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08/28/2012

~ St. Louis-Style Pizza: "Square Beyond Compare" ~

PICT0035Last week, one of my friends, Seattle-based food and travel writer, Melissa Trainer, posted a link to the King Arthur Flour Company's recipe for St. Louis-style pizza on Facebook.  I've been a fan of Missy for a while.  Besides being a busy mom, she professsionally writes several blogs, and, for a direct link to her personal blog, click onto "Hooks for Cooks" on "My Favorite Blogs" list!

PICT0029I've always been intrigued by the concept of St. Louis-style pizza, known for its thin, crispy cracker crust topped with the legendary Provel cheese.  I immediately printed out the recipe, but, as I commented to Missy, "I want to try this, but, it might lead to marital discord if I serve it to my traditional pizza-lovin' husband".   After a short discussion with Joe, he said, "I've never met a pizza I didn't like... give it a try."  Within seconds, Joe ordered the Provel cheese from:  It's a St. Louis Thing (www.itsastlouisthing.com)!

PICT0003A bit about the St. Louis-style pizza crust:  The most definitive difference between St. Louis pizza and traditional pizza is its super-thin, cracker crust.  The crust contains no yeast, which means it should not be confused with recipes for New York-style thin-crust pizza.  It's made with self-rising flour (which has baking powder and salt added to it) or by adding baking powder and salt to all-purpose flour.  There's a lot to be said for this, because in about 15 minutes, or the time it takes to preheat the average oven, you can have two pizzas ready to bake, and, in less than 30 minutes, dinner is served.  (On a saucy side note, their slightly sweet tomato sauce is traditionally seasoned with oregano, and, the pizza is sprinkled with oregano prior to baking.)  Because the crust is so crispy, when it comes time to eat it, it can't be folded, so, in St. Louis, instead of cutting it into wedges, they cut it into 3"-4" squares.  Also, many restaurants make their pizza in a rectangular shape, which I am going to try today!

Note:  I am not using self-rising flour today.  Why?  It's my thought that the average home cook does not keep this on-hand in their pantry.  I have a bag, but, I'm not the average home cook.  I use enough self-rising flour in the course of a year to ensure that it doesn't go past its expiration date.  Yes folks, because it contains baking powder, self-rising flour has an expiration date!

PICT0005A bit about the Provel cheese: Provel cheese was developed by the St. Louis firm Costa Grocery in the 1950's.  Made in Wisconsin, it's a processed cheese made from provolone, Swiss and white cheddar and sold primarily in the St. Louis area.  While researching St. Louis-syle pizza, I was surprised to read comments from folks who professed their hatred for this cheese. That made me even more curious, and, the moment my 5-pound block of Provel arrived, I could barely wait to try a taste.  Hate?  In my case it was love at first bite!

PICT0016My critique of Provel cheese:  It's a white, slightly smoky and slightly salty tasting processed cheese, with a texture similar to the orange-colored Velveeta.  The second you take a knife to it, you just know it's going to melt to a creamy state!

Without having tried this (yet), I'll go so far as to guess it would probably be a great addition to cheese soups, cheese sauces and cheese fondue too.  I predict you'll see me using this cheese in future recipes on this blog.  As for those who claim you can make your own Provel by combining equal amounts of grated store-bought smoked provolone, Swiss and white cheddar?  Without having tried this (yet), I'll go so far as to say "I don't think so".  Being familiar with the above named three cheeses, and, now, having experienced Provel, the secret is in the processing (which forms these three into one distinct cheese), and, there is no "real deal" substitution.  It is exactly what "St. Louians" (?) claim it to be:  Square Beyond Compare!!! 

PICT0012To prepare the pizza pans:

Using a pastry brush or a paper towel, lightly oil each of two pizza pans with:

1  tablespoon olive oil (2 tablespoons total olive oil)

I'm using one 12" round pan, and, one 13" x 9" rectangular pan today... that choice is yours!

To prepare the cracker crust:

2  cups unbleached, all-purpose flour

2  tablespoons additional flour, for kneading dough

1  teaspoon baking powder

1/2  teaspoon sugar

1/2  teaspoon salt

1/2  cup warm water + 2 additional tablespoons warm water

2  tablespoons olive oil

PICT0014~ Step 1.  In a large mixing bowl, place the flour, baking powder, sugar and salt.  Using a whisk, thoroughly combine.  

PICT0001Make a "well" in the center and set aside the additional flour.

PICT0014 PICT0003~ Step 2.  In a 1-cup measuring container, place all of the water and the olive oil.  Add the wet ingredients to the "well" in the center of the dry ingredients.

~ Step 3. Using your fingertips, begin incorporating the flour mixture, in small amounts, into the wet mixture until a wet, sticky mass forms.

