We spent three weeks this summer in America, finishing with a week in Chicago. Which meant Proper Pizza, hurrah hurrah. The current recommendation from the tourist guides is Giordano’s, and there was a branch just across the road from the hotel.
We had a 10″ stuffed crust (serves 2-3), with meatballs and olives (in the pic). It came ready cut into 6 slices, we managed 2 each and then I had to nap most of the afternoon. AND we’d skipped breakfast because we knew this was coming.
The structure is a yeast dough crust, formed into an open pie. That contains the cheese, and fillings. There are rules for what “fillings” go in the cheese and which go on top, I haven’t figured that out yet. Except that you shouldn’t put wet things inside. A second layer of dough is shaped into a circle, put on top of the filled pie, and the two pieces of pastry are sealed together with a high rim. There should be enough rim for you to top the pie with a good layer of tomato sauce and any remaining fillings.
When it’s baked, the second / top crust almost vanishes, but retains enough solidity to keep the sauce away from the cheese.
There are tremendous arguments about what constitutes a true Chicago pizza – cornmeal in the dough, types of cheese, raw or cooked tomato sauce, round or square. Of course it doesn’t matter, so long as you know what you like and where to get it.
After one of our trips, I check with John to see if we had something he’d like to put in the domestic repertoire. I was really surprised when he chose this. He’s always been a “pizza’s just glorified cheese on toast” man, but this must have hit some deep atavistic streak.
So, I did some reading and researching, and the other night we had My Version. I decided that the filling would be mostly Italian Sausage, which is a recipe I know and trust. Plus some pepperoni and stuffed olives.
I started in the morning with the Dough.
- 1 lb white flour
- 4 oz fine yellow cornmeal (polenta)
- 1 x 7 gram packet fast action dried yeast
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tsp sugar
- 350 mls blood-temperature water
- 125 mls olive oil
Sieve together the dry ingredients, add the liquids and mix quickly until smooth. It’s important with this dough not to overknead it, as this makes a chewy biscuity crust. Let it rise a couple of times and knock it back.
Make the Tomato Sauce and leave to stand for a bit for the flavours to blend.
- 2 x tins chopped tomatoes
- a mug of passata
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 tsps garlic puree
- 1 tsp oregano (John would have liked more)
- A handful of chopped fresh basil
- 1 tsp salt
Make sure you’ve got all the Cheese and Filling:
- Supermarket grated mozzarella, at least 1 x 500 gram bag, depending on quantity of other fillings and how hard you pack it down. Get two to be on the safe side, you can always put the rest in the freezer.
- Meat – meatballs, bacon, ham, pepperoni (after this experiment, I would cook the meatballs first)
- Veg – mushrooms, spinach, peppers, olives
- Also a good couple of handfuls of fresh Parmesan
- You don’t need too much filling, the star here is the cheese, fillings are just flavouring.
Now, you need a 9 – 10″ cake tin, preferably a springform or with a removable bottom. Heat the oven to Gas Mark 8 or 9 (pretty much as hot as it will go) and put a large baking tray on the middle shelf.
- Grease the tin with olive oil. Knock the dough back. Take two thirds and roll out or squodge into the tin to make a bottom and raised sides, as high as you can go. Try not to let the dough get thick between the bottom and the sides, it will if you let it.
- Add the meat and / or drier components of the filling. Get as much cheese in there as you can, pressing it down well.
- Roll or pat out the spare third of the dough into a circle to fit over the cheese. Seal it into the top edge of the existing crust, and pinch it well to make a rampart to keep the sauce in.
- Pour in the sauce, decorate with any wet toppings. Add the Parmesan.
- Whack in the oven, onto the hot baking tray.
- Cook at least 45 minutes. Ours got an hour and a quarter, which cooked it thoroughly inside but charred the edges a bit. Let it set for about 10 minutes.
- Serve in big slices – this makes 6.
The crust was thick but light. I didn’t use all the sauce, but I will make sure to next time as it was only just enough. I’m gonna need a bigger rampart.