No Need To Go To Chicago: Homemade Deep Dish Pizza Delivers

FARGO – I’m a firm believer that when going on vacation, food familiarity is the enemy. That means we try as hard as we can not to eat at restaurants we have available in our home towns. (I’m hoping Subway and Erbert and Gerbert’s can recover from their loss in revenue during our absence). So, on a recent trip to Chicago, my family and I set out to eat the foods that are synonymous with the Windy City – Chicago Dogs, Chicago-Style Deep Dish Pizza and Italian Beef Sandwiches. Check, check and check. Been there, ate all of it.

All of those Chicago specialties were spectacular. But the one that most impressed us was the pizza. I thought I’d consumed deep dish pizza before at any number of pizza places in town. But I had never had authentic Chicago-Style Deep Dish Pizza. I never knew there was a difference. In my naivete, I thought deep dish pizza just meant a thick-crusted pizza baked in a pan instead of a platter.I thought everything else was pretty much the same. But I was wrong.

Authentic Chicago-Style Deep Dish Pizza is different in many ways. First, it has cornmeal in the crust which helps the crust from getting soggy under all of the toppings. The cheese and other fixings are placed directly on top of the crust, followed last by loads of tomato sauce. I knew I liked it from my first bite at the famous Gino’s East in downtown Chicago. However, I had doubts I could replicate it at home. I was pleasantly surprised when I did, thanks to this recipe from Sally’s Baking Addiction.

This is definitely more work than most homemade pizzas because you have to allow the yeasted cornmeal crust to rise a couple of times, but I promise it’s totally worth it. It’s delicious and – better yet – it reheats like a dream. You know how a lot of leftover pizza gets rubbery when reheated in the microwave? Not this one. It tasted as good leftover as it did the first day I made it. It’s a definite winner. Watch the video to see how it’s done.

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Chicago, I hope to come back and see you again soon. In the meantime, at least I have your pizza.

Authentic Chicago-Style Deep Dish Pizza

Makes 2 pizzas (serves 12)

Ingredients:

Crust:
3 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
½ cup yellow cornmeal
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
2 1/4 teaspoons yeast (1 standard packet)
1 1/4 cups slightly warm water
1/2 cup unsalted butter, divided (1/4 cup melted, 1/4 cup softened)
Olive oil for coating

Sauce:

2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 small onion, grated (about 1/3 cup)
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes
1/4 teaspoon granulated sugar

Toppings:
4 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
Other toppings of choice: pepperoni, ham, bacon, peppers, mushrooms

Directions:

Set aside two deep dish 9- by 2-inch round cake pans. For the crust: combine the flour, cornmeal, salt, sugar and yeast in the bowl of your stand mixer, fitted with a dough hook attachment. (Use a hand mixer and very large bowl as an alternative.) Toss ingredients with mixer on low or with a large wooden spoon. Add warm water – around 90 degrees Fahrenheit – and 1/4 cup of melted butter (not scalding). On low speed, beat (or stir) the dough ingredients until they begin to moisten. Continuing on low speed, beat the dough until it is soft, supple, gently pulls away from the sides of the bowl and falls off the dough hook – about 4 to 5 minutes.

Remove dough from the bowl and form into a ball. Lightly grease a large mixing bowl with olive oil and place the dough inside, coating all sides in oil. Cover the bowl tightly with aluminum foil and allow to rise in a warm environment for 1 to 2 hours or until doubled in size. To speed up warming: preheat oven to 250 degrees Fahrenheit then turn off oven. Place bowl inside, close the oven and the lingering heat will help the dough rise.

Once the dough is ready, lightly flour a large work surface. Remove dough from the bowl, set the bowl and aluminum foil aside (to use later). Gently punch down the dough to remove any air bubbles and roll into a large 15- by 12-inch rectangle. Spread 1/4 cup softened butter on top of the dough. Roll it up lengthwise. Cut the dough log in half. Form the two pieces of dough into balls and place back into the  greased bowl. Cover with aluminum foil and allow to rise in the refrigerator for 1 hour,  until puffy, as you make the sauce.

For the sauce: Place butter in medium saucepan over medium heat to melt. Once melted, add the grated onion, salt, oregano and red pepper flakes. When onion has slightly browned – about 5 minutes – add garlic, tomatoes and sugar. Turn heat down to low-medium and simmer until it’s hearty, fragrant and thick – about 30 minutes. You’ll have about 2 ½  cups of sauce at this point. If you have more, keep simmering until the amount has reduced. Remove from heat; set aside. Preheat oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit.

Assemble the pizzas: Keep one ball of dough in the refrigerator as you work with the first one. Roll it out on a lightly-floured work surface, working it into a 12-inch circle. Using your rolling pin as a guide, place over a 9- by 2-inch deep dish cake pan. Using your fingers, press the dough into the pan until tight fiting. Trim any excess dough off the edges with a small knife. Repeat with second dough. Brush the top edges of the dough with olive oil. Fill each pizza with 2 cups of mozzarella cheese, then add toppings of your choice. On top of those optional toppings, add 1 ¼ cups of sauce. Sprinkle each with 1/4 cup of grated parmesan cheese.

Place the cake pans on top of a large baking sheet, which will catch potential spills. Bake for 20 to 28 minutes or until the crust is golden brown. Optional:  loosely cover the pizzas with aluminum foil after the 15-minute mark to prevent any heavy browning and uneven baking. Remove the pizzas from the oven and allow to cool in the pans placed on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Slice, serve and enjoy.

Recipe slightly altered from Sally’s Baking Addiction