PICT0020~ Step 4.  Using the heal of your hand, continue to knead the dough (in the bowl), giving the bowl a quarter of a turn each time you press down on it, until a smooth ball forms, adding the additional flour, as necessary to keep the dough from sticking to bowl.  This entire process will take about 2 minutes.

~ Step 5.  Cover bowl with plastic wrap and set aside 15-30 minutes. While dough rests, prep toppings and preheat oven to 350 degrees.

PICT0007For the pizza toppings:

1-1 1/2  cups pizza sauce, preferably homemade

8  ounces grated Provel cheese (about a 2" hunk of Provel)

1  teaspoon dried oregano

1  teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional)

olive oil

Ready, set, go!!!

PICT0002~ Step 6.  I weighed the dough and was pleased to find out the recipe yielded 1 pound.  Using my kitchen scale, I divided the dough in half and placed a piece on each of the prepared pans.

PICT0015~ Step 7.  I won't lie, I was scared when I started patting and pressing the dough into the pans.  But, with the help if my nifty mini-rolling pin, before I knew it, I had two, seriously thin pizza crusts!

PICT0018~ Step 8.  I won't lie, I was scared to "over sauce" these somewhat paper thin crusts.  I only used one cup of total sauce between both crusts... if you want to use more, that is your choice!

PICT0024~ Step 9.  I won't lie, I was not afraid to evenly distribute all of the Provel over both pizzas.  After I sprinkled them with some oregano, red pepper flakes and a splash of EVOO... I was quite proud of myself!

IMG_0033 IMG_0016~ Step 10. One at a time, bake on center rack of preheated oven 12-15 minutes, or until, using a thin spatula, it will easily slide from pan onto oven rack and bake until crust is crisp, 1-2 additional minutes.

IMG_0092Step 11.  Using the spatula, slide each pizza directly from the oven rack onto a cooling rack.  Cool for 1-2 minutes prior to slicing into 3"-4" squares and serving.

Post script:  This is the first time I have ever posted a recipe on Kitchen Encounters that I have never in my life tasted or tested 2-3 times... and it is just perfect!

Dare to be square:

PICT0040St. Louis-Style Pizza:  "Square Beyond Compare":  Recipe yields 2 pizzas, round or rectangular, your choice.

Special Equipment List:  2 pizza pans, 12" round, or, 13" x 9" rectangular; pastry brush or paper towels; whisk; 1-cup measuring container; hand-held cheese grater; thin metal spatula; 2 cooling racks

IMG_4206Cook's Note:  For another out-of-the-ordinary, extraordinary pizza experience, you can find my recipe for ~ Chicago-Style Deep-Dish Pizza ~ in Categories 2, 17, or 19. No snacking here -- every slice of this one is a small meal!

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2012)

Comments

Keith -- You made my day. Comments like yours make all the hard work (and love) I put into my Kitchen Encounters worth the effort. If you don't find something you're looking for, or have an idea for something you'd like to see a recipe for, just ask. I adore the inspiration and it is how more than a few of my recipes get written!

Ha. As soon as I saw this recipe I had to sneak in to see if you were the real deal. After spending 2 years in St.Louis, I knew what their pizza was all about... Provel and thin crust.

I cannot tell you how glad I am to have finally stumbled on your site. How I have not come across it before is beyond me. This is exactly the type of kitchen magic I was looking for. So far I have seen Irish, Italian and Portugese. Really looking forward to scouring this site for delicious food to make.

thank you for all the time and hard work you have put into this.

Trisha -- You made my day! ~ Mel.

I forgot to update! I absolutely LOVE this recipe - especially the dough - and have it printed out and saved in my 'favorites' section of my Recipe Binder! Thank you, Chef Melanie!

Trish! Thanks for the comment and feedback! As you said (and I mentioned in the recipe), the crust is so thin (which is the point of St. Louis-style pizza) one must resist the temptation to over sauce -- and your experience just reinforces the point to everyone reading this recipe!!! I'm so glad you and yours in AZ are enjoying this recipe as much as we are here in PA! ~ Mel.

I did it! I made the recipe and it turned out awesome! I would not suggest adding too much sauce (as I did last night) because it made it hard to get the pizza off the pans onto the oven rack. Next time I will use a bit less sauce. But even as it was, it turned out wonderful, and will become a favorite in our household!

Trish! Thanks for the comment! As I mentioned in the post, I had never made it before either (which is a rarity on on Kitchen Encounters)! That being said, is was such a fun thing to make, and, everyone loved it enough for me to consider it "blog-worthy" immediately!!! ~ Mel.

Pizza and Calzone have always been my specialty - and my kid's favorite. I've never made this type of pizza and am excited to try it today. Thank you for your awesome blog and recipes, Melanie!

~ Trish

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