I spent my formative years living outside of St. Louis, Missouri. My father says that this has ruined me; he refers to my “Show Me” attitude. I do certainly like to see things before I actually believe them. However, my “Show Me” attitude isn’t the only thing that I grew up learning from St. Louis. I developed a deep love for thin-crust pizza with the most perfect cheese in the entire world.
St. Louis is famous for their practically trademarked cheese, Provel. It’s gooey, buttery, and “string-less.” And I’ve got to admit that I was a little horrified to find out that it’s really heavily processed. In these days where practically everything that I buy comes either from a Co-op grocery or the local farmer’s market, it was a hard pill to swallow to find out that if I wanted to replicate my favorite cheese I was going to have to buy some of the cheeses that I have come to identify as “bottom-feeder” cheese. But sometimes you have to spare no expenses for comfort food.
When I was little, I would always brag that my dad made the best pizza in the world. I’m sure that there was no shortage of Provel cheese in the house to top our pies, but as I have grown up I have learned that Dad doesn’t really make the best pizza in the world, he assembles the best pizza in the world. And lest anyone get their feelings hurt (Mom or Dad), making and assembling the pizza are two incredibly important steps; without either step there would be no pizza to be enjoyed.
I’ll be honest, the pizza that you see above was simply enjoyed by me. Like the many years that preceded, my father assembled the pizza and my mother made the pizza, and I ate the pizza. No reason to mess with perfection.
But, should you wish to assemble/make your own St. Louis-style pizza you’ll need some special ingredients for the Provel cheese. OK, one special ingredient, the rest are rather common. You’ll need liquid smoke. Years ago, my mom and I tried to replicate the taste of Provel cheese by mixing up a rather complicated mixture of cheeses and then extruding them using the attachments for her Kitchen Aid. We came close, but there was something missing. I can only assume it was the liquid smoke. We did, however, use some smoked cheeses in our mixture, but honestly, it’s nothing that complex.
Provel is actually a blend of Provolone, Swiss, and Cheddar. However, following the guidance of America’s Test Kitchen we were able to whip up a rather good imitation of Provel by using Monterey Jack and white American Cheese tossed in a little bit of liquid smoke.
St. Louisians use Provel as a complete replacement for the mozzarella, but I do still like to have a variety of cheese mixture on the pizza. The great thing about adding the Provel to the mix is that it adds another layer of flavor. Cheese pizza will never be the same again!