Homemade Chicago “Stuffed” Pizza Your Guests Will Drool Over

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Here in Chicago, most of us don’t call it “deep dish pizza,” we call it “stuffed pizza.” Why? Who cares!?  It’s delicious!

What makes stuffed pizza so delicious and special to the hearts of us midwesterners is the unique buttery, flaky crust, gobs of mozzarella cheese and a thick, zesty sauce.  I grew up on it, and in my opinion it is the best stuff on the planet…besides ice cream (Ben & Jerry’s “Peanut Butter World,” to be exact).

Before you go and try to make this pizza with a regular pizza dough, do yourself a favor …don’t do it.  Stuffed pizza has a lighter, flakier crust due in part to the cornmeal and also in part by “laminating” the pizza dough with butter (I’ll explain later).

I have to be honest and admit that when I first tried making stuffed pizza, I bought pre-made regular pizza dough from Caputos.  Regular pizza dough bakes tougher and when it’s used for stuffed pizza, it makes for a hard time cutting each bite of your slice.  You end up scraping all the gooey cheese out of it to eat by itself.  And then you either eat the crust separate, or you end up tossing the entire crust.  While it tasted pretty good with the regular dough, nothing tops actual stuffed pizza crust!!  So, I highly, HIGHLY, recommend using this recipe.

All of the “oohs” and “aahs” that I’ve gotten from this pizza is enough to make it a staple comfort food in our house.   My sister even said it was probably the best stuffed pizza she’s ever had.  Did you hear that, Giordano’s??  In yo’ face!  (Just kidding – I love you.)

TIP:  You will first want to read these instructions all the way through, at least a day ahead, so you can make time for preparation and purchase the correct ingredients. 

YOU WILL NEED:  either 2 cast iron skillets (10″ or 12″), or 2 springform pans.  I prefer cast iron all the way!  I must warn you though, it is hard to cut the cooked pizza in a cast iron skillet since you can’t take it out of the pan.  A springform pan easily comes off and you can cut it easily.  You don’t want to use a rolling pizza cutter because it will crush the crust and not look pretty.

NOTE:  This is a very LONG recipe, but simple enough.  Hang in there with me. You will be glad you did because this is what you will get (yours won’t be as yellow as the one in my photo – I tried using a filter and failed miserably):

CHICAGO STUFFED PIZZA

INGREDIENTS:
Crust (makes 2)

  • 3 & 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • ½ cup yellow cornmeal
  • 1 & 1/4 tsps salt
  • 1 Tbs granulated sugar
  • 1 standard packet of yeast (not instant)
  • 1 & 1/4 cups warm water
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, divided (1/4 cup melted, 1/4 cup softened or room temp)
  • olive oil for coating

Sauce:

  • 2 Tbs unsalted butter
  • 1 small onion, grated (about 1/3 cup)
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp dried oregano (or 1-2 drops oregano essential oil)
  • 1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 28 oz. can crushed tomatoes (San Marzano (THE BEST), if possible)
  • 6 oz. can tomato paste
  • 1/4 tsp granulated sugar

Toppings:

  • 4 cups shredded mozzarella cheese (buy a block and shred it yourself, rather than buying pre-shredded – you will thank me!)
  • 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • Topping Options:  approx. 20 pepperoni slices, 4 slices cooked/crumbled bacon (2 per pizza), cooked and crumbled mild Italian sausage, thinly sliced green peppers and/or onions, sliced mushrooms.

Crust Directions:

Combine the flour, cornmeal, salt, sugar, and yeast in the bowl of your stand mixer fitted with a dough hook attachment, or food processor with dough attachment.

If you do not have any mixer, you will have to do it by hand.  Use a large bowl. Give the ingredients a quick toss with your mixer on low or with a large wooden spoon.

Add the warm water and 1/4 cup of melted butter.  The water should be warm – not hot, or it will kill the yeast.  Also, make sure the butter isn’t super hot.

