Baking School In-Depth: Chicago Deep-Dish Pizza

Chicago Deep-Dish Pizza

Pizza in the United States is no joke, with many swearing allegiance to a different regional specialty. From the thin crust in New York City to the thick crust of Detroit, Michigan, pizza preferences are almost as divisive as American sports teams. Though we dare not swear allegiance to any one style, we couldn’t help but dive a little deeper into the world of Chicago-style pizza. Consisting of a thick crust filled with inverted layers of cheese, vegetables, meat, and sauce, the deep-dish pizza is not for the faint of heart or those inclined to prim portions. It’s indulgent, rich, and absolutely full of flavor. Though it may seem daunting, we’ll take you through each step of the process, including crafting the ultimate dough with Platinum® Yeast from Red Star®, constructing your layers, and even making your own homemade Pizza Sauce. This bake is a layered beauty that’s sure to be a hit the next time you want to spice up your pizza night! Click here to download a printable PDF of this lesson, or keep scrolling to view our digital lesson. Jump to Recipe ↧

chicago deep dish pizza

Ingredient Breakdown

Great recipes require great ingredients. Here’s how each of our recipe’s simple ingredients contributes to making the most delicious deep-dish pizza.

All-purpose flour: All-purpose wheat flour contains just enough protein to help build and maintain a strong gluten structure, but it’s also soft enough to keep your pizza crust from becoming tough.

Fine yellow cornmeal: The secret to that slightly crunchy, golden-colored crust? Cornmeal! We use fine yellow cornmeal so it incorporates as smoothly as possible into the pizza dough. Also, because the dough for this deep-dish pizza is buried beneath thick layers of cheese, veggies, meat, and sauce, that extra crunch of cornmeal helps to keep it crisp despite the amount of moisture it surrounds. Plus, the added depth of flavor that cornmeal gives this crust is unmatched!    

Kosher salt: First and foremost, salt is flavor. However, it also keeps dough from over-fermenting and helps your bakes achieve a perfectly golden crust. Note that it’s important to weigh your salt because different salt crystals measure differently. (For this recipe, we used Diamond Crystal Kosher Salt.)

Instant yeast: Platinum® Yeast from Red Star® is a unique, 2-in-1 premium instant yeast blended with natural dough strengtheners. Dough strengtheners add just the right amount of structure and stability to take the guesswork out of baking with yeast, giving the yeast the chance to reach unparalleled levels of fluffy height. Working as the main leavening agent in the crust, Platinum® Yeast from Red Star® helps create a dough beautifully balanced between chewy, crisp, and airy.

Granulated sugar: Sugar, also referred to as glucose, acts as food for yeast, which converts it to carbon dioxide and alcohol in the fermentation process. This ultimately helps to tenderize the pizza dough. Sugar also aids in developing this pizza crust’s golden color.

Water: Moisture, in the form of warm water, is needed to activate the yeast and hydrate the dough so the gluten can develop. As the dough bakes, water is released as steam, creating a softer crust that’ll crisp on the outside yet maintain moisture within.

Olive oil: As a form of fat, olive oil is mainly responsible for enriching the dough and adding a little savory flavor. Olive oil also helps produce a slightly more elastic dough, allowing it to stretch and be shaped.

Unsalted butter: Butter is the other enriching agent in this dough, assisting in the creation of a rich and tender dough. A generous coating of softened butter in the pan before pressing in the dough and baking also guarantees an evenly crisp, golden-brown crust with delicious buttery flavor.

Baby portobello mushrooms, sweet onion, green bell pepper, Italian sausage, and pepperoni: Whether you call them a topping or a filling, this combination of freshly sautéed vegetables and classic meats creates the quintessential bite of deep-dish pizza. Unlike other forms of pizza, the Chicago deep-dish sure doesn’t skimp. Not to mention, this pizza is endlessly customizable. For vegetarians, the meats can be omitted and an extra 1 cup of vegetables can be added in their place, if desired.

