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Oct 3, 2005 05:28 PM

Deep-dish pizza report (and more tales of sourdough starter)

  • c

It's funny that a carb lover such as myself has never known the pleasures of sourdough starter til now. Since I had some room temp. starter after making my pancakes a couple days prior, I impulsively decided to make pizza dough. I only had a cup of AP flour on hand and wanted to get my dough proofing ASAP, so I ended up making a dough ball w/ 1 c. of starter, 1 c. of AP flour, and salt. Oiled lightly and let proof in a bowl covered w/ a cloth. Checked on it about 90 min. later and it looked like it hadn't poof, no expansion, sad. So I made pasta for dinner hoping it would be ready the next day...

My patience paid off, as it had doubled by day two. I was going to make my favorite thin-crust pizza margherita when an old CH thread drifted into my consciousness...Dommy's report on homemade Chicago deep-dish pizza (see link)! I've been wanting to make it and use some of the great tips by hounds, including baking in a cast iron skillet. My result is pictured below, and having eaten authentic Chicago pizza a long time ago (Gino's East, IIRC), I will not even compare it to the real deal. Mine was tasty and satisfying, but there's definitely room for improvement in both the assembly and dough depts.

First, I knew my dough was problematic when I started stretching it out. It was very soft and fragile (never was refrigerated) instead of elastic and resilient. It was also too small for the purposes of deep-dish pizza in a 10" cast iron skillet, but I forged on. Lightly coated my pan w/ olive oil, sprinkled some cornmeal on bottom, and set the dough ball inside the pan and pressed w/ my fingers til it filled up the pan and drifted up the sides about an inch. It was quite thin by this point, but oh well, the confetti of toppings and gooey cheese should help, I figured.

I prepared all of my toppings in a mise en place fashion. Sauteed: mild Italian sausage squeezed from its casing; then sliced red onions; then sliced sweet bell pepper. Chopped: garlic; rapini; fresh basil. Sliced (not grated) whole milk mozz cheese and opened the box of store-bought POMI marinara sauce. I had read different variations on layering and decided to go w/ this order from bottom up: sausage, onions, garlic, bell peppers (on half), rapini on half (w/ the bell peppers) and basil on other half, mozz, sauce, grated parmesan.

My pizza stone had been pre-heating on the lower third rack for at least 30 min. in a 500F oven. Placed skillet directly on top and baked for 10 min., then reduced oven to 425F and baked for another 20 min. til edges were browned and sauce and cheese were mildly bubbling. The skillet worked beautifully! Set on counter to rest while I made a salad to add a healthy element to the meal.

How did it taste? Well, the crust was very, very tough when I cut it and didn't rise at all. I knew this was coming, so wasn't that disappointed but more determined to master pizza dough next time. The layers of flavor were very tasty though, and the rapini was a welcomed green addition, lending a hint of bitterness to balance the sweet, tart, and salty. The sliced mozz under the sauce definitely served as a dam to prevent the crust from getting soggy; however, the sauce dried out a bit in the oven, making it too salty w/ the added parmesan. Next time, I'm going to try grated mozz and add a little more sauce.

Like Dommy's version, mine wasn't perfect but was satisfying and made for tasty leftovers! Thanks for the inspiration Dommy, and I won't rest til I can achieve the perfect pizza crust w/ my starter! Any tips appreciated.

PS. Next sourdough starter tale...olive bread!



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  1. That looks great carb lover! I too would have done it with a cast iron skillet (as all the recipes I've ever found say to use one), but I don't have one. And all the deep dish pie pans I've seen at Chicago shops were basically round cake pans (another thing I didn't have)...

    Anyway, since it had been about two years since i'd been to chicago when I first made my experimental pie, my memory was starting to get a little fuzzy on the dead on taste and look of a Chicago pie. Luckily my BF went to Chicago last week and brought me home a half baked pie from the original pizzaria Uno! (Yeah, he earned MAJOR points for that one!!) Upon tasting and looking at our finished pie, I felt even more proud of my experiment, as I noted the taste was dead on.... and the look as well (The Uno pie also had a tad uneven 'spongy' type of crust.

    HOWEVER, their crust seemed to be a bit flakier and more buttery than your standard pizza crust. Further, we baked the pie DIRECTLY on the pizza stone, so the crust was perfectly brown and crisp!

    I'm going to try to bake again (perhaps this time stealing one of my BF's cake pans) and this time, 'half bake' it and finish it directly on the pizza stone to get that crisp edge...


    3 Replies
    1. re: Dommy!

      Thanks, Dommy! I have very fond memories of eating Pizzeria Uno pizza in Santa Clara, CA during college and remember that buttery, slightly flaky crust well!!! They must use some butter (or margarine) in their crust. As a promotion when they first opened, the PU had coupons for free individual pizzas w/ no purchase necessary, so my buddies and I were there at least twice a week for a while. Free, tasty pizza...every college student's dream.

      Back to making Chicago pizza at home though, should the cheese be grated or sliced? Marinara sauce above or under cheese or both? What pizza dough recipe do you guys use? Thanks.

