Sunday, March 14, 2010

St. Louis Style Pizza

Ever hear of St. Louis style pizza? Until a few weeks ago I didn't. There was mention of it on a blog where I have learned a lot about making pizzas.

So far I have mastered thin crust New York style (my favorite), Chicago Deep Dish and Sicilian style. Each is unique from the way it’s prepared to the way it tastes. Before now if you told me there was a St. Louis-style pizza it would have made as much sense to me as St. Louis-style gyros. After reading more about it I went from who cares to why not?

Here's what I found out. The Italian population of St. Louis created their own pizza style. There are a few pizza joints in south St. Louis that are locally famous for serving the best. One most notable is called Imo’s. Here's a photo of the first Imo's I found on the internets.

Last week the latest issue of Cook’s Country magazine showed up with a replica recipe for St. Louis pizza. That did it. This new style became another challenge for us here in the country bunker test kitchen. The recipe in the magazine claimed it was a replication of Imo’s

But I didn’t stop there. My interest led me to continue investigating a number of pizza forums on the internets where there were similar recipes available.

One attribute of St. Louis pizza that caught my attention was the crust recipe. It uses no yeast. It is described as having a cracker-like texture and crispness that will end up with some burnt spots if cooked properly. I like that. It’s also claimed to end up being crispy and dry, meaning it is not soaked through with sauce or grease (I think). I recall enjoying pizza with a cracker-like crust before but they were generally prepared in trendy boutique café locations in wood fired ovens at small urban hot spots as appetizers with exotic toppings such as duck sausage that cost way too much. It gave me pause to consider that this crust could be the same thing.

They use a special three cheese blend of White Cheddar, Provolone and Swiss in St. Louis called Provel. It is different from my usual mozzarella and provolone mix for all other pizza styles. I ignored the suggestion from Cook’s Country to blend Jack and Provalone and went with one from the pizza forum using White Cheddar, Swiss and Provalone.

The sauce recipe was chosen from Cook’s blending 8 oz. tomato sauce and 3T tomato paste with basil, oregano, sugar and salt.

The crust was a blend of water, AP flour, baking powder, baking soda, corn syrup and olive oil. No yeast.

In trying to blend the crust ingredients it became obvious the ½ cup of water to two cups of flour, not enough by a long shot. I tossed the batch and started over. This time it would be ½ of the dry ingredients with the same amount of water adding the water slowly. It didn’t take the whole amount of water and eventually I had to add more flour. Then a second batch was made making enough dough for two 12” pies.

After grating the proper cheese amounts the recipe called for something very unusual, adding a tablespoon of liquid smoke to the grated cheese and toss together. Hell, the cheese blend is odd enough as it is so why not?

The oven was cranked up to 450 degrees per the recipe with a pizza stone on the bottom rack. After an hour passed the pizza dough ball was placed between two sheets of baking parchment paper and rolled out to 12 inches. The top sheet was removed and replaced with the sauce and cheese. Into the oven it went with a sheet of parchment between the pie and the stone.

While it baked the second dough ball was rolled out and this time it was topped with pepperoni. After 15 minutes the first was done and it looked good. The stone was recharged for another 25 minutes and the second pie went in. Here's what my first try looked like.

Here are my findings:

-The crust was crisp but tough and chewy, not at all what was expected. It was similar to the crust from cheap store-bought frozen pizza. In future attempts I will try using the blender of food processor to incorporate the dough ingredients better.

-The sauce was sweet but not bad. The amount suggested was just right.

-The cheese was excellent, surprising. Between the sauce and cheese there was a very different but pleasing flavor. Must have been the liquid smoke that made the difference but it did not taste smokey.

Would I make St. Louis style pizza again? Yes, but if the crust isn’t any better next time it’s back to my old yeasty standbys. Another try may be to use a New York thin crust with St. Louis toppings. Those toppings were great.

BONUS: Ever order a pizza only to have it delivered with a soggy crust? Here's a GFV take out out or delivery pizza tip. Order it "uncut". Not cutting it allows the toppings and sauce to settle, not drip through between the slices soaking the cardboard and the crust. Try it next time and simply cut yours at home – it makes a huge difference.


Chris from Colorado said...

I remember 35 years ago or so, you and the future MRS GFV made pizzas using Pillsbury hot roll mix for the dough. Those pies were pretty good back then. Having tasted your NY style last fall, I can attest that you have mastered the art of pizza.

I hope you washed down the St Louis style with some Stub Tail.

Carl from Chicago said...

I like the tip about cutting the pizza when you get home, too.

Gerry from Valpo said...

Hot roll mix...that was my mom's recipe!

Jonathan said...

Cool. Thx for the report.

Anonymous said...

I grew up in st. louis and love st. louis style pizza, some people hate it. But here, you can buy provel in the grocery store as well as pre-made pizza crust shells. I hope your future attempts turn out well. We usually cut it into squares, for future reference also.