Published January 1, 2010.
Deep-dish pizza was born in Chicago, where it boasts a distinctively rich, flaky, biscuitlike crust. The problem? No pizzeria in Chicago would tell us how to make it.
Bad deep-dish pizzas are doughy and tasteless, while recipes for the good versions are staunchly protected by the people who make them.
We wanted a facsimile of the best of Chicago deep-dish pizzas: a thick crust with an airy, flaky inside, lightly crisp outside, and a rich taste that can hold its own under any kind of topping.
The recipes we came across in our research sounded an awful lot like classic pizza dough: Combine flour, cornmeal, salt, sugar, and yeast in a large bowl, then add melted butter and water, transfer the ingredients to a stand mixer, and knead them into a dough. Allow the dough to rise, divide it in half, and let it rise again until doubled in size, then press the dough into a 9-inch round pan on a baking stone in a 500-degree oven.
Our first impression when we followed these steps? Not bad. The butter flavor came through, and the cornmeal added a nice earthiness and crunch, but we wanted a crust with more flake and less chew. It occurred to us to try laminating. This baking term refers to the layering of butter and dough that creates ultra-flaky pastries through a sequence of rolling and folding. After melting part of the butter, we mixed it with the dough, allowed the dough to rise, and rolled it into a rectangle. We spread the remaining butter over the surface and rolled the dough into a cylinder to create layers of buttery dough. To amplify this effect, we then flattened the cylinder into a rectangle, divided it in half, and folded each half into thirds, like a business letter.
There was just one small setback. All that handling caused the temperature of the dough to rise, so by the end of the process, the dough had warmed so much that almost all of the butter had melted, leading to a crust that was more tender and breadlike than flaky. The solution? Moving the dough into the refrigerator for its second rise so that any butter that had melted or gotten overly soft could firm up again. Our only additional tweak was adding oil to each pan to crisp the edges, which worked so well that we didn’t even need to use a pizza stone.
With our crust all set, we considered the pizza’s other components. We favored freshly shredded mozzarella for its smooth texture and the way it formed a consistent barrier between dough and sauce. And we decided to use a thickened version of our Quick Tomato Sauce, which creates surprisingly complex flavor in a mere 15 minutes from canned crushed tomatoes. Spread over the cheese, this bright-tasting sauce won rave reviews from tasters.list of recipes