Bake It Up a Notch is a column by Resident Baking BFF Erin Jeanne McDowell. Each month, she'll help take our baking game to the next level, teaching us all the need-to-know tips and techniques and showing us all the mistakes we might make along the way. Today, a deep-dive into deep-dish pizza—and other cheesy pies Erin loves.
It’s no secret that I love my home state, and I’m one of the few family members who’s drifted outside a 50 mile radius of our family homestead in Kansas. I’ve grown fairly used to living so far from my family, but that’s only thanks to multiple visits each year. Even so, I spend a significant part of every year searching for cures for homesickness. The only one I’ve ever found with any real power, is to head to the kitchen, and make some of my mom’s food. It rarely tastes as good as when she makes it—but there’s true comfort to be found in the familiar smells and tastes of my childhood.
2020 made my longing for home worse than ever before. After nearly 400 days of not setting foot in Kansas, making my apartment smell like my parents’ home is pretty much the most powerful tool in my arsenal to battle the weepies after nearly every Zoom or Facetime call.
I could write about many of the things my mother cooks and tell you it’s the very best thing she makes. Her soups are the stuff of comfort food dreams. Just the smell of her dinner rolls can wake me from a sound sleep. In elementary school, her homemade salsa had an incredibly high lunchroom trade value—I could get two Oreos for just one chip dipped in salsa. (Proof that this salsa was more than lunchtime legendary: When I appeared on Good Morning America a few weeks ago, I was suddenly flooded with emails from long-lost friends and teachers from elementary and middle school. No joke, over half of these emails also contained pleading requests for my mom’s salsa recipe.) This is all to say, my mother is a great cook—and I have never been more thankful for her recipes than in the past year.
At Thanksgiving, I made her braised leeks to get me through. On Christmas Eve, I made a giant tray of her enchiladas to salve the “not good enough-ness” of watching my niece open her present on Zoom. And I rang in the New Year with the one recipe I can confidently say is one of her most memorable: her pizza. I grew up calling it “Mom’s Pizza”: an important differentiation, cravings-wise, from the rare occasion we got pizza takeout. That name has morphed somewhat as her grandkids started calling my mom “Mimi.”
The affectionately named “Mimi’s pizza” is baked on a sheet tray and boasts crisp outer edges and a slightly fluffy base crust. It’s not quite a classic Grandma pie, not quite a true pan pizza; it’s definitely not a thin crust pizza, but it’s not thick like deep dish, either. It’s delightfully in between. The crust—let’s call it thickish—makes it ideal for really loading up with toppings, if that’s your thing, and the sheet pan situation makes it fairly foolproof (no pizza stone or peel required).
I’m thrilled to share the recipe for Mimi’s pizza in this month’s episode of Bake it Up a Notch, but it’s not the only pizza we cover. In this deep-dive episode, we talk about everything from crisp, thin crust pizzas baked on a stone to gooey Detroit-style deliciousness. There are so many amazing types of 'za out there. And even if you use store-bought pizza dough, there are endless combinations of toppings. So, what’s your go-to pie?
This no-knead pizza dough recipe is a staple in our house. I love it best as a pizza diavola, topped with spicy soppressata, or when I can’t decide, as a pizza quattro stagioni (which means "four seasons," where each quarter of the pie has a different topping: artichokes, prosciutto, mushrooms, and olives). Or keep it classic with fresh mozzarella and basil leaves.
No pizza stone needed! Try this dough, which is baked on a baking sheet, to make its namesakes favorite (a white pie with garlic oil, thinly sliced potatoes, castelvetrano olives, mozzarella cheese, and crumbled feta) or keep it classic with a sausage and onion pie (the “Papa” to the aforementioned Mimi).
I’m an equal-opportunity pizza lover, and I adore a chewy, doughy deep-dish pie. It calls for a combination of all-purpose flour and semolina flour, plus the usual suspects like olive oil, salt, and yeast. Try my Deep Dish Tomato & Mozzarella Pizza or my Skillet White Pizza With Broccoli Rabe.
The crispy-edged, incredibly cheesy wonder has become one of my all-time favorites. The real key? Pizza sauce on top!
Pizza is for everyone! This gluten-free dough bakes up crisp at the edges and fluffy on the inside. Try dousing it in olive oil and baking it on its own, then topping it with a pile of well-dressed salad greens.
Out of yeast? Yep, you can still host pizza night. This produces a more cracker-like dough when rolled thin, or a chewier dough if kept thicker. While it may not be exactly like your favorite pizza, it’s certainly the quickest way to get from zero to pie.
The perfect pizza doesn’t exist is what we thought, because frankly, all pizza is perfect, but this one topped with leftovers might be it. The beauty of it is that you can use whatever veggies are hanging out in your crisper drawer like eggplant, red onions, bell pepper, and button mushrooms.
The secret for this pizza doesn’t just lie in the barley-infused dough. It’s actually in the sauce as well. A sweet and sour tomato sauce is made with canned tomatoes, lemongrass, shallots, makrut lime leaves, galangal, lime juice, brown sugar, and fish sauce. This pie is a labor of love to make, but the keyword here is love.
This white pizza celebrates the bounty of summer squash (zucchini or yellow squash as it is paired with Gruyère cheese and breadcrumbs for a light and bright topping.
Don’t let your pandemic sourdough starter go to waste (if it’s still alive). Turn it into the best-ever pizza dough, which is ideal when made a day or two in advance. Frankly, this is a brilliant technique for getting homemade pizza dough on the table in under 30 minutes.
You know those days—the ones where you want to stay on the couch in sweats and not cook or spend money on takeout. Even when you feel totally drained, I can assure you that you’ll absolutely have the strength to make this easy pizza dough, which you can then bake, top with oil and herbs, and eat like focaccia.
The fermented sourdough pizza dough only gets better when topped with in-season produce like tender spring greens and edible flowers for a salad pizza that you’ll actually want to eat.
We’re not here to argue about whether or not pineapple deserves a place on pizza dough. We’re just here to present a recipe for the best Hawaiian pizza ever.
“Move over Bagel Bites, there's a new way to pizza any time,” writes recipe developer Sohla El-Waylly. “Get creative and swap out the pepperoni for your favorite pizza toppings, from mushroom and olives to pineapple and soppressata.”
15. Pizza Sauce
The best pizza sauce pulls influences from the key pizza capitols of America. This one uses both Italian-style plum tomatoes and canned tomato purée, garlic, sugar, an assortment of dried herbs, and...ready for it...ground nutmeg.
“I like to pair dishes, like a Margherita pizza, with bold, unconventional flavors, like coriander and nigella seeds,” says recipe developer Nik Sharma. Make homemade naan dough, then top it with Nik’s delicious promise of cherry and grape tomatoes, dried red chili flakes, seeds, and mozzarella.