Can you sandwich a Detroit-style pizza?

I’m pretty sure you can.

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Read Time: 8 minutes

The overarching goal is for this blog to be about sandwiches and things that are similar to sandwiches, but sometimes I just have to go with what excites me and this week that’s a crispy, practically fried but still light and airy dough topped with some typical pizza accouterments and some non-typical toppings. We’ve been here before, but this week we’re making pizzas AND we’re making a couple of sandwiches as well.

Is this blog post about a sandwich or pizza?

It’s a bit of both. This week I worked on a recipe for a small pan of focaccia and we’re using that recipe and concept to make a couple of sandwiches and two different fantastic small-sized Detroit-style pan pizzas.

Detroit-style pizza and focaccia are practically cousins. They use the same sort of pans, and the dough ends up with the same sort of crispy, fried bottom, so they become a bit interchangeable in my mind.

I love focaccia and Detroit-style pizza and when I got the inspiration to turn them into a smaller-sized serving, I jumped at the chance. If you’re reading this, I’m assuming you also like crunchy bread in some way or form, and I think you’ll like this style of pizza as well.

This is a video of King Arthur Baking’s mini focaccia recipe that inspired this whole blog post.

My original inspiration for this whole blog post came from a King Arthur Baking video for making a small, “mini” batch of focaccia and then I used their concept to adjust my own focaccia to fit a smaller pan.

First, let’s talk about focaccia and make some bread.

Dough hydration chat

At first glance, you might be thinking that I just straight-up copied King Arthur Baking’s recipe, but I did not. Theirs is a 70% hydration recipe and mine is closer to my regular-sized focaccia recipe which is 75% hydration.

For a non-experienced baker, what does 70% vs 75% mean? Hydration in a bread recipe refers to the amount of water compared to the amount of flour or dry ingredients. So, the higher the percentage, the closer the dough will be to a 1 to 1 ratio of flour to water. The larger the number in front of the percent sign also can tell an experienced baker how difficult it might be to handle the dough. A 65% dough will have a smaller amount of water compared to flour, so the dough should be very easy to handle, but an 85% dough will have a lot more water which will most likely lead to a very sticky experience.

In my experience, the difference between 70 and 75 percent means that you can easily handle the lower hydration dough and your hands and counter surface will possibly be sticking to the higher hydration dough. This means that King Arthur’s dough is a dough you should be able to shape into a ball and my dough is one that will be a bit sticky.

How do we fix this sticky situation with my 75% hydrated dough? Simple. We barely touch it. This means it’s a no-knead and very little-touch dough. When you do touch the dough with your hands, you will want to make sure your fingertips are wet from water or even better the olive oil that is added to the pan.

Small batch focaccia

Another reason I wanted to try to make these recipes was because I figure that most home cooks are much more likely to have a loaf pan in their house than a Detroit-style pizza pan or even a large metal brownie pan. And even if you don’t have loaf pans, you can get two of them for less than 15 dollars. Here are the two 4 x 8-inch loaf pans that I bought at Amazon back in 2019.

Volume of yeast

Typically a yeasted bread dough recipe will contain between 0.5% and 2% of yeast. I did some testing with this recipe and found that it did help a little to add a bit more yeast than is typical to ensure that the small size of dough will double in under 2 hours.

Here’s one of the tests I did comparing 3 grams of yeast to 4 grams. The table below along with the photos will illustrate what happens when you alter a recipe just a little.

pan markingamount of yeastnotes
33 grams2.5% which is higher than the expected top limit of 2%
44 grams3.3% which is well above what it should be but I can’t really taste a difference and it speeds up the process.

The photos below show the difference that 1 gram of yeast will make. The pan marked with a 3 is 3 grams and the 4 denotes a 4-gram yeast addition in the recipe.

This is right after each dough was created.
After 1 hour of proof time.
After 1.5 hours of rising.

I probably should have gone for the full 2 hours on both loaves, but the one extra gram of yeast really made a lot of difference in the rise for this recipe.

Below is the 4-gram yeast focaccia test showing the crumb that I enjoy for my sandwiches.

Some focaccia recipes will create big air pockets and bubbles, but since I want my bread to be specifically for sandwiching, I prefer a denser crumb.

Below is a small batch focaccia recipe that is awesome for snacking or sandwiching. I think this is an even better solution for a pasta or salad side dish than breadsticks.

2 hours and 30 minutes
Loaf pan focaccia sandwich bread

Here's a no-knead, easy-to-prepare mini focaccia that can be turned into two to three sandwiches. With no special equipment and a minimal amount of effort, you can easily have this bread on the table as a side for your next pasta or salad dinner.

