Chicago Style Pizza can be mistaken as a deep dish pan pizza. While both are baked in a deep, round heavy aluminum pan, the crust and technique cannot compare between the two. The dough is made differently from regular pizza dough; thicker and moister to keep from drying out and burning during baking. The assembly of the pizza itself is unique; the cheese on the bottom, additional ingredients in the center, and a tomato mixture on top. With Chicago style pizza, the cheese goes beneath the sauce to create a barrier between the crust, sauce and additional ingredients.
Is this type of pizza Italian or American in origin? The answer is both. In 1880, while the Hole in the Rock pioneers were traveling to, and settling in, Bluff; Italian immigrants were moving to Chicago from the east coast. Like other ethnic groups before and after, they were being subjugated to economic, political, social, and religious discrimination. By 1920, Chicago housed the third largest population of Italians, and American born descendants; and I bet many are hearing in their minds…Mafia. With the Prohibition Era (1920-1933), Al Capone and many of his cohorts were able to come into power; but this article is about pizza, not alcohol and crime lords.
1940s, World War 2 in full rampage, food being rationed; concerns over “bringing our boys home safe” and “how do we feed our families here at home”. Wheat flour, corn oil, salt and yeast were not as severely rationed as meats, fruits and vegetables. The first four ingredients were necessary for making dough; adding the few bits of meats and vegetables, a complete meal could be created…pizza! However, to feed hungry laborers, it had to be more substantial than a thin crust Naples slice, or breadier Sicily square. At home, to ease some of the tension of war, families ate meals together; at the set table, plates, utensils, linen tablecloth and napkins. The dough was covered with thick cheese, the minimal meats and vegetables chopped and layered next, a rich tomato sauce poured over all; baked and served in a deep pan, like a casserole. Bellies became full, stories were told of daily events at school and work; war was forgotten about, if only for a brief time.
So, you go to pizza places, like Pizza Hut and Old Chicago (Grand Junction, CO), that use basic dough and the assembly is the same as a standard pizza: dough, sauce, cheese, toppings (if any). It is baked in a deep dish pan, called “Deep Dish” or “Chicago style”, but are you getting the real deal? If you want authentic Chicago style, then travel to Chicago! Cannot fit that into your travel plans, order online for home delivery. No, I am not kidding, a few Chicago restaurants will deliver all over the USA!
Uno Pizzeria and Grill, established 1943 (http://www.unos.com/) or Lou Malnati’s, established 1971 (http://www.loumalnatis.com/) are two of the best when it comes to pizza. The pizza is assembled, frozen, shipped and each comes in oven ready, aluminum lined paper baking pans. Intrigued with other delicacies of the Chicago, Illinois region? Tastes of Chicago (http://www.tastesofchicago.com/) makes it possible to order online to have pizza, and many other goodies, delivered to your front door. While supermarket shopping, check the pizza frozen section; once in a great while, Chicago pizza can be found and that is definitely a treat.
Now if you are a daring type, like me, then you will take on the challenge of making this type of pizza yourself.
Here is the basic information, so have fun:
Pizza Dough for Chicago Style Pizza
This type of pizza dough is thicker; it cooks in a deep dish pan and would burn if it was thinner like New York style pizza dough. However, the exposed dough, not covered with sauce, cheese and other ingredients, comes out crispy and light. This dough is best made using a stand mixer and the dough hook attachment due to the thickness and moistness of the dough.
2 packages rapid rise dry yeast
2 cups warm water (about 110F)
½ cup vegetable oil
4 Tbsp. olive oil
½ cup cornmeal
5 ½ cups all-purpose flour
In the bowl of a stand mixer, dissolve the yeast in warm water. When fully dissolved, add in the oils, cornmeal and half of the flour; mix for 10 minutes. Attach the dough hook, add in the other half of the flour and set on medium speed. The dough will be ready when it pulls easily from the sides of the bowl. Place the dough onto a floured board, cover with a large bowl; let it rise till it doubles in size. Punch the dough down, cover; let it rise again. Punch it down a second time; time to make the pizza.
The thickness of the dough will depend on the size of the deep dish pan being used; ¼” for a 10” pan; 1/8” for a 15” pan. The depth of a deep dish pan is typically 2 inches; some are 1.5 inches, but I personally like the extra depth in case of overflow. Lightly coat the pan with olive oil; place dough in center of pan and push out evenly to edges, then up the sides of the pan to the top rim.
Basic Filling - for 10” deep dish pan
½ lb. each sliced provolone and mozzarella cheeses
1 (10 ½ oz.) can crushed tomatoes
1 (10 ½ oz.) can diced tomatoes, drained
1 Tbsp. minced garlic
¼ tsp. salt
1 Tbsp. each dried oregano, basil
¼ cup grated parmesan cheese
Cover the dough with alternating slices of provolone and mozzarella cheeses. In a medium size bowl, mix together crushed and diced tomatoes, herbs, garlic and salt; spread mixture evenly over cheese slices. Sprinkle grated cheese evenly over tomato mixture.
The pizza will be baked in a preheated 475F oven for 35-40 minutes, on the center rack; the exposed crust will be a golden brown; the tomato mixture will be bubbly.
These can be added on top of the cheese slices, before the tomato mixture goes on top; in any combination; the choices are numerous.
1 lb. of ground Italian sausage (mild or hot) or seasoned ground beef – the meat is uncooked; cooking the meat before usage will toughen it.
1 cup sliced vegetables: onion, bell peppers, hot peppers, mushrooms, olives
The deep dish pans can easily be found online for purchase. Do not get frustrated if the pizza does not come out perfectly the first time. Trial and error are all part of the learning experience which only becomes more fun as time and practice go on.