Sunday, February 15, 2009

Spinach-Stuffed Pizza

When the hubby and I were in Chicago in November, we went on a walking food tour with Chicago Food Planet. It was easily one of the highlights of the trip, and I’d recommend it to anyone.

We went on a chilly, blustery day, and the three-hour tour ended at Bacino’s Pizzeria for their award-winning spinach-stuffed pizza. I was a bit disappointed when I heard this, because I’m all carnivore when it comes to my pizza. However, “open mind” was the theme of the day. So it was our first taste of Chicago pizza, and while it could have been the circumstances – we were hungry for something warm and filling – it was easily one of the best pieces of pizza either of us had ever eaten.

The pizza was stuffed rather than traditional deep-dish, meaning that it’s baked in a deep-dish pan and has the sauce on top, but there’s an extra layer of crust between the toppings and the sauce. It really is a big-a pizza pie.

Re-creating this at home has been on my list of to-dos, so the hubby and I gave it a try today. This presented several challenges: I’ve never made a deep-dish pizza of any kind, I haven’t made too many homemade pizzas in general, I struggle with doughs, and we had absolutely no idea what we were doing.

But hey, life’s a cabaret. I modified a version of a crust recipe that I found online, and made up my own filling and sauce recipes.

I did veer from the traditional in that I didn’t actually bake the pizza with the sauce on top. This is mostly for storage reasons; I knew the hubby and I would never finish a whole pizza, and I thought that storing it in the fridge with the sauce on top would be messy and make the pizza too soggy. The downside was that the top crust got crispier than we recalled; so maybe I’ll try the traditional method next time to see what I end up with. (If you want to do this, I’d recommend not adding the sauce until the last 10 minutes of baking time.)

I might experiment with some more crust recipes just to see what kind of a difference they make. If I find one that I like better, I’ll post an update. Happy cheese eating!

Spinach-Stuffed Pizza
Serves 4-6

1 pkg. active dry yeast
½ tsp. sugar
1½ c. warm water
½ c. virgin olive oil
1 tsp. salt
5 c. bread flour

2 tsp. olive oil
2 cloves garlic, grated or minced
½ tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
1½ lb. spinach, stemmed, washed, and dried
Salt and pepper, to taste
1½ lb. fresh whole-milk mozzarella, grated

1 28-oz. can crushed tomatoes
½ tsp. dried oregano
½ tsp. dried basil
1 tsp. dried Italian seasoning
A few pinches of sugar
Salt and pepper to taste
Shredded parmesan cheese

1. In a stand mixer, combine yeast, sugar, and water. Let sit about 10 minutes.

2. Using the dough hook attachment, stir in oil, salt, and flour on low speed, until most of the flour is combined. Turn to medium speed and knead the dough about 8-10 minutes, or until it is smooth and elastic.

3. Knead the dough by hand a few times, and then place in a greased bowl. Cover and let rise 2 hours, or until dough is doubled.

4. Meanwhile, heat oil over medium-high heat in a large skillet. Add garlic and crushed red pepper, and then add spinach, seasoning with salt and pepper.

5. Cook until spinach is complete wilted and most of the liquid has evaporated, about 10 minutes. Transfer spinach to a colander and let it drain until you’re ready to use it.

6. Preheat oven to 500 degrees.

7. When dough has doubled, punch it down, and then knead by hand for about 1 minute. Set aside about 1/3 of the dough and cover it.

8. If you’re using a metal deep-dish pan, lightly grease it. If you’re using a stoneware pan, sprinkle it with cornmeal.

9. Roll larger section of dough into a large circle. (This is enough dough for a 15” pan; if you’re using a 12” pan, you can discard about 1/8 of the dough.) Place dough in pan, and push against sides about 2” up.

10. Combine spinach and cheese, and place in dough shell.

Yes, my dough wants to squeeze back to the bottom. It's stubborn.

11. Roll out remaining 1/3 of dough and place over filling. Roll the bottom edge of the dough over the top, sealing the two pieces tightly. Prick top of dough with a fork a few times to let the steam escape.

12. Bake 10 minutes. Reduce heat to 400 degrees, and bake another 20-25 minutes.

13. Meanwhile, heat crushed tomatoes in a saucepan. Add seasonings and let simmer while pizza is baking. (You can add this to the pizza the last 10 minutes of baking, or pour over the top before serving.)

14. Let pizza cool about 10 minutes before serving. (I didn’t do this, but the filling needs to sit a bit.)

15. Serve with sauce and parmesan cheese.

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