How Chef Dan Kluger Makes a Grandma Pizza at Washington Squares
Chef Dan Kluger’s new grandma-style pizza concept in New York City employs one important OXO tool to get the job done.
Pizza brings up all kinds of debate. What makes a pizza a pizza? What’s the best style? Who makes the best slice? We’re not here to debate (because we’re based in New York City), but we are here to let you in on a little secret for making grandma style pizzas at home.
Longtime OXO friend Chef Dan Kluger—whose Shaved Brussels Sprout Salad and Salted Chocolate Chip Cookies are just two of his recipes we’re obsessed with—opened Washington Squares in December 2020, turning out grandma style pizzas to hungry New Yorkers. At Loring Place, another one of Dan’s restaurants, pizza has been the star of the menu for years. Inspired by that pizza, it seemed like a natural next step to open a to-go only pizza concept selling grandma pizzas.
So, what is a grandma pizza exactly? Grandma pizzas originated in New York in the homes of Italian immigrants. It’s a home-style pizza grandmas made as a snack for the kids while they were busy making more labor-intensive dishes, according to Dan.
Sicilian pizza is similar, but it tends to be thicker and airy. Detroit-style is another one often compared to grandma style—it tends to be doughier. It also has lots of cheese around the edges making a really crunchy-cheesy crust.
For a classic grandma style pizza, it’s all about the crust. Dan uses King Arthur whole wheat organic all-purpose flour, giving it a nutty flavor, and yeast made in-house. It’s mixed longer than a typical pizza dough to develop a little more chew. For some of the pizzas, he “dusts” the tray with parmesan before placing the dough down. Once the dough is developed, it’s placed into an OXO Non-Stick Pro Quarter Sheet Jelly Roll Pan. Dan discovered the pans while testing pan pizzas at home during quarantine.
Dan likes the non-stick pans for his pizzas because of the ceramic-reinforced coating, which makes for easy release when working with thick crusts and a parmesan cheese base. The micro-textured pattern promotes airflow and even baking for the pies. This allows the pizzas to crisp up without soaking up too much oil. At Washington Squares, the pizzas are cooked in a traditional oven, not a pizza oven, so they’re truly adaptable for home cooking.
Washington Square has six different pizzas on the menu and their approach is to keep the pizzas simple – making a high quality version of a grandma pizza, plus flavor combinations that are fun and representative of what the restaurant team likes, without being too outside the box.
If you’re in New York, check out Washington Squares for yourself or try your hand at making a pie at home with the recipes below. Once you’ve mastered the grandma pie, head outside and try grilling a pizza.
Whole-Wheat Pizza Dough
Makes about 3 pounds dough: 4-5 pizzas
594 grams all-purpose flour
291 grams whole-wheat flour
3 grams active dry yeast
18 grams kosher salt
525 ml water, slightly cooler than room temperature
Extra-virgin olive oil
In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the flours, yeast, and salt and whisk to combine. Place the bowl in the mixer and attached the bread hook. Turn the mixer to low speed, add the water, and mix until the flour is all moistened. Increase the speed to medium and mix until a dough forms and pulls away from the side of the bowl. Continue kneading the dough for 4 to 5 minutes. If your mixer isn’t up to the task, transfer the dough to the counter and knead until it springs back quickly when you poke it with a finger. Place the dough in an oiled bowl and rub with oil. Cover the bowl with plastic and let sit in a cool spot (60°F to 70°F) for at least 12 hours.
If you’re not using the dough right away, divide it into four pieces. Wrap each in plastic, and refrigerate for up to 24 hours, or freeze for up to 2 months. Thaw in the refrigerator.
Quick Tomato Sauce
Makes 4 cups:
One 28-ounce can whole tomatoes
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon kosher salt
Pour the tomatoes into a large bowl and add the vinegar, oil, and salt. Crush the tomatoes with your hands until you’ve made a chunky sauce. Transfer to a storage container and refrigerate for up to 4 days.
8 ounces fresh mozzarella, cut into ½-inch-thick slices, then torn into shreds (about 1½ cups)
1 teaspoon dried oregano
½ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
20 large basil leaves, cut into ribbons
1 teaspoon fried garlic crumbs
1 teaspoon flaky sea salt
Divide the dough into two pieces and form each piece into a ball. Oil a quarter sheet pan (9-by-13-inch) with oil. Dust a work surface and roll and stretch the dough until it’s about the size of the sheet pan. Transfer the dough to the sheet pan and press it until it fills the pan. Cover with plastic and let proof at room temperature for 1 hour. Repeat with the remaining dough.
Preheat oven to 475°. Divide the tomato sauce between the two pizzas, using the back of a spoon to cover the top of the pie. Scatter half of the mozzarella over each pie. Sprinkle half of the oregano over each pie. Bake the pies in the center of the oven until edges are crispy and browned and tomato sauce has thickened, about 15 minutes. Sprinkle each pie with ¼ cup of Parmesan; half of the basil, fried garlic and salt; and a pinch of red-pepper flakes. Using a large spatula, transfer the pies to a cutting board, cut each into 6 pieces and serve.
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