I was always a huge fan of deep-dish pizza in my pre-vegan days, provided I told them to go light on the cheese. (I was never a fan of über cheesy pizzas, deep-dish or otherwise.) For me, the crust was always what made this Chicago claim to fame so awesome. As a New Jersey native, born and bred just over the G.W. Bridge, I tended to be a bit elitist about pizza for a long time. I studied in Boston for my first year of college, and man, they cannot make pizza there (sorry, Massachusetts!). New York-style pizza is pretty unbeatable in a lot of ways, but nothing compares to the tender, buttery crust of a Chicago-style deep dish pizza.
Now, I should point out that deep-dish pizza dough is something of a labor of love... It needs to rise several times and be attended to quick a bit. But a long process of rising and kneading in any dough creates a wonderful texture and flavor that is well worth the time and minimal effort. I always let my dough rise in my oven, which has a pilot light that is always on, so the oven is always quite warm inside. Good for dough but not optimal on hot, summer days. You can preheat your oven to its lowest setting (usually about 150 or 200°F), then turn it off and let your dough rise in there.
I also want to point out that my "bean cheese" (or at least that's what I'm calling it) is one of my new favorite things. I used it in my Queso-less 'Dillas and I used it again here. Of course, you can always use your favorite store-bought cheese analog, but I am not a fan of those. You can also pump up the filling layer with any veggies or other "toppings" you like. Perfect with a green salad and a glass of good wine!
Chicago-Style Deep Dish Pizza
For the dough:
1 1/8 tsp. active dry yeast
½ c. + 2 T. warm, filtered water – divided
1 tsp. organic cane sugar
1½ c. + 2 T. unbleached all-purpose flour
¼ c. yellow cornmeal
¾ tsp. fine salt
2 T. plain, unsweetened almond milk – room temperature
1½ T. melted vegan margarine
2 T. vegan margarine, softened at room temperature
1 T. olive oil, plus more for greasing
For the bean layer:
1 (15 oz.) can cannellini or navy beans, drained and rinsed
3 T. nutritional yeast flakes
2 T. lemon juice
½ tsp. garlic powder
½ tsp. onion powder
½ tsp. kosher salt
For the toppings:
½ (4 oz.) package veggie pepperoni slices (recommended: Smart Deli Pepperoni)
1 small green bell pepper, seeded and thinly sliced
1 T. shredded basil leaves
2 T. pitted olives
½ tsp. fennel seeds (to emulate the taste of Italian sausage)
½ tsp. red pepper flakes, or to taste
½ tsp. dried oregano, rubbed
⅔ c. canned tomato purée or sauce
Proof the yeast in 2 T. of the warm water. Add the sugar and 2 T. flour, and stir well to combine. Cover with plastic wrap and allow to rise for 20 minutes in a warm, draft-free place.
Combine the remaining flour, cornmeal and salt in bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade, and pulse until mixed and aerated. Add the remaining ½ c. warm water, the yeast mixture, almond milk and melted margarine, and process until just combined, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Process the dough until it comes together into a single ball. It is ready when it falls away from the sides of the food processor bowl when the motor is off. It should be somewhat sticky but not be too difficult to handle.
Lightly oil a glass or metal bowl with some olive oil. Gather the dough into a smooth ball and place it in the oiled bowl, flipping it to coat it all over with the oil. Cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap, and allow the dough to rise in a warm, draft-free place until doubled in size – about 1 hour.
Turn the dough out onto a work surface and roll it into a 7 x 7-inch rectangle. Using a rubber spatula, spread the softened margarine over surface of dough, leaving a ½-inch border. Starting at on of the short ends, roll the dough (jellyroll style) into a cylinder. Placing the seam side down, flatten cylinder into an 9 x 2-inch rectangle. Then, fold the sides in lengthwise toward the center, as if folding a letter (made from a very long, skinny piece of paper). Pinch the seams together to form a ball and return it to the oiled bowl. Re-cover tightly with plastic wrap, and allow it to rise again, this time in the refrigerator (to chill the margarine), until it has nearly doubled in volume – about 40 minutes. The whole process is known as “laminating” because it creates flaky layers in the dough.
Coat a standard 9-inch round cake pan with 1 T. olive oil, making sure to grease the sides well. Transfer the dough to a work surface and roll out into a 9-inch disc. Place the dough disc into the bottom of the prepared pan, and allow it to rise, refrigerated, for 15-20 minutes in the pan.
Meanwhile, make the bean mixture by processing all the ingredients together into a smooth paste. Set aside and preheat the oven to 425°F.
After it has risen, lightly press the dough it into the corners and about 1½ inches up the sides. Par-bake the dough for about 5-7 minutes, then spread the bean mixture evenly on the bottom of the dough (don’t let it come up the sides). Place any toppings you’d like on top as the next layer, then spoon enough tomato sauce to cover the toppings, spreading it into an even layer with a rubber spatula.
Bake the pizza in the lower portion of the oven for another 20-30 minutes, or until the crust is flaky and golden. Allow it to cool in the pan for at least 5 minutes before cutting into slices and serving.