Friday, July 20, 2012

Chicago-Style Pizza in the Dutch Oven

On our recent trip back to Indiana, we stopped over for a night with our friend in Chicago, and she treated us to a Chicago-style pizza dinner.  It’s bigger and heftier than most pizzas, with a sauced-up crust on top as well as on the bottom.  Oh, it was sooooo good and so filling.  I loved it, and I knew instantly that I had to try doing it in the Dutch oven.  It took me awhile to get around to it, but here it is.

I got a book while there called “The Great Chicago-Style Pizza Cookbook.  I followed the crust recipe very closely, but the toppings and things I experimented with a bit, based on some of the ideas in the book.  I doubled the crust recipe and made two different pies, each with unique fillings.  I liked both of the ones I did.

It was drizzly and rainy, so I had to rig a little shelter for my ovens.  I was also concerned with the cooking time, because the pizza was so much thicker than pizzas I’d cooked before.  Between all of that, I ended up cooking it too long  The bottom crust was singed, and the top was overly brown as well.  It had a bit of a burned taste.  It wasn’t charred black, but it was overdone. When I do it again, I’ll cook it less, and that will be reflected in the instructions below.

Chicago-Style Pizza in the Dutch Oven

12” Dutch oven

10-12 coals below
18-22 coals above

The Crust

3 tsp Sugar
2 Tbsp active dry Yeast
1 ¼ Cups warm Water
3-4 Cups bread Flour
3 tsp Salt
(Optional) ½ Tbsp vital wheat Gluten or 3 Tbsp Dough Enhancer
4 Tbsp Olive Oil

The Fillings

4 oz shredded mozarella
(The remaining fillings are optional, but the more, the merrier)
½ lb mild or medium italian sausage
cubed Ham
Pepperoni slices
Onions, diced
Green Peppers, diced
Roma Tomatoes, diced
Baby Spinach leaves, julienned
Black Olives, chopped
Fresh Mushrooms
Whatever else you like

The Sauce

1 can Tomato Paste
1 can Tomato Sauce
2 fresh Roma Tomatoes, diced
3-4 cloves Garlic, minced
Liberal Shakes of
4 oz shredded mozarella

The adventure began that morning, early, before church when I made the bread dough.  I did the process essentially like every other bread dough I’ve done.  I mixed the sugar, the yeast, and the water.  I did that a little more carefully this time, however, because I wanted to keep it at about 110-115 degrees F.  So, I poured in the hot/warm water a bit at a time and monitored the temperature as the sugar dissolved, adding hotter water to keep it “in the zone”.  It rewarded me by foaming up quite nicely.

I sifted the dry ingredients together, starting with just the three cups of flour.  The rest I would add during kneading.  The bread flour I’ve got is getting a bit old, so I added the vital gluten powder.  It helped it in the kneading.

Then, I mixed in the wet ingredients and kneaded it on the table top adding flour onto it as needed to make it not so sticky (yet still soft).

The last cookoff I judged, I got to visit with one of the other judges (who I had actually met at the World Championship). He’s a baker by trade, and he had some good advice.  He said when doing a windowpane (, don’t stretch it out paper thin, but just enough to let light through.  If you knead until it doesn’t break, paper thin, he said, it’s overkneaded and it won’t poof up.  Reinhart says it’s tough to overknead when you’re doing it by hand.  I tried it anyway, and kneaded only until it would stretch out translucent.

I set it aside to rise, but since I was going to be doing church stuff for a long time, I set it in the fridge.

When I came home, I pulled the dough out of the fridge first.  It had risen up very nicely.  I guess he was right!  I punched it down and cut it into halves, which I formed into small boules.  I set these aside to both proof and to come up to room temperature.

Then, I started up the coals and as soon as they were ready, I put the dutch ovens (remember, I did two), on about 20+ coals each.  I put the sausage in and browned it, separating it into small chunks as I went.  While I was doing that, I was also chopping up the onions, peppers, and other fillings.

I also got some more coals started, and put about 20 or so hot coals on each lid to begin pre-heating.

Once the sausage was browned, I scooped it out.  I added a little bit of garlic powder, salt, and olive oil to the Dutch oven and spread that around the bottom.  That and the sausage flavoring would give the crust a great taste!  I stretched out the dough, pretty evenly, and spread it over the bottom of the Dutch oven.  I tried to press it up the sides as much as possible, but it didn’t really respond.  I took a fork and poked holes in the crust about every inch or so.  I’m still not sure why the instructions said to do that.

The instructions said to “Parbake” the crust, or, in other words, to bake it a bit before you add the fillings and bake it for real.  At the time I wasn’t sure why you would do that, but later I realized that there is going to be a lot of food on the crust.  It will be thick and heavy.  In order for that bottom crust to stand up, it needs to have some poof and structure first.

So, after the crust was spread, I put the heated lid on and put about 8 coals below and 18 coals above.  I let that bake for only a few minutes.  I would recommend checking it after about 10-12.  The crust should be a bit firm, but not browned.  While that was baking, I made the sauce.  The sauce was easy, I just mixed everything (except the Mozarella) and blended it to taste in a bowl.

Then, I brought the Dutch ovens back in and put the fillings of choice in each one.  I started with a layer of the mozarella and then just added everything else.  In each one, I did cubed ham, pepperoni, and the sausage I’d cooked.  I actually quartered the pepperoni slices, too, to make them more like chunks.  In one, then, I added onions and peppers, and in the other I put the spinach and the tomatoes.  I kept the fillings away from the edge of the crust.

Then, I stretched out the remaining dough balls and laid them on top.  I reached under and pinched the two crusts together, all around the circle.  I pressed on the top to kind of spread it back out to the edge of the Dutch oven, and spread the sauce on the top.  Finally, I layered on more mozarella.

Once these Dutch ovens were ready, I put them on and under the coals and let them bake, turning them from time to time.  This is where I went wrong.  I wasn’t sure, because of the thickness of the whole pie, how to tell when it was done.  I stuck in a thermometer, but the interior fillings heat at a different rate.  The side crust baked readily, but the top still looked soft when I poked it through the sauce.  I just wasn’t sure, so I left it on, probably for about a total of almost an hour.

It was too much.  Next time, I’ll do it this way:  I’ll bake it for about 15 minutes, without the sauce on.  Then, I’ll check it.  If it’s getting done and progressing nicely, I’ll add the sauce and the cheese, and bake it for another 15-20 minutes.  At that point, I’ll bet it’ll be done and ready.

In the end, it tasted great.  It was a bit overdone, and that affected the flavor, but it was still good.  I think that once I get the baking timing down, It will be amazing!

Mark has discovered a love of Dutch Oven Cooking. Mark also has other sites and blogs, including and his MoBoy blog.

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