Get Recipe

A sandwich for the focaccia

I did a lot of testing of this recipe and therefore I had a lot of different sandwiches. Most of them were made from ingredients I found in my refrigerator at lunchtime, but the one below was the winner.

This is deli-sliced ham, and melty gouda, with lettuce and sliced grape tomatoes tossed in a store-bought creamy Caesar dressing. I sliced open the focaccia, added some Caesar dressing to the bottom bread, topped it with ham and sliced gouda, and broiled that to melt the cheese for about 3 or 4 minutes. During the broiling time, I sliced some grape tomatoes and tossed them with lettuce in some dressing before adding this small salad to my warm sandwich.

This was basically a fridge-clearing sandwich, but it was super tasty due to the crisp focaccia.

Two Detroit-style pizzas and a sandwich

What is Detroit-style pizza?

Michigan.org has some history of Detroit-style pizza that informs us a man named Gus Guerra invented what is now known as Detroit-style pizza way back in 1946 for a neighborhood bar called Buddy’s Rendezvous. Gus borrowed a dough recipe from his wife’s mother to create his pizzas, but it wasn’t the edible ingredients that proved to be the star of the show, it was the pan itself.

Detroit-style pizza pans are thick steel pans, usually darkened from use, that might have been originally used at automobile factories to hold spare parts. It’s these dark, rectangular pans that give Detroit-style pizza its unique rectangular shape and height with caramelized cheese all along the sides.

The pizza is cooked in oil, much like focaccia which gives the underside of the pizza, almost a buttery, fried crust. The edges of the pizza are usually darkened, almost to the point where they look burned, but that’s where the cheese crisps up and becomes crunchy and caramelized, making each corner piece of pizza a textural masterpiece.

I have shared my own Detroit-style pizza recipe for my patrons over on Patreon. Just like the recipes on this page, you can also use it as a focaccia by simply leaving the toppings off and seasoning the top with salt, herbs, and spices.

I do suggest a stand mixer for this recipe, but it also would be easy enough to handle in a bowl with just a spoon and some elbow grease to mix up the dough.

This is my Detroit-style pizza recipe that I shared on Patreon.

Detroit-style bacon, lettuce, and tomato pizza

This first pizza is an odd version of Detroit style, but it’s still a good one. Surprising no one, I also turned it into a sandwich. My recipe for a more traditional pepperoni Detroit-style pizza is down below but first I wanted to share a BLT in pizza form.

My friend JP who I have written about several times in the past recently let me know that midwestern pizza chain, Jet’s Pizza was bringing back their BLT Detroit-style pizza that hasn’t been on the menu since 2021. She was curious to know what I thought about lettuce on pizza. That conversation inspired me to make one and find out.

Jet’s promo marketing materials for the BLT pizza they just brought back to their menu. (click to see tweet)

Here’s the deal. A lot of people will poo-poo a salad on top of a pizza, but I ate this pizza two times within the past month and it’s super tasty, flavorful, and a lot of fun in the crunchy texture department. I don’t want to hear you cold lettuce-on-pizza haters coming at me for this, just give it a shot!

This is basically a focaccia topped with a bunch of cheese and roasted garlic parmesan sauce.
Shocking to some, but bacon, lettuce, and tomato requires bacon, lettuce, and tomato.

I was a bit hesitant to put mayonnaise—a star component of a BLT—on this pizza, so I created a roasted garlic parmesan cheese sauce instead. There’s still brick cheese melted on top of the cheese sauce, so we covered all the cheese bases.

Just like I suggest when I write about sandwiches like the BLT, I think it’s best if you treat the veggies like a salad and dress them. So, in the case of this pizza, I toss the chopped bacon, lettuce, and tomatoes in olive oil, red wine vinegar, salt, and pepper to bring even more flavor to the party.

The cold salad on top of a hot, cheesy pizza works really well.
Light and airy dough under a very flavorful and texturally exciting pizza.
2 hours and 40 minutes
Detroit-style BLT personal pan pizza

With a base of roasted garlic and parmesan cheese, this pizza is perfect for topping with bacon, lettuce, and tomato slices that have been dressed in olive oil and red wine vinegar. All of these components build into a super flavorful and texturally diverse pizza experience that you won't soon forget.

Get Recipe

Detroit-style pizza BLT sandwich

You probably knew I was going to do it, but I turned a Detroit-style BLT pizza into a sandwich, and it was great. There’s probably a bit too much bread in this style of sandwich since I didn’t slice the focaccia pizza in half before the sandwiching part happened, but the outside of the sandwich was so buttery, oily, fried, and crunchy that it was a fantastic experience.

