Thursday, October 24, 2019

The Pizza Trilogy – Chicago Style.

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 ( or Lou Malnati’s, established 1971 ( 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 ( 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.

Basic 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.

Additional Ingredients

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

1 cup pepperoni slices or thinly sliced prosciutto

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.

Mary Cokenour

Wednesday, October 9, 2019

The Pizza Trilogy - Sicilian Pizza

In a pizzeria far, far away from Utah, square pieces of pizza are being devoured; and I am full of envy and want.  This is the second installment of pizza making - Sicilian Pizza, also known as The Square.  For those of you who happen to travel to the New York City area, go into one of those older, authentic Italian pizzerias and make sure you order correctly.  If you want to try a slice of the Neapolitan, or round pie, you say you want “a slice”.  If you want to try Sicilian, you want “a square”.  If you just say you want a “piece of pizza”, you will be asked, “Youwana slice or a square?”   Capisce?  (pronounced cah-PEESHis - an Italian word that is used in American slang to say "got it" or "understand."?)  Now you are thoroughly prepared to order.

What exactly is Sicilian Pizza?  This type of pizza originated in the Palermo region of Sicily.  This is a thicker dough than used in the round type of pizza (Napolitano (for Naples)) and baked in a heavy aluminum rectangular pan.  In the United States, it is mainly seen in New York and New Jersey pizzerias, and whether the cheese goes under the sauce or on top is dependent on each individual pizza maker.

 “Tomato Pie” is a Sicilian pizza that has a thick layer of sauce over the cheese and is topped with a layer of diced or thinly sliced Roma tomatoes.   Why eat something so loaded with tomatoes?  Tomatoes have a wealth of vitamin and mineral content: Calcium, Potassium, Phosphorus, Vitamin C, Vitamin K1, Folate (Vitamin B9), Lycopene, Beta Carotene, Naringenin and Cholorgenic Acid  The last four are Antioxidants which have been found to be necessary for good heart, skin and joint health.

Enough with the lecturing, let’s get to making Sicilian and Tomato Pies.  Since the “crust” is very thick, like a nicely baked bread, I will also tell you how to make French Bread Pizza.  Now you can make it fresh at home, and not have to buy that frozen product at the store.

Sicilian Pizza

How to Make the Dough

2 (.25 oz.) packages of active dry yeast
4 cups flour
½ cup warm water (about 110F)
1 tsp. salt
1 cup cool water
2 Tbsp. olive oil


In a small bowl, combine the yeast with a ½ cup of flour and the warm water; cover with plastic wrap and allow proofing for 15 minutes; stir afterwards to deflate.

In a large bowl, combine remaining flour, salt, cool water and yeast mixture.  Turn the dough out onto a floured board and knead for 15 minutes.   Clean the large bowl, lightly dust with flour and return dough to it; cover with plastic wrap and let rise for 1 ½ hours.

Preheat oven to 450F.  Brush the bottom and sides of a 17 ½” x 11 ½” x ¾” heavy aluminum baking pan.  Punch down the dough, return to floured board and roll out slightly.  Place dough into pan and stretch out to all sides, leaving a lip all around.  Let it rest for 15 minutes before adding toppings*.

Bake for 30 minutes or until crust is golden brown.
Makes 12 servings.

*Note: toppings would normally be a layer of sliced mozzarella cheese and an evenly spread layer of sauce; other toppings such as meats and/or vegetables can then be placed over the sauce.

Tomato Pie

12 slices thinly sliced mozzarella cheese
2 cups homemade pizza sauce
2 cups diced or thinly sliced Roma tomatoes
1/3 cup grated cheese


Lay out the slices of cheese onto the pizza dough; evenly spread out the sauce and then the tomatoes.

Bake for 30 minutes or until crust is golden brown.  Remove pie from oven and sprinkle grated cheese over top of pizza.
Makes 12 servings.

Now I could have made this Pizza Trilogy into a quad, but why drag out a good thing, right?

French Bread Pizza can be found easily in the pizza section of the frozen food aisle; but making it from scratch is just as easy.  Honestly though, would you not rather make it yourself?  The frozen product has preservatives, oven needs preheating, let it bake for 20 minutes and it is sometimes an unsatisfactory product.   Monticello’s food market, Blue Mountain Foods, sells loaves of, what they label French bread, but looks like a very soft version of Italian bread.  I like to use it when in the mood for pizza, do not have the dough handy, but want it now!   When it comes to spontaneous cravings for pizza, sometimes you truly have to get creative.

How to Make French Bread Pizza

Basically there are three main ingredients: loaf of the wide French bread, a block of mozzarella cheese and pizza sauce. Cut the loaf in half lengthwise to create two half loaves; then cut these in half through the width.  If you want a rectangular look, cut off the heels first; save them to grind up and make bread crumbs.   Place the four pieces of bread, crust side down, on a large jelly roll pan.

Spoon sauce over the interior side of the bread; I use about 1/3 of a cup, but like a lot of sauce on my pizza.  While homemade sauce is best, use what you have handy.  Like I said before, sometimes when it comes to cravings, you have to be creative.   Now cut slices of the mozzarella, about 1/8" thick and lie them side by side until the bread is covered.  I find the sliced cheese melts better and creates gooey texture on the bread. 

