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Nest pan pizza

All Photos: Kate Williams

Individual Skillet Pizza


5 fuss-free steps for restaurant-quality pizza at home

Homemade pizza can be a thing of beauty. Hot, fresh and adaptable to suit most any taste and topping preferences, it is a true treat. But it isn't always the easiest thing to pull off.

If you're making everything from scratch, there is kneading and rising and waiting involved, not to mention tending a simmering pot of sauce, hoping it is thick enough to not slop off the pizza. Then there's the shaping problem and the baking problem; if you can transfer a fully-topped pizza from a peel to a baking stone without it turning into a torn, missappen blob, you are a far better and more experienced pizza baker than I.

It's hard to get good at home pizza making without devoting quite a bit of time and effort into perfecting it. That is, unless you tilt the game in your favor.

As with baking bread, the easiest way to work pizza baking into your real life is to start with a no-knead recipe. Not only does no-knead dough take only minutes to stir together, it is also very forgiving. Get a last-minute dinner invite? Just pop the dough in the fridge for another day. Want to plan far in advance? The dough in this recipe freezes beautifully.

For pure and simple cuteness factor, I decided to develop this recipe to make two individual-sized skillet pizzas. It's easier to customize them to suit your taste — and, really, who doesn't love sitting down to a full pizza you can have all to yourself? That said, you can also make the recipe in one large skillet. This amount of dough will fit perfectly in a 12-inch cast iron skillet.

Here's how to get it started:

Stir together a big bowl of dough
The first step is ultra-easy, and will look fairly familiar if you've made no-knead bread. Stir together all of your dough ingredients, cover them up tight, and just let 'em sit at room temperature for a long while. You can start first thing in the morning and make pizza for dinner, but for even better flavor let the dough rise and ferment for a full 24 hours before moving on. (You can also make the dough further in advance and refrigerate it after 24 hours, or you can even freeze it it you'd like. Easy peasy.)

As with bread, and really any dough-like recipe, it really is far, far easier to measure if you're using a scale and measuring in grams. Think your end result is too bubbly? Next time you make it, you'll be able to dial in to the exact amount of water you'd like to use. (Hint: You'll use less.) Keep track of what you've done if you want to be ultra-nerdy about it, and you'll be shocked at how consistently good your baking can become. 

The next day, roll it up into balls
The only shaping step you'll need to take is right now. Dump the dough onto the counter and divide it in half. Working with one half at a time, grab a corner of the dough from the underside and pull it up and over, towards the center of the round. Grab another section of the dough next to the first and pull it towards the center. Continue to do so until you've formed the dough into a taut ball with a seam in the center. Pinch that seam together and then flip the dough over so that the smooth side is on top. Repeat with the rest of the dough, so that you have two small rounds. 
Get your skillets good and greasy
Next, you'll ready your baking device. For the crispest crust, bake these pizzas in cast iron. We like to use the 9-inch Nest Homeware skillet, but you can use any skillet of similar size. Only have one? Bake one pizza in a skillet and another in an 8- or 9-inch round cake pan. Don't have any skillets? Use two cake pans, or pie plates for that matter. Or, as I mentioned above, bake the whole thing in a larger, 12-inch skillet.

Whichever you choose, you'll want to get it well-greased with olive oil. You'll need at least a tablespoon for best results, so pour in a good coating. Place the dough rounds in their own individual skillets and turn to coat them in oil. Now flip them so that the seam side is down, cover everything up with plastic wrap, and let it sit, again, for about 2 hours.

Meanwhile, make some sauce and get the oven hot
While the dough is proofing, you may as well make some pizza sauce. Sure, you can use storebought here if you like, but you're already on a roll, and I promise it isn't hard. I like to start with crushed tomatoes that are canned in tomato puree. The tomatoes themselves already have the perfect texture for sauce — just a little chunky — without needing to pull out a food processor, and the puree that comes along helps to thicken the sauce. A slow simmer with a few aromatics (and butter!) will build flavor, but you can skip this step if you're pressed for time.

