Bacon and Ranch Bar Pie
Prior to when I starting dating my wife, I had never heard of or saw anyone eat pizza with ranch. I'm not sure of the exact regionality of the practice, but it's definitely a thing in Texas, which is where my wife hails from and where I learned what I thought was just an off quirk of hers was actually a standard. I have not yet become a person who reaches for the ranch when a pizza arrives, but I have come around to thinking that, in certain scenarios, ranch is quite a fine match for pizza. I actually devised this pizza with ranch in mind first, then built up the toppings based on what I thought would be most complimentary to that herbal tang—bacon, red onion, and banana peppers. If you've yet to try ranch with pizza, or are not fully convinced it's a good thing, this might just be the pie that could change your mind.
After deciding that this was a good topping combo, I thought about the best form for this pizza to take and landed on the bar pie. This thin and crispy style of pizza has its roots in New England, with Colony Grill in Connecticut being the name most associated with bar pies, but I was introduced to it by my friend Adam Kuban when he began running a pop-up called Margot's Pizza. I was immediately taken with the pizza he was creating, and after leaving New York, I began to teach myself how to make them and used his dough recipe as my starting point.
This dough has a lower hydration ratio than a Neapolitan-style recipe, but it still implements a similar long rise and fermentation period to develop good flavor. After an initial six hour rise at room temperature, the dough is quartered, covered, and placed in the fridge for two or three days for fermentation.
I don't make pizza all that often because it is one of the more labor intensive endeavors, but the pay off is usually high. Although a lot of things go into making a pizza, a nice part of that is that many steps can be done in the days leading up to the actual baking. I had made the dough a few days prior to cooking, then a couple nights before, I put together the sauce, which I used my fairly minimalist recipe that has garlic, oil, oregano, and a can of tomatoes simmered with a couple onion wedges until slightly thickened. After removing the onions, the sauce gets a final seasoning with basil, salt, and pepper to finish it up.
The night before cooking is when I put together my ranch, which I now have two solid recipes for—one that utilizes fresh herbs and another with dried ones. The dried herbs and powdered buttermilk version creates a ranch more akin to a Hidden Valley packet, which is a baseline for my wife. I personally prefer the fresh herbs though, and after years of not getting it quite right enough for her more discerning taste buds, I finally have a recipe that's agreeable, which is the one I went with here.
The remaining toppings I prepped the day of. The red onion was first, which was quick work thanks my mandoline. I used to not be a red onion-on-pizza guy, but I've found I do really like it, but thicker slices tend to be too sharp and distracting for my taste. So I go with paper thin slices, which I can load a pie up with and love it. Those thin slices meld more and also cook faster, which tempers their bite and sometimes develops a nice sweetness, even in the quick pizza cooking times.
I normally advocate for grilling bacon, and have a good guide on how to do this, but on this particular day, I only needed a few slices for one pie, so opted to go stove top. I've become a fan of lower heat cooking using a bacon press in a cast iron pan, which solves some of my qualms with pan frying—it doesn't shrink quite as much, it doesn't splatter nearly as much, and I get even cooking thanks to strips all being in good contact with the pan. I used my homemade spiced-cured bacon, which has become my go-to bacon that I always have on hand in the freezer these days.
A couple hours before cooking, I removed the dough from the fridge so it could come to room temperature, which makes it easier to stretch. I'm not the best dough former, so I enjoy that bar pies call for using a rolling pin to get the dough very thin. After getting a decent 12-inch circle, I transferred the dough to a pan and began topping.
First went on the sauce, leaving only an half-inch edge. I then sprinkled on a mixture of low-moisture mozzarella and parmesan all the way to edge of the dough and beyond because extra cheese on the crust is a hallmark of the bar pie. I then added on red onion slices and banana peppers, holding off on the bacon at this point so it wouldn't burn during cooking.
Prior to this day, I had only made bar pies in my regular oven, so using the KettlePizza was a new for me and going from 550°F to 950°F definitely presented some challenges. There's two stages of cooking here: the initial cook is to get the cheese melted—you're going for bubbly here where you start to get separation between the fat and solids. Since the KettlePizza is not an even heat source, I had to rotate the pan occasionally to ensure the pie cooked well all around, and with it being in a pan, it was more of a challenge to see how that was going—I slid it out at each turn to judge how things were going and which areas needed some more time closest to the fire.
After the first cook, the pizza is fired again, but this time outside of the pan to crisp up the crust. The melted cheese sticks to the pan, so I ran a thin spatular around the crust to release the pie. This is when I added the bacon so it would get some heat before serving. Then once the pizza was back in the oven, it browned underneath in no time, but the outer ring of cheese also turned deep black too, which is not something that has happened at lower temperature cooking for me—it's usually a more attractive deep golden brown.
