St. Louis-Style Pizza: Thinking outside the (takeout) box

If you make pizza crust with baking powder instead of yeast, is it still pizza crust?

The response of many pizza aficionados, when I ask this question, is an unequivocal NO.

“Baking powder crust? Sounds like home ec. class!”

“It may be good, but it’s not pizza.”

Tell that to native St. Louisans.

A couple of years ago I read about St. Louis pizza, an unusual ultra-thin-crust, square-cut pizza, and made a mental note to give it a try.

Well, time passed [old cinematic visual: paper calendar shedding months like leaves], and I never… quite… got around to it.

Our recent launch of self-rising flour brought St. Louis pizza bubbling to the top of my memory once again.

An “authentic” St. Louis pizza crust recipe calls for flour, baking powder, salt, water, and olive oil.

[Ed. note: a word about authenticity – There are many St. Louis Pizza recipes online, but all seem to stem from one particular St. Louis chain: Imo’s, a “mom and pop” business with over 90 stores in and around St. Louis. Our thanks to Imo’s for the recipe that inspired the one below.]

This simple recipe sounds like a perfect use for self-rising flour. Self-rising is a softer-wheat, lower-protein flour – which means the crust should end up crunchy/crisp, not hard.

Potentially long story short(er): I tried it. I LOVE it.

St. Louis pizza may not be “typical” pizza. Heck, if you’re a purist, it’s probably not even pizza.

But oh, my… is it ever tasty!

And easy to make. You can have pizza on the table in under 30 minutes, from the time the idea pops into your head, until you’re slicing St. Louis pizza into its signature squares.

Are you ready to loosen your strict definition of pizza, and give this Midwest version a try? Let’s do it.

Did you know that by clicking anywhere on this block of pictures, you can enlarge them to full size? Go ahead, give it a try; it’ll work for any of our photos.

First, let’s mimic the special cheese you’d find in a real St. Louis pizza: Provel, a low melting-point, processed cheese that’s a combination of smoked Provolone, cheddar, and Swiss

To make this at home, combine the following:

1 cup (4 ounces) grated or shredded sharp white cheddar cheese
1/2 cup (2 ounces) grated or shredded smoked provolone cheese
1/2 cup (2 ounces) grated or shredded Swiss cheese

I purchased sliced cheese, and grated it in my food processor. I actually doubled the amount, and froze half for a future pizza.

To make a big batch of this, just use two parts cheddar to one part each smoked provolone and Swiss. TOTALLY EASY: 2 bags shredded cheddar + 1 bag shredded Swiss + 1 bag shredded Provolone. Use within a week or so, or freeze for the future.

If you can’t find smoked Provolone, add 1 teaspoon liquid smoke flavor (e.g., Liquid Smoke) to each 8 ounces of cheese. If you’re not a fan of “smoky,” leave it out.

OK, enough with the cheese – let’s make pizza.

First, preheat your oven to 425°F. Lightly grease two 12″ round pizza pans, or a couple of baking sheets.

Did you know that by clicking anywhere on this block of pictures, you can enlarge them to full size? Go ahead, give it a try; it’ll work for any of our photos.

Combine the following:

2 cups (8 ounces) King Arthur Unbleached Self-Rising Flour
2 tablespoons olive oil
6 tablespoons water

*No self-rising flour? Substitute 2 cups King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour; add 1 teaspoon baking powder and 1/2 teaspoon salt, and increase the water to 1/2 cup.

Feel free to increase the water in the dough a bit — especially in winter, when it’s cold out and your flour will tend to be dry. Your goal is dough that’s firm (not sticky), but wet enough to hold  together when you squeeze it.

Gather the dough into a ball, divide it in half, and shape each half into a flat disk – the rounder the better. If you have time, let the dough rest, covered, for 10 to 15 minutes; it’ll be easier to roll out once it’s rested.

Grease a piece of parchment paper about 12″ square; or a piece of waxed paper, or plastic wrap.

Place one of the dough pieces on the paper, and top with another piece of lightly greased parchment, waxed paper, or plastic wrap.

Roll the dough very thin, 1/8″ thick or less.

Place the pizzas on the prepared pans.

See this misshapen pizza? That’s why you shape your unrolled dough into a ROUND disk. I left mine raggedy; raggedy disk = pizza crust mimicking a map of Australia. Do as I say, not as I did!

