Grandma Pie is a style of pizza made in a large sheet pan, baked in the oven for 20 or more minutes and serves a large crowd in one easy go. The bottom is crispy and crunchy and coated in olive oil, the middle is light and airy and the top is melty and saucy, and oftentimes nice and simple.
Grandma pie is one of the things that is helping us get through the pandemic. When this all started back in March, Sebastian suggested that we have pizza on Friday’s to delineate the week from the weekend. Since we’d all be spending a whole lot more time at home, it would be hard to tell the difference between the week and the weekend. So we decided to make eating pizza a Friday ritual.
Early in the pandemic, my brother-in-law sent us this Grandma Pie recipe from Bon Appetite, which the recipe here is based on. I made it a couple of weeks later. Halfway through baking though, the oven mysteriously turned off and we didn’t realize it. I improvised on how much longer to keep it in the oven and at what temperature and it turned out really well anyway. When I tried to make it again, however, it didn’t turn out as well as that first time. So the oven breaking midway through had some sort of magic to it.
It has been 32 weeks since the pandemic reached our part of the world. Over the last 32 Fridays we have eaten pizza 29 times (exceptions were made for holidays and staycation days). Of those 29, I’ve made Grandma Pie 23 times. It took 23 tries to get it right, like that first try when the oven stopped working. That’s 23 times of making and eating Grandma Pie.
It has become such an important ritual in our house. It has given us a sense of comfort and stability. Our two-year-old knows that on Fridays we have pizza (and wear pink – ha, not really). We’ve even turned some family members onto the ritual!
The trick to getting this just right is balancing the right temperature and time so that the bottom crust gets crispy but the cheese does not burn.
It’s important to get the second rise just right so that the dough becomes light and airy, but not so much so that it collapses under the weight of the cheese or other toppings. To achieve this, don’t let the dough rise too much on the second rise. It should come to about the top of the edge of the baking sheet. Very light-weight toppings are best, like cheese and pepperoni.
It helps to use bread flour, but it doesn’t help that much. If you have it, use it. If not, don’t worry about it. The San Marzano tomatoes, however, are important. Do not accept any substitutes. When baking, keep the oven down to 400 degrees, lower than you would expect for pizza. Bake the pizza on the lowest rack and start checking at around 20 minutes, remove when the cheese browns.
Grandma Pie - Quarantine Pizza
- 1 ¾ cups water
- 1 package yeast
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 2 ½ tsp salt
- 4 cups flour (all-purpose or bread flour)
- 1 28 oz can San Marzano tomatoes
- 2 garlic cloves, peeled
- 6 tbsp olive oil
- ½ cup olive oil
- 8 oz fresh mozzarella, shredded
- pepperoni, optional
- fresh basil, optional
- Microwave the water in a large bowl for about 30 seconds or until warm, but not hot. Add the yeast and allow to sit for ten minutes until it starts to bubble.
- Add the olive oil, salt and two cups flour and combine roughly with a spoon. Add the remaining two cups flour and again combine roughly with a spoon. Turn out onto a flat surface and knead the dough for ten minutes.
- Place the smooth ball of dough back in the bowl and cover in about a tablespoon of olive oil. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and allow to rise in the fridge for 24 hours.
- Add the can of San Marzano tomatoes, the garlic cloves and olive oil to a blender. Blend until smooth. This will make enough sauce for 3-4 pizzas. You can freeze the remaining sauce for later use.
Assembling the Pizza
- Remove the dough from the fridge a couple of hours before you plan to make the pizza to allow it to warm up to room temperature.
- Pour ½ cup olive oil onto a large baking sheet. Move the dough from the bowl to the baking sheet and using your hands gently start to spread the dough out to fill the shape of the rectangular baking sheet. The dough will be elastic and will pull back towards the center. Keep working the dough and stretch it all the way to the edges and corners of the baking sheet. This will take a littler persistence and you’ll get lots of olive oil on your hands – that’s part of the fun!
- Once the dough is stretched out to cover the baking sheet, cover it in plastic wrap and allow to rise for about 40 minutes in a warm place. I put it towards the back of the stove with the oven on 350°F so that it warms up that part of the kitchen especially in cooler months.
- Once the dough has risen to about the top of the rim of the baking sheet, remove the plastic wrap and preheat the oven to 400°F. Using a spoon, place dollops of the tomato sauce on the pizza. You do not need a lot of sauce and you do not need to spread it over the dough. It will do that on its own in the oven. I place spoonfuls of sauce down on the dough similarly to how I would arrange cookie dough on a baking sheet.
- Then top the pizza with the grated fresh mozzarella and pepperoni (if using). Do not add too much cheese. It will weigh the dough down and cause it to collapse when baking. One of the best parts of the pizza is how light and fluffy it is, so protect that by limiting the cheese that you put on top or any other toppings that you are considering using. This also helps to keep the bottom nice and crispy, the second best part of the pizza.
- Bake on the lowest rack in the oven at 400°F for 20-25 minutes.