Pizza Lab #29: Cheesecake Pizza
Okay folks, let’s talk cheesecake. It’s a cake, sorta… but it’s filled with cheese. Cream cheese, to be specific. And it’s quite a delectable-ass dessert. When you think of just the name alone, it does sound kind of silly though. Most people default the idea of cheese to old favorites like cheddar, swiss, limburger, etc… Few people hear the word cheese and go “Oh yeah! Mascarpone!” On the flipside, one thing we do think of when cheese comes up, is obviously pizza.
Whoa, shit, do you know what this means?!
A cheesecake pizza really shouldn’t strike any longtime Pizza Lab fans very odd. We’ve used a lot of mascarpone in the past, and dessert pizzas are nothing new here. No, the biggest surprise with this edition is that ironically this is our very first Pizza Lab using a deep dish crust. Even weirder, this might’ve been the quickest, easiest experiment we’ve ever performed in the pizza laboratory.
The most challenging part of this pie, believe it or not, was getting the crust to work with us. Traditionally deep dish pizzas are prepared in big, stupid deep dish pans which make serving the pizza a nightmare involving forks and knives and spatulas and all sorts of unnecessary shit. This had me thinking, why don’t pizzerias in Chicago use springform pans? If you’re not aware, springform pans (pictured above) are the baking dishes that cheesecakes are made in. It’s a fairly simple little contraption with a metal dish that sits in the bottom of a large ring which can be extended through use of a spring lever on the side. When you lock it into place, the dish sits snugly in the bottom, with an airtight seal. When you flip the lever to the opposite direction, the ring expands outwards, making it possible to just slip the entire round side of the pan up and over the entire dessert inside. Honestly, more desserts should get baked in these things, they’re magic.
As I was saying though, the dough was the hardest part here. The pan was a joy to work with, but something about the dough just didn’t want to sit up in the air like this. After some trial and error we managed to get it mushed up into this deep dish sorta position in the springform pan and we were all set.
The cheesecake filling meanwhile was relatively simple to whip together. It was based on the generic Philadelphia cream cheese recipe, though tweaked and adjusted to work for our pizza. I’d actually recommend it to anyone in the mood for homemade cheesecake. It had like, I dunno, maybe four or five ingredients tops and took all of 5 minutes to actually make. In it went into the pizza dough.
A big part of cheesecakes we wanted to include somehow was the delightful graham cracker crusts which they are usually baked on. We already had a crust, so baking it on one was out obviously. Instead we decided to literally flip it upside down, and turned the graham crust into a garnish. This was pretty easy to do as well considering all it takes to make it is crushed up graham cracker and melted butter. The crumbs went on about halfway through baking to prevent them from burning. And speaking of baking…
I know I already said this pizza was incredibly simple and easy, but there was one little bump in the road. Consider this: we generally tend to bake our pizzas at 425º for maybe 15-20 minutes total. Most cheesecakes bake at 350º for over an hour. Yeah. We were stumped at first, but decided if we took a bit of a middle ground between the two temperatures, we’d be able to cook the entire thing in a little under an hour, without burning the crust. It was a bit of a gamble, considering we’ve never left pizza dough in the oven for so long, but hey, Pizza Lab is all about experimenting. Fortunately it worked out. Here, have another look at it:
While it took a bit longer than we were expecting to cook thoroughly, it baked just fine, crust and all. We added a little chocolate drizzle as one final garnish and that was that. As mentioned, springform pans have a little mechanism which lets you just lift the sides of the pan up and over the dessert (you can even still see the little metal pan that goes in the bottom of it in that pic) and fortunately everything came out clean and good.
Successful? You bet your ass it was a success. This pizza instantly jumped to one of our favorites that we’ve ever made considering how easy it was, yet how impressive and awesome it looks. Seriously, it looks exactly like a cheesecake, but it’s sitting in a pizza crust. And before any naysayers whine about “Bwahh! Pizza dough doesn’t go with sweet flavors!”, I cordially invite you to check out our backlog of dessert pizzas we’ve already made. Pizza crust pairs surprisingly awesomely with sweet stuff like chocolate and fruit and cream. Something about it is incredibly versatile, probably the fact the starchiness has such a subtle flavor and can sop up other flavors easily. This pizza tasted pretty awesome, just like a cheesecake, but with that added goodness of the pizza crust. TENOUTTATEN.