      1. re: Carb Lover

        I thinly slice the cheese, and put right on top of crust, then all other ingred I'm going to use. I use the Uno crust recipe --as well as a lot of other ingred. and tips from the original recipe. I've had this recipe for many years and am grateful to have it. Sometimes I use the americas test kitchen pizza recipe, which I really like as well. Since I live in the chicago area and we have so many great pizza places, I don't make pizza at home too often, but it's really a lot of fun to experiment when I do. Your pizza looks great!

        1. re: Carb Lover

          Hi. Your pizza looks a lot like our deep dish. I think if you had let the dough rise in the pan for a few hours, you would have had a better crust.

          As for the cheese, either way is fine - i slice mine.
          The order goes: crust, fillings (usually just sausage for us thanks), cheese, then your sauce. I crush up canned san marzanos with my hands and slice a couple of garlic cloves thinly and add. I let this sit overnight in the fridge. Lift the tomatoes pieces out with your hands and leave the juice behind.

      2. Dear Carb Lover,

        For quite some time I have enjoyed your posts, your zest for so many varied foods, and the happy way you seem to take "bites" out of life. Within your writing I oftentimes see bits of my own personality bubble up, and it always gives me a kick when that happens. Your post on pizza evoked some of my passions for this wonderful one dish meal. Some time ago I posted my slightly unusual technique for baking a deep dish pie, in a cast iron skillet. In our little family of two, we adore my version. Should my recipe interest you, and should you ever prepare it using Pepperoni as the topping, I would say that a 3.5 oz. package of Hormel is the way to go. This amount will completely cover the surface of the pie in concentric circles, creating a crunchy bite of pepperoni "bacon" in every bite.
        Take care,

        Chicago Deep Dish Pizza Pie

        1 3/4 cups flour
        1/4 cup cornmeal
        1/2 tsp. Salt
        1/2 package yeast
        1/2 cup plus 1 tb. Water
        2 tb. Olive oil

        Assemble the above as you would any yeast dough, and let it rise once. I like to let the dough rise overnight in the fridge.

        Into an oiled 10 1/2 inch cast iron skillet, pat the dough to cover the bottom, and about 1 1/2 inches up the sides.

        In the order given, layer the following ingredients into the dough
        1/2 pound of shredded cheese (I use equal parts of aged provolone, mozzarella, and jack)
        1/2 pound cooked crumbled sausage
        2 chopped cloves of garlic (of late, I've been slicing lots more garlic---probably 6 or more cloves)
        a 14 ounce can of chopped tomatoes, very well drained
        1 1/2 tsps. Dried Oregano, which you’ve crumbled
        2 tb. Parmesan cheese

        If desired, you can completely assemble the pie, and keep it in the fridge for hours before baking.

        Place cast iron skillet onto the middle rack of a cold oven. Turn the heat to 500. When it reaches that temp, turn the oven down to 400, and let bake for 30 minutes.

        This recipe is from what I'm told, the standard for a Chicago Deep Dish Pie. I've always used the crust, cheeses, and tomato/garlic/oregano topping from this recipe-----but for the other filling components, I've used everything from olives, sautéed mushrooms among many other types of veggie’s, cooked spiced chicken, etc. etc. etc.

        IMPORTANT: The above baking technique works only in an oven where just the bottom element fires up during the preheating, such as a gas oven. Many ovens (especially electric ovens) use the top and bottom heating elements to fire up during the preheat, and if yours does this, you might want to try a “pure convection” mode, where only the back element fires up. The temperature technique is slightly different for pure convection mode. Put the skillet into your cold oven, and set pure convection to 450 degrees. When the preheat beep is heard, reduce the temperature to pure convection 375 degrees, and let it bake for 30 minutes.

        A great option is to omit the sausage, and lay slices of pepperoni as the very last topping. Baking in the cast iron pan, and the intense heat transfer, creates the crispiest, yummiest pepperoni you’ve ever had, as long as you put it on last.

        The chopped tomatoes, as opposed to a sauce is something that works out great. The tomatoes end up melding into an almost sauce like texture, and the pizza is not watery at all.


        2 Replies
        1. re: JeffW

          Thanks so much for your kind words, JeffW, and for sharing your recipe; it looks fantastic and I can't wait to make it the next time my deep-dish pizza craving strikes! Your mention of pepperoni "bacon" verifies that we have some food connection! Yum...I love salami "bacon" too. Happy cooking!

          1. re: Carb Lover

            Cheers, and thanks for responding.

        2. Since your dough had some problem rising you might add some yeast (only a pinch or 2 maybe 1/4 teaspoon) to the dough.

          I also would add some fat to the dough to get a more tender crumb. So a little milk as well as some more olive oil. Maybe buttermilk even.

          And finally it sounds like you didn't get much gluten formation, so beat that baby a lot more. Try to really develop some gluten by mixing it more. Either in a food processor or slowly in a mixer. But watch the temp as you definitely don't want to go over 80F.

          But you do take great photos...and you have set off my carb alarm.