Chicago-Style Pizza

The first thing to do when setting out to make a Chicago-style deep dish pizza is to disabuse yourself of the notion that what you are about to make is in any way Italian. It’s American fast food, and if you want it to be good, you must treat it as such. That means premium-quality ingredients, not gourmet ones. No San Marzano tomatoes, fresh buffalo mozzarella or Italian flour. Del Monte, Kraft and General Mills are fine (and probably better than what the actual pizzeria is using). So don’t get fancy, since that impulse will work against creating the perfect Chicago pie.

So then, using the recipe below, proceed as follows. Combine all your dry ingredients in a bowl like so…

…and whisk lightly to blend (yes this is going to be a detailed tutorial since the dough preparation is the most important part of the process).

Add your cooked and riced (or finely grated) potato…

…and work it into the mixture with your fingers.

Repeat the process with the oil. Pour it in…

…fold it in a little with a spatula…

…then finish working it in by hand…tum-tee-tum-tum…

Now all you need to add is your lukewarm water…

Again fold it in a bit, then knead it lighty — very lightly — by hand until it comes together in a ball.

Kneading lightly is important since you want to avoid activating much gluten if you can. You’ll invariably get some going, but be gentle here. It doesn’t need to be perfectly smooth…just about like so:

Now for a short rising (is your oven preheating?). The idea here is to let the yeast go just long enough to create a few crust-lightening bubbles, but not so many that the dough loses its fundamental density. An hour to 75 minutes at the most, by which time it won’t have risen demonstrably, however it will get little bit spongy. About like so:

Now we’re ready to shape it into a crust. Flour your rolling surface and apply the pin, rolling it out to a roughly twelve-inch circle. I use a ten-inch straight-sided tart pan for this (the photo up at the top makes it look like it’s flared out like a pie pan, but that’s just the macro lens perpective). A pizza pan will obviously work just fine too.

Drape the dough over your pan and press it down into the corners. Did you tear it? No problem, stick it back together. Is it too thin one one side? Then rip a little excess off from somewhere and stick it down where you need it. This dough ain’t fussy.

Once that’s done “dock” it with a fork to keep it from bubbling up in the oven (don’t forget those pan corners!).

Then parbake it for about 15 minutes at 400 degrees. Once that’s done you can let the crust sit for as long as you like (though not more than a few hours). When you’re ready cover the bottom with mozzarella. Hey! Is that pre-grated mozzarella??? Of course it is! Haven’t you been listening to what I’ve been saying?

Then put on your toppings (I don’t recommend any more than two, three tops, and then only a scarce scattering).

Then splatter heaping spoonfuls of sauce onto the top of the pizza. Not too thick now, just enough to redden the top. You need not cover everything. About 80 percent is dandy.

A note here about sauce. Chicago-style sauce is sweet. A good deal sweeter than any standard “authentic” red sauce. So no fancy low-sugar San Marzano tomatoes, just good ol’ premium Red Golds or something to that effect. Add a couple of teaspoons of sugar to the finished sauce, and you’re in the Windy City zone.

There now, all ready for the oven. That wasn’t so hard now was it?

Bake for half an hour — on a pizza stone — at 350, until the cheese bubbles up around the sides and turns golden. Do not “rest” the finished pizza. Eat.

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