Homemade Chicago Style Deep Dish Pizza

About six years ago I took my first trip to the Windy City. It was February and very cold! We had a few things on our list of plans to do in the city, #1 was visiting the American Girl Doll Cafe where I enjoyed a lunch with my daughter and her doll and me with my childhood doll Kirsten. #2 on the list was Chicago deep dish pizza. I had been hearing for years about this iconic pizza and had been researching the best places to get a slice, or a whole pie for our group. We ended up at the touristy Lou Malnatis and with my first bite, I knew that I loved this pizza. It was super cheesy, a buttery crust and had lots of sauce on top…basically all of my favorite food groups in one. 

Lou Malnati’s deep dish pizza

What is chicago Deep Dish?

Homemade deep dish

Chicago deep dish is not a regular slice of pizza. It is most commonly eaten with a fork and knife and because it is so substantial and full of toppings you only need a slice or two to fill you up. Since that first time of eating Chicago-deep dish, every time I’ve visited the Windy City (which has been quite a few since my brother moved there a year or two after our first visit), we order some deep dish and enjoy a little bit of Chicago-style heaven on a plate. I never entertained the thought about making this iconic dish myself because I thought it would be too difficult. Turns out, I was wrong.

As fate would have it, a few years later we ended up being neighbors and good friends with a family who grew up and lived in Chicago. They introduced us to home-made Chicago-deep dish pizza and it was just as good…dare I say better…than the times I’d visited and eaten “authentic” Chicago deep dish. I finally requested the recipe from them and made this delicious pizza for my own family. A couple of tweaks later and I’ve ended up with an awesome recipe that will be made many a Friday-night pizza night around our house.

What Makes Deep Dish Special?

Laminating the crust

One of the things that makes deep dish pizza special is the lamination process the dough goes through. After mixing up a very soft dough (with a little cornmeal in it–yum!), it is left to rise. During that rise, butter is softened and once the dough has risen, the dough is rolled out and spread with a thin layer of butter. Then rolled up again, portioned into two balls and left to rise again in the refrigerator. This layer of dough with butter is what laminates the dough and provides a delicious buttery crust that forms the base of deep dish pizza.

Deep dish is also special in the way that it is layered and baked. Cheese is placed on the bottom of the dough, followed by toppings and then the sauce. The pizza is baked in a special deep dish pan (or cake pan if you are a home baker) and it really is the perfect pizza “pie.” 

Even though I can’t travel to Chicago right now for a delicious slice of deep dish, I love that I can make my own right in the comfort of my own home! This pizza is a little bit of a labor of love, but it is also straightforward enough that anyone can make it. I hope your family loves it as much as we do and I’ve got my fingers crossed for another visit to the Windy City when we can travel again.

Chicago Deep Dish PIzza

Yield: 2, 9-inch deep dish pizzas

Time: 50 minute mix/prep/assemble (including making sauce), 1 ½ hour first rise, 2-24 hour second rise, 25 minute bake

Ingredients:

Dough:

  • 1 ¼ cup warm water (10 ounces)
  • ¾ Tablespoon yeast (or 1 2 ¼ teaspoon packet)
  • 1 Tablespoon sugar
  • ¼ cup unsalted butter, melted and room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ½ cup cornmeal (2 ½ ounces)
  • 3 ¼ cups flour (about 15.5 ounces)
  • ¼ cup softened butter (save for after the first rise)

Sauce:

  • 2 Tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 4 cloves of garlic
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • ½ teaspoon sugar
  • 1 28 ounce can of crushed tomatoes

Toppings:

  • 2-4 cups shredded mozzarella cheese 
  • 8-10 slices havarti cheese (optional)
  • Parmesan (optional)
  • Any additional topping you want ie: pepperoni, ham and pineapple, fresh veggies

Directions:

