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Defiling pizza on a regular basis.

Home Slice: Making Homemade Stuffed-Crust Pizza

Or, 'Stuff This in Your Piehole'

[THE VIDEO THAT WAS FORMERLY HERE HAS BEEN REMOVED AT THE REQUEST OF PIZZA HUT]

I don't care if you guys don't like Pizza Hut. Even the most diehard haters among you have to admit that a crust stuffed with cheese is pretty brilliant. (As is a commercial with Peter O'Toole shilling the cheesy stuff.)

No? Don't lie to me, people. I can see into your greasy souls. It's bread. Stuffed with cheese. Attached to PIZZA. You can grumble about execution, ingredients, flavor, etc., etc., but you've gotta admit that the idea itself is awesome.

So what if we were to try to make it at home? That's right. For this edition of Home Slice, I'm attempting homemade stuffed-crust pizza. Come into my kitchen, friends, after the jump.

The Perfect Cheese: Henning's String Cheese Rope

What could be so hard about stuffed-crust pizza? I thought. You just stretch out the dough a little more than usual, wrap it around some string cheese, and voilĂ ! But, hey, check this out. I found this stuff last time I visited Milwaukee:

20110914-homemade-stuffed-crust-pizza-000-cheese-rope.jpg

Yeah, Milwaukee. Figures. Who else but Wisconsinites would have come up with a mozzarella configuration like this? It's Henning's Rope String Cheese, available at the Wisconsin Cheese Mart for $4.10 a rope online. I ordered three of these bad boys online after having eaten through the one I brought back to NYC with me.

Hmm. How was I going to know what diameter pizza to make? I had a flash of an idea. A basic grade-school trick for measuring along a curve:

20110914-homemade-stuffed-crust-pizza-00-measure.jpg

Yup. Run a string along it, then measure the straightened string later. Hmm, a 36" circumference gives us an 11.45" diameter on the cheese rope. But of course I'd need a couple extra inches for the wrap-around. This is easy. My go-to dough recipe makes rounds for three 14" pizzas. I whizzed up a couple batches, cold-fermented them for 3 days, and then ... FLASH FORWARD ...!!!

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Henning's String Cheese Rope doesn't just peel apart nicely. Did you read Johnny Tremain as a kid? Remember how the skin of his fingers grew together after his burned hand was improperly attended to? And how the really smart doctor at the end is like, "Oh, pshaw, I can fix that!" And then Johnny bites a bullet while the doctor scalpels his fingers apart?

I couldn't help thinking of that while cutting the cheese.

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What you get is a rope of irregular thickness. No biggie. You know how I'm always going on about "the look of the handmade" when I blather about "artisanal" pizza, right? Well, this was going to be an honest-to-goodness artisanal stuffed-crust pizza. (Do you like that rationalization? Yeah, I kinda do, too.)

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I stretched my crust out to about 14" in diameter and arranged the cheese rope atop. Someone on my Flickr or my Facebook said it kind of looked intestinal. Someone else said it looked like a cheese turd. Not curd. Turd. I can't say they're wrong. It is kind of comical.

20110914-homemade-stuffed-crust-pizza-04-wrapping-ring.jpg

This is where I realized I had actually halved my dough portion instead of dividing it by thirds. D'oh! See how thick that dough is? Oh well. I decided I'd go ahead with this one as-is. It's not like I didn't have more dough.

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I was a little concerned that I might not have rolled the edges tightly enough.

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But that's what experimentation is for, right? Let's just prep this sucker and try this shit out ...

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FUUUUUUUUUUU!!!! Blowout.

"I smell something burning. Would you check the oven?" That's my wife (aka Girl Slice) chiming in from the living room.

"Yes, dear."

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I figured I'd bake this all the way through anyway. No sense in wasting the rest of the pizza. And, heck, maybe it'd be like a minor cut—once the cheese started to bake, I hoped, it would stanch the "wound" in the crust's edge.

20110914-homemade-stuffed-crust-pizza-09-innards.jpg

Still, not all the cheese leaked out. In this innards shot, you can see I still had a bit of stuffed crust going on.

And this shot shows one other important thing here: You have to watch for internal seepage as well. See how the melted cheese rope has also oozed into the interior of the pizza?

20110914-homemade-stuffed-crust-pizza-10-blowout-again.jpg

I tried a second pizza, this time wrapping the cheese rope a little more tightly in the crust. Same results. Something was just not working. And then I realized what it was...

I had been hand-stretching—getting a nice windowpane effect in the middle, with thicker edges.

That created two problems:

  • First, the dough was too thick in just the wrong place—right at the edge, where it would essentially be doubling in on itself to boot
  • Second, the thickness transitioned to windowpane thinness right around where the "cornicione" started to become the actual pizza bottom—right on the rump of the outer crust. With the outer bulkhead compromised, it's inevitable that the pressure building steamy, oozing cheese is going to breach the crust's structural integrity and vent cheese into the void

The solution? ...

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An even crust thickness all around. How better than with a rolling pin?

I know, I know, some folks are going to say a rolling pin is anathema to great pizza. But those folks never made it past my "Pizza Hut is brilliant" message above. It's just us heathens down this far in the post. So, yeah. This is our secret. Use the damn rolling pin.

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It really helps. And I was able to get a much tighter seal, since I didn't have the wrinkles and excessive flab of a thicker edge to deal with.

20110914-homemade-stuffed-crust-pizza-13-raw-pie-03-closeup.jpg

I had a good feeling about this pie, so I broke out the pepperoni. I mean, really, there should be a law stipulating that a stuffed-crust pizza cannot be made without pepperoni. I'm not even a HUGE pepperoni fan, and I concede this point.

20110914-homemade-stuffed-crust-pizza-14-raw-pie-in-oven.jpg

Yeah, it's a little weird in shape. Like some fictional country more than a perfectly round pizza. But remember, folks: The weird shape just makes it artisanal. ;)

20110914-homemade-stuffed-crust-pizza-15-finished-03.jpg

And there's that sucker finished. Looks good, right? Don't answer that, actually. You can see a mini blowout in the crust here. It didn't leak too much. Not enough that I'd call this a failure.

But where these do have a tendency to leak is toward the middle. You can kind of see how much of the crust cheese has melted into the center of the pizza, taking along the pepperonis on a killer wave of greasy surf.

20110914-homemade-stuffed-crust-pizza-16-innards.jpg

Even with that leakage, there's still enough cheese in the crust to qualify this as at least a partial success.

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Check out that undercarriage! I often don't get that on regular unstuffed-crust pizzas.

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I needed one last photo. So I got all surgical again ...

20110914-homemade-stuffed-crust-pizza-19-weird-innards.jpg

If I didn't know what went into the preparation of this pizza, I'd almost say that the picture above looks commercial as all get out. Like something you'd get from a chain or a frozen pizza box.

So maybe this was a success? All I know is that I might have to take some pointers from this video next time:

[THE VIDEO THAT WAS FORMERLY HERE HAS BEEN REMOVED AT THE REQUEST OF PIZZA HUT]

And aim even higher—to CHEESY BITES PIZZA, which is basically Stephen Hawking–level genius shit.

About the author: Adam Kuban is the founder of Slice, where he has been writing about pizza since before you were born. You can follow him as @akuban on Twitter.

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