2010 October: Perfect Pies

2010 October: Perfect PiesThere’s something to be said for an oversized pizza: It’s big. How big? The average size for pizza these days is 14 inches in diameter. Anything around 18-inches in diameter or above is generally considered “oversized.”

 

 

 

 

 

That said, pizza doesn’t always need to be round. When working with an oversized pizza, consider going rectangular by using a full sheet pan, which measures 18 x 26 x 1 inch deep (or a half-sheet pan). I like to call this style of pizza “Italian Bakery” (a.k.a. Sicilian pizza) — because it has a thicker crust and it’s the style I grew up with. But, before we get too far away from style, I need to talk about the pluses and minuses associated with an oversized pizza:

Positives:
If you are selling slices, there is less labor involved. 
You certainly will make a statement with, say, an 18- or 20-inch pizza. 
Oversized pizza works great on a buffet set up. 
I like the idea of something a bit different to put a WOW! factor into the equation, and an oversized pizza has the potential to do that. For example, a pizza baked in a full sheet pan and cut into squares is something quite a bit different from the many thin-crust Neapolitan pizzas that are so trendy right now. 
Catering possibilities (this style of pizza holds well over time) for oversized pizzas are endless. Some places are using the term “Party-Size Pizza,” which pretty much says it all.

Negatives:
More expensive boxes and bags, along with the room needed to store those boxes and bags. 
You have to watch and calculate food costs entirely differently for, say, a pizza made in a full sheet pan (or half sheet pan, for that matter). 
In a delivery situation you have to be aware of handling with care. 
Oven size and capacity. If you are going whole hog with oversized pizza, you might need an oven dedicated solely for those oversized pizzas.

Here is my quick set-up for an oversized Sicilian pizza. First, brush the pan with olive oil on the bottom and sides. Once-risen dough — about 24 to 26 ounces —is pressed into the pan and into the corners of the pan. Now flip the dough to coat the other side. Press again with the tips of your fingers, spreading the dough completely into the pan. You may need to let the dough rest a bit for a good stretch.

Lay thin slices of mozzarella, overlapping the slices a bit, over the dough up to the crust edge (you will need about 12-16 ounces of mozzarella).

Spread tomato or pizza sauce over the cheese (about 1½ cups). Sprinkle dried oregano and dried basil over the tomatoes. Drizzle on some olive oil, along with about ½ cup grated Romano cheese.

Bake (make sure the slices of mozzarella are thoroughly melted). Adjust oven time and temperature as needed. Cut pizza into squares.

Pat Bruno is Pizza Today’s resident chef and a regular contributor. He is the former owner and operator of a prominent Italian cooking school in Chicago and is a food critic for the Chicago Sun-Times.