September 13, 2009

Connecticut-Style Pizza

Hi there! I'm Raymond's partner, Vance, and he's asked me to guest-blog one of my favorite recipes:

Throughout my youth I enjoyed thick, cheesy, savory pizza slices that couldn't be folded in half if you wanted to. Some people immediately think this must be Chicago deep-dish pizza; they're wrong. It's Connecticut-style pizza! Locals usually refer to it as "greek pizza", although the connection to Greece is questionable at best. It's almost exclusively made by Italian pizza joints. Personally, I think the best is from Tony's Pizza, in Willimantic, CT.

During my high school years in Connecticut, I worked at a local pizza parlor, and so I luckily have some insight into how this pizza is made. Info about it is very scarce online. I don't remember my restaurant's exact recipe (gosh, it's been over a decade!) but I remember the basics, and was able to recreate it by modifying standard pizza recipes. Without further ado, I give you ... Connecticut-style pizza!

Prep time: ~2 hours
Bake time: ~15 minutes

Crust ingredients
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup luke warm (not hot) water
1 package (1/4 ounce) quick-rise yeast
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tbsp. sugar
2 tbsp. olive oil
2 tbsp. vegetable shortening

Sauce ingredients
10 oz. store-bought pizza sauce
2 tsp. oregano
1 tsp. basil
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. ground black pepper

Cheese ingredients
3 parts whole milk mozzarella (about 8 oz.)
1 part mild white cheddar (about 3 oz.)

There are several secrets to Connecticut-style pizza dough: a little bit of sugar, more oil than usual, and rising in the pan for part of the time. First, whisk the water, yeast, sugar, and 1 tbsp. of the olive oil in a bowl. Let stand for 5 minutes. Then, manually mix in the salt and 1 1/2 cups of the flour with a fork, beating until it's smooth:

Using either a hand-mixer with dough hooks (what I used) or stand-mixer with same, gradually mix in the remaining flour in 1/4-cup increments. You may not need all of the flour. Once the dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl and forms a fairly dense lump around the dough hooks, you know you've added enough. Continue to mix for 5 minutes, on a high setting.

Coat the bottom of a large bowl with the remaining 1 tbsp. olive oil. Remove the dough from the mixing bowl, and gently form it into a sphere using your hands. It should be soft to the touch. Put it into the oiled bowl, and add another dash of oil to coat the top:

Cover the bowl, and set it in a warm area of your kitchen. Let it rise for 45 minutes. In the meantime, "season" your pizza pan if this is your first time making pizza with it; this is another secret of Connecticut-style pizza! Coat the pan with a thin layer of vegetable shortening:

and bake it in a 500 degree oven for 10 minutes. Immediately turn off the oven and remove the pan, wiping the excess shortening off with a paper towel. Don't leave it in too long, or you'll have rubberized glue. Also, don't wash the pan: the coating is very important for crust texture. Set it aside to completely cool. Then, coat it again with vegetable shortening.

Once the dough has risen for 45 minutes, transfer it to the pizza pan. Connecticut-style pizza needs to spend the remainder of its time rising in the pan; this is very different from New York-style pizza, which is baked immediately. If your pan is very large, you might use all of the dough. For my pan, about 3/4 of the dough was plenty. Once you press it out into the pan, it should be roughly 1/4" thick. To make a nice edge, don't pinch it. Instead, use your fingertips to press under the edge and make it bulge out.

Let the dough rise in the pan for 15 minutes. While it's rising, make the sauce. The key to the sauce is extra oregano. For the base, you can pick whatever store-bough brand you like most. Mix together the sauce, oregano, basil, salt, and black pepper in a small bowl. After 15 minutes, pour it on the pizza. Holding the pan by the edges, shake the pizza side-to-side to coat the bottom with just the right amount of sauce (this is how we did it at the restaurant). If you want to cheat, you can spread it out with a spoon.

