South Shore-style bar pizza has been kicking off on the socials lately. The hyper-regional take on pizza is finding fans outside of the small communities south of Boston and along Cape Cod, which have been enjoying this style for decades. And, as a lover of unique regional pizzas, the buzz inspired me.
It was time to make a pie. One which I’ve had before but haven’t actually cooked very much.
Before we dive into the recipe, let’s get a little pizza context. South Shore-style bar pizza — or just “bar pizza” if you’re actually in South Mass or on the Cape — does have its own nuances. The crust is the biggest variable. Like all bar or tavern-style pizzas from Portland, Oregon to Portland, Maine, it’s cooked at high heat in an electric oven in a pan with a ton of oil. But in this case, the dough has a lot of fat — butter and corn oil — and is flattened, not stretched, to create a bit of a harder crust. Some crusts will be close to a thick cracker like Massachusetts Greek-style (a recipe post for another day). Other crusts will just be buttery but a tad soft while still holding their shape when sliced (no NY slice folding here). Of the few bar pizzas I’ve had in the region, I remember that buttery semi-hard crust character the most.
The next nuance is that the cheese is all (or mostly, depending on who you ask) white cheddar. Which, yeah, that’s cool. I love white cheddar. Some recipes call for a mix of white cheddar and low moisture mozz as well. Then there’s the presentation. The dough is pressed up against the edges of the pan and the toppings (tomato, cheese, etc.) all hit the edges of the pan too, making this a “no crust” pizza. But that does create the crucial “lacing” effect on the edges of the crust that are touching the pan’s edges (more on that below).
Then there are the toppings. I’ve had the hyper-local baked bean pie and it’s … fine. I actually kind of dig the crinkle-cut french fry version. It reminds me of the french fry and hot dog pizzas you get in Sicily. Other than that, it’s basically dealer’s choice of toppings with classic pepperoni being the most iconic.
Lastly, the pizzas are usually baked and then packed in brown grocery store bags for transport/service. This is very close to how street margherita pies are served up in Naples (portafoglio) and in both cases adds something quaint and rustic to the whole experience. While I didn’t wrap mine in brown paper, the crust did get a little denser as the pie cooled. So, take that into account when making this kind of pizza.
To make this at home, I scoured the internet for recipes and found this was the most local and used it for reference. I also used the look and the size of Boston’s Hot Box as my guide in this endeavor.
One last quick note before we dive in. I made one pizza in the requisite ten-inch pizza pan and the crust pretty much did as was expected. I only had one of those pans though. So I put the other dough into an eight-inch cast iron skillet. Because I couldn’t stretch the dough as far, it did puff up a little more and created a very buttery slice that was closer to a grandma-style than bar-style. So make sure to use the right pan.
Okay, let’s get into it!
South Shore-Style Bar Pizza
Makes two ten-inch pies
- 500 grams 00 pizza flour (or all-purpose)
- 9 grams of dry yeast
- 6 grams of white sugar
- 6 grams of sea salt
- 30 grams of corn oil
- 30 grams of melted butter
- 1 cup hot tap water (around 100F)
- 1 can of diced tomatoes, strained
- Dried oregano
- 3 cups of shredded white cheddar
- 1.5 cups of shredded low-moisture mozzarella
- Toppings of your choosing
- Extra corn oil and flour
I have a lot of 00 pizza flour on the shelf, so I just used that. Traditionally, you’ll want to use standard AP flour. I also went the “mix of cheddar and mozz” route as a lot of recipes called for it. If you’re going very old-school, just use the white cheddar — it’ll be greasy AF though.
Lastly, always weigh out your bread ingredients. Accuracy is important in the chemistry of bread making. And if you have a scale, just set it to grams. It’s more accurate in that one gram equals 0.035 ounces. Most scales measure ounces by 0.1 increments. Moving on!
What You’ll Need:
- 10-inch pizza pan (like the ones from Pizza Hut)
- Large bowl
- Stand mixer with a dough hook
- Plastic wrap
- Pizza cuter
- Add the water, yeast, and sugar to a small bowl and let activate (about five minutes) until it’s frothy.
- Add the dry flour and salt to a mixing bowl of a stand mixer with the dough hook attachment. Add the frothy yeast water and start mixing. While mixing add the corn oil and melted butter. The dough should come together quickly. If it’s not coming off the sides of the bowl, add a little more flour until a ball forms. Once a cohesive ball has formed, stop the mixer and place. You don’t want to over-knead this dough. Place the dough ball in a pre-oiled (again with corn oil) bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Refrigerate the dough for 48 hours to allow it to cold ferment.
- Take the dough out of the fridge and cut it into two pieces. Roll it into a ball and place it in your pre-oiled (yes, with corn oil) pizza pans. Place the pans on the stovetop and turn on the oven to preheat to 500F. The dough will warm up on the stovetop thanks to the excess heat from the oven as it heats up.
- Once the dough is proofed (soft and malleable to touch), push/press it out toward the edges of the pizza pan. The dough should easily stretch to fill in the whole pan.
- Once the dough is stretched, prick the dough with a fork to stop it from bubbling/raising up later in the oven, and then add a layer of strained tomatoes (water is not your friend with this crust) with a good pinch of salt and a mix of both kinds of cheese (I used 2:1 cheddar:mozz). Make sure the sauce and cheese go all the way to the edges of the pan. Then top the other pizza however you like. I’m using bell pepper, onion, sausage, mushrooms, and olives — a classic supreme pizza to go with a classic pepperoni.
- Bake the pies in the oven for 12 to 15 minutes, depending on how many toppings you’re putting on there.
- Once the pies are nice and bubbly on top and crispy around the edges, remove them from the oven and plate them up on a pizza plate and let them chill for a few minutes. Hit them with some dried oregano, cut, and serve.
So, let’s talk about “lacing” first as that’s something people seemed obsessed with up in Massachusetts. This had it in spades! Look at that crunchy edge on that crust.
Even the cast iron pie had good lacing all around the edges, as you can see below.
Okay, let’s talk about the pie. I’m going to focus on the classic pepperoni one as that crust turned out very close to a bar pizza.
The crust was nice and buttery with good heft. The bottom layer of the crust and the edges were crunchy and almost cracker-like with plenty of butteriness. The inner layer of the crust (near the tomato and cheese) had a softness to it that wasn’t airy but was leaven. As the pizza cooled, that heft and crack to the outer layer of the crust heightened while the beard near the toppings stayed softer but did compress.
As for the topping and overall vibe, this pizza rules. There’s a great sharpness thanks to the white cheddar. The pepperoni was nice and spicy, providing that classic cheese/fat/spice matrix.
Overall, this is totally worth making at home if you’re not in Massachusetts. The dough just has to sit in the fridge. So it’s out of sight, out of mind. And in the end, you’ll have a very flavorful and comforting pizza to enjoy.