size matters -or- it’s ok to be square
When the kids were little,
and I wasn’t paying attention to pizza as much as I am now (read OBSESSING),
and admittedly, the money was tight in our household,
if we were feeding a crowd we would order a giant SQUARE, 24-cut pie.
Kid’s birthday parties, cub/boy/girl scouting events, or larger family gatherings,
they all got a large SQUARE-cut, (or two).
We (my wife) determined we could feed a ton-o-little kids with one of those big square-cuts.
It was all about maximizing our pizza dollar.
Fortunately, my family has been blessed with multiple decent neighborhood pizzerias,
one of which does a pretty good, large square-cut pie. (Chris’ Pizzeria)
They offer a 12-cut square, and a 24-cut square.
That 24-cut was our “go-to” crowd pleaser.
Those 24-cut, pizza-behemoths are 18″x 24″, with each slice measuring about 3″x 6″,
and almost 3/4″ thick.
I don’t remember the value back in the day,
but now-a-days that 24-cuts runs about 19 bucks.
In comparison, a typical large, 18″ round, 8-cut in our neighborhood runs about $13.
That square’s about 80 cents a slice; allowing about 3 slices each, it’s only $2.40 per person.
(Your typical large round pie is about $1.60 a slice.)
So, if you’re feeding 8 people you’ll need 3 large round pies @ $39,
or one large 24-cut square @ $19.
To maximize your pizza dollar and feed the largest crowd for the lowest cost,
the big square-cut is the way to go..
Frugality aside, my Italian mom instilled in me a commitment to always serve more food than needed, especially for guests.
If you run out of food it’s because there wasn’t enough; that shame outweighs any pride in what you served.
Maybe order TWO large square-cuts.
They make some of the best left-overs ever.
Although our choice for the big square-cut was originally rooted in a financial analysis, it’s actually very good pie. Don’t feel too badly for my guests.
So with Superbowl Sunday approaching, I feel it’s appropriate to review this cost effective, crowd pleaser.
Do you get a large square-cut when you’re feeding a crowd?
If you don’t, you should consider it..
I’m not going to get bogged down in the history,
or regional taxonomy of this under-sung pie.
I was raised calling it a SICILIAN slice. Lately I’ve been hearing it called a “SQUARE” slice.
Either way, you know what we’re talking about.
It’s that thick, crispy-chewy crust, square pizza, topped with tomato sauce and melted cheese (maybe some other stuff like pepperoni).
But it’s NOT a deep-dish pie!
You do know that a square pie is different than a round pie, even from the same pizza joint..
and, the difference isn’t just size or shape..(or value).
From the same pizzeria, we could see a few variables between square and round.
The dough may actually be different for the two styles of pie.
If they are dedicated to their craft they may have a different “square” dough.
Ideally the dough will be formulated to provide a thicker crust with smaller bubbles.
Usually a slightly higher water content (hydration), and perhaps the introduction of some different flours (maybe some additional semolina).
All that to accommodate the longer bake time, help increase lift, and produce the desired “crumb”.
Unfortunately, most pizzerias use the same dough for all of their pies. But, that’s OK.
The dough is usually proofed a little differently for the square pie.
The square pie is usually stretched out in the pan and left to sit uncooked (stacked atop the oven).
This allows the dough to relax and the yeast to grow, and burp a bit more, contributing to the typically thicker crusts on the square pie.
The most important difference between the square and round pie is how they are baked.
These wonderful squares are baked in a sheet pan, as opposed to the typical round pie that is stretched and baked directly on the oven’s deck (floor).
These square pans are usually well used, well seasoned, oily pans.
And, since these pies are a bit thicker, and baked in a pan, they usually have a longer bake time.
They’re cut into square pieces, not triangles. (duh)
As silly as it sounds, that’s actually a very significant diffferentiator.
That factor has a great impact on your experience.
Are you a corner person, or always an edge slice, or always the cheesy/tomatoey middle?
I know you have a preference.
Having, and understanding that preference is a great thing.
All of these differentiators, especially #3, gives us the wonderful square-cut pie.
The taste is different, the texture different, and the experience is different than its round cousin.
On a good square-cut you should find the dough to be thicker, ideally with a crisp bottom and soft interior. The crust should shine, with great flavor and texture.
The tomato and cheese should marry nicely with the crust, neither overpowering the other.
If you’re real lucky it’s a COB (Cheese On Bottom) pie, a perfect rendition of the square-cut.
For a fantastic square-cut-COB, next time your in Troy give Red Front a try (but eat it there).
OCtG bonus tip:
There’s a higher ratio of edge pieces on a 12-cut, than a 24-cut.
If you’re a fan of the edge slice get two 12-cut pies, in lieu of one 24-cut.
Oh, and by the way.
Superbowl Sunday is one of the worst days to get a takeout pizza.
Even worse than a Friday night.
But that’s a post for another day.
Why not make that square-cut yourself?
A square-cut pie is the easiest pizza to nail at home.
You don’t need a 700 degree oven, or an expensive stone, or pizza steel.
No skills required.
And, until I perfect my square-pie dough recipe
you can buy some pretty decent pre-made doughs in your supermarket.
I’m a fan of Perrotta’s Bakery (Troy), packaged dough, available in some Hannafords.
Here’s the simple process.
Let the dough relax to room temperature (in the plastic bag) on your counter.
Pre-heat oven to 450.
Oil a 9×13 “quarter sheet” baking pan,
– (Nordic Ware makes a great one, available for $10 at Target.)
Place the dough in the pan and flatten with your oiled fingertips.
If it doesn’t spread out completely, and is snapping back, let it rest 5 minutes.
Repeat this a few times. Letting the gluten relax between tries.
When the dough is spread out, add your toppings.
I recommend a low moisture, whole milk mozzarella and a very simple (uncooked) tomato topping.
If you’re a pepperoni person, Chester’s Smokehouse makes a wonderful, natural casing link for some great “pepperoni cups”.
Simple (no cook) tomato pizza “sauce”:
Get a can of “expensive” whole, San Marzano tomatoes,
crush in a bowl with your fingers.
add a teaspoon sugar, some salt, black pepper, and garlic powder.
Bake at 450 for 20 minutes or so.
Add some grated Romano when it comes out.
One bag of dough makes one 9×13 pie.
One can of tomatoes is perfect for two 9×13 pies.
Bake the pies ahead of time or make with your guests, let everyone top their own pie.
I’m sure your Superbowl squares will be winners.
Let me know how it goes.
go eat some pizza
………And most importantly, on Sunday get those crispy wings out of that wretched Styrofoam-steam-chamber AS SOON AS YOU CAN!