Top each pizza with 1/3 cup pizza or marinara sauce.

Spread half the cheese (about 1 cup) over each pizza. Sprinkle lightly with Pizza Seasoning or dried Italian herbs.

Bake the pizzas for 9 to 11 minutes, until the cheese is melted and beginning to brown, and the edges and bottom of the crust are golden brown.

Remove the pizzas from the oven, and transfer to a rack to cool very briefly.

Here’s my second attempt, where I remembered to make a ROUND disk of dough. See what a difference it makes?

And here’s one with pepperoni.

Cut the pizza in squares; a pair of scissors works well here.

Serve hot.

Although room-temperature pizza is always a pleasure, too.

As is cold pizza. For breakfast.

I recently heard a hotel somewhere has started offering free pizza, left over from the previous night’s restaurant menu, to guests heading out for the day. The guests are devouring it, and asking for more.

Happy breakfasting!

Read, bake, and review (please) our recipe for St. Louis-Style Pizza.

Print just the recipe.

PJ Hamel
About

PJ Hamel grew up in New England, graduated from Brown University, and was a Maine journalist before joining King Arthur Flour in 1990. PJ bakes and writes from her home on Cape Cod, where she enjoys beach-walking, her husband, two dogs, and really good food!

comments

    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Rather than trying to substitute these two very different leavening agents, we’d suggest using our similarly tasty recipe for Sourdough Pizza Crust instead. We think you’ll enjoy it! Mollie@KAF

  1. Aaron

    I tried a modified version of a cross between your recipe and an Imo copycat recipe.

    I used
    1 cup bread flour
    1 cup WW pastry flour
    21/2 TBL salt
    2 TBL honey (Imo;s called for corn syrup)
    2 TBL olive oil
    1 tsp baking powder

    It was a little too salty but my family liked it. They still prefer my yeast, two day aged crust but this would be good if I need dough in a pinch. My family does not like the yeast dough unless it is rises between 36 and 48 hours.

    When I tried this with all bread flour it was a very, stiff dough. This was a nice, soft dough more similar to pie crust but a little more solid.

    I have made pizza using pie crust dough by accident. It tastes really good but it is very fragile and hard to handle.

    This is TMI but thanks for your help.

    Reply
  2. Aaron

    Hi, I was revisiting this recipe and realized you suggest substituting all purpose flour + salt + baking powder for self-rising flour which is much softer.. All purpose is good because most people have it but would pastry flour work better as it’s protein content is much closer to self-rising flour.

    Thanks

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      You’re so right to note that our “recipe” for making your own self-rising flour is 1 Cup all-purpose flour + 1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder + 1/4 teaspoon salt. If you’re looking for self rising baked goods that are softer to the touch or more tender in texture, consider using the pastry flour to make your substitute. We’d love to know the baked results from your test kitchen. Happy baking! Irene@KAF

  3. Famous Seamus

    I’m in love with this recipe! Supremely successful first time out of the gate, and it gets better and better with each iteration I attempt as I make it very thoroughly my own.

    I find this to be like the sexier, more worldly cousin of the Totino’s Party Pizza who spent their last summer abroad in Rome. With a dash of Italian herbs on the top, it’s delicious.

    For a sauce, I cooked 2 oz of tomato paste in the bottom of a pot over medium low heat to get the “raw” flavor out, and took it off the heat as soon as I achieved that. I blended that with a 28 oz can of crushed tomatoes (I love the Delallo brand), a handful of fresh basil leaves, two tablespoons of sugar, and a teaspoon of salt, pulsing everything together until smooth.

    This is a great recipe for doing on a gas grill with a pizza stone, if you have those two accessories.

    Thanks for providing a solid start on this branch of my pizza journey.

    Reply
  4. Nick

    I’m not a big fan of Imo’s but I do like the local STL style pizza. I see the recipe you used for provel in a lot of places online, but I don’t think it’s actually the correct proportions. I believe it’s 1 cup of smoked provolone to a 1/2 cup white cheddar and 1/2 cup swiss. I will openly admit though that it has been a while since I’ve had the real thing as I haven’t lived there for a while, and that I haven’t yet tried the 1c cheddar version posted everywhere online.

    Reply
    1. PJ Hamel, post author

      Thanks for the advice, Nick — I’m always open to trying new versions, especially one suggested by someone who’s actually experienced the real thing! PJH

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