History of Chicago Style Pizza
The Chicago-style “deep-dish” pizza that many people love was invented at Pizzeria Uno, in Chicago, in 1943, reportedly by Uno’s founder Ike Sewell, a former University of Texas football star. However, a 1956 article from the Chicago Daily News asserts that Uno’s original pizza chef Rudy Malnati developed the famous recipe.
The pizza’s foundation is simple. It uses a thick layer of dough (made with olive oil and cornmeal) that is formed to a deep round pan and pulled up the sides. The pizza crust is then parbaked before the toppings are added to give it greater spring.
Parbaking is a cooking technique in which a bread or dough product is partially baked and then rapidly frozen or cooled. The raw dough is baked as if normal, but halted at about 80% of the normal cooking time, when it is rapidly cooled and frozen. The partial cooking kills the yeast in the bread mixture, and sets the internal structure of the proteins and starches (the spongy texture of the bread), so that it is now essentially cooked inside, but not so far as to have generated “crust” or other externally desirable qualities that are difficult to preserve once fully cooked.
The crust is then covered with cheese (generally sliced mozzarella) and covered with meats and/or vegetables such as Italian sausage, onions, and bell peppers. A sauce consisting of crushed or pureed tomatoes is then added. Usually this is topped with a grated cheese blend to add additional flavor. On the usual pizza, about a pound of cheese is added.
Because of the amount of ingredients in this style of pizza, it is usually eaten with a knife and fork. It’s quite messy to eat with your fingers.
In addition to Uno, additional famous deep-dish restaurants include Uno’s companion restaurant Due, which was opened just down the block by Sewell in 1955. However, a year before, in 1954, The Original Gino’s Pizza, located on Rush Street, opened its doors, and 12 years later in 1966, Gino’s East opened.
Other deep dish restaurants include Edwardo’s, Connie’s, Giordano’s, Carmen’s, Pizano’s (which is owned by Rudy Malnati’s son, Rudy Jr.), and Lou Malnati’s (which was begun by another of Rudy Malnati’s sons and is now run by his grandsons and has 26 Chicago area locations).
Chicago deep-dish pizza is famous throughout the world. Accordingly, many Chicago deep-dish pizza restaurants will ship their pizzas, partially baked, within the continental U.S.
In the mid-1970s, two Chicago chains, Nancy’s, founded by Rocco Palese, and Giordano’s began experimenting with deep dish pizza and created the stuffed pizza. Palese based his creation on his mother’s recipe for scarciedda, an Italian Easter pie from his hometown of Potenza. A Chicago Magazine article featuring Giordano’s stuffed pizza popularized the dish. Other pizzerias that make stuffed pizzas include Bacino’s, Edwardo’s and Carmen’s. Most also make thin crust pizzas.
Stuffed pizzas are often even taller than deep-dish pizzas, but otherwise, it can be hard to see the difference until you cut into it. A stuffed pizza generally has much higher topping density than any other type of pizza. As with deep-dish pizza, a thin layer of dough forms a bowl in a high-sided pan and the toppings and cheese are added. Then, an additional layer of dough goes on top and is pressed to the sides of the bottom crust.
At this stage of the process, the thin dough top has a rounded, domed appearance. Pizza makers often puncture a small hole in the top of the “pizza lid” to allow air and steam to escape while cooking. This allows the pizza sauce to permeate through the pie. Pizza sauce is added to the top crust layer and the pizza is then baked.
Chicago pan pizza in Chicago is similar to the traditional deep-dish style pizza served in other areas of the country, and baked in a similar deep-sided pan, but its crust is quite thick — a cross between the buttery crisp crust and focaccia.
Toppings and cheese frequently go on the top of a pan pizza, rather than under the sauce as is traditionally the case with deep-dish and stuffed pizza. The placement of the cheese and toppings on top make the pan pizza variety similar to a thin-crust pizza with a thicker and larger crust.
In addition to Chicago-style deep-dish pizza, there is also a thin-crust pizza unique to Chicago, sometimes referred to as “flat pizza”. The crust is thin and firm, usually with a crunchy texture, unlike a New York-style pizza, yet thick enough to be soft and doughy on the top.