Luckily looks were deceiving and that dark ring did not actually taste burnt in most areas and had a pleasing crunch and lightly charred flavor. The real star was the topping combo though, which all came together after the final application of a ranch swirl. That creamy and cooling ranch added a tangy and herbal touch that both complemented and contrasted with the tart and lightly spicy banana peppers. Those were the most dominant toppings, but each time I hit a bacon piece, a pleasing salty crunch entered the party too. The red onions had a good presence, but they more-or-less blended in with the whole experience that included a well crisped crust, tangy tomato sauce, and the cheese. While this is different than reaching for a bottle of ranch each time you're eating a pizza, it definitely provides a good argument that the two are made for each other.
Bacon and Ranch Bar Pie
- Yield 4-8 servings
- Prep 40 Minutes
- Inactive 2 Days 6 Hours
- Cook 5 Minutes
- Total 2 Days 6 Hours 45 Minutes
- For the Dough
- 280 grams 90-95°F water
- 12 grams fine sea salt
- .8 grams instant yeast
- 9 grams canola oil
- 465 grams all-purpose flour
- For the Sauce
- 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 2 teaspoons finely minced fresh garlic (about 2 medium cloves)
- Pinch crushed red pepper
- 1 28 oz can crushed tomatoes
- 1/2 medium onion, halved pole-to-pole
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 3 tablespoons finely minced fresh basil
- Kosher salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
- For the Ranch Dressing
- 1/3 cup mayonnaise
- 1/4 cup sour cream
- 1/4 cup buttermilk
- 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
- 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
- 1 teaspoon finely minced garlic (about 1 medium clove)
- 1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh parsley
- 1 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh chives
- 1/2 teaspoon finely chopped fresh dill
- 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
- Kosher salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
- For the Pizza
- 1 lb low moisture mozzarella cheese, grated
- 3 oz parmesan cheese, finely grated
- 1 small red onion, peeled and thinly sliced
- 6 oz mild pickled banana peppers
- 8 oz bacon, cooked until crisp, drained, and roughly crumbled
- To make the dough: In the bowl of a stand mixer, whisk salt into water until dissolved. Add in yeast and stir gently to dissolve. Let yeast sit until hydrated, about 2 minutes. Add in oil and flour and mix with dough hook on low speed until dough comes together. Increase speed to medium and continue to knead until dough is cohesive and smooth, about 2 minutes. Remove bowl from mixer and dough hook. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and let dough rise at room temperature for 6 hours.
- Turn dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and cut into 4 equal pieces. Lightly knead each piece of dough into a smooth ball and place each in a large plastic container or individual quart containers. Cover dough and place in refrigerator for 2 to 3 days.
- To make the marinara: Place oil, garlic, and red pepper flakes in a small saucepan set over medium-low heat; cook until oil begins to bubble around garlic. Add in tomatoes and blend to desired consistency with an immersion blender. Add in onion, tomato paste, and oregano; increase heat to medium-high, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer until slightly thickened, about 20 minutes. Remove from heat and discard onion wedges. Add in chopped basil and season with salt and pepper to taste. Transfer to an airtight container and store in refrigerator until ready to use.
- To make the ranch dressing: To make the dressing: In a medium bowl, whisk together mayonnaise, sour cream, buttermilk, vinegar, mustard, garlic, parsley, lemon juice, chives, dill, and onion powder. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Transfer dressing to a squeeze bottle and place in refrigerator until ready to use.
- To make the pizza: 2 hours prior to cooking, remove dough from refrigerator. Heat KettlePizza or pizza oven to 900°F. Alternatively, set a baking stone or Baking Steel on upper middle rack in oven and heat on highest setting possible for 45 minutes. Roll dough out into a circle 12-inches in diameter, roughly 1/8-inch thick. Transfer dough to a 12-inch round pan. Spread a layer of sauce on dough, leaving about a 1/2-inch border around edge. Top dough with 1/4 of the mozzarella and parmesan, sprinkling cheese all the way to the edge of the dough and pan. Top with red onion and banana pepper slices to taste.
- Place pizza in oven and cook until cheese has melted and is beginning to bubble, about 3 minutes in the KettlePizza or 9 minutes in a regular oven, rotating pan for even cooking as necessary. Remove pan from oven and let cool slightly. Run a thin spatula around edge of pizza to release it from pan. Transfer pizza to a peel and add on crumbled bacon to taste. Place pie back in oven until bottom of crust is browned and starting to lightly char in spots. Remove pizza from oven and squeeze on a swirl of ranch dressing. Serve immediately. Repeat with remaining dough and ingredients.
Dough recipe by Adam Kuban, published in Elements of Pizza by Ken Forkish.