Saturday, July 2, 2011

Chicago Style Pan Pizza

Our favorite source for Chicago style pan pizza is Pequod's, although, I'm sure that Burt's Pizza would be in our top 5 too since he is the mastermind behind Pequod's pizza back in the day. At Pequod's the cheese reaches the outer edge of the crust resulting in a caramelized, crunchy cheese around the exterior of the crust. It may look burnt if you didn't know any better, but don't be mistaken, it's delicious. The crust is thick, but soft and airy. We usually get pepperoni, and since it is on top of the cheese, the outer edges of each pepperoni slice gets nice and crispy, similar to bacon.

To continue celebrating A's birthday, I made Chicago Style Pizza at home. I LOVE this recipe. The crust is so easy to work with - it's buttery and quite forgiving. Just like the pizzas you would get at one of the local joints, the outer crust is flaky from laminating the dough. This is fancy terminology for spreading butter in between the layers of dough.

I have made this a few times now, and the toppings always change. For this batch, I made one with pepperoni, roasted red peppers and banana peppers. The other pizza would be vegetarian filled with spinach and roasted red peppers. Using the fresh spinach from our CSA, I blanched it, spun it, and SQUEEEEEZZZED out all the water. It's amazing how a huge bunch of spinach leaves will shrink down to the size of a baseball. You can also use thawed frozen spinach.

Chicago Style Pizza
adapted from Cooks Illustrated
3 ¼ c unbleached all-purpose flour
½ c yellow cornmeal
1 ½ tsp table salt
2 tsp sugar
2 ¾ tsp active dry yeast
1 ¼ c water (10 oz), 110ºF
3 tbsp unsalted butter, melted, plus 4 tbsp, softened
1 tsp plus 4 tbsp olive oil

2 tbsp unsalted butter
¼ c grated onion, using the large holes of a box grater
¼ tsp dried oregano
Table salt
2 medium garlic cloves, minced or pressed through garlic press (about 2 teaspoons)
1 (28-ounce) can whole tomatoes, diced 
¼ tsp sugar
2 tbsp coarsely chopped fresh basil leaves
1 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
Ground black pepper

12-16 oz mozzarella cheese, shredded (about 3-4 cups)
½ oz grated Pecorino or Parmesan cheese (about 1/4 cup)

1. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook, add sugar and yeast into warm water for a few minutes until bubbly. Add the flour, cornmeal, salt, and mix on low speed until combined, about 1 minute. Add melted butter and mix on low speed until fully incorporated, 1 to 2 minutes, scrape sides and bottom of bowl, as needed. Increase speed to medium and knead until dough is glossy and smooth. The dough will pull away from sides of bowl while the mixer is on, 4 to 5 minutes.

2. Coat a large bowl with 1 teaspoon olive oil or olive oil spray. Using an oiled spatula, transfer dough to bowl, turning once to oil the entire dough ball; cover tightly with plastic wrap. Let rise at room temperature until nearly doubled, about 45 to 60 minutes.

3. Turn the dough out onto dry work surface and roll into 15- by 12-inch rectangle. Using offset spatula, spread softened butter over dough, leaving 1/2-inch border along edges. Starting at short end, roll dough into tight cylinder. With seam side down, flatten into an 18- by 4-inch rectangle. Cut rectangle in half crosswise. Working with one half, fold into thirds like business letter; pinch seams together underneath to form ball. Repeat with remaining half. Return balls to oiled bowl, cover tightly with plastic wrap, and let rise in refrigerator until nearly doubled, 40 to 50 minutes.

4. While dough rises, heat butter in medium saucepan over medium heat until melted. Add onion, oregano, and 1/2 teaspoon salt; cook, stirring occasionally, until liquid has evaporated and onion is golden brown, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and cook until fragrant. Stir in tomatoes and sugar, increase heat to high, and bring to simmer. Lower heat to medium-low and simmer until reduced to 2 1/2 cups, 25 to 30 minutes. Off heat, stir in basil and oil, season with salt and pepper.

5. Adjust oven rack to lower position and heat oven to 425 degrees.

6. Coat two 9-inch round cake pans with 2 tablespoons olive oil each. Transfer 1 dough ball to dry work surface and roll out into 13-inch circle, about 1/4 inch thick. Transfer dough to prepared cake pan. Lightly press dough into pan, 1 inch up sides. If dough resists stretching, let relax 5 minutes before trying again. Repeat with remaining dough ball.

7. For each pizza, sprinkle 1 ½ to 2 cups mozzarella evenly over surface of dough. Place topping of your choice over cheese (pepperoni, cooked Italian sausage, peppers, spinach). Note: for cooked spinach, be sure to squeeze excess water before adding it to the pizza. Divide the sauce evenly between the two pizzas, sprinkle 2 tablespoons Pecorino/Parmesan over sauce. Bake until crust is golden brown, 20 to 30 minutes. Remove pizza from oven and allow pizzas to rest 10 minutes before slicing and serving.

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