Low-moisture shredded mozzarella cheese and shredded non-smoked provolone cheese: A combination of low-moisture mozzarella and non-smoked provolone cheeses keeps the pizza from getting too wet while still melting into gooey goodness. This is a classic pizzeria duo, with both providing delicious salty taste and stringy texture without melting into messy puddles of cheese that’ll turn your crust soggy.

Pizza Sauce: We opt for a homemade sauce made with olive oil, garlic, San Marzano tomatoes, salt, dried Italian seasoning, and crushed red pepper. It’s simple and straightforward yet undeniably delicious. This sauce really lets the tomatoes shine while also providing just enough flavor to complement but not overpower the other flavors layered into this pizza.

Parmesan cheese: The ultimate pizza accompaniment, a sprinkle of freshly grated Parmesan cheese adds a deliciously rich bite to this beautiful behemoth of a pizza. Whether you go for a little or a lot, it’s the finishing touch that truly brings it all together.

whole pizza sliced

Chicago Deep-Dish Pizza 

Made up of a layer of chewy, lightly crisp dough, a melty blend of cheeses, sautéed vegetables, sausage, pepperoni, and homemade Pizza Sauce, this is a pizza that eats like a multicourse dinner. Although locals of the Windy City may argue whether this pizza is a knife-and-fork ordeal or a handheld meal, we say that as long as you enjoy every bite, you’re doing it right.

3.0 from 1 reviews
Chicago Deep-Dish Pizza
 
Makes 1 (9-inch) deep-dish pizza
Ingredients
  • 1¾ cups (219 grams) all-purpose flour
  • ¼ cup (38 grams) fine yellow cornmeal
  • 1½ teaspoons (4.5 grams) kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon (3 grams) instant yeast*
  • 1 teaspoon (4 grams) granulated sugar
  • ⅔ cup (160 grams) hot water (120°F/49°C to 130°F/54°C)
  • 2 tablespoons (28 grams) olive oil, divided
  • 1 tablespoon (14 grams) unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 (8-ounce) package (226 grams) sliced baby portobello mushrooms
  • 1 cup (135 grams) ¼-inch-sliced sweet onion
  • 1 cup (140 grams) chopped green bell pepper
  • 2 teaspoons (10 grams) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1½ cups (170 grams) shredded low-moisture mozzarella cheese (about 6 ounces)
  • ¾ cup (85 grams) shredded non-smoked provolone cheese (about 3 ounces)
  • 1 cup (150 grams) crumbled cooked mild or medium Italian sausage
  • 24 slices (48 grams) pepperoni, quartered
  • Pizza Sauce (recipe follows)
  • ⅓ cup (38 grams) freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Instructions
  1. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, cornmeal, salt, yeast, and sugar. Make a well in center; add ⅔ cup (160 grams) hot water, 1 tablespoon (14 grams) oil, and melted butter. Using a spatula or wooden spoon, stir until a shaggy dough forms, using your hands to bring together if needed.
  2. Turn out dough onto a heavily floured surface. Using floured hands, flatten dough to about 1-inch thickness. Fold dough in half toward you; using heels of your hands, push dough away. Rotate dough 90 degrees, and repeat flattening, folding, pushing, and rotating until dough is lightly tacky and elastic, becomes smoother (dough will not be completely smooth because of the texture from the cornmeal), and passes the windowpane test (see Note), about 12 minutes, lightly flouring work surface and hands as needed.
  3. Lightly oil a large bowl. Place dough in bowl, turning to grease top. Cover and let rise in a warm, draft-free place (75°F/24°C) until doubled in size, 30 to 45 minutes.
  4. In a medium saucepan, heat remaining 1 tablespoon (14 grams) oil over medium-high heat. Add mushrooms, onion, and bell pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, onion is translucent, and all water has evaporated, 10 to 15 minutes. Transfer to a medium heatproof bowl, and let cool until ready to use.
  5. Preheat oven to 450°F (230°C). Spread room temperature butter in bottom and up sides of a Lodge 10¼-inch Seasoned Cast Iron Baker's Skillet.
  6. Punch down dough. On a lightly floured surface, roll or stretch dough into a 13-inch circle. Transfer to prepared skillet, pressing into bottom and up sides, making sure dough is even and there are no air bubbles under dough. Sprinkle mozzarella and provolone onto dough in an even layer. Top with sautéed vegetables. Top with sausage and pepperoni. Spoon Pizza Sauce on top, spreading into an even layer.
  7. Bake until crust is golden and an instant-read thermometer inserted in center registers at least 160°F (71°C), 25 to 30 minutes, covering with foil after 20 minutes of baking to prevent excess browning. Top with Parmesan. Let cool for 10 to 15 minutes. Slice and serve from skillet, or remove from skillet, and slice to serve.
Notes
*We used Platinum® Yeast from Red Star®.