Mix Dough/First Rise

Dough rising
  1. In the bowl of a stand mixer (or by hand) mix together the warm water, yeast and sugar. Add the room temperature melted butter and salt. 
  2. Add a cup of flour and the cornmeal. Using the dough hook (or your hands), add the rest of the flour a cup at a time until the dough comes together. Reserve the last ¼ cup of flour and use as needed. The dough will be a little bit sticky. Watch to make sure it clears the sides of the bowl and then knead the dough for 5 minutes in a stand mixer or about 10 minutes by hand. Add the extra ¼ cup of flour as needed.
  3. Once the dough is kneaded, add a drop of oil (neutral oil is great) to a bowl. Transfer the dough to the oiled bowl or container and turn the dough around so the dough is lightly covered in oil. Cover the bowl and let rise for 1-2 hours until doubled in size.
  4. During the first rise is the perfect time to make the pizza sauce.

Make the Sauce

Simmer sauce for 30 minutes on the stove
  1. For the sauce: In a saucepan add 2 Tablespoons butter, 1 small chopped onion, and 4 cloves of garlic (whole is fine). Saute over medium-low heat for about 5-10 minutes until onion and garlic are caramelized and tender. 
  2. Once tender, pour the sauteed mixture in a blender (or food processor). Open a 28 oz can of crushed tomatoes and add about half a cup of the crushed tomatoes to the blender with the garlic and onion mixture. Blend together until smooth. 
  3. Add this mixture back to the saucepan. Mix in the rest of the crushed tomatoes, salt, oregano, red pepper flakes and sugar. Simmer for about 30 minutes over low heat. Transfer the sauce to a container and keep in the fridge until ready to use on your pizza.

Laminating the Dough

Cover and let rise in the fridge
  1. After the dough has doubled in size, turn it out on the counter and roll into a 12 by 15 inch rectangle. Spread the reserved softened butter all over the dough in a thin layer, as if you were making cinnamon rolls.
  2. Roll the dough up (like a cinnamon roll) until you have one long 15 inch “rope.” Cut the “rope” in half and shape into two separate balls (this recipe makes 2 pizzas).
  3. Put each ball of dough in its own bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Put the bowls of covered dough in the fridge and let rise for 2 hours, or up to 24 hours. This extended rise will give the butter time to solidify back in the fridge (lamination process) which gives the crust a crispy, buttery flavor.

Assemble and Bake

  1. After the dough has risen and when you are ready to make the pizzas, preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. If your oven cooks cool, set your oven to 425 degrees.
  2. Get two 9 inch cake pans ready. It is possible to use a smaller cake pan. If you use a smaller size, put a sheet pan under the cake pan in the oven to catch any spills. 
  3. Pull the first ball of dough out of the fridge and set it in the center of your cake pan. 
  4. Working from the middle to the edges, press the dough to the edges and up the sides of the pan in an even layer. Initially it may take a little bit of work with the cold dough but as it warms up a bit, it should become soft and workable.
  5. Layer the bottom of the pizza with cheese. We like putting slices of havarti cheese on the bottom, followed by a cup of mozzarella cheese. You can use whatever cheese you prefer. 
  6. Next put your favorite toppings on top of the cheese ie: pepperoni, ham, mushrooms, olives, etc…
  7. Spoon half of the sauce on top of the first pizza. Brush the top of the crust with a little bit of olive oil and sprinkle parmesan cheese if desired.
  8. Repeat the process with the second pizza. 
  9. Bake the pizzas for 25-28 minutes until bubbly.
  10. Let the pizzas rest for about 10 minutes before removing from the pan and slicing to serve. Enjoy!

Please share this recipe if you enjoyed it! Post a photo and tag me @amybakesbread so I can see your bake 🙂

Follow me on Instagram @amybakesbread or like Amy Bakes Bread on Facebook for more baking ideas.

Family Pizza Night

I put out a bunch of toppings and let the kids go to town. Pepperoni, olives, pineapple, you name it!

One of the easiest and tastiest doughs that graces our home most Friday nights is homemade pizza. Not only is it very forgiving, but everyone can tailor it to their own preferences, making it the perfect experiment for kids and a great meal for families. You can go crazy with toppings, or keep it simple with cheese or pepperoni. If you’re like me, it’s a time to clean out my fridge and see what I have that would be yummy on top of a pizza. I also like adding unique ingredients. One of my favorites is a brie, ham and apple pizza drizzled with honey. Pizza night has so many endless combinations that it is sure to be a crowd pleaser.

