As we bid goodbye to the last of the British summer, we can console ourselves that along with the longer, darker nights comes cosy nights in, the return of our favourite telly programmes and – thrillingly – some of the most indulgent and exciting pizzas ever to hit the shelves.
Detroit-style pizzas have landed, and are set to shake up the pizza scene big time, with M&S paving the way by bringing the first Detroit pizzas to hit the UK.
Steph and Dom Parker found fame on Googlebox, with their witty comments and hilarious interactions leading to them become one of the most loved couples on UK TV
We hooked up with Channel 4's Gogglebox's much-loved Steph and Dom – who know a thing or two about a TV dinner – to taste test the entire range for us
These famous pizzas have a deep but light square focaccia-like base which has been baked in a pan, and are smothered in dressings and altogether American-inspired toppings – perfect for sharing in front of the TV with your feet up.
And to celebrate the launch of M&S's most indulgent and exciting range of pizzas ever we hooked up with Channel 4's Gogglebox's much-loved Steph and Dom – who know a thing or two about a TV dinner – to taste test the entire range for us. Pass the wine…
M&S's pizza expert Claire Richardson explains the new range the notorious couple are about to sample: 'We went to Detroit and visited a pizza place called Buddy's – the birthplace of Detroit style pizzas. The pizzas there are so different to the Chicago type deep dish that most people would think of; instead of being heavy and really doughy, Detroit pizza is airy and light but still extremely indulgent.
It's safe to say that Steph and Dom enjoy a takeaway pizza, with Dom declaring 'I want it fully loaded, with a nice soft base and no soggy bottoms,'
'We've replicated this with our offering, as each pizza is piled high with toppings, three kinds of oozy cheeses, droplets of tomato sauce and then finally finished off with an authentic American inspired drizzle just before it gets to the table – or sofa! The result is such an intense flavour hit and the sauce really does add another dimension.'
It's safe to say that Steph and Dom enjoy a takeaway pizza. 'I hate cooking', Steph announces, 'Hate it, hate it, hate it. I'm not terribly adventurous with my food.
Dom agrees, it seems: 'She really doesn't enjoy cooking. I do, but my repertoire is limited. Things like stroganoff, roasts and traditional things I can do. We live in Sandwich (on the Kent coast) and have a lovely farmhouse and an Aga – and a pizza shovel in fact. Yes, we do like a pizza.;
Instead of being heavy and really doughy, Detroit pizza is airy and light but still extremely indulgent, and loaded with toppings
While Steph isn't a fan of spicy or hot toppings, Dom loves loads of cheese
'Pizzas are so often disappointing', Dom adds, 'I like my pizzas spicy, meaty, piled high and with plenty of cheese: a world of cheese! There's never enough cheese. I want it fully loaded, with a nice soft base and no soggy bottoms,' he laughs.
And along with a pizza piled high with cheesy toppings, what other ingredients would make the perfect night in for the couple? 'We'd need a roaring fire and a movie,' Steph begins. 'Thrillers, scary movies and bingeing on dramas, that's what we like. Oh and Dom likes rom-coms,' she smiles knowingly, 'He's hugely squeamish otherwise.'
Dom is nodding. ' We'll need a nice red wine too; a Malbec ideally. Or white – of course, it depends on the food. And our dog Gigi (she's a miniature sausage) and some bad weather so we feel cosy.'
A bottle of Malbec is magically produced and with that, the pizzas are ready. Let the testing begin…
1. The Whole Hog
The pair - often known as the 'posh couple' on Googlebox love a pizza and a night in
Steph and Dom were big fans of the light and fluffy base and succulent pork on The Whole Hog
DOM: 'I'm going to have that bit, it looks really juicy. Now that's a nice pizza. The base is a bit like focaccia – not too thin. I like the cheese as you can tell there's cheddar and mozzarella. I run away from pulled pork normally. So many people are doing it badly – every time you go to a festival it's there with some cold apple sauce, but this actually is good. I'd order that.'
STEPH: 'The sweet sauce is very nice, what is it? BBQ? I usually stray away from deep dish as it can be too doughy and filling but this is light and kind of in between. The square shape makes these easier to cut. I think I'd rather like to do these in little squares and put a cocktail stick in each for a drinks party, though it's hard to beat cheese and pineapple on sticks, isn't it? I like doing them stuck in a grapefruit. I digress. Yes, this is very good.'
2. Philly Steak Out
The Philly Steak Out won Steph's approval and Dom was a big fan of the amount of cheese
The Philly Steak Out has marinated beef brisket, sautéed onions and green peppers on a tomato and cheese base, finished with an American-style mustard mayonnaise
STEPH: 'OH YUM. I'm licking my fingers, this is good. The steak here just melts, like it should do. The mustard with the meat really goes well together.'
DOM: 'Ooh I can smell the American hot dog mustard, very unusual. Again, no complaints about the amount of cheese – its good and oozy. I'd add a little bit of seasoning but I like doing that – adding things like capers, chilli oil and plenty of black pepper so you can make it your own.'
