Fortunately, it's like writing a blog about riding a bike.
So pizza has been on my list from the start. In fact, this recipe for waffled pizza pockets was one of the things that convinced me a blog like this might be a good idea.
But ... crescent rolls from a cardboard tube? I think we can do better than that.
So I set out to try.
I got in touch with Ian's Pizza, home of the macaroni and cheese pizza. I figured a place that serves mac-n-cheese on a pizza is not going to object to throwing some dough in a waffle iron.
I was right. The guys at Ian's were pretty fired up about waffling pizza.
Dimitri Syrkin-Nikolau has worked for Ian's since 2004. He started at the original Madison location before he came to this Wrigleyville pizzeria — a stone's throw from Wrigley Field — about two years ago.
He had definite ideas about waffling pizza.
"I think we should do it almost like a calzone."
I nodded and tossed out another idea. "We could also waffle some dough, top it and finish it off in the oven."
We did both.
"How many pizzas should we do?" Dimitri asked me.
"Two or three," I said.
"Let's do three!" he said.
This was going well.
We started with the mac-n-cheese pizza.
I was feeling a little skeptical as I watched Dimitri set enough dough for a 12-inch pizza on the waffle iron before piling on the toppings — which of course in this case weren't toppings at all — and folding the pizza dough onto itself before shutting the waffle iron, with a substantial amount of crust spilling out the sides.
But it worked. In fact, it worked beautifully. He cut away the excess dough and we dug into a slice before we tackled the next pizza.
Once the dough was cooked — just shy of 10 minutes later — we took it out and Dimitri laid on the toppings before sliding it into the oven for only a minute or so, just enough to melt the cheese.
Up last? The Cali Burger. Ground beef, red onion, micro greens, tomato, avocado, pancetta and goat cheese.
Dimitri laid the crust into the waffle iron, piled on the ingredients, and then folded the dough over top.
When the pizza was ready, he took it out and topped it with goat cheese and micro greens before slipping it into the oven very briefly to melt the goat cheese.
So, we tried two very different methods: the calzone method and the oven-finished method.
What's the upshot?
If you can get the dough thin enough, the calzone style has a lot to recommend it. It's certainly the version that looks most like a waffle. And you don't have to heat up the oven. The problem with doing it this way is the tendency for it to be too bready. After all, it's going to have two crusts. If you haven't, say, been working in a pizzeria for a few years, you might find it difficult to get the dough as thin as it needs to be for this to be optimal.
The alternative, waffling the dough and then topping it and baking it, means the finished product may not completely resemble a waffle. But it's a more forgiving dough-to-topping ratio. Even if the dough is thicker than you might like, the balance is less likely to be wildly off. Also, if you're going to make multiple waffled pizzas, this is the way to go. Waffling the dough will take a bit of time, but then you can finish the pizzas in the oven together.
Now, an important note: The guys at Ian's are terrific, but they will not make you a waffled pizza. They will, however, sell you the dough. (That's the case with many pizzerias.)
What follows is my go-to dough formula, which I have been using without fail for a few years now. I have every reason to believe your favorite pizza crust recipe will work as well. This New York Times story suggests that the key to a great dough is time. I agree. The recipe below may also be refrigerated and allowed to rise overnight.
The simple oven-finished mozzarella and tomato pizza at the top of this post was prepared using this dough. The crust spent about 10 minutes in the waffle iron and then the assembled pizza spent about 2 minutes under the broiler.
Makes 3 or 4 waffled pizzas
- 500 grams bread flour
- 1/4 teaspoon instant yeast
- 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
- 330 grams lukewarm water
1. Mix flour, yeast and salt. Add water and mix until dough is shaggy and most of water has been absorbed. Turn dough out of bowl and knead until it’s just blended but not too smooth. Cover dough with bowl. Let it rest for 10-15 minutes.
2. Knead for 5-10 minutes until fairly smooth.
3. Let dough proof in a covered bowl for 5-6 hours.
4. Dust your work surface with flour. Punch down the dough, divide into pieces, place the pieces on your work surface and form each into a smooth ball. Allow the pieces to rest, covered by a cloth or plastic wrap. When you're ready to waffle, shape each piece, pulling gradually on the dough to expand it. If it resists, let it rest a few minutes before continuing.
5. Calzone-style waffled pizzas may take as much as 15 minutes to finish. If you're waffling the dough by itself, it should take about 10 minutes. In either case, check after about 5 minutes to see where things stand. Waffle irons vary tremendously.