Dining In: Deep Dish

November 9, 2011 § 4 Comments

As an upstate New Yorker transplanted to the Midwest, I hold no particular allegiance to either side in any of the pizza debates that have raged and raged since time immemorial. Upstate, we didn’t eat NYC style slices. Our pizzas were a bit thicker and doughier – think the consistency of a national chain like Domino’s or the Hut only much tastier. Favorite joints growing up were the iconic Proietti’s and the much more low-rent Mr. Shoes. The name of the latter always grossed me out.

(Speaking of grossouts from the age of about 10 until 14 I had an affinity for anchovies. However, they grossed my old man out to the point where “anchovies on half, pepperoni on the other” wasn’t an option. I had to get my own small pizza and eat it in the dining room or family room while everyone else ate in the kitchen. Under no circumstances was I allowed to store leftovers in the fridge. It went from box to plate to garbage disposal because god forbid it sat and festered in the garbage can over the course of a few days. I still like anchovies but eating them is no longer an act of rebellion).

When I moved to Chicago in the summer of ’93 and tried my first “Chicago style” pizza I was confused. I just assumed all Chicago pies were deep dish, but nope, this stuff was cracker-thin and cut into squares. (Later I learned from one of my hipster foodie friends that the proper term for that is “tavern cut.” So now you all know too.) It wasn’t until the family made our first pilgrimage to Lou Malnati’s in downtown Naperville that I experienced deep dish for the first time. Then I understood – there’s actually three types of Chi pie. Thin crust, deep dish and stuffed. Like the first two, can’t stand the latter.With the abundance of pizza places in the area, I never really gave much thought to making my own (especially not deep dish) until Cook’s Illustrated ran a how to on it in January of 2010. From that moment on, it became an obsession. I’ve probably taken 15-20 cracks at this recipe since then and I think I’ve finally got it perfected. So here it goes, with my adds and mods.

Dough ingredients:

3 1/4 c flour

1/2 c cornmeal

1 1/2 tsp salt

2 tsp sugar

1 packet rapid rise yeast

1 1/4 c water, room temperature

4 T softened butter (which you’ll use now), plus 3 T melted (which you’ll use to laminate later)

 Mix flour, cornmeal, salt, sugar, and yeast in bowl of stand mixer fitted with dough hook on low speed for about a minute. I use the lowest possible setting on mine.  Add water and softened butter while continuing to mix on low until mixture starts resembling dough. Increase speed to medium and knead until dough is one big unified lump and pulls away from sides of bowl. This usually takes around 5 minutes or so. (Dough will only pull away from sides while mixer is on. When mixer is off, dough will fall back to sides.)

Form the dough into a nice big ball. Then drop into a lightly oiled bowl and let rise for an hour or so.

Once the dough is risen, you get to laminate it. This is the most fun part of the process next to eating it, because by “laminating” they mean “the dough is the canvas and the butter is the paint.”  Here it’s probably important to note that instead of two 9″ pies that the recipe has you make, I go with a single 12″ instead. So no need to separate the dough into two balls.

Flip the dough out onto a dry surface and roll it out. Take the melted butter and brush it onto the dough with a soft spatula or barbecue brush. I use the latter. Then, fold the dough in half and brush it again. Fold it once more and brush again, and then fold one final time. Place it back into the bowl and refrigerate for at least an hour.

While it’s soaking up the butter in the fridge, I work on the sauce and the toppings. I stay almost exactly true to the basic pizza sauce recipe:

2 tsp butter

1/4 cup grated onion

1/4 tsp oregano

2 cloves garlic (I’m Italian, so I double it to 4)

1 28 oz can crushed tomatoes

1/4 tsp sugar

2 tsp chopped basil (if I don’t have any on hand, I throw in a pinch of dried)

1 T olive oil

Heat the butter until melted, then add in onions and oregano. When onions are brown, add garlic and cook for about 30 seconds. Add tomatoes and sugar, turn heat up to high until it simmers. Simmer for a few minutes, then turn heat down to medium low and cook for 30 min. Off heat, stir in basil and oil, then season with salt and pepper.

The original recipe calls for just cheese as a topping, but what fun is that. I’ve discovered that it’s best with:

3 hot Italian sausages, casing removed

1/2 onion, chopped

1 package fresh mushrooms, chopped

Saute it all together, mashing up the sausage as you go. Once sausage is cooked through and mushrooms are softened, you’re ready to put it all together. Go ahead and preheat your oven to 425 and lightly oil a 12″ pan.

Transfer  dough ball to dry work surface and roll out into an 18″ disk of an even thickness – 1/4 to 1/2 an inch seems to work.  Press the dough into the pan, working into corners and 1 inch up sides. You will end up with extra dough for sure – I carefully tear it off and then make sure to press the edges nice and neat to the side of the pan. I roll the extra dough into loaves, put it into the oven with the pizza and behold – poor man’s crazy bread!

Once you’ve got the dough pressed out, add a base layer of 1 lb shredded mozzarella, then toppings, then top off with sauce. Original recipe cautions against using shredded cheese in the notes at the beginning, but I have found that it melts just fine every time and there’s no real difference from using slices.

Bake at 425 for 27 minutes (that seems to be my magic number, anyway). Let sit for a few minutes, sprinkle with a little grated parmigiana, then slice and enjoy.

Special thanks to Test Kitchen intern and friend Lena Hanson for the help with making sure I did everything in line with ATK/Cooks Illustrated guidelines.

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§ 4 Responses to Dining In: Deep Dish

  • jasmined says:

    While I’ve never considered having anchovies on my pizza, the first time I had them in a Caesar salad I went into a state of bliss.

    But back to the pizza – your recipe sounds wonderful. Have you any thoughts on making your own sausage? If not, where do you usually buy it?

  • Mike Wilkins says:

    I’ve never taken a crack at making my own sausage, but that might be a project for our rapidly approaching winter.

    For Italian I usually buy either from our local butcher in Western Springs (Casey’s Market) or just plain boring old Dominick’s.

  • […] that evening. I thought to myself “hmmmm, maybe I’ll do the same.” Much like my deep dish recipe, it took a lot of experimentation to get things right. I started with Rachael Ray’s technique […]

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