THE BLOG
06/25/2013 10:12 am ET Updated Aug 25, 2013

Deep Dish Pizza: A Love Story

It's my job to take pizza seriously -- and I mean that. At Bon Appétit Management Company, we have only one corporate recipe after 26 years in business, and it's for what we lovingly call "Bauccio Pizza," after our CEO and COO, Fedele and Michael Bauccio. Proud of their Italian heritage, they are extremely passionate about the dough and the sauce -- no cooked tomatoes, EVER! -- and pizza is of course a favorite among employees and diners at our cafés, too.

Between the high premium my bosses place on perfect pizza and a husband who is a pizza fanatic (he not only set up an all-things-pizza blog, but he also created an Excel-based pizza dough measurement calculator), I've come to consider myself something of a pizza expert. But that all changed on a recent visit to the Pacific Northwest.

2013-06-14-deepdish_pizza2788_300pxweb.jpgI was visiting one of our cafés at a Seattle corporation, and Executive Chef David Sherrill mentioned that when he first tried authentic Chicago deep-dish pizza, he was blown away. Lucky for me, he'd translated that experience into his very own deep-dish pizza recipe -- and had it on the menu that very day.

It was love at first bite, with the first forkful of his deep-dish pizza proving to one of the best first-bites of anything I've ever had (By the way, usually I'd scoff at someone eating pizza with a knife and fork, but this hearty dish begs for cutlery). This was a distant cousin of the deep-dish pizzas that I had tried in the past. That day, David's pizza taught me that real Chicago deep-dish pizza is more of a savory pie than a fluffy, focaccia-like bread.

Let's start with the dough. Unlike Neapolitan or New York-style pizza dough -- which is simply flour, water, salt, and yeast -- Chicago pizza requires fat. You actually cut in butter just like you do when making a traditional pie crust. David uses 2 pounds of butter for every 15 pounds of flour (14 pounds low-gluten flour and 1 pound of semolina; the home version of his recipe follows below). Instead of looking for "chewiness" or "bite," we're talking "crumble."

Next, you build the pizza, backward. First layer -- sliced cheese. Yep, sliced provolone topped with shredded mozzarella. That thick layer of cheese staves off sogginess in the crust. Then comes sausage or roasted vegetables, and finally the sauce. The last ingredient is a dusting of finely grated Parmesan. Now you bake it ... forever. Ok, well for 45 minutes to an hour. This is not your 90-second, cracker-like wood-fired pizza.

Very important: don't cut into it right away, he warned me -- these thick pies have to "set" like lasagna -- but don't wait too long either. The magic window is 30 to 45 minutes after it comes out of the oven. Much longer than that, and all that cheese turns to rubber. At this café, they stagger baking pies throughout their meal service, hold them warm, and then dish them right up to guests.

The end result is rich, gooey, and delicious. As I had a second (and third and fourth) bite of pie, I could taste the butter and I enjoyed the melt-in-your-mouth aspect of the crust. Blindfolded, I wouldn't have known I was eating "pizza," but I sure am glad my eyes have been opened to this different take on one of my favorite dishes.

Chef David Sherrill's Chicago-Style Deep Dish Pizza

Yields two 12-inch pizzas

For the Dough
  • 1 package active dry yeast
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 1/2 cup warm water (100-110 degrees F)
  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter (1 stick)
  • 3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup semolina flour
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
In a large bowl, whisk together the yeast, sugar, and water. Let stand for a few minutes until yeast activates, turning mixture foamy (about 5 minutes).

Add liquid ingredients except olive oil to the bowl of an electric mixer. Add softened butter and mix to make a paste.

Combine dry ingredients together. Add gradually to the wet ingredients, using a dough hook, until the dough comes away from the sides and crawls up the dough hook.

Remove the dough from the bowl. Grease the bowl with olive oil and place the dough back in the bowl. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let the dough rise until doubled in size, about 1 hour.

Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and divide dough in half. Roll the dough into balls, cover, and let the dough rest for 15 to 20 minutes. The dough is ready to be shaped.

For the Marinara Sauce
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon fresh garlic, chopped
  • 2 teaspoons fresh basil, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon fresh oregano, chopped
  • 1/4 teaspoon fennel seeds
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1 can (28 ounce) San Marzano plum tomatoes
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • Salt and fresh ground pepper to taste
Make the sauce while the dough is rising. In a medium saucepan, heat the olive oil over medium high heat. Add the garlic and sweat for 30 seconds.

Add the herbs, seeds, and red pepper flakes and bloom for another 30 seconds.

Add tomatoes and sugar; crush well with a spoon or fork.

Season with a pinch of salt and fresh ground black pepper, stir and bring to a boil.

Lower heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, until thickened, about 20 to 30 minutes. Taste and adjust seasoning. Remove from heat and cool before using.

To make the pizza
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 pound sliced provolone
  • 1 pound shredded mozzarella
  • 2 pounds Italian sausage, cooked and crumbled
  • 1 cup grated Reggiano Parmesan
Preheat oven to 475 degrees F.

Oil two seasoned 12-inch-round, deep-dish pizza pans with olive oil.

Press 1 piece of the dough into each pan, pressing to the edge and stretching about 1 1/2 inches up the sides. Let rest for 5 minutes.

Layer the sliced provolone all over the bottom of the pies. Divide the mozzarella on top of the sliced provolone. Top with the sausage (and or other ingredients as desired). Ladle the sauce evenly over the two pies and top with the parmesan.

Bake until the top is golden and bubbly and the crust is golden brown, about 30-45 minutes.

Remove from the oven and let rest for at least 10-15 minutes. Slice and serve hot.

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