One of the best parts about this pizza recipe is that you can make the dough ahead of time…as in two to three days ahead! Mix together the ingredients and then throw it in a covered bowl and let it sit in the fridge for a couple days before pulling it out for family pizza night. Retarding the dough for this length of time actually enhances the flavor of the dough. But don’t worry, if you decide on pizza last minute or just keep forgetting to make it ahead of time, it will still turn out great.

I love using parchment paper and a pizza stone for homemade pizza. To get that beautiful crispy crust, a pizza stone makes a big difference. With that said, I used to make pizza all the time on a sheet pan. The crust never got super crispy, but it was still delicious. So, don’t let not having a pizza stone stop you from trying out this recipe. My kids absolutely love making their own mini pizzas. I like to set all my toppings out on the table and give each child their individual amount of cheese (we’ve got cheese hoarders around here). Everyone gets to work rolling out their own small piece of dough (it doesn’t have to be a complete circle) and topping it with whatever they want. 

Another tip for delicious home-made pizza is cranking your oven up HOT! That will make for a crisp crust but a delicious middle. You want to bake your pizzas anywhere from 475-500 degrees and they will usually only take a few minutes. Make sure you preheat your pizza stone too. 

I usually make one large pizza for our family and then my four kids all make their own. As they finish topping their pizzas I’ll bake them quickly and then bake our family pizza. The whole process takes maybe half an hour…for five pizzas. I love pizza night for getting my hands doughy and because I never have complaints from the kids.

And full disclosure: my freezer is still stocked with Costco frozen pizza because life is all about balance, you know 🙂

Yield: 2 large pizzas OR 1 large and 4 mini kid-sized pizzas

Time: 10 minute mix, overnight rise-3 day rise, 10 minute prep, 10 minute bake

Ingredients:

Dough

  • 2 cups of warm milk  (you can also use warm water)
  • 1 Tablespoon sugar
  • 1 Tablespoon instant yeast
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 2 Tablespoons neutral oil
  • 4-5 cups of flour all-purpose (can also do half whole wheat/half all purpose flour)

Toppings

  • Favorite pizza sauce
  • Unlimited toppings
  • Shredded mozzarella cheese (2-3 cups)

Instructions:

Hot, hot heat is a key to good pizza.
  1. Warm the milk (not too hot, you want it the temperature of a baby’s bathwater). Pour the milk into the bowl of a stand mixer (or a bowl to knead by hand). Add the sugar, instant yeast, salt, garlic powder and oil. Then, a cup at a time, add the flour. Use the dough hook to mix. Continue adding flour until the dough clears the sides of the bowl but is still a little sticky. Knead for about five minutes.
  2.  For the most flavor, put the dough in a bowl and cover it. Leave in the fridge overnight or up to 3 days. When ready to use, divide the dough in two (or more depending on how many mini pizzas you are going to make). Let dough rest for 10 minutes.
  3. If you would rather use the dough immediately after mixing, divide the dough into two balls for two large pizzas, or make 1 large pizza and 4-5 mini kid-sized pizzas. Let dough rest for about 10 minutes before rolling out.
  4. Before rolling out the dough, place a pizza stone in your oven and preheat to 475-500 degrees.
  5. Place each ball of dough on a piece of parchment paper. Use a little flour if necessary to roll out, stretch with your hands and shape your pizza. Let the dough rest for a minute and then continue rolling or stretching dough to your desired thickness.
  6. Top with your favorite pizza toppings and bake. Large pizzas should bake in 8-10 minutes. Mini pizzas will take around 5-6 minutes. Enjoy!

Please share this recipe if you enjoyed it! Post a photo and tag me @amybakesbread so I can see your bake 🙂

Follow me on Instagram @amybakesbread or like Amy Bakes Bread on Facebook for more baking ideas.