The Gino’s-Style Pizza Crust

Well it was a big weekend here at the Pastry household. After some 9 tries this past winter, I finally busted the Gino’s, or at least Gino’s-style, deep dish corn meal pizza crust. I say Gino’s-“style” because it’s almost certainly not the actual recipe. But it is darned close. And I can say for certain that the basic technique is correct: a pie dough. In fact it’s simpler than a pie dough. As the TV detectives have been saying since the days of Columbo, it’s so simple it’s brilliant.

It’s the very simplicity of the thing that threw me from the get-go. Like just about everone who’s set out to imitate this crust, I was thinking bread. And why wouldn’t I? Every other pizza crust in the known world is a bread of one sort or another. Yet no matter how little yeast I put in, I could never achieve that dense-yet-flaky Gino’s texture. I did at one point go with a biscuit approach, but the alkaline baking powder aftertaste was just too much. How the heck was this crust leavened?

Now I know the answer: with water. It’s a mechanically leavened pizza crust. Which is to say, it relies on steam to create it’s flaky crumb. It is a very wet dough. But then that just makes it all the easier to handle, since there’s no rolling like there is with a standard pie crust. Easy, easy, easy.

From start to finish it takes about ten minutes to make. You weigh out and mix your ingredients, cut in the fat, add your water and mix (lightly). Drizzle on a little oil and you’re ready to press it into the pan. From a restaurant operations standpoint, it’s genius. No complicted (or expensive) ingredients, no multiple-step processes. And best of all, unlike traditional bread crusts, no waiting. You get a rush, you just mix up more dough. No problem. Exactly the kind of thing you might expect from three entrepreneurs taking a ground-up approach to the pizza business.

So now what are you going to do Joe? Retire from the pizza game and spend your life sipping margeritas on some Caribbean beach? Nope. There’s still an awful lot to do in pizza. I’ll probably tweak this crust a bit more, fiddle with corn meal/flour ratios and such. But aside from that there’s an entire world of yeast crusts out there waiting to be perfected. Man, even a Chicago man, cannot live on Gino’s East alone. I won’t be happy until I can replicate (or at least approximate) all my favorite pizza from the old home town.

As always, to track the action, just click on the “State of the Pizza” link to the right, where all pizza-related recipes will be stored.

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