This weekend I went for round two of my attempts at creating Grandma Pizza at home. Originally inspired to try this recipe after tasting a “grandma pizza” at a pizza shop in Harrisburg, PA then instructed by Chef Bruno in this video Chef Bruno Makes Grandma Pizza I was ready to begin trying some variations on my first attempt.
The basic approach remained the same. I used my traditional recipe, a bit wet (slightly higher water) for the dough. It was very soft, but not sticky coming out of the bowl. This was allowed to rest in the refrigerator over night in about 22 oz. balls. The next day around noon, I took the ball out of the oven and stretched it into a cookie sheet which was lightly coated with olive oil. Chef Bruno says to use a lot of oil, but I had too much oil on my first attempt, so I cut back this time by simply wiping the pan with an oiled paper towel, rather than allowing puddles to form. I also treated to top of the dough with a very light coat of olive oil in the same way, no puddles. I wrapped the top of the tray with cellophane to keep it from drying out and let it rest at room temperature. Two hours later I came back and stretched the dough gently into the corners of the pan. I could see that it had risen and bubble were forming in the crust. I used care not to flatten or press on the dough, but rather stretch it by gently pulling on it. Two more hours later, the dough had risen just above the tray top and almost completely filled the corners. I pulled very slightly toward the corners and set it aside.
The toppings are very expensive for this pie. I spared no expense this time, but will begin to experiment with slightly less expensive toppings for future trials. It gets topped with mozzarella and Parmesan, whole tomatoes, garlic, rappi (rappini), oregano, basil, salt and pepper.
First up was the roasted garlic and rappi. I roasted this myself while the dough was rising. Simply peel the cloves (I used 1-1/2 small cloves) and place them in aluminum foil with chopped rappi (about 2 TBL). Then place the wrapped ball in the oven at 400 degrees for about 40 minutes until the garlic becomes tender.
I used 1/2 lb fresh (U.S.) mozzarella for one half and a 1/2 lb ball of smoked mozzarella for the other side of the pie. The cheese goes down first, sliced thickly in about 1/4 inch slices. I left about a 1 inch gap between slices for melting.
Once the cheese in in place, I sprinkled the pie with Oregano, salt and pepper. Next I spread about 1/2 cup fresh chopped basil liberally over the cheese.
Up next were the tomatoes. I purchased Cento brand San Marzano tomatoes in cans. The cans were $3.99 each and I used 1 and 1/2 cans (youch). It hurt to spend that much on toms, but they are San Marzanos, after all. I did my best to hand squeeze most of the water out of the tomatoes before slightly crushing them and laying them onto the pizza. I like lots of tomato, so I covered most of the top leaving about 1 inch gaps between tomatoes.
Lastly before baking, I smashed the garlic and rappi and spread it over the pizza as well. I’ll need a better way to spread garlic as doing it by hand was a messy and inefficient affair. Once done, the pie was ready to bake.
I had raised the temperature to its max for my home oven – 550 degrees. This requires caution when using oil and a cookie sheet on the bottom rack as the oil gets close to it’s burn point very quickly. The idea is for the oil to lightly fry the bottom of the crust. If you begin to see smoke, the oil is burning and you might have to lower the temperature. I baked it for just about 10 minutes and it had just began smoking at that time.
When the pizza comes out it will look and smell amazing! However, stop to finish it with 1/4 cup fresh Parmesan cheese for a little extra texture and flavor.
I noticed immediately the difference that less oil had made this time. Combined with the wetter dough and longer rise time it made for a wonderfully light airy, yet robust crust. I could almost imagine it being healthy for me! The other observation worth noting was that, for me, the fresh mozzarella tasted better than the smoked cheese for this pie. It seemed to have a tang that complimented the tomato perfectly while the smoked cheese was more subtle and seemed to blend in rather than stand out as a distinct flavor. This pizza seems to explode in your mouth and it’s a truly wonderful experience especially right out of the oven. This is one that you can use to impress even the most snobby of your pizza friends because the taste is classy and timeless. I highly recommend this recipe despite it’s higher cost.
Next up – I’ll try to get the cost down by using other tomatoes and shopping around for fresh cheese. Enjoy!