My husband, Jade, heard about using a cast iron skillet to make deep dish pizza while listening to the Splendid Table. We finally got a cast iron skillet last fall to make honey sage cornbread, but we haven’t used it all that much. Jade was interested to see how a pizza would turn out in a cast iron skillet, so he decided to give it a try.
The dough recipe is no-knead, but it does need to rise for 8 to 24 hours. Jade made his dough the day before and he only used half the dough to fill one 10-inch cast iron skillet.
As for toppings, the original recipe suggested a traditional red sauce and standard cheese options, but Jade wanted to try making one of my all-time favorite pizzas, a Popeye pizza.
I first had the original Popeye pizza with my friends Nicole and Kelly who live in New York. They brought me to Co. for pizza. I chose the Popeye pizza, because it is one of their specialties and looked super delicious as I spied our neighbor table’s order.
After that first trip to Co. I’ve since asked Jade to make me his version of the popeye pizza several times. Jade is a really amazing cook, and he has mastered brick oven style pizza using our grill (that’s for another post). I was leery about a deep dish popeye pizza made in a cast iron skillet, but I shouldn’t have been.
This pizza was absolutely delicious. The crust was buttery with a slight crunch and chew to it. The Gruyere and sea salt added the perfect salty balance to the slightly bitter spinach. Even if you aren’t a spinach fan, I highly suggest this recipe. You can swap in whichever toppings and sauces you like best.
Cast Iron Skillet Popeye Pizza
For the Dough:
2 1/2 cups bread flour
2 teaspoons kosher salt, plus more for sprinkling
1/2 teaspoon instant yeast
1 cup plus 3 tablespoons water
2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more to coat pans and drizzle
1 medium garlic clove, grated
1 ounce grated parmesan
1/3 cup finely grated Gruyère cheese
1 ¾ ounces fresh mozzarella, pulled into shreds
2 pinches of freshly ground black pepper
4 ounces fresh spinach
Generous pinch of fine sea salt
Extra-virgin olive oil, for Drizzling
Combine flour, salt, yeast, water, and oil in a large bowl. Mix with hands or a wooden spoon until no dry flour remains. The bowl should be at least 4 to 6 times to volume of the dough to account for rising.
Cover bowl tightly with plastic wrap, making sure that edges are well sealed, then let rest on the countertop for at least 8 hours and up to 24. Dough should rise dramatically and fill bowl.
Sprinkle the top of the dough lightly with flour, then transfer it to a well-floured work surface. Divide dough into two pieces and form each into a ball by holding it with well-floured hands and tucking the dough underneath itself, rotating it until it forms a tight ball.
Pour 1 to 2 tablespoons of oil in the bottom of two 10-inch cast iron skillet or round cake pans. (See note above). Place 1 ball of dough the pan and turn to coat evenly with oil. Using a flat palm, press the dough around the pan, flattening it slightly and spreading oil around the entire bottom and edges of the pan. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and let the dough sit at room temperature for two hours. After the first hour, adjust an oven rack to the middle position and preheat oven to 550°F.
After two hours, dough should be mostly filling in the pan up to the edges. Use your fingertips to press it around until it fills in every corner, popping any large bubbles that appear. Lift up one edge of the dough to let any air bubbles underneath escape and repeat, moving around the dough until there are no air bubbles left underneath and the dough is evenly spread around the pan.
Sprinkle the surface of the dough evenly with the garlic. Distribute the Parmesan, Gruyère, and mozzarella evenly over the dough. Sprinkle evenly with pepper.
Transfer pan to oven and bake for five minutes. Pull the rack partially out of the oven. Quickly add the spinach in what will look like a big mound (the spinach will reduce, the mound flattening, as spinach always does when it cooks). Sprinkle evenly with salt.
Return the pie to the oven for five to eight minutes, until the crust is charred in spots, and bottom is golden brown and crisp when you lift it with a thin spatula, 10 to 13 minutes. Using a thin spatula, loosen pizza and peek underneath. If the bottom is not as crisp as desired, place pan over a burner and cook on medium heat, moving the pan around to cook evenly until it is crisp, 1 to 3 minutes. Remove the pizza and transfer to a cutting board. Cut and serve immediately.