Note: To use the windowpane test to check dough for proper gluten development, lightly flour hands and pinch off (don’t tear) a small piece of dough. Slowly pull the dough out from the center. If the dough is ready, you will be able to stretch it until it’s thin and translucent like a windowpane. If the dough tears, it’s not quite ready. Knead for 1 minute, and test again.
3.0 from 1 reviews
Pizza Sauce
 
Makes about 2 cups
Ingredients
  • 1 tablespoon (14 grams) olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon (3 grams) minced garlic
  • 1 (28-ounce) can (794 grams) peeled San Marzano tomatoes with basil leaf
  • 1 teaspoon (3 grams) kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon (1 gram) dried Italian seasoning
  • ⅛ to ¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper
Instructions
  1. In a medium stockpot, heat oil over medium heat. Add garlic, and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add tomatoes, salt, Italian seasoning, and red pepper, and bring to a low boil. Using a potato masher, mash tomatoes until only small chunks remain. Simmer, stirring occasionally and adjusting heat if needed, until thickened and no liquid is separated and sitting on top of sauce, about 45 minutes. Let cool completely before using. Cover and refrigerate for up to 5 days.

 

Perfecting Deep-Dish Pizza Crust

A delightfully crisp-on-the-outside, chewy-on-the-inside pizza crust starts with learning how to mix, knead, and check your dough for proper gluten development

           

1. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, cornmeal, salt, yeast, and sugar. Make a well in center; add ⅔ cup (160 grams) hot water, 1 tablespoon (14 grams) oil, and melted butter. Using a spatula or wooden spoon, stir until a shaggy dough forms, using your hands to bring together if needed. 

2. Turn out dough onto a heavily floured surface. Using floured hands, flatten dough to about 1-inch thickness. Fold dough in half toward you; using heels of your hands, push dough away. Rotate dough 90 degrees, and repeat flattening, folding, pushing, and rotating until dough is lightly tacky and elastic, becomes smoother (dough will not be completely smooth because of the texture from the cornmeal), and passes the windowpane test (see Note and photo on bottom right for reference), about 12 minutes, lightly flouring work surface and hands as needed.

3. Lightly oil a large bowl. Place dough in bowl, turning to grease top. Cover and let rise in a warm, draft-free place (75°F/24°C) until doubled in size, 30 to 45 minutes

 

Sautéing the Vegetables

Because this pizza is so deep, any toppings included will be heated but not cooked as the pizza bakes. For that reason, it’s important that all your toppings—vegetables and meat—are fully cooked before being added to your pizza.

          

1. In a medium saucepan, heat remaining 1 tablespoon (14 grams) oil over medium-high heat. Add mushrooms, onion, and bell pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, onion is translucent, and all water has evaporated, 10 to 15 minutes. Transfer to a medium heatproof bowl, and let cool until ready to use. Fully cooked, your vegetables should measure out to about 2 cups or 350 grams total. Like any other pizza, this one is fully customizable, and you can choose to incorporate whichever toppings suit your fancy. However, it’s important that all toppings be fully cooked before being layered into your pizza. Sautéing your vegetables not only helps to cook off any excess moisture but also ensures that your vegetables will be fully cooked and tender when your pizza comes out of the oven. 