The crust is topped with a liberal quantity of Italian style tomato sauce. This type of sauce is usually seasoned with herbs or and highly spiced. Typically there are no visible chunks of tomato in the crust. A layer of toppings is added, and finally a layer of mozzarella cheese.
Chicago style pizza has a rich and famous heritage and admirers from all over the world. If you’re a pizza lover and you’ve never tried this type of pizza, be sure to give it a try, I’m absolutely convinced that you will love it!
Ok…NOW Let’s make This Legendary Pizza Pie!
Chicago Style Pizza Recipe
What you can expect from this recipe:
This pizza is unique in several ways. We will highlight this unique pizza with a special cornmeal blended crust and plenty of spices. To further enhance the pizza we’ll use a well-seasoned pizza sauce. The sauce will be flavorful and full bodied to add to the traditional characteristics of the Chicago Style pies.
What You’ll Need To Make The Chicago Style Deep Dish Pizza
* 2 cups warm water
* 2 packages dry yeast
* 1/2 cup oil
* 4 tablespoons of olive oil
* 3 cups of flour
* 1/2 cup of cornmeal
* Mozzarella cheese (preferably finely shredded)
* Tomato sauce
* Chopped garlic
* Green peppers
* Sliced pepperoni
* Italian sweet sausage
* Sliced mushrooms
* Chopped onions
1- Reliable flat surface to flatten the dough
1- High Sided Baking Pan or Deep Dish Pizza Pan
2- Large Bowls for Mixing
2- Kitchen towels or equivalent
Making The Pizza Dough
Mix the above dry ingredients for 10 minutes in a strong mixer or knead by hand. If you’re doing this by hand…20-30 minutes of kneading will create a great crust. Now add 2 1/2 cups of flour. Mix for 15 minutes in a strong mixer with a dough hook or by hand, an additional 10 minutes. Now the dough must rise.
Check the yeast mixture to ensure that the yeast has become active. It will appear to have increased in volume.
The dough should be placed in a large bowl in a warm place, covered with a moist dish towel. If it is not warm in the kitchen, turn the oven on to the lowest setting, (no more than 100) and let the dough rise in the bowl in the oven, covered by the towel.
Let rise for the first time (about an hour) and punch down the dough… Let the dough rise once again, punch down once more and you’re ready to use the dough.
Now it’s time to push the dough out flat (with your fingers preferably). We’ll be using 4/5’s of the dough first and the last 1/5 of the dough for our finishing touches. in a high sided pizza pan or high sided deep dish baking pan (you can even use a black iron skillet), spread the dough across the bottom of the pan and up the side walls of the pan. Insure that dough reaches the very top of the walls of the high sided pan.
Now It’s Time To Dig A Bit “Deeper”
Now layer the bottom of the pie with thin slices of your spicy Italian sausage, then a layer of shredded mozzarella cheese. Now add an intermediate thin layer of tomato sauce.
It’s now time to cover your middle layer with additional Italian herbs and select Italian spices. (You can improvise a little here if you have specific ingredients that you would like to add). Continue to cover with chopped garlic, green peppers, sliced pepperoni, and yes a little more Italian sweet sausage, sliced mushrooms, chopped onions and additional toppings to satisfy your taste.
Sprinkle lightly with grated Romano or Parmesan cheese.
(Using the Parmesan adds a little “sweetness” to your sauce without the use of sugar or other traditional sweeteners.) Sugar is a natural browning agent and will accelerate the browning of your crust…we need this pie to cook fairly slowly so accelerated browning is not what we want in this case…
At this point we’re going to add additional flavor and that unique Chicago look and feel by using the 1/5 of dough to create a thin upper crust on the pie. Roll the remaining dough into a very thin layer and place on the top of the pie gently tucking the dough into the dough of the side layer that you originally placed in the pan.
Use a fork to gently puncture the last upper of crust to allow the pie to “breathe” during the baking process. Just a few punctures will do here… Place a final light layer of shredded cheese on the upper layer and lastly a layer of sauce to complete the construction of the pie.
Cook in a oven at 475 on the middle rack until done… about 15 to 20 minutes depending on toppings and thickness of crust and how crispy you want it cooked.
Note, some pizza sauce from within the pie may seep unto the top of the pie.
Get ready for the flood of family members and friend that will knock down your door to get a slice!