We all have our ultimate pizza place, the one no other could compare to. We’ll defend it to the end. We’ll cross the country just to eat it. Pizza has that power, my friends.
A while back, I told you about my favorite pizza joint, THE pizza joint: Len & Joe’s. Located in Port Jervis, NY, it’s small, not the most aesthetically-pleasing, and quite quirky, but dang, they make good pizza.
I told you why I loved it: the paper thin crust with crunchy edges, sweet sauce laid down with an easy hand, and what really makes it special: the incomparable, unbelievably gooey sea of cheese flooding the crust. Why is that cheese so crazy creamy, oozing off the corners of every slice? Because it’s American cheese, aka the meltiest stuff on the planet.
Side note: when is spell check going to stop telling me “melty” and “meltiest” aren’t words? Somebody put these in the dictionary already!
Anyway, I know if you’ve never tried it, American cheese on pizza sounds a little weird. Since I literally grew up on the goo-rific pizza, I never once thought to question it until I was describing the pizza to my best friend, and she had this “Uhh I don’t know about American cheese…” look on her face.
Don’t jump to conclusions until you try this heavenly pizza. Since the crust is thin and there’s a light, perfectly-portioned layer of sauce, the cheese is the star here, and it works so wonderfully. You’ve just got to experience it.
Now, I know if you don’t live near Port Jervis, NY then you can’t actually try this pizza, and you’ll never understand how awesome it is. Such is my problem as well because I live a good four hours away. When we’re in the area, we stock up on half-baked pies we can hoard in our freezer and bake whenever we please. But we ate the last one recently, and I was up the creek without a pizza paddle.
Lucky for you and me both, I got my pizza-loving butt in the kitchen and crafted a homemade version of my beloved Len & Joe’s. This American Pizza, named for the U.S.’s signature cheese it’s covered in, is so close to L&J’s pizza, it’s scary.
After our first bites, Mother Cookie and I both agreed the likeness was freaky. My American Pizza has that super thin crust, soft with a good chew in the middle but nice and crisp around the edges. I used just a kiss of sweet sauce and then topped it with a complete coverage of creamy, molten, lava-like American cheese that melts as effortlessly as ice cream under the summer sun. Beautiful, golden toasted brown spots dot the cheese’s surface, just like the ones on L&J’s original pizza. Those are little flavor spots, my friends.
This is one of the best pizzas that will ever come out of your kitchen. There ain’t no pizza joint you can order from tonight that’ll produce anything comparable to this cheese lover’s pie. You have got to try it; it’s life-changing.
A Few Tips Before You Get Cooking:
- If you want the full effect, you’ve got to make the homemade crust. Store-bought crusts and store-bought dough just don’t compare to homemade (trust me, I’ve tried quite a few), and they won’t yield the thin and crunchy Len & Joe’s-like texture.
- I am, however, okay with store-bought sauce as long as you buy good-quality stuff, and not some crap like Ragu. You can tell a good sauce by its ingredient list: you should be able to recognize all the ingredients and sugar should be one of the last things listed, if at all.
- I recommend getting the best-quality American cheese you can. If you didn’t know, you can get some awesome American cheese sliced fresh at your grocery store’s deli. It’s SO much better than the pre-packaged stuff like Velveeta or Kraft, and it’ll make this pizza even better.
- This cheese goes from perfectly melted and browned to black in no time, so keep an eye on it.
- Add any toppings you like.
By The Smart Cookie Cook
- 1 1/2 tsp. active dry yeast
- 1 tsp. sugar
- 3/4 cup warm water (about 105°F)
- 1 cup cake flour
- 1 cup + 3 tbsp. all-purpose flour
- 1 1/4 tsp. kosher salt
- 2 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
- cornmeal, for sprinkling
- 1 generous cup GOOD QUALITY store-bought marinara sauce
- 1/2 lb. good-quality American cheese (from the deli), sliced
- In a small bowl, whisk together the yeast, sugar and warm water and let stand until foamy, about 5 minutes.
- In the bowl of a food processor fitted with the dough blade, combine the cake flour, all-purpose flour and salt and pulse 3 or 4 times.
- Whisk 1 tbsp. of the olive oil into the yeast mixture. With the motor running, slowly add the yeast mixture to the flour mixture, allowing each addition to be absorbed before adding more. Pulse the machine 10 to 15 times to knead the dough. The dough should clean the insides of the bowl but will be slightly sticky.
- Coat the inside of a large bowl with the remaining 1 tbsp. oil. Dust your hands with flour and remove the dough from the food processor. Form the dough into a ball and place in the bowl. Cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap and let the dough rise in a warm place until doubled in size, 1 to 1 1/2 hours.
- Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Sprinkle a baking sheet with cornmeal in a thin even layer.
- Flour your working surface and roll out the dough as thin as you can into a rectangle (obviously, it won’t be perfectly shaped). Carefully transfer the dough to the baking sheet.
- Parbake dough for 10-15 minutes, or until set and and just beginning to turn golden. Spread sauce over top then completely cover with a layer of cheese.
- Bake for another 10 minutes or until cheese is completely melted and browned on top. let sit for 2 minutes then slice and enjoy.