Homemade California-Style Deep Dish Pizza

I love pizza – I don’t care whether it’s deep dish, thin crust, New York style, Chicago style or Diamond Bar style – I love pizza. A recent frugal streak, however, forced us to stop ordering it for delivery for a while, and I suffered withdrawal. It turns out pizza is WAY easy to make (especially if you have a stand up mixer, which I’m lucky to own) and FAR cheaper than ordering it in.

I’ve been experimenting with different crusts and toppings, and all have elicited surprised “Wows!” from my wife, who now claims this is the best meal I make. I’m now turning pizza night back into a weekly tradition. The recipe that follows is the most recent – and, so far, best – incarnation.

I’d love to hear your recommendations for improvement.

Crust:

Thanks to the Internet, I found a recipe that was apparently handed down from Frugal Gourmet Jeff Smith and may accurately reflect the same crust recipe used at Uno’s Pizza. Which is to say, Chicagoans may laugh at this and go on about how it’s not real Chicago pizza (and I don’t claim it is) but I don’t care – it’s tasty!

One thing I do differently than this recipe lists is to use whole wheat flour for half of the total 5 1/2 cups listed. We’re on a whole wheat kick at our house and it produces a nice, slightly chewy texture that I love.

You should have some dough left over from this recipe, unless you’re using a REALLY large pan. I recommend making garlic twists with it – dice some garlic and melt butter over it, then spread it on flattened dough. Twist it up and bake it until lightly brown. Yum!

(Thanks goes to http://www.pizzamaking.com for the recipe)

  • 2 tsp rapid rise dry yeast
  • 2 cups warm water
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 cup cornmeal
  • 5 1/2 cups flour

In the bowl of a stand mixer (e.g. KitchenAid), dissolve the yeast in the water. Add the vegetable oil, olive oil, cornmeal, and half of the flour. Beat for 10 minutes. Attach the dough hook and mix in the remaining flour. Knead for several minutes with the mixer. (Note: because the dough is very rich and moist, it would be difficult to do this by hand.)

Place the dough in a bowl lightly greased with olive oil (you can use the same bowl you mixed it in), cover with a kitchen towel and set aside in a warm place to rise until it doubles in size – about an hour.

Punch the dough down and knead it a little bit. At this point, if you have more dough than you’ll need (I usually do), cut it into the amount you’ll need. I find half the dough works for a 10-in diameter pan about an inch and a half deep, with some left over for making a couple of garlic twists. You can freeze the rest.

Let the dough rise a second time in the bowl – about a half an hour or so this time – then punch it down again. Pre-heat your oven for 475 degrees. Spread the dough out to cover the inside of your baking pan – a tall-sided pie pan will work nicely, as would a casserole dish. Press the dough thinly around the edges and bring it up all the way to the top on the sides. If you’re not cooking it right away, you can place the crust in the fridge for later that day.

When you’re ready to start assembling the pizza, bake the pie crust for about seven minutes or so until just cooked before adding any sauce or toppings.

Sauce:

I keep it real simple here – the less the you do, the better it will be. Be sure to follow the directions and actually use canned tomatoes – the canners pick them at the precise right time to preserve their flavors and, unless you already have a knock out tomato sauce recipe, you’d be hard pressed to do better than this. You’ll have sauce left over from this recipe – use it to dip your garlic twists in!

  • 1 can (14oz.) diced tomatoes
  • 1 can (14oz.) crushed tomatoes or tomato sauce
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 4 tsp finely chopped fresh basil
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • salt

Heat the olive oil in a sauce pan on medium heat and add the garlic, cooking just long enough to release some of the scent and flavor. Add the tomato sauce, diced tomatoes and basil. Cook until sauce thickens a bit, about 10 minutes. Salt to taste.

Toppings

Obviously, you can do whatever you want here – it’s your pizza, you’re the boss! But, here’s a really decadent set of toppings that are also reasonably healthy that knocks my family’s socks off.

  • partial skim ricotta cheese
  • pepperoni
  • fresh spinach
  • zucchini, thinly sliced
  • a mix of mozzarella, parmesan and fontina chesses, shredded.

Put a thin layer of sauce on the pizza crust, then spread out a layer of the ricotta cheese. Layout the pepperoni in concentric circles, overlapping to completely cover the ricotta cheese. Lay out the spinach as individual leaves, completely covering the pepperoni. Layout the slices of zucchini in overlapping concentric circles, completely covering the spinach. Spread out another layer of sauce and top high with the cheese blend.

Bake the pizza in a pre-heated oven at 475 degrees for about 12 minutes or until the center is cooked (use a thermometer if you used cold ingredients) and the cheese is fully melted and lightly browning in spots.

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