Thursday, September 24, 2009

Food: Deep Dish Pizza

My first experience with deep dish pizza wasn't actually in Chicago but in Detroit at a place in Greektown called Pizza Papalis. Being one of my first comforting food discoveries after moving to Motown, this became a place I occasionally took visiting friends and family. Over the years I've discovered other restaurants and developed new favorites. But the deep dish pizza remains something I crave when I'm in need of comfort. It's warm and hearty and flavorful and crusty. And I can't think of something more perfect than this dish, served with a bold bottle of red wine and some candlelight to help you feel all warm and fuzzy inside and forget about the stresses of the outside world. Yes, it IS that good.

Over the years, not every deep dish pizza I've tasted has met my standards. For example, I sometimes think restaurants get carried away with the amount of cheese they use, even if the excuse is to try to keep it together when it's sliced. With that said, I've tried and tweaked several recipes and finally arrived at something that very closely resembles perfection. The crust has a biscuity texture to it and is great to sop up the flavorful (and quick) sauce. And other than baking in the oven as part of the pizza, the sauce doesn't require any cooking! What could be more simple than that? (My quick sauce trick is to combine a favorite condiment of mine (Trader Joe's Red Pepper spread with Eggplant and garlic (I mentioned it previously here)) with some chunky style crushed tomatoes and a touch of Italian style spices.)

If you're making this in a smaller pan than the recipe calls for, I'd recommend reducing the amount of sauce you use just to prevent a mess when you cut the pie into slices. And feel free to modify the toppings as desired. This time around I used roughly chopped and pitted kalamata olives and fresh baby spinach (two things I had in the pantry/fridge). Some variations to try:
  • Roasted garlic and pineapple (trust's WONDERFUL)
  • Fresh mushrooms and mini meatballs
  • Shredded roast chicken and artichoke hearts
  • Ricotta cheese and caramelized onions
  • Tuna (mix into the sauce) and asparagus

Deep Dish Pizza

  • 3 1/2 c all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 c very warm water
  • 1/2 c cornmeal
  • 1/2 c neutral-flavored cooking oil
  • 1 t sugar
  • 1 t salt
  • 1 package active dry yeast (~2 1/4 t)
  • 28-oz can chunky style, crushed tomatoes
  • 2 T freshly grated parmesan cheese
  • 1 1/2 t dried basil
  • 1 t dried oregano
  • 1 t crushed red pepper
  • 1/4 c pitted kalamata olives, finely chopped
  • 2 c fresh baby spinach leaves
  • 5 T Trader Joe's Red Pepper Spread with Eggplant & Garlic
  • 1 1/2 c grated mozzarella cheese
Preheat oven to low for 10 minutes and then turn it off.
In a mixing bowl, add water, salt, sugar, yeast, flour, cornmeal. Mix for a couple of minutes until dough comes together and then slowly add the oil. Mix for a few more minutes until the dough is wet and smooth (not sticky).
Place dough in a clean bowl, cover with a towel and place in warm (turned off) oven). Let the ball rise until it is about doubled in size, approximately 45 minutes. Remove from oven and place in a draft-free area on the counter.
Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

Coat the bottom of a 15-inch deep dish or spring form pan with cooking spray. Place the dough ball in the center of the pan and press it out until it covers the entire bottom and using your fingers, pull the dough up the sides of the pan. Cover the bottom of the dough with cheese, add toppings and then sauce. Top the pie with some grated parmesan cheese and spices.
Cook the pizza for 25 minutes, turning the pan 180 degrees mid-way through cooking.
After taking the pizza out of the oven, carefully remove the ring from the spring pan. Allow the pizza to cool for ~5 minutes before slicing.

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