Bake in a preheated 425F oven, center rack, for about 12-15 minutes.  Cut into thirds for easier picking up and eating, or just go for broke!  This will make four French bread pizzas.

Of course you can add other ingredients - meats, veggies, whatever you like, but make sure the meats are cooked thoroughly before using.  Also, mix the meats and/or veggies with shredded mozzarella cheese instead; that way the cheese will melt all around the pieces.

Whether you are making this for yourself, other adults and/or children; have fun with it!

Mary Cokenour

Friday, October 4, 2019

Cookies From Cake Batter, Who Knew!?!

With the holiday season beginning, ok, let me stop right here for a moment.  It is October, main holidays are Columbus Day (October 14) (even though everyone knows the Vikings actually discovered America), Samhain (October 31st) and Halloween (October 31st).  Why our local Family Dollar had Halloween candy displayed since the end of July, I do not know.  Think about it, that is 3 months the candy is sitting on the shelves, waiting to be purchased and given out to children trick or treating.  Glancing down one aisle, Thanksgiving decorations (sorry, the harvest themed decor is geared towards turkey day); which means Yule and Christmas decor should be available in about 1-2 weeks.  Ridiculous!  This is why many people get stressed out from October to January; the seasonal holidays are being rammed down our throats daily, and all at once!  Tell me, who actually has the time to welcome in the New Year after all that chaos!  Thank you for letting me rant, now back to baking and today's post on cookies,

Fall season has begun, the temperatures are cooling, leaves dropping or turning bright colors before doing so.  For me, this means experimenting with cookie recipes.  Each year I like to make little gift plates for those businesses I deal with often.  It's just a little thank you and holiday cheer to those workers dealing with all kinds of customers daily.  One advantage of being on Facebook is all the recipes, with photos, that pop up in advertising, or are shared by those on my Friends list.  One recipe I definitely decided to try out was making cookies out of cake mix; not due to being lazy, but it sounded intriguing.  Three main ingredients plus add-ins like chocolate chips, nuts, sprinkles, dried fruits; too good to be true, and how tasty were the cookies really.

I let my hubby, Roy, pick out the flavor of the cake mix for my first attempt, and he choose Red Velvet.  In case you didn't know, red velvet is basically chocolate cake with a dump load of red food coloring.  I have made it from scratch, but remember, I was looking for easy.  Oh, I did find a recipe for these cookies which claimed they were "made from scratch".  Going over the recipe, I would rename it, "Semi-homemade", as boxed cake mix is still a main ingredient plus the addition of instant pudding.   It was a complicated, many ingredient recipe which resulted in only 20 cookies at completion; simply not worth my time when I was looking for fast and easy.

Here is the basic recipe for Cake Batter Cookies (using a boxed cake mix) which I found listed on the internet many, many times.

Cake Batter Cookies


1 box cake mix (15.25 oz./16.25 oz./18.25 oz.)
**oil (personally use a vegetable/canola oil blend)
2 eggs

** 1/3 cup is for 15.25 oz. + one ounce of flour, or 16.25 oz. total.
     1/2 cup is for 18.25 oz.

If you live in a high altitude area, like myself, add the appropriate amount of flour listed on the cake mix box.  I shifted the mix + flour, added the oil for the size mix used, and the 2 eggs; it all came together perfectly.

Additions:  1/2 cup for chips - mint, vanilla, semi-sweet, milk chocolate, dark chocolate, butterscotch, peanut butter, cinnamon or toffee.

                   1/2 cup for nuts and dried fruits; large nuts and fruits should be chopped.

                   1/4 cup for sprinkles - they are tiny, so a little will go a long way.


Preheat oven to 350F; line jelly roll pans or cookie sheets with parchment paper (keeps the cookies from sticking and burning).

In a medium bowl, mix together cake mix, oil, eggs and any additions.  I used a heavy duty rubber spatula and it blended together without any issues.  A ball of dough will form (it can be wrapped in plastic wrap, refrigerated for use after an hour, in case several different flavors are going to be baked up).

Use a teaspoon to measure out the dough, roll into a ball with fingers and place onto parchment paper.  These cookies do not spread out wide, so the dough can be pressed down slightly and a crinkle effect will be created as they bake.

Bake the cookies for 12-14 minutes, let cool slightly before removing and plating.  Sprinkle powdered sugar to enhance the crinkles, or leave as is.

Makes 3 dozen cookies if using a teaspoon to measure out.  Want larger cookies, double the teaspoon amount, or use a tablespoon to measure out the dough.

Basically, I had 3 dozen delicious red velvet cookies, with semi-sweet chocolate chips, baked and plated.  I sprinkled half with powdered sugar, and the other half were left as is.  The whole process took 45 minutes as I had only have two racks in my oven; if I had a third, the time would have been 30 minutes.

Hint:  if you cannot decide what flavors of cake mix to purchase, stock up on "White", then you can add cocoa powder to create chocolate; vanilla, lemon, peppermint or other flavors of extract as well.  Consider the white cake mix to be a blank canvass, you're the artist, now create!

Mary Cokenour