Years ago, Pizza Hut indulged America's apparently insatiable cheese cravings with its stuffed-crust pizza. By packing extra cheese into the crust itself, this pizza won the hearts of cheese lovers everywhere and soon became a legendary part of the Pizza Hut menu.
However, Pizza Hut items come and go. What if you crave stuffed-crust pizza and can't get it from the source? Can you make an acceptable substitute at home?
The Same, Only Different
A basic pizza recipe calls for a fairly simple dough that's kneaded, rested and stretched into a circle. Onto this circle sauce is spread, followed by any number of toppings and, usually, mozzarella cheese. There are thousands of variations on this theme.
With a few tweaks to the standard method, you can come up with a creation akin to the stuffed pie that Pizza Hut offers.
Making the Dough for Copycat Pizza Hut Stuffed-Crust Pizza
For the buttery quality of Pizza Hut stuffed-crust dough, substitute some of the olive oil that is called for in most recipes with melted butter. If you're using store-bought dough, spread a few tablespoons of melted butter over the surface after you've rolled it out. If you like, you can also spritz butter spray around the rim of the pizza before putting it in the oven.
Quite a few copycat dough recipes call for a pinch of garlic powder, onion powder and/or sugar. You can also use 12 ounces of warm beer for some of the liquid content in addition to the seasonings.
The dough should be rolled out so that its thickness is uniform and allows space for overhang along the rim. Yes, it's OK to use a rolling pin in order to prevent too much thickness at the edges and not enough thickness in the middle.
Stuffing the Cheese
Place mozzarella cheese all along the border. Some folks prefer string cheese for its consistent width, using it as is or making adjustments by pulling away some of the strands. Others customize their own blend by adding cheeses such as provolone, fontina and Asiago.
Fold the overhanging dough over and around the cheese, making sure to leave no gaps as you tuck it in. If you like, use a pastry crimper for a tighter seal.
Leaky Cheese and What to Do About It
When you chomp down on the rim of a stuffed pizza, you expect a small explosion of melted cheese along with the crunch and chew of the crust. What a delightful mouthful of blended textures and tastes... and how disappointing to find only a hollowed-out shell with a sad dribble of burnt cheese pooled underneath it.
Melting cheese can ooze out either outside or inside the pizza. Either way, it defeats your purpose. The cheese that leaks toward the inside of the pizza can take toppings along with it, running out like lava from Vesuvius, only to break down and leak through the center. Cheese escaping from the outer rim of the pizza simply turns into a hardened substance that can be peeled off but not enjoyed.
- Thinner may be better. Cheese that's too thick can increase the pressure of steam building inside the crust as it heats up, which in turn increases the risk of rupture and leakage. Rumor has it that Pizza Hut itself uses "restricted melt" cheese.
- Pierce the crust a few times around its circumference to allow steam to escape.
- Drop the proportion of water used to make your dough by 10 percent or so for less steam.
- Consider freezing the cheese beforehand, thereby allowing the dough to firm up more during cooking before the cheese begins to melt.
Stuffed Grilled-Cheese Pizza
For some folks, the best flavor combination in the world is a grilled-cheese sandwich served with a cup of tomato soup – followed closely by pizza with a cheese-stuffed crust that is slathered with tomato sauce.
Pizza Hut came up with a pie that combined the best of these worlds with its grilled-cheese, stuffed-crust pizza. To make a reasonable facsimile, stuff the crust by substituting cheddar cheese for part of the mozzarella. Make your pizza sauce with the seasonings you like in soup. Before cooking, brush melted butter around the rim and press toasted breadcrumbs on top for the necessary toasty crunch.