Whenever I’m visiting family in Dayton, I will hoover up at least one Cassano’s or Marion’s pizza. Donatos and Ron’s are other chains that make Dayton-style, but it’s pretty much unknown outside the region, and often confused with St. Louis style.
The primary characteristics are a very thin crust (yeast dough, not cracker!), sauce and toppings all the way to the edge, salt and either cornmeal or semolina flour dusted on the bottom of the crust, and cut into small squares. Basically, if it takes more than two bites to eat a piece, you cut it too big. The difference between Cassano’s and its descendants is mostly based on when their founders stopped working for Vic and opened their own stores, although it seems Cassano’s has increased the amount of salt they use on the crust over the years, to the point that some people find it excessive (not me!).
In theory, you can get frozen Cassano’s shipped to you, but it’s not a real business for them, so they charge a ridiculous amount to get it to California. It would actually be cheaper to have a case of six shipped to my parents and then re-shipped by UPS.
So I’ve been working on making my own.
For a long time, my standard pizza recipe was to make a 1.5-pound batch of dough in the bread machine, spread it out in a half-sheet pan dusted with cornmeal and salt, top it heavily, and end up with enough food for a week. Or at least a very full three-day weekend. This is not that kind of pizza.
Since I replaced my ancient dying bread machine (with a Zojirushi Virtuoso; highly recommended, and there’s a newer model), I’ve been playing with a variety of pizza-dough recipes, and most of them have worked pretty well, but they tend to rise too much in the oven for Dayton-style.
My current dough is just scaled down from the Zojirushi manual, replacing the bread flour with a mix of all-purpose and white whole wheat flours (from King Arthur Flour). I have very accurate digital scales, so I weigh everything:
|12 g||olive oil|
|100 g||white whole wheat flour|
|190 g||all-purpose flour|
|3 g||rapid-rise yeast|
|½ cup||pizza sauce (~132 grams of mine; see below)|
|4 oz||shredded Provolone cheese|
|to taste||grated Romano cheese|
|to taste||grated Asiago cheese|
|4 oz||shredded Mozzarella cheese|
|to taste||black pepper|
|to taste||grated Parmesan cheese|
Load everything into the bread machine in order, set it for the “Quick Dough” cycle, press start, wait about 50 minutes.
Separate the dough into two ~250-gram balls. If you’re not making two pizzas, the unused half will keep in the fridge for several days, and will gain some flavor from the slow rise.
Put a large pizza stone on the bottom rack of your oven (if it’s not already living there permanently…) and preheat to 400ºF.
Roll out one of the balls into a 10x14-inch rectangle. Transfer it to a sheet of parchment that’s been dusted with semolina flour and sea salt, then dock it. (what I actually do is roll it out on a silicone sheet, spray the top of the dough with olive oil, dust it, lay the parchment on top, and then use a cookie sheet to flip the whole thing over)
Top with the ingredients in order, then slide the parchment onto the stone and bake for ~15 minutes until the cheese is brown and bubbly.
Pull it out of the oven, dust it with freshly-ground black pepper and grated Parmesan cheese, then (this is the hard part) wait 5 minutes before cutting into 2-inch squares.
Try not to eat the whole thing in one sitting (this is the other hard part).
Sometimes I add banana pepper rings and/or thin slices of onion, but you don’t want to go crazy with toppings; think thin and bite-sized.
I’ve been using Boar’s Head for the pepperoni, asiago, romano, and parmesan, Bel Gioso for the provolone, and Kraft pre-shredded for the mozz. I have a nice little Microplane grater for the harder cheeses, and a little box grater for the provolone, but mozzarella is just work. 😄
As for the sauce, this is definitely not typical for a Dayton pizza. I’m actually trying to recreate the sweet, spicy sauce that Alley Pizza used back when I was at OSU, working from 34-year-old memories. This makes enough for 3 pizzas, and also works well as a dip.
|1 tbsp||olive oil|
|2 tsp||Italian Herb blend|
|¼ tsp||black pepper|
|¼ tsp||garlic powder|
|¼ tsp||sweet paprika|
|¼ tsp||dried oregano|
|1/8 tsp||onion powder|
|1/8 tsp||cayenne pepper|
|6 oz can||tomato paste|
|1/8 tsp||sea salt|
|1.5 tsp||grated Romano cheese|
|½ tsp||balsamic vinegar|
|1 tbsp||tomato paste (yes, more)|
In a small non-stick pan, heat oil over medium until shimmering, then add everything up to the cayenne and cook for 30 seconds, stirring constantly.
Add the can of tomato paste and cook for 60 seconds, stirring constantly.
Remove from heat, and thoroughly mix with all remaining ingredients in a bowl. Cover and store in fridge until needed, at least an hour. It will keep for several days.
I use The Spice House’s herb blends, either their Italian Herb or Little Italy. Both are tasty, but quite different.
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