Let the sauced dough rise for another 45 minutes. If any large bubbles rise in the dough during this rise, pop them with the tip of a sharp knife. Towards the end of this time, preheat the oven to 500 degrees again, and prepare your cheese mixture. Unlike New York-style pizza, which often uses pure mozzarella, Connecticut-style pizza uses a mix of mozzarella and mild white cheddar. Mix the two cheeses lightly in a bowl, and after the dough has risen 45 minutes, cover it very liberally with cheese.

Add toppings of your choosing (I just like plain cheese pizza), and pop it in the oven. Bake it about 12-15 minutes, depending on thickness, the number of toppings, and your oven. The cheese should be noticeably browned, and the bottom of the crust should be tan to light brown.

Enjoy your Connecticut-style pizza!


RayOSunshine said...

connecticut style pizza: Mix flour, concrete, and water for dough. Bake until the cheese turns dark brown and the tomato sauce turns black. Dip in ashes.

Anonymous said...

You made this Connecticut transplant in Oklahoma very happy! I even cut it in squares to remind me of home


Raymond said...

:) Have you ever been to Tony's Pizza in Willimantic? Only someone from CT knows the joy of those square pieces hehe.

Anonymous said...

naw, i'm from the Hartford area... but all good greek pizza is like that. thanks again!!

Anonymous said...

I get confused on the difference between a Connecticut-style pizza and a St. Louis style.

We're from the Ohio area and I grew up with Cassano's pizza (very similar to Donato's, but with a better sauce and a saltier crust).

The style is a very thin, salty crust, cut into squares. Wikipedia describes Cassano's style as "Connecticut," but I wonder if that's accurate?

Vance said...

I don't know if it helps, but another name for Connecticut-style pizza is "Greek Pizza" (although it is not Greek). Do folks in Ohio call Cassano's pizza "Greek"?

It's been my experience that it's a very regional pizza style that you can pretty much find only in certain parts of New England (including much of Connecticut).

I can't find this style of pizza anywhere in New York City.

Anonymous said...

Cassano's pizza in Dayton, Ohio is a thin-crust pizza with a salty crust, cut into squares.

Wikipedia describes it as "Connecticut-style" but I don't think that's accurate.

I would say it's probably "Midwest Style" or one of its variants, like Chicago thin-crust style or St. Louis style.

Anonymous said...

how much does it serve

Raymond Vagell said...

Depends. Probably 2 - 3 people.

Tim Dowd said...

Hey I love this recipe- I was the 2009 commenter who said it was key for helping me survive exile in Oklahoma. I wanted to add one thing I've learned though: get you a cast aluminum pan or cast iron pan- do not use a non-stick pizza pan at 500 degrees as it will start to decompose and possibly release toxic compounds. Thanks for your blog- its just wonderful!

Raymond Vagell said...

I hope Oklahoma is treating you good now that you can still nom on CT Greek pizza. We have a cookie pan that after years of use is now "well seasoned" aka black as night. It's not a non stick pan but seasoned enough that it wouldn't stick if you grease it.

Anonymous said...

I'm so excited to find this site. All other pizza pales in comparison. They are yeasty, sweet tomatoey, flavorless glop. People sauce is supposed to have SPICES IN IT!

Anonymous said...

Grew up in Farmington.. George's Pizza in Unionville but actually it is the whole area, ***NOT*** that thick New Haven Pizza not that Applewood brick oven Boston Pizza... Not "Greek Pizza" but always made by Greek People. Moved to LA where they have a terrible love to the flat limp dead shoe leather "New York" style, asked many Greek restaurants, they gave me the silly green greek pizza... Moved to Kirkland Washington near a place called Acropolis... That was exactly it and I took It for granted. Moved to SF, lost it... visited Seattle, asked Acropolis owner for his recipe because he had hit the pizza I grew up with. He said he was from Waterbury. By the way, these same CT pizza places make meatball and cold cut grinders that are also Exclusively perfect and only from the Ct and Farmington River valleys. CT *Grinders* are NOT hoagies or subway subs. It's a regionalism that is one of the few reasons to visit Connecticut.