Pizza is such an elemental food (bread with a topping) that it is no surprise that there are many variations popular in different places around the world. This post was inspired by an article in the Washington Post on styles of pizza which are popular in the Midwest. I picked a style popular in the Quad Cities area of western Illinois and eastern Iowa from that article, and have now made this style of pizza twice. The crust is quite unusual since it contains malt syrup and spices, and is rather cracker like. On top of the crust is sauce with red pepper flakes and cooked Italian sausage flavored with extra fennel. The cheese layer is on top of the sausage. The quantities below will make one large pizza which will serve 2-3 people. The original recipe is based on a 24-48 hour slow fermentation in a refrigerator, which I have done. I have also let it rise at room temperature for several hours, which also worked well.
Note – Malt syrup can be most easily found at health food stores. I found it near my house at Good Foods Grocery.
For the Crust
¼ cup warm water.
¼ tsp. yeast
3 Tbs. malt syrup
10 oz. bread flour
1 tsp. kosher salt
1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1 tsp. oregano
1 tsp. paprika
3 oz. ice water
For the toppings
1-1/2 tsp. fennel seed
6 oz. Italian sausage, cooked and crumbled
1 tsp. red pepper flakes
5/8 cup pizza sauce
8 oz. mozzarella, grated
Mix together the warm water and the yeast in the bowl of a stand mixer and let it stand for a few minutes to proof. Add the malt syrup to the mixer bowl. Mix together in a medium bowl all the dry ingredients until they are well mixed. Add the dry ingredients to the mixer bowl, and then add the ice water. Mix together on low speed until the flour mixture is evenly hydrated. This may require scraping it down with a spatula. Then increase the speed to medium and mix until the dough forms a smooth ball, around 5 minutes.
A tablespoon or so of extra water may be needed if the dough seems to be too dry. If you are slow fermenting it in the refrigerator for 24-48 hours, wrap the dough in plastic wrap and place it in the refrigerator. Then remove it from the refrigerator a few hours before baking to finish doubling. If you are going to ferment it for less than a day, coat the dough ball in a little olive oil and put it in a doubling container on your kitchen counter until the dough has doubled.
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.
Cook and crumble the Italian sausage. Mix the sausage with the fennel.
Put the pizza sauce in a small bowl and mix in the red pepper flakes.
Roll out the dough on baking parchment into a 12 inch round.
Spread on the dough the sauce, then the Italian sausage and fennel
, and last the mozzarella. Cook for 10-15 minutes until done. Since there is some sugar in the crust from the malt syrup, it will brown relatively quickly. Remove from the oven and cut and serve immediately. In the Quad cities, the usual way to cut it is with cooking shears, first in half and then in strips.
Note: I made this with a standard pizza sauce. The original recipe called for no-salt tomato sauce. In the future I will try that to see if the increased acidity of the tomato sauce provides a positive contract with the rest of the pizza.