There’s no actual recipe shared for this exact sandwich, but if you wanted to recreate it, you can simply scroll back up to the Detroit-style BLT pizza recipe. Then you only make enough salad for half of the pizza, cut it in half, and flip it over on top of itself for a great sandwich experience.

Only one side needs toppings because the naked side will end up being the top piece of bread in the sandwich.
This was a lot of bread, but it was a very good sandwich experience.

Mini-sized Detroit-style pizza

The first thing I thought of when I saw the King Arthur Baking video for a small pan of focaccia was how I could easily turn that into one of my favorite pizza styles in a small one or two-person serving pizza. So, that’s what I set out to do.

First, I bought some brick cheese and natural casing pepperoni and got to work. If you can’t find brick cheese, you can find it online or you can blend some mozzarella with Monterey Jack to get something similar. Basically, you want small squares of cheese and not shredded cheese, so buy your cheese by the block and cut it into small 1/4 to 1/2-inch squares.

I’m sure some of you reading this still have memories of the Pizza Hut Book-it program and this is my version. Go read a book!

This is the Brick cheese and pepperoni that I typically buy. I doubt the cheese is available outside of the Midwest, but I mention some substitutes in my recipe.

I buy Boar’s Head traditional pepperoni when I can find it and slice it myself on a mandoline. The natural casing is what causes those pepperoni cups to show up after baking. If you can’t find natural casing pepperoni, you can use whatever you find tastes best. You can also use any toppings you enjoy on pizza if you want.

The char on the pepperoni and cheesy crust are exactly what you’re looking for.
This is just a bit too much pizza for me to enjoy in one meal.
You might not be aware of this, but pizza is the best.
The interior of this pizza is super soft and airy, while the outside is super crunchy.

Here’s my mini-Detroit-style pizza recipe. Like I said before, if you’re a big eater, you could eat the whole pizza, but it’s probably more likely that two people would split one with maybe a small salad on the side.

Detroit-style pepperoni personal pan pizza view printable page for this recipe

This pepperoni loaded, almost-personal pan pizza is packed with melty cheese with a crispy, and crunchy bottom crust. And the best part about it is that it is made from a dough that requires no kneading or mixing with special equipment.


Ingredients:

Pizza dough
  • 120 grams bread flour (1 cup - can use all-purpose flour)
  • 3 grams salt (1/2 teaspoon)
  • 4 grams instant yeast (a bit more than 1/2 teaspoon)
  • 6 grams olive oil (1 1/2 teaspoon)
  • 96 grams water (1/3 cup + 1 tablespoon and 1 teaspoon)
  • non-stick cooking spray
  • 8 grams olive oil (2 teaspoons - this goes in the loaf pan)
Pizza toppings
  • 2 to 3 ounces brick cheese in 1/2 inch cubes (can use Munster or Monterey Jack)
  • 20 pepperoni slices
  • 4 to 6 tablespoons pizza sauce

Directions:

Pizza dough: add flour, salt, and yeast to a medium-sized bowl and stir all dry ingredients until thoroughly combined.

Measure and add 6 grams of olive oil (1.5 teaspoons) and water, and stir for 2 minutes to ensure that all dough components are combined and there are no dry flour spots. The dough will be very sticky and probably difficult to handle with your hands, so keep using the spoon.

Spray the inside of an 8x4-inch loaf pan with non-stick cooking spray and then add 2 teaspoons or 8 grams of olive oil to the pan and tilt the pan a few times to allow the olive oil to spread out some.

Add the sticky dough on top of the olive oil in the pan and moisten your fingertips with some of the olive oil to prevent sticking. Using your olive-oiled fingertips, press the dough to flatten it and try to get the dough to reach close to all four corners of the pan. Flipping the dough after you've flattened it will help to coat the dough thoroughly with olive oil and make it easier to handle with your fingers. 

Once the dough is flattened and stretching close to the corners of the pan, cover the pan and allow it to rise for 1.5 to 2 hours or until it is really puffy and at least doubled in size.

Near the end of the rise time, preheat your oven to 500 degrees F (260 C).

Toppings: scatter your 1/2 inch cubes of cheese all over the top of the dough. Make special effort to ensure some of the cheese is against the side of the pan and in the corners because that cheese will melt to the pan and become crispy from caramelization. Top the cheese with spoonfuls of pizza sauce and then finally add pepperoni. You should fully cover the pizza top with pepperoni, until it looks like you might have used too many. But don't worry, they will shrink when cooked.

Once topped with toppings, bake the pizza for 18 to 20 minutes. 

Remove from the pan to a cooling rack to cool before serving. 

Check back for the best Portuguese hangover remedy

I tested this hangover cure and it worked (just kidding Mom). But seriously, upcoming next week is my next Patreon-suggested sandwich and it’s a wild and crazy ride.


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