Why is Chicago known for its Deep Dish Pizza?

Posted on April 2, 2011


I guess because it was a darn good idea!

But do you have to be in Chicago to enjoy a good deep dish slice? What about in Berkeley to enjoy delicious granola, or in Mexico City to chomp on a crisp tortilla? Haha! I am here to say no! This afternoon I made both…

Homemade Fruit and Almond Granola from Brown Eyed Baker
 (This recipe uses apple sauce instead of oil or butter to moisten the oats!)

and Homemade Tortilla Chips from Healthy Food for Living!

And for dinner last week, I also made two superb pans of true Chicago-Style Deep Dish Pizza — sauce on top and all!

To be honest, I feel quite a sense of achievement! Who knew I could do all this in my own kitchen?!  (Oh man, if I don’t quit munching on these tortilla chips as I write this, no one will be able to corroborate the fact that at one point, they did exist…)

This pride in what I have achieved  in the kitchen made think about what motivates me to keep trying all these new recipes for things that everyone else just thinks to buy at the store. It’s an especially interesting behavior in terms of my personality; I’m a perfectionist. In a realm with such great failure potential, why do I forge ahead?

Well, the rationalizations go like this: one, it can be cheaper to prepare things at home with raw ingredients – true. Two, I can monitor exactly what goes into what I am eating and thus be able to better moderate my diet – yes, also true. Three, I’m hungry and dont want to go to the store — ok, likely also true…

But really, I think the feeling of accomplishment is one of the biggest motivators! Even if I fail nine times out of ten, that one success will certainly be something to talk about. It’s an accomplishment that can be recognized, enjoyed, and shared. It can impress and woo. It can be shown off and showcased. It can be branded!

Branded just like Chicago’s very own famous pizza. So, thank you Chicago, for sharing this wonderful accomplishment with my home kitchen (not located in Chicago!).

I did some searching to find recipes for each of the pizza’s component parts. I am sooo happy with the dough recipe from Cookstr.com (one of my new favorite recipe sites), and truly the marinara is to die for. Most compliments came on the sauce! I used chicken sausage, broccoli, and red onions as my toppings (fillers?) this time. Next time, I want to use spinach and do a double layer of cheese above and below. On this pizza, I also  topped off the sauce with the last of my Wisconsin Cheddar Cheese Curds  (another branded item you can hardly find anywhere else, but that you must try if you get the chance!).

Chicago-Style Deep Dish Pizza

To begin, prepare the pizza dough.

Deep Dish Pizza Dough (From Diane Morgan and Tony Gemignani at Cookstr.com)
1 package (2¼ teaspoons) active dry yeast
1¼ cups lukewarm water 90° to 100°F)
1 teaspoon sugar
3¼ cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
½ cup medium-grind yellow cornmeal
1 teaspoon table salt or 1½ teaspoons kosher salt
¼ cup olive oil, plus more for oiling bowl and pan 

In a large bowl, dissolve the yeast in ¼ cup of the warm water. Add the sugar and ¼ cup of the flour and stir with a wooden spoon to combine. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise for 20 minutes, making a sponge.

Add the remaining 1 cup warm water and 3 cups flour, cornmeal, salt, and ¼ cup olive oil to the sponge. Using a wooden spoon, mix the dough, incorporating as much of the flour as possible.

Turn the dough out on a lightly floured work surface and knead until soft and elastic, 10 to 12 minutes. (This is the part where I felt like I got a workout!). The dough will still be a little sticky but shouldn’t stick to your hands. Add only a minimum amount of flour to the work surface to keep the dough from sticking.

Lightly oil a large bowl. Add the dough and turn to coat on all sides. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and place a clean, damp kitchen towel over the top.

Set the bowl to rise in a warm place (I preheated the oven to 150 degrees for five minutes then turned it off as the original recipe suggests). Let the dough rise until doubled in volume, 1½ to 2 hours.

At this point, I began preparing the marinara sauce.

Marinara Sauce (Adapted from Macheesmo)
2 Tablespoons unsalted butter
1 medium onion, grated on large side of a box grater
2 cloves garlic, minced
A few shakes of dried Italian spice blend
A few shakes of crushed red pepper flakes
1 (28 ounce) can crushed tomatoes
1/4 Teaspoon sugar
1 Tablespoon olive oil
Salt and fresh ground pepper to taste

Melt butter in a large stock pot over medium-high heat. Add onion, garlic, and dried spices. Cook until onions lose their water and begin to brown, about 8 minutes. Add crushed tomatoes, sugar, and salt. Bring to a simmer, then lower heat to medium-low, and cook for about 25 minutes. Stir in olive oil andadjust seasonings as needed. Set sauce aside until needed.

You can begin preparing your toppings now (or start getting ready to go to work like I did) to kill time until the pizza dough is risen.

1 (8 ounce) package shredded mozzarella cheese
Add-ins of your choice: sausage, pepperoni, spinach, broccoli, peppers, olives…

Then continue with the pizza dough recipe…

When the dough has doubled in volume, punch it down and knead it for 2 to 3 minutes.

After completing this step, I returned the dough to the oiled bowl, and placed it in the refrigerator and headed out to work. When I returned home, I removed the dough from the fridge. Because the dough was too cold to work with and I didn’t want to wait for it to come to room temperature, I stuck it in my preheating oven for a few minutes, and that did the trick!

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Oil the bottom and sides of a 14-inch round deep dish pizza pan, or of two 9 inch pie pans (That’s what I did, and they were still deep enough to please me!). Press the dough evenly into the bottom of deep dish pan, or divide dough in half, and press into bottom of pie pans. Let the dough rise in pan(s) for 15 to 20 minutes.

I prepared my toppings now; I cooked up fresh chicken sausage, quick-steamed half a head of broccoli, and chopped half a medium red onion.

After completing the final rise, begin at center of the dough and press it outwards until it comes 2 inches up the sides and is even on the bottom and at the corners of the pan.

Add a layer of mozzarella cheese on top of the crust, then layer on toppings, and if desired, another layer of cheese. Finish by spooning sauce on top of the pizza, adding additional cheese if desired.

Bake for 30-40 minutes, or until crust is golden. Allow pizza to cool a few minutes before slicing using a pie cutter or wide turner.