Family Pizza Night

Ahhhhh, the week between Christmas and New Year's brings something everyone's been craving:  down time.  The family celebrations were lovely and now it's time for celebrating with friends (aka the family we choose).  And so the Bowers were invited over for a bit of a reunion.  Our girls are the same ages and despite all of our moves, they've remained constant friends.  It's been a bit tricky during the high school and college years to coordinate schedules, so last night was probably the first time in three or four years that we were all together.  Good times.  Plenty of stories.  Lots of laughs.

candid photo of friends and family
please note the 9th plate in the corner, can't turn away a hungry boyfriend

Good night for a "simple" dinner.  Every winter I break out my deep dish pizza pan and someone has to come over to share the pizza;  I'm pretty sure the finished product weighs at least five pounds.  Since we were having 8 for dinner I decided to try a recipe for deep dish spinach pizza like Girodano's from Chicago in addition to my classic deep dish recipe.  Two pizzas.  One pizza pan.  The spinach pie was assembled and baked a day before.  The loaded pizza was a same day operation.  Both were served with a kitchen island salad bar.  

Let's open our discussion today with the classic deep dish recipe.  My younger brother gave us the deep dish pizza set (pan, cutter, recipe book and I believe peel which is long gone) over 20 years ago.  I checked the recipe booklet and it's dated 1978.  For the record, in 1978 I was either a freshman or sophomore in high school and my younger brother was either in third or fourth grade.  I am pretty sure he did not run out and buy me a pizza set in 1978.   I do remember walking little Keith into town almost every Saturday morning to go to the Bavarian Pastry Shop for bearclaws.  That would be our culinary history for 1978.  

I have used the recipes for cheese and onion dough and basic tomato sauce every year since the arrival of the pan.  Probably the only things that have changed are that I now freshly grate the Parmesan for the dough instead of using that fabulous green can from Kraft (classic), I use chicken italian sausage instead of pork and I use fresh mushrooms instead of canned mushrooms.   No need to reinvent the wheel.  (Okay, I say that a lot and this time it's a bit funny since college pizzas were always "death wheels" from Dominos and those did need reinvention).  

If you don't have a deep dish pizza pan, borrow mine!  If you aren't my neighbor then do a little research and find yourself a pan.  Mine is just a straight-sided massively deep metal pan.   This is all going to look supremely complicated, but just give yourself a Saturday or Sunday and take it in steps.  It's not terribly tricky, just a little time-consuming.  Something you hopefully have a little more of in the dead of winter than the rest of the year.  Your house will smell delicious!  

Cheese and Onion Pizza Dough 

4 1/2 C all purpose flour
1 T salt
1 T sugar
1 whole egg
3 egg yolks
1/2 C melted butter
1/2 C dried minced onion
2/3 C grated Parmesan 
2 1/4 tsp yeast  (one packet)
2/3 C very warm water (hot to the touch, but not scalding)

Dissolve the yeast in the warm water with the sugar.  Mix flour and salt in a large bowl.  Pour in the yeast mixture into the flour mixture and stir thoroughly with a big wooden spoon.  If your dough is not coming together, don't panic yet.  Beat the egg and egg yolks together and add with the melted butter to the flour bowl.  Mix until dough forms a ball in the bowl.  Add extra water sparingly if needed to form the ball.  Add flour sparingly if the dough is too sticky.  Stir in the onions and cheese.  It's okay if they aren't fully incorporated yet.

Dust a dough cloth, silicone mat or other suitable surface with flour.  Dump out the dough mixture and knead it all together for 8 to 10 minutes.  Make sure you incorporate all of the cheese and onions (i.e., the good stuff).  This is not hard;  turn on some good music, have a little flour handy and work it out until your dough is nice and smooth.   Pour a tablespoon of olive oil into your dough bowl and coat the inside of the bowl with the oil.  Put your nice big ball of dough in the oiled bowl and turn it a few times to coat.  Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and a tea towel.  Set it in a warm and draft-free place to double in size for an hour or so (I usually turn my oven on for just a couple of minutes to take the chill off and then put the dough in the oven with the door closed making sure the oven is now off).  Make your sauce and prep your toppings while the dough rises.  

risen dough not in my dough bowl which is a funny story for another day

Basic Tomato Sauce

1 onion, chopped
1 1/2 T olive oil
1 28-ounce can of San Marzano plum tomatoes or any tomato you enjoy (I used diced Muir Glen brand)
1 8-ounce can of tomato sauce
1/4 tsp garlic salt
1/4 tsp ground pepper
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp sugar
1 bay leaf
1/2 tsp oregano

In a large saucepan, saute onion in olive oil until translucent.  Add remaining ingredients (except oregano) and stir well.  Bring to a simmer and cook for 45 minutes, uncovered.  Stir occasionally and keep the heat low.  Add oregano and cook for an additional 15 minutes.  Remove bay leaf.  

basic tomato sauce, mine is a little chunky

Pizza "toppings" (deep dish toppings are under the sauce)

1 pound pork or chicken Italian sausage; browned, crumbled and drained
4 to 8 ounces sliced Pepperoni
green pepper, chopped
white onion, chopped
8 ounces mushrooms, cleaned and sliced

2 C shredded Mozzarella and or Provolone

Deep Dish Pizza Assembly

Heat oven to 450 degrees.  

Punch down the risen dough.  Lightly flour a rolling surface.  Roll out dough large enough to cover bottom and sides of pan.  I patted mine into a giant circle.  A rolling pin works too.  This time I rolled onto parchment because my silicone mat that fits this dough is no longer with me and needs to be replaced.  Lightly oil the pan (or do whatever your pan's directions tell you to do).  Flip the dough into the pan and press into the corners and up the sides.  

Sprinkle the bottom crust with the shredded cheese.

Evenly distribute the toppings.

Evenly spoon on the sauce.

Add additional freshly grated Parmesan.

Bake in middle of hot oven for 25 minutes until crust is golden brown.  

Share with friends!
break out the vintage photos from their early years :)

College football calls.  I love college football.  Any teams, any game.  The season is almost over so I'll post the spinach pizza recipe tomorrow.  


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