 

Feeling Saucy

Pizza experts will tell you: it’s all about the sauce. For our Pizza Sauce, we keep it simple, letting the light acidity and sweetness of San Marzano tomatoes and the bright flavors of Italian herbs and garlic shine through to perfectly complement the richness of the dough, cheese, and toppings.

          

1. In a medium stockpot, heat oil over medium heat. Add garlic, and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add tomatoes, salt, Italian seasoning, and red pepper, and bring to a low boil. Using a potato masher, mash tomatoes until only small chunks remain. Simmer, stirring occasionally and adjusting heat if needed, until thickened and no liquid is separated and sitting on top of sauce, about 45 minutes. Let cool completely before using. Cover and refrigerate for up to 5 days. It’s important that the finished sauce be very thick, or it will release any excess water in the oven as the pizza bakes, resulting in a wet and soggy pizza—no one wants that. Once properly reduced, you should have about 2 cups of sauce. If you’ve cooked your sauce and still have more than 2 cups, return it to the stovetop and cook until it is reduced. 

 

Constructing Your Perfect Pizza

This pizza is all about the layers. Here, we show you how to expertly construct your pizza, from the cheese at the bottom to the sauce on top.

1. Preheat oven to 450°F (230°C). Spread room temperature butter in bottom and up sides of a Lodge 10¼-inch Seasoned Cast Iron Baker’s Skillet. Although deep-dish pizza pans do exist, we opt for the slightly more common Lodge Seasoned Cast Iron Baker’s Skillet (10¼-inch diameter, 2 inches high, and 2-quart capacity). The cast iron helps create a deliciously crisp crust while also ensuring even heat distribution as the pizza bakes. Butter helps keep the dough stationary as you fill it with toppings. 

                                                                                 

2. Punch down dough. On a lightly floured surface, roll or stretch dough into a 13-inch circle. Transfer to prepared skillet, pressing into bottom and up sides, making sure dough is even and there are no air bubbles under dough.

        

3. Sprinkle mozzarella and provolone onto dough in an even layer. Top with sautéed vegetables. Top with sausage and pepperoni. Spoon Pizza Sauce on top, spreading into an even layer. It’s important that the toppings are layered in this order, not only to stay true to tradition but also to achieve the ultimate texture and flavor. The cheese seals a layer between the crust and the rest of the toppings so any excess moisture won’t be soaked into the crust. The placement of the meat is also purposeful, allowing any drippings to be caught and absorbed by the layer of vegetables underneath. This keeps the cheese below from getting greasy while also infusing some of that rich flavor from the meat into the vegetables. With the Pizza Sauce finally layered on top, you have a complete pizza pie ready to be baked.

4. Bake until crust is golden and an instant-read thermometer inserted in center registers at least 160°F (71°C), 25 to 30 minutes, covering with foil after 20 minutes of baking to prevent excess browning. Top with Parmesan. Let cool for 10 to 15 minutes. Slice and serve from skillet, or remove from skillet, and slice to serve.

 

 

Previous articleBananas Foster
Next articleChocolate Cherry Hot Cross Buns

1 COMMENT

  1. I found myself wishing for clarity about whether to use the full amount of pizza sauce or just enough to cover the top. I went with the whole amount and the filling fell apart when sliced. Maybe I just didn’t reduce the sauce enough. The filling taste was ok. I might dial it up with spicier pepperoni next time.
    The crust, however, was excellent! It had a great taste, was sturdy enough to be removed from skillet, and did not get soggy from the wetter filling. This one kind of turned out like a pizza casserole.

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

Rate this recipe:  

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.