Friday, June 24, 2016

Chicago-Style Deep Dish Pizza

Lucy was an amazing traveler for the most part during our time in Chicago. She loved strolling about the city, waving to the chubby pigeons, jumping in alarm at the sounds of the honking horns of the disgruntled Chicago drivers, and staring heaven-wards at the towering skyscrapers. However, her favorite part of the whole trip was probably when we stopped to enjoy some authentic Chicago-style Deep Dish Pizza.

When in Chicago, probably the most cliche touristy thing to do is to visit one of the many iconic pizza parlors and sample some of the greasiest, most decadent, most infamous pizza on the planet. Surprisingly, I have never ever tried authentic deep dish during all my trips to Chicago over the years. Paul, on the other hand, had tried several versions and was really turned off by his most recent tasting a few summers previously when, after cutting himself a generous slice, he noticed the copious amounts of grease pooling on his plate from the pizza. Paul turned off by grease? You know it had to be bad!

After discussing his dislike for deep dish with a co-worker from Chicago, we were directed to try the pizza at Lou Malnati's. Supposedly, their pizza is more fresh and less detrimental to the arteries. I'm sure it still does not qualify as a health food.

So, while in Chicago, we headed to the nearest Lou Malnati's for lunch one day and found the restaurant to not be too busy. We ordered their famous original deep dish pizza which was described as having a butter crust and a sausage and tomato topping. Lucy was extremely fussy as we sat and waited for the pizza and we scrambled to find amusing objects for her to play with and inspect. However, each object entertained her for an average of 30 seconds before she angrily chucked each one at the ground. One by one she pelted a fork, a salt shaker, a bottle of children's Tylenol, a nasal aspirator, a bib, a toy bracelet, a rattle, a pair of sunglasses, and my wallet. I'm happy to report that my reflexes are still sharp since I successfully prevented her from beaming the nearby diners with these objects. Lucy has a surprisingly strong throwing arm.

But when the pizza arrived, Lucy's grumpy and angry expression was suddenly transformed into one of pure excitement and delight. We immediately began feeding her bite after bite of the gooey, sloppy, magnificent cheese-filled monstrosity and she could not gobble it down fast enough. That child was in heaven. She ate a whole piece all by herself - minus the thick outer crust.

While Lucy was a lover of the deep dish, I found myself a bit underwhelmed. I felt the crust was a bit under-salted and the bottom was soggy. I also was unimpressed with the under-seasoned tomato topping. It tasted like eating canned tomatoes straight and I really dislike the tinny taste that often accompanies canned goods. In other words, I was pretty sure I could make a better deep dish pizza. In fact, I was positive I had.

When Paul and I were first married, we joined several other young adults in the area and formed a prayer group. The meetings were held on a rotational basis at the homes of the various members and Paul and I volunteered to host one of the evenings. For dinner, we made five different deep dish pizzas, four featuring meats such as pepperoni, sausage, and ham, and one that was completely vegetarian since one of the girls could not eat meat. The dinner was a success and I remember thinking that deep dish was so delicious! I'm a crust gal when it comes to pizza and I just fell in love with the crisp, buttery dough ensconcing the pizza. Unfortunately, after that dinner, things got busy and  completely forgot about that recipe. However, eating the pizza in Chicago reminded me of it and I resolved to make it once again when we arrived home. This time, I would be sharing the recipe with my pizza-obsessed children.

My memory of how good this recipe is was not inaccurate. This stuff is way better than the pizza you can get in Chicago. I love the rich crust, the slightly spicy sauce, and the hearty sausage - it is difficult to avoid reaching for another slice of this pizza even if you are completely full after the first. Thankfully, it's not terribly greasy and not even a little bit soggy compared to the pizza we had in Chicago. The recipe is easy but does require a bit of advanced planning. The results are well worth the extra bit of effort - just ask Lucy.

