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. What’s your go-to pie?
Jim Lahey’s No-Knead Pizza Dough
This no-knead dough 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).
Mimi’s Pizza Dough
Try this dough to make its’ namesakes favorite (a white pie with garlic oil, thinly sliced potatoes, castelvetrano olives, fresh mozzarella, and crumbled feta) or keep it classic with a sausage and onion pie (the “Papa” to the aforementioned Mimi).
Deep-Dish Pizza Dough
The crispy edged, incredibly cheesy wonder has become one of my all-time favorites. The real key? Sauce on top!
Gluten-Free Pizza Dough (& Salad Pizza!)
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.
No-Yeast Pizza Dough (& White Pizza)
Out of yeast? Yep, you can still pizza. 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 pie, it’s certainly the quickest way to get from zero to pizza.