3. Meatball Marinara
Meatballs were a winner for Steph and Dom, with Steph declaring it her all-round favourite
The Meatball Marinara consists of Colby cheese, mature cheddar, mozzarella and bursts of tomato sauce, mini meatballs and sautéed onions, topped with a Garlic mayonnaise to finish once cooked... yum!
STEPH: 'That's bloody lovely, that is. THIS is really nice. We don't give meatballs a chance. This is the one I like best so far, closely followed by the first one.'
Dom was pleasantly surprised by the way the heat came through in the All Fired Up pizza
DOM: 'Again, meatballs are one of those things that can be extremely disappointing, but these are good. I like the subtle onion flavour and it's all herby and almost Italian, so the focaccia-like base works really well with this one.'
4. All Fired Up
DOM: 'I was expecting that to be considerably more burny. The chilli sauce is quite sweet, so you can taste and feel the heat without any burning, it's a nice balance. And the pepperoni is bang on. I like the two kinds. I think this would possibly be my favourite so far as it's very much like an American Hot, which I love, but so much better.'
STEPH: 'I can't do jalapenos and chillis I'm afraid. Literally, I dribble and sweat at a hint of spice. I mean, I get a chicken passanda when we have a curry!'
Spicy Jalapeno Pepperoni and fresh green chillies are added to mozzarella, Cheddar and Colby cheese to create All Fired Up, and it is finished by drizzling with Red Hot Chilli
5. Chicken Out
STEPH: 'What's this called? Chicken Out? Which I just did! Well it's very chicken-y. There are really good-sized chicken pieces and plenty of it. I'd say this is good for the less adventurous among us. Chicken and sweetcorn is a winning combination and creamy, cheesy, ranch dressing with it is fabulous. I think this is my second favourite now.'
The Chicken Out was Steph's second favourite of the range
Chicken out is topped with buttermilk Chicken, Beechwood Smoked Bacon and Sweetcorn on a Colby cheese, Mature Cheddar, mozzarella and tomato base, finished with ranch dressing
DOM: 'Yes it is very chicken-y, you're right. Generous toppings, I'd say. I'm not personally convinced about sweetcorn on pizza, but the bacon is lovely.'
6. The Big Cheese
'When are these out? Can I have the box so I know what to look for in the shop?': The verdict was decidedly positive from both halves of the Parker couple
Lashings of Colby cheese, Cheddar and mozzarella, with bursts of tomato sauce, semi dried tomatoes & red onion make up the Big Cheese, which is finished with ranch dressing
STEPH: 'Oh god, that's delicious. Oh, yes every time please. These tomatoes are delicious – they're not sundried, what are they? [They're semi-dried, Steph]. Cheese and tomato pizzas are so hard to get right, I've tried making it myself with our 14 year old daughter, but it's impossible to know how much passata and mozzarella to put on. Mine ended up like cardboard.'
DOM: 'Nice and juicy. The red onion is a nice touch. When are these out? Can I have the box so I know what to look for in the shop?'
Buy M&S's new Deep and Loaded pizzas online here
Delicious Detroit: The origins of the famous deep pan pizzas
Square, deep pan pizzas have been served in Detroit since an Italian chef experimented by putting some focaccia dough into a deep steel pan, then baking it with cheese, sauce and toppings back in the 1940s. The result was a fluffy, light yet deep, soft and springy base smothered with cheese and pizza style sauce – and delicious crispy, crusty fried cheesy sections around the edges and it was an instant hit.
Today, the style is replicated all around the city with pizza-lovers travelling far and wide for a bit of the pizza pie. Interestingly, Detroit pizzas are markedly different from neighbouring Chicago style pizzas, which use a more standard pizza dough that tends to be denser, less airy and stick with the traditional base, sauce, cheese, toppings order of production.
M&S’s pizza expert Claire Richardson explains: 'The way that they’re cooked over there is the reverse of what we’re used to: the base goes in, then all kinds of meat and toppings, then it’s the cheese and finally the sauce goes on last.'
Toppings tend to be all-American and with American-sized portions too; generosity is the name of the game and you'll find Detroit pizzas to be piled high with spicy meats like pepperoni, barbecue-style toppings like pulled pork, and Italian-American flavour combinations like meatballs in marinara sauce with plenty of herbs.
Cheese is important, and Detroit pizzas should use a blend of at least two cheeses to create the deeply oozing middle in addition to the lacy, almost fried crust where the cheese has dripped down to the pan and formed a darker edge.
Claire says: 'For a while now we've been watching the rise of the deep-dish pizza and that's something we've been wanting to offer customers as a takeaway offering, but in an authentic and exciting way that feels right to us.
'We’d been paying attention to the growing excitement around Detroit style pizzas which have been cropping up on Pinterest and Instagram more and more over the last year, so last spring we embarked on a Stateside research trip to really investigate what we could do.
'Over in New York we saw how much imagination went into flavour combinations, and took inspiration from these for our favourites – we loved how so many pizzas in NY had fun names too, and that’s something we’ve played with in this range, with cheeky ones like the ‘Chicken Out’.