Deep Dish Pizza

If you’re in Chicago and “the moon hits your eye like a big pizza pie,” you can bet that most of the time that pizza is of the deep-dish persuasion.

What is this pizza called Chicago deep-dish, and what makes it so different from other pizzas? In the truest sense, deep-dish pizza (pizza-in-the-pan is the alternate nom de pizza) is a first-generation descendant of what Italian-Americans commonly referred to as “tomato pie.” A sideline of Italian bakeries at the turn of the century, a tomato pie was baked in a large rectangular pan with 1-inch-high sides. It had a crust two fingers thick and a generous layer of seasoned tomato puree that was dusted with grated Romano cheese just before it went into the oven.

So the thickness of the crust and the overall heft separate deep-dish from, say, thin-crust pizza. Another difference is that deep-dish pizza is formed and baked in a deep-sided (usually 2 inches high) pizza pan that has been seasoned to the point that it is black. Also, the size and amount of dough require that the pizza be baked longer that a thin-crust pizza (while some shortcuts involving parbaking the crust have been tried, this doesn’t work in favor of a well-made deep-dish pie). The fact is that the longer oven time tremendously enhances the flavor.

Chicago-style deep-dish pizza came into being in 1943 when two savvy entrepreneurs, Ike Sewell and Ric Riccardo, opened Pizzeria Uno on the corner of Wabash and Ohio. It was a time when a restaurant serving only pizza was unheard of.

The story goes that it took six months of experimentation to produce that “cheese, tomato, and meat pie” called deep-dish pizza. It was so thick that it required the use of a knife and fork-which brought down another wall of pizza tradition: Pizza had always been something that you ate with your hands. Utensils to eat pizza? Incredible.

And what a sumptuous, mouthwatering pie it is. Freshly-made dough flows across the bottom and up the sides of the pan. Slices of mozzarella cheese are layered over the dough, followed by a red blanket of seasoned tomatoes, then by sausage, pepperoni, etc. The indescribable aroma and sheer gusto of this pizza, when presented tableside in all of its pizza glory, is something to experience. Is it any wonder that visitors to Chicago from all over the world want to sample this magnificent pizza?

Size-for-size, the food costs to produce a standard deep-dish pie is not much more than that for thin-crust pizza. It takes more dough and slightly more tomatoes to construct a deep-dish pie, but other toppings – sausage, pepperoni, vegetables – are relatively the same. For example: It takes 26 ounces for a 14-inch deep-dish pizza (a 14-inch thin-crust pizza uses about 16 ounces of dough). It takes about 14 ounces of tomatoes for a deep-dish pie (a 14-inch thin-crust pie will take about 8 ounces of tomatoes).

Market fluctuations, especially with cheese, makes it difficult to pin down actual food costs. To average it out, let me suggest that the food costs for a 14-inch deep-dish cheese pizza should run no more than 22 percent.

Points to keep in mind: The dough recipe for deep-dish pizza has a much higher percentage of oil than a thin-crust pizza (so factor that into your final cost). The idea is that deep-dish pizza dough gets close to what we call a “short-crust,” one that after baking is crispy on the outside, chewy on the inside. To accomplish this, it is necessary to use a flour that is low in protein. (See recipe below).

10-steps to a perfect 14-inch deep-dish cheese pizza:

1) Make the dough at least one day ahead. Keep it in the cooler in one mass (do not scale it).

2) Two hours before the first order is due to come in, bring the dough out of the cooler.

3) Scale the dough to 26 ounces and place the dough balls in a lightly oiled deep-dish pizza pan. Turn the dough ball to coat with the oil. 

4) Set or stack the pans in a warm part of the kitchen 

5) To order, push and spread the dough across the bottom of the pan and up the sides.

6) Lay the sliced mozzarella on top of the dough (about 12 slices, each about 1 ounce), so that the slices cover the bottom crust completely. 

7) ladle on the tomatoes (about 14 ounces of all-purpose tomatoes, seasoned, or crushed plum tomatoes, seasoned).

8) Sprinkle grated Romano cheese and oregano over the tomatoes.

9) Bake the pizza for 20-22 minutes at 450 degrees F. (oven style-conveyor, deck, rotating-must be taken into consideration).

10) Cut the pizza into wedges and bring the pizza in the pan to the table. The server serves each person one piece to get the ball rolling.

Deep-Dish Pizza Dough Recipe

Yields: about 38 pounds of dough 

25 pounds Flour (11 to 12 percent protein) 

91/2 pounds water (70-80 degrees F.) 

3 oz. Active dry yeast 

4 oz. Salt 

5 oz. Sugar 

4 lbs. Vegetable oil 

Optional: 3 ounces of egg shade (a liquid food colorant) to the above dough recipe will give the dough a rich golden color.

1. Scale the flour. Pour the water into the mixing bowl. Add the yeast, salt, and sugar. Mix with a whisk to combine. Add the flour. Run the mixer at speed 2 for 3 minutes to combine. Add the vegetable oil. Mix for an additional 8 to 10 minutes, or until the dough cleans the side of the bowl. The dough must be soft and pliable, not stiff.

2. Put the mass of dough (cut it into several parts if necessary) into deep plastic containers. Cover the dough. Put the dough in the cooler. The next day, follow the 10 steps for perfect deep-dish pizza dough, and you are off and running.

Watch to watch out for: Tomatoes too watery will make the pizza soggy. Dough too dry will make it hard to stretch in the pan. If you use oregano in your seasoned tomato mix, do not add additional oregano.