I always love a good recipe challenge. So a couple of weeks ago when my Chief Culinary Consultant and I were hanging out on a Saturday (and after I had already lost about a bajillion games of NHL11 to him), and he said, “What do you think about baking something?” I eagerly shot straight up. Within seconds I started rattling off ideas… apple crisp? apple pie? cobbler? cheesecake? I’m sure I threw another 5-10 ideas out there when he said he was thinking something more along the lines of pepperoni bread or pizza. Oooh, equally good candidates. We both claim pepperoni pizza as our favorite, but he said that he once had a fabulous white pizza from a place in Greensburg, PA, Vallozzi’s, that had a thin crust that almost tasted like pie crust, and could I maybe try to duplicate it? I’d never been to the restaurant or had their pizza, but figured that I could do some research and come up with something. A couple of hours later, I pulled this pizza out of the oven and we devoured it. So, how did it compare to the one I was trying to replicate? He said the crust was almost perfectly replicated and that the pizza was awesome. Win!
If you look at the photo above, you can see that the crust is very flaky and really quite close to that of a pie or pastry crust. It gives the pizza great dimension and an unexpected texture compared to traditional pizzas. I ended up merging some of the key aspects of a Chicago-style deep dish crust (which typically tastes like pie crust and is buttery and flaky, but way more doughy than what I wanted) and a traditional thin crust pizza. In the end, you have a crust that includes butter, a small amount of yeast, and a short rest time (no rising).
So what about the top of the pizza? I did some Googling and found a thread talking about white pizza. Lo and behold, a former employee from Vallozzi’s shared a few tips: their crusts are par-baked prior to topping and fully cooking the pizza, and they use good provolone cheese, tomatoes, garlic powder, salt, pepper, minced garlic and basil. A quick check of the restaurant’s website noted that Romano cheese is also included. So, I put together my version – the first time I made it I had fresh basil and used that, but feel free to use your favorite fresh or dried herbs.
1. Preheat oven to 500 degrees F (or as hot as your oven will get). If using a pizza stone, preheat it along with the oven. If not using a pizza stone, line two baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.
2. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar and salt. Add the cubed, chilled butter and, using a pastry blender or your fingers, work the butter into the flour mixture until it is mostly incorporated and looks like coarse sand. In a large measuring cup or small bowl, combine the warm water and instant yeast. Add to the flour mixture and, using a fork, combine until the mixture is evenly moistened. Turn out onto a floured surface and knead for a minute or so until the dough comes together and is smooth. Divide the dough in two, shape into balls, cover with a damp kitchen towel, and let rest for about 30 minutes.
3. If using a pizza stone, do the shaping on a floured pizza peel, if not, do the shaping directly on the parchment-lined baking sheet (flour as needed). Take one piece of dough and shape into a 10-inch circle. I just use my hands, but you can use a rolling pin if that's easier for you, just use a light touch. With a fork, prick the surface of the dough and bake for approximately 5 minutes. Remove from the oven, brush with olive oil, and top with Romano cheese, garlic powder, dried basil and oregano, then top with shredded provolone cheese. Add the slices of tomato, the garlic, then sprinkle with salt and pepper and additional Romano cheese, if desired. Return to the oven for an additional 5 to 10 minutes, or until the cheese is melted and begins to brown. Repeat with the second half of dough.