Zachary's Chicago Pizza is one of my favorite restaurants of all time but one I don't make it to very often, for a couple of reasons. First, it's all the way on the other side of the country (at least for the next few weeks. By this I mean that we're moving, not it) and second, with pizza this intense, a little goes a long way.
The thing that's amazing about Zachary's is that it's pizza unlike any other I've found. While it touts itself as Chicago style, it's really its own creature, visually similar to the deep dish pie that's been made so ubiquitous by the Pizzeria Unos popping up in strip malls all over the country but miles away from that in taste. Zachary's specializes in stuffed pizzas, essentially pies in which all the toppings are encased in a buttery crisp crust shell--thick on the bottom but thin on top--and then covered in beautifully red peeled tomatoes and basil. This is the ideological opposite of New York pizza, thick and hearty where New York pushes thin and light, bright with fresh tomato flavor and toppings like spinach and mushroom that explode in your mouth where New York slices are often cheese-forward, bubbling crisp and deliciously greasy enough to have you reaching for a fourth napkin before you're halfway through. They're both great ways to approach pizza but Zachary's is so unique, the taste so completely Zachary's, so complexly alive, that it's hard to think of it as a pizzeria at all. This is no simple hole in the wall with a hot oven burning little square scars into the arms of the staff, this is a real restaurant and the food you're being served is not just pizza, it's pizza heightened, it's pizza cuisine. So it's not something you eat everyday.
The trouble is, our cravings for a thick complex slice of Zachary's come more often than our flights to California. Much more often. So we find ourselves all the way on the other side of the country, far beyond the possibility of Zachary's pizza. Yet for some reason, we never really thought our way to the obvious solution: if we want Zachary's and we can't get it, we just have to make it.
So we tried.
This dough recipe comes from Peter Reinhardt's amazing American Pie which I can never appreciate enough. It's an absolutely phenomenal book on pizza that I get more from every time I look.
Chicago deep-dish pizza dough
from American Pie
(makes 2 18-ounce dough balls)
18 ounces unbleached bread flour (I used all purpose and it worked fine. I might actually suggest it because of the delicious tender lightness I encountered.)
2/3 cup fine-grind yellow cornmeal
2 Tbsp sugar
2-1/2 tsp kosher salt
2-1/4 tsps instant yeast
5 Tbsp corn oil
1-1/2 cups lukewarm water
Combine all ingredients in an electric mixer and, using the dough hook, mix on low for 4 minutes until a coarse ball forms. Let the dough rest for 15 minutes then mix again on low for 2-3 until the dough is tacky and passes the windowpane test. Form the dough into a ball and place in an oiled bowl covered with plastic wrap to rise until doubled. Divide into two equal pieces and round them into balls. Cover in olive oil and let rest, covered in plastic wrap, for 15-20 minutes.
When they've rested, roll out each dough into a disk about 14 inches in diameter. Lay each disk into a 10 inch round cake pan (or springform) and press into the corners and up the sides. The first time I did this, I thought the instructions were to make the dough stretch over the top of the pan so I did and the pizza turned out looking like it had a popped collar and very little substance. It looked like a douchebag is what I'm saying.
For a thinner crust, put immediately into a 400 degree oven, for a thicker crust cover dough-lined pans with a kitchen towel and let sit 30-60 minutes before baking. Either way, bake the crusts for 3-4 minutes to set them, remove from oven and let cool, then top. It should go cheese, toppings, (another layer of crust if you're going for the stuffed pizza which I didn't decide to do), sauce, and a richer cheese like parmesan. Bake at 375 for 15 minutes, rotate pan, then bake for another 20-25 until the edges are golden and the cheese is browned.
We topped it with slices of zucchini, turkey pepperoni, onions and mushrooms sauteed in wine, mozzarella, fresh basil, and crumbles of goat cheese which was... a lot of stuff and in the future I think I will thin down the toppings list so we can focus on the actual flavors.
So here's the rundown: the dough wasn't as buttery as I wanted (next time I might try this actual recipe from Zachary's which Dana found ages ago and which was then lost among my bookmarks until, of course, today), the sauce a little over processed and not the rich whole tomato sauce Zachary's uses, the toppings kind of... muddled, but it was a good first step. And it reiterated a good lesson we seem to get over and over and are just beginning to retain: it's much easier to approximate a dish at home than we ever expect. Yeah, it's not perfect, but it's close enough to quell the cravings for a while. Long enough, certainly, for us to make it back to California and have the real thing.