Liveblogging the Pi Day Pizza

In honor of Pi Day, Greta is baking one of our favorite Chicago-style pizzas. This is our reconstruction of the pizza we ate as undergraduates at the University of Chicago. We spent a lot of time hanging out at a pizza place that would later become famous as one of Barack Obama's favorite haunts: Medici on 57th. They had their own style of pizza -- not stuffed, but definitely deep.

After we moved to New York for graduate school, we missed that great Medici deep-dish taste, and we tried repeatedly to reconstruct the recipe. After about five years, we thought we'd gotten pretty close, and the basic recipe has stayed pretty much the same for the last decade and a half. Our toppings, however, have continued to evolve. The pizza we're making tonight has been in our repertoire for about five years; it was invented by Nora and is called the Dark Forest.

Vote for our Pi Day Pie here!

Here are the ingredients:

Dough
3/4 cup warm water
1 packet of yeast
1 tablespoon honey
3 cups flour
1 teaspoon salt
Olive oil

Sauce
1 14.5-oz can of crushed or diced tomatoes
2-3 cloves garlic
1 teaspoon oregano
1/4 teaspoon of crushed red pepper flakes

Toppings
1 pound of mixed mushrooms (we use shitake, cremini, and button)
1 bunch asparagus
1 onion
2 pounds grated part-skim mozzarella
1/4 pound provolone, grated or sliced
Olive oil, salt, and pepper

Here is everything you need for the dough (yes, the wine is important):

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Add the warm water, yeast, and honey to a mixer bowl, and wait 5-10 minutes. Then add 2 cups of the flour, and mix. It will be sloppy, like this:

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Keep going, it's going to be sloppy:

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After a couple minutes, the flour is incorporated, and it's a messy dough, oozing off the hook, so Greta adds a little more flour:

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Knead with the dough hook for five minutes, until it's nice ball, like this. You might need to add more flour, depending on the weather.

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You know it's done when it's a smooth elastic dough and you can tell because when you poke it, it feels smooth:

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And the dimple your finger makes stays in the dough:

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Then coat in olive oil and cover with a cloth and put it in a warm place:

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The dough will take about an hour to double in size.

Meanwhile, start preparing the ingredients. Here's Nora showing off our fresh mushrooms and asparagus:

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And here's Dave chopping everything up. You want all the pieces to be about the same size:

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You'll want to put a pizza stone in the oven at this point and preheat to 450°F.

The mushrooms were coated in olive oil and put on a baking sheet under the broiler for about 15 minutes. Dave tossed them every five minutes or so with tongs.

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Cut the bottom 3 or 4 inches off the asparagus and place them in a baking dish. Toss with olive oil, salt and pepper. Bake at 350° F for about 20 minutes. Toss halfway through.

Dice the onion and saute at high heat in olive oil for about 10 minutes, until browned.

Here are all the toppings after they've been cooked:

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Next it's time to get started on the sauce. Here's everything you need:

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You can just mix everything right in the can: crush the garlic, add oregano and crushed red pepper, and stir with a spoon.

Now, an hour later the dough has risen. It's roughly double the size it was after we kneaded it:

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The biggest thing we figured out about making deep dish pizza is that you have to roll the dough. Recipes tell you that you can just pat it into the corners of the pan, and they lie.

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Roll it out out until it's about 2 inches wider than your pan on each side:

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Liberally oil the deep-dish pan, and put the rolled-out dough on top. Make sure you place the dough all the way into the corners of the pan (we use a 14-inch deep-dish pan).

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Add the sauce!

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Add the toppings!

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Add the mozzarella! Yes, all of it. It's an awesome sight.

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Add the provolone to the top. Drizzle with olive oil. Trim the extra dough off of the edge of the pan:

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Place in the oven!

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After about 15 minutes, check on the pizza. It probably won't be done. After another 5 minutes, check again. It will look like this, and it's done!

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Nora was absolutely starving, so we served her the first piece:

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Here's the finished pizza, minus Nora's slice:

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It's 8:55, and Greta and I have finished our first pieces of pizza. Fantastic! We may need to rename this pizza: the Barack-Obama-Wishes-He-Had-A-Dark-Forest Pizza!

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Yummmmm! Pizza is the perfect Friday night dinner...wish I had some right now...

It's looking very good. I can almost smell it from here.

Reading this post while hungry can be very annoying. Can I PLEASE take a bite out of that? :)

Thank you so much for sharing how to make a pizza, since I had never done it before (successfully). You sure got my vote.

How long did that take by the way?

Freiddie: It's about 2 hours, start to finish, if you're efficient about it. But it's worth it!

Other pizzas are easier -- anything where you don't have to cook the toppings first. Pepperoni and Olives, Sausage and Mushroom, you name it. This is one of the most complicated pizzas we make.

I think it looks delicious - however, for the crust, have you tried the same combination only with 1 1/2 cups water to 3 1//2 cups flour - a little more luxurious crust -

Ellen: The water to flour ratio depends on a lot of things, including temperature and humidity. You can't really measure it out precisely, you just have to watch the dough as you knead it and get it to the right consistency. I don't think you can double the amount of water and only add a little more flour and have it work out right (though dough is more Greta's forte than mine).

Oh man, I have got to make this. I love mushrooms and asparagus. The only problem is nobody else in my household likes them at all. Hmm, maybe it's possible to make deep dish pizza for one in a 6" quiche pan.

Regarding the comments about water to flour ratios -- if you have a softer dough with more water in it, you'll be able to (have to) pat it into the pan with your fingers instead of rolling it. It will be sticky rather than smooth in texture, and you'll need to flour your hands more. The finished crust will have a lighter, more bread like texture.

A "packet" is about 2 and a half teaspoons.

Cathy: If you do it that way, make sure you really press it into the corners. We've found that when we press it into a deep-dish pan you tend to get uncooked blobs of dough in the corners. That's why we roll it out.

yummmm, that looks delish!

(one note, you should always snap asparagus, never cut it....)

By DrugMonkey (not verified) on 14 Mar 2009 #permalink

Damn, that is a hell of a lot of cheese.

Ah, you've made me miss the Medici all the more keenly. The spinach pizza was very special to me; the conversations at those carved-up tables, only more so.

By Matthew Battles (not verified) on 15 Mar 2009 #permalink

Your whole ingredient list reads like a short poem, and with few re-arrangements you can even have nearly perfect metric variations.

(A poem incomparably more wholesome than "Recipe For Prison Pruno" from Jarvis Masters)