Chicago Northwest Blog


Higdon’s Pan Pizza Recipe

from: Tori Cimack, Sonesta ES Suites Chicago-Schaumburg


Common Tools:

• Strainer
• Cutting board
• Knife
• Oven
• Bowls
• Common Sense

“Uncommon” Tools:

• 10 in cast iron pan (highly recommend you use a cast iron pan). If you do
not have a cast iron, make sure the pan you are using is oven safe (the
material of the handle is what typically makes a pan oven safe/unsafe).
• Cooling rack
• Thermometer Helps
• Cheese Grater Helps
• Goggles (LOL)


Dough Ingredients:

• ¼ teaspoon instant dry yeast
• 1 teaspoon white sugar
• ½ cup water (warm, shoot for about 95 degrees F)
• About 1 to 1½ cup all purpose, unbleached flour
• ½ teaspoon salt
• Little bit of olive oil
• 3 cups patience

On Pan:

• Cornmeal
• Olive oil
• Salt
• Pepper
• Oregano

For sauce:

• Italian Seasoning
• Oregano (yes, I know Italian seasoning has oregano, I just love oregano)
• Olive oil
• Additional salt and pepper
• 1/3 cup canned crushed tomatoes (buy a 14 oz can)
• Additional sugar

On Top:

• Grated parmesan
• 4 ounces whole milk, low moisture mozzarella, grated and kept old
• Whatever toppings you want! I love a single small yellow onion on my pizzas. Might be good to
limit yourself to smaller amounts of toppings. More toppings mean more moisture means
cooking on top happens slower means stuff on bottom gets more cooking means burning on
bottom or underdone top!



  1. Mix by hand a little more than 1 cup flour and the water together until just incorporated. Let sit for
    about 10 minutes.
  2. Sprinkle on top the sugar, yeast, and salt and mix by hand. The dough will be VERY sticky here. If no
    coherent dough ball forms after about 3 minutes of mixing, add more flour. You should not surpass the
    1 ½ cups flour limit. If you do, you have added too much flour. It is okay to have less than the full
    amount of flour—in fact, the closer you are to 1 cup flour, the better (in my opinion).
  3. Continue mixing until you can hold the dough in a ball. Transfer the dough to a countertop (add a little
    flour to the countertop if you anticipate it sticking) and knead the dough. There are many techniques
    to kneading, google one and get good at it! There’s no “best” way to knead in my opinion—just play
    around with it and have fun!
  4. After about 4 minutes of kneading, attempt to “window” the dough. Stretch it thin and hold it up
    between your face and a light. If you are able to stretch it so that the light can make it through the
    dough without the dough tearing, you have successfully kneaded the dough! If the dough tears, get
    back to kneading! Try as many times as you need to before moving on.
  5. Shape the dough into a rough ball. Add a tiny bit of olive oil to a bowl. I suggest finding a glass bowl
    with a lid. If you don’t have one, any bowl with some saran wrap will work! J Put the dough in the
    bowl and swish it around. The purpose of this olive oil is to keep the dough from sticking—only a tiny
    bit is needed, don’t waste your olive oil here!
  6. Cover the bowl and let the dough sit (COVERED!) for about 2 to 3 hours, or until it has more than
    doubled in size. I put my dough in my utility closet which gets pretty warm (75-80 degrees F). Try and
    keep the bowl up high, as it is typically warmer there (warm air is less dense than cold air, so it rises up
    against the ceiling!). This is called “rising” or, in general, this entire phase is the “bulk fermentation”
    process in baking with yeast.
  7. Once the dough has double/tripled in size, you are ready for the next steps!

Pan Prep and Proofing:

  1. To a 10 in pan (preferably a cast iron pan—BELIEVE ME), add a glug of olive oil, a pinch of salt, a pinch
    of pepper, a pinch of oregano, and a pinch of cornmeal.
    a. Why cornmeal? When the pizza is done, the cornmeal will act as “ball bearings” allowing the
    pizza to slide off with the assistance of the olive oil!
  2. With your fingers, spread what you’ve added to the pan around the base and up the sides. DON’T
  3. Grab your dough and, while holding it, spread it apart with your hands. The dough should be SUPER
    fluffy and soft. After you have spread it out a little, add it to the pan. Continue spreading out the dough
    until it stays touching the edge and doesn’t scrunch up to the middle. Now you can wash your hands.
  4. Let the dough sit for 45 minutes longer. This is called “proofing.” It acts as one final step of bulk
    fermentation for the dough.
  5. After about 35 minutes have passed, turn on your oven and set it to 480 degrees F and let it preheat
    during the next steps.

Pizza time:

  1. Time to sauce:
    a. Pour the can of crushed tomatoes into a strainer and let it partially strain. Add the contents into
    a bowl for mixing. You will NOT be heating up these tomatoes, so don’t get a saucepan out for
    them. This is a bit uncommon—most recipes call to heat or simmer your sauce. You are
    welcome to put a different sauce recipe on the pizza; this is just what I like!
    b. Add a glug of olive oil, and a pinch of the rest of the ingredients to the bowl and mix. I have
    always eyeballed this mixture, just don’t accidentally dump a cup of sugar into the tomatoes. It
    won’t be good, trust me.
    c. Spread the sauce onto the dough in the pan. I think crust is overrated, so I spread my sauce all
    the way to the edge of the pan.
  2. Prepare your toppings, grate your mozzarella (I sliced my mozzarella for a long time. You don’t need a
    cheese grater, it just makes this process a bit easier), and set aside the parmesan. Keep the cheeses
  3. Turn on the stovetop to medium-high (you should only have dough and sauce in your pan at the
    moment). Make sure your oven will finish pre-heating in a couple minutes.
  4. Let the bottom of your pan heat up.
    a. IF YOU ARE USING A CAST IRON PAN: cook from anywhere between 5-10 minutes. I have
    messed around with this time quite a bit. This determines how crispy the bottom of your pizza
    will be. The cast iron allows for a bit more error here, so play around with how long you keep it
    on the stovetop! Move onto step 5.
    b. IF YOU ARE NOT USING A CAST IRON PAN: you might have issues with burning on the bottom of
    your pizza. I did not use a cast iron for a while, and I found the window for error to be tiny.
    Keep it on the heat for about 5ish minutes. If you smell burning take it off the heat
    immediately. Move onto step 5.
  5. Add the parmesan cheese, then the mozzarella, then your toppings. Again, I like to spread my toppings
    to the edge of the pan.
  6. IMMEDIATELY, move your pan to the oven on the topmost rack. I have played around placing the pan
    under my oven’s broiler to some success.
  7. Wait until you begin seeing orange spots on the cheese, or nice crispy marks on your toppings. I
    typically have mine in the oven from anywhere between 6 to 12 minutes (?). I seldom look at the clock
    when I am at this step. I find it better to look for the visual signals that the pizza gives telling you it’s
    done, rather than sticking to a time. Again, play around with leaving it in a bit longer or shorter than
    makes your comfortable! Figure out what it does to the pizza and keep mental (or physical!) notes for
    next time.
  8. Take the pan out of the oven and place it onto your stovetop. Prepare a cooling rack.
  9. After about a minute on the stove, use tongs to separate the pizza’s edges from the sides of the pan.
    Wiggle it out and onto the cooling rack. If you lose a bit of cheese along the way, congratulations, you
    have been given a little snack for while you wait!
  10. Wait for about as long as the pizza was in the oven. Go ahead and slice into whatever portions you
    want. I enjoy cutting my pizza into sevenths because I like living on the edge.
  11. Enjoy! 🙂

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