About an hour into the proofing time, you'll also want to turn the oven on to make sure it is as hot as it can possibly be. My oven goes up to 550 degrees, so that's how high I set it.
Last up: Top and bake
When you're ready to bake, pull off all of the plastic wrap and then use your fingers to smush the dough to the edges of the pan. Go ahead and poke any bubbles that seem big. They'll get much, much bigger in the oven. Now all you need to do is top the dough, sauce first, obviously followed by a generous sprinkling of cheese. I like both low-moisture mozzarella and Parmesan, but do as you'd like — plus an herb or two for flavor and color. Pepperoni, sausage, mushrooms, peppers, and anything else you dream up will all work as well. 

Pop it all in the oven for 10 to 15 minutes, or until the pizza is deeply golden brown and looks awesome. Give it a few minutes to rest, and then dig in. 

Individual Skillet Pizzas
Note: The dough portion of this recipe was tested by measuring all amounts in grams. For best results, you should do the same. We used Diamond Crystal brand kosher salt and SAF Instant Yeast. If you don't have two small cast iron skillets, you can use one skillet and one 8-inch cake pan. Or you can skip the dividing step and make one large pizza in a 12-inch cast iron skillet.

Feel free to use storebought pizza sauce in place of homemade, if you'd like. If you'd like to make the pizza dough further in advance, divide the dough in half, shape into rounds, place in individual zipper lock bags and refrigerate for up to three days or freeze for up to one month.

Serves: 2
Hands-On Time: 45 minutes
Total Time: 1 day, plus 2 1/2 hours

267 grams (1 3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons) all-purpose flour, plus more for shaping
183 grams (2/3 cup) water, at room temperature
7 grams (2 teaspoons) kosher salt
5 grams (3/4 teaspoon) extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for the pan
3/4 teaspoon instant yeast

1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
Pinch red pepper flakes
1 (14-ounce) can crushed tomatoes in tomato puree
1/2 onion, peeled
Kosher salt

1 1/2 cups cup grated low-moisture mozzarella cheese
Fresh oregano or thyme leaves
Grated Parmesan cheese
Extra-virgin olive oil
Torn fresh basil leaves

To make the dough: In a large bowl, stir together all of the ingredients until a shaggy dough forms. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and let sit at room temperature for at least 8 hours or up to 24 hours.

When you're ready to shape your pizzas, turn the dough out onto a well-floured counter, being careful not to deflate too much of the air in the dough. Using a bench scraper or knife, divide the dough in half. Working with one half of the dough at a time, grab a corner of the dough and pull it up and over to the center. Continue to grab the corners of the dough, pulling towards the center, to form a taut ball. Pinch together the seams of the dough, and then flip over so that the seam is facing down. Repeat with the second half of the dough.

Pour a generous amount of olive oil (about 1 tablespoon) into two 9-inch cast iron skillets (see note). Swirl the oil around to coat the bottom and sides of the pan. Place one dough round into each skillet and turn to coat in the oil. Flip the dough rounds so that they are seam side-down, cover tightly with plastic wrap, and let sit at room temperature for 2 hours.

About 1 hour into the proofing, turn the oven on to 550 degrees, or as high as it will go.

Meanwhile, make the sauce: In a medium saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. When the butter is foamy, add the garlic, oregano and red pepper flakes and cook, stirring, until aromatic, about 1 minute. Add the tomatoes and the onion half and bring to a simmer. Continue to simmer, stirring occasionally, until thickened and flavorful, about 45 minutes. Remove from the heat and discard the onion half. Season to taste with salt.

To top and cook the pizzas: After 2 hours of proofing, unwrap the skillets. Use your fingers to press the dough out until it reaches the sides of the skillets and pop any large bubbles that you see. Spread about 1/2 cup of the sauce onto each dough round and top with the cheese. Sprinkle the fresh oregano over the cheese and bake until well browned, 10 to 15 minutes.

Immediately sprinkle the top of the pizzas with Parmesan and drizzle with olive oil. Transfer to a cutting board and let rest for 5 minutes. Sprinkle basil leaves over the top, slice and serve.

Author image

Kate Williams is an associate editor at Southern Kitchen. She is also an on-air personality on our podcast, Sunday Supper. She has been working in food since 2009, including a two-year stint at America’s Test Kitchen. Kate has been a personal chef, recipe developer, the food editor at a hyperlocal news site in Berkeley and a freelance writer for publications such as Serious Eats, Anova Culinary, The Cook’s Cook and Berkeleyside. Kate is also an avid rock climber and occasionally dabbles in long-distance running. She makes a mean peach pie and likes her bourbon neat.

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