Chicago-Style Deep Dish Pizza
adapted from Cook's Illustrated and Emeril Lagasse

For the Dough:
3¼ cups all-purpose flour
½ cup yellow cornmeal
1½ teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons sugar
2¼ teaspoons instant yeast
1¼ cups water, room temperature
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened

1 teaspoon + 4 tablespoons olive oil, divided

For the Sauce:
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 heaping tablespoon chopped fresh garlic
1/2 teaspoons dried basil
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon fennel seeds
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes

For the Topping:
1 pound mozzarella cheese, thinly sliced
1 pound hot Italian sausage, cooked and crumbled
Shredded Parmesan cheese

First, make the dough. Whisk together the flour, cornmeal, salt, sugar, and yeast in a large bowl. Add water and melted butter and mix on low speed, using a dough hook, until fully combined, 1 to 2 minutes, scraping sides and bottom of bowl occasionally. Increase speed to medium and knead until dough is glossy and smooth and pulls away from sides of bowl, 4 to 5 minutes. (You can easily make this by hand, mixing in the water and butter with a spatula and then kneading by hand.)

Coat a large bowl with 1 teaspoon olive oil. Using greased spatula, transfer dough to bowl, turning to coat the dough in oil; cover tightly with plastic wrap. Let rise at room temperature until nearly doubled in volume, 45 to 60 minutes.

While the dough rises, make the sauce. In a medium saucepan, heat the oil and garlic over medium heat until very fragrant. Add the herbs, seeds, salt, and black and red peppers, and cook, stirring, for about 30 seconds. Add the tomatoes carefully and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, until thickened, 20 to 30 minutes. Be careful not to get burnt by the flying drops of scalding tomato that might occasionally spring from the pan as the sauce simmers. Remove from the heat and let cool completely before using.

When the rise time is over, turn the dough out onto dry work surface and roll into a 15x12-inch rectangle. Using an offset spatula, spread the softened butter over the surface of the dough, leaving a ½-inch border along the edges. Starting at the short end, roll the dough into a tight cylinder. With seam side down, flatten the cylinder into an 18x4-inch rectangle. Cut rectangle in half crosswise. Working with one half, fold into thirds like a business letter; pinch seams together to form ball. Repeat with remaining half. Return balls to oiled bowl, cover tightly with plastic wrap, and let rise in refrigerator until nearly doubled in volume, 40 to 50 minutes. Meanwhile, adjust oven rack to lower position and preheat oven to 425 degrees.

Coat two 9-inch round cake pans with 2 tablespoons olive oil each. Transfer 1 dough ball to dry work surface and roll out into a 13-inch circle. Transfer dough to the pan by rolling the dough loosely around a rolling pin and unrolling into pan. Lightly press dough into pan, working into corners and 1 inch up sides. If dough resists stretching, let it relax for 5 minutes before trying again. Repeat with remaining dough ball.

For each pizza, sprinkle layer the sliced mozzarella on the bottom. Add the crumbled sausage on top of the cheese. Spread half the tomato sauce over the sausage. Sprinkle some Parmesan over the top.. Bake until crust is golden brown, 20 to 30 minutes. Remove pizza from oven and let rest 10 minutes before slicing and serving.


  1. I love your blog. I have also started blogging and would love to share such stuff with readers. The LookBook

  2. This sounds slightly overwhelming (I haven't had good luck with homemade pizza in a long time) but worth trying!!

  3. There's just no beating a good slice of Chicago style pizza deep enough to drown in! Okay, maybe a little dramatic with the wording there, but you catch my drift. This looks SO good!

  4. Your recipes always look so amazing! I'm going to have to try this one. Do you think I could sub coconut oil for the butter and it would still work? I have to be dairy free right now :-/
    -Jessica, Sweet Little Ones

    1. Hi Jessica! I think the coconut oil would work just fine. If you try it, please let me know for sure!

  5. I need to make this soon. Top with pepperoni and extra veggies...sounds yummy.