acquire a nice crispy texture. Each person can make and decorate their own personal size pizza, and there is no need to slice up those English muffins. Make some dough, chop some veggies, grate some cheese. Invite over some friends and have a pizza party. Bring in the New Year with style and great pizza. It's a must.

makes 10 small pizzas

Prep time: 35 minutes + 2 hour rise
Cook time: 7 minutes per pizza

3 1/2 cups lukewarm water (100ºF or below)
1 tbsp instant yeast
1 1/2 tbsp kosher salt
7 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour + extra for dusting
good olive oil for drizzling over pizza
1 - 2 cups of tomato sauce
various pizza toppings

In a very large bowl (5 quart or a plastic food container), add the lukewarm water. Lukewarm water will speed up the rising time. Sprinkle in the yeast and salt, and let it sit for a couple of minutes to proof.

Add the flour to the yeast mixture and combine with either a wooden spoon, food processor with a dough attachment, or a stand mixer with a paddle attachment. Do not knead the dough, just mix until all the ingredients are uniformly moistened with no dry patches. The dough should be moist and sticky.

Cover the bowl with saran wrap and then poke it with tiny holes. Let the dough sit covered for 2 hours in a warm draft free area. The dough should double in size. Once it has doubled place it in the fridge until you are ready to use. It can stay in the fridge for up to 14 days or the freezer for 3 months. Do not punch down the dough, it needs to retain as much gas as possible.

When you are ready to make your pizzas, pre-cut and prepare all of your ingredients. They should be located in an easy to reach spot. You want to top your pizza quickly so the dough doesn't stick to the paddle or counter.

Place your cast iron pan on the stove top and preheat on medium for 10 minutes. Turn the oven to broil and place the oven rack on the highest slot.

Working very quickly, generously sprinkle flour or cornmeal on the pizza paddle to prevent it from sticking. Gather a peach size piece of dough by grabbing, twisting then cutting from the larger batch. Cover your hands and the dough in flour, until it is no longer sticky. Put the dough back in the fridge, it is easier to work with when it's cold.

Gently stretch and flatten the dough into a disk by pulling and rotating with your hands. Place the dough onto the pizza paddle and using a rolling pin dusted with flour, roll the dough into its final shape 1/8 inch think. Quickly top the pizza with sauce, then vegetables, and cheese. Drizzle with olive oil.

Slide the pizza into the cast iron pan (you may need a spatula to help give it a little push) and cover with a lid. Cook the pizza for 4 minutes and do not remove the lid until done. Remove the lid, then place the cast iron pan in the oven on the top rack for 3 minutes to brown the cheese. With a spatula, remove the pizza from the pan and place it onto a cutting board. Slice and serve warm.