On low speed, mix the ingredients until everything is moistened.  Continuing on low speed (or remove from the bowl and knead by hand on a dough mat), mix the dough until it is soft and pulls away from the sides of the bowl and falls off of the dough hook (about 4-5 mins).  If the dough is too hard, mix in a teaspoon of warm water.  On the other hand, it feels too soft, mix in a Tablespoon of flour.

Remove the dough from the bowl and form into a ball.  Lightly grease a large mixing bowl with olive oil and place the dough inside, turning it around so that all sides of the dough are coated in oil.  Cover the bowl tightly with aluminum foil and allow to rise in a warm environment for 1-2 hours or until double in size.

TIP:  If your house isn’t warm, preheat your oven to 250F degrees.  Once it’s 250F degrees, turn it off.  Place the bowl of dough inside and close the door.  The heat will help your dough rise quickly like magic!

When the dough is ready, lightly flour a large work surface.  Remove dough from the bowl, set the bowl and aluminum foil aside to use later.  “Punch down” the dough to remove any air bubbles and roll the dough into a large 15×12″ rectangle.

Slather 1/4 cup of softened butter on top of the dough, covering every inch.  This is the “laminating” part.

Roll the dough up lengthwise like a roll-cake or Litttle Debbie “ho-ho”.  Cut the dough log in half.  Form the two pieces of dough into balls and put them back into your greased bowl.  Cover again with aluminum foil and allow it to rise in the fridge this time for 1 hour until the dough balls are fluffy.  Make the sauce during this time.

Sauce Directions:

Place butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat to melt.  Add grated onion, salt, oregano and red pepper flakes.

Once the onion has browned a bit, after about 5 minutes, add garlic, tomatoes, and sugar.  Turn the heat down to medium-low and allow to simmer until it’s hearty, fragrant, and thick – about 30 mins.  If it isn’t think, keep cooking until the moisture reduces a bit.  Remove from heat and set aside until ready to be used.  (You can store the sauce in a covered container in the fridge for up to 2 days, or freeze up to 2 months.)

Preheat oven to 425F degrees.

Assembling the pizzas:

After the dough balls have risen and are fluffy, take out only one ball to start.  Roll it out on a lightly floured work surface, working it into a 13-inch circle (if your pan is 12″) to about 1/4″ thickness.

Pick up the circle of dough and place over your skillet or springform pan so that the dough is hanging slightly off the sides.

Using your fingers, gently press the dough down a little, leaving some dough hanging off the sides – try not to tear it.  Then add your cheese – 2 cups of cheese per pizza. Next add your meat/veggie toppings – except your pepperoni – you will use that towards the last step.

Then, use a knife to cut off the extra dough hanging off the sides of the pan and save. We will use it to make the top layer – just like the famous Giordano’s stuffed pizza. It’s their secret step, and what I believe makes their pizzas so awesome. (Giordano’s seals up the pie with a super thin layer of dough before topping it off with the sauce and parmesan.)

Roll a bit of that extra dough into a circle as thin as possible.  Place it over your filled-up pizza, and pinch it together with the dough on the sides to seal the pie.

Place pepperoni on top of this dough layer, then top your pie with half of the sauce. Finish by topping it off with half of the grated parmesan cheese.  Add more, if desired.

Here is a photo before it went into the oven:

Repeat steps with the 2nd dough ball in a 2nd pan.

If using springform pans, place them on top of a large baking sheet, which will catch anything that might spill over.  Bake for 20-28 minutes or until the crust is golden brown.

Remove the pizzas from the oven and cool for 10 minutes before cutting.

YUM!!:

Place any leftover pizza in an airtight container and refrigerate for up to 5 days (yeah right, as if there will be any leftovers!!!)

Reheat leftovers in a 300F oven for 15-20 minutes or until hot.   Enjoy!!!

Pleeeeeease tell me if you made this pizza, and if you have any suggestions or comments!

Blessings

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Savory Roasted Marinara Sauce From Scratch

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I have always been afraid of making marinara sauce from scratch – like from ACTUAL tomatoes.  Scary stuff.  I mean, what if I buy all those tomatoes and screw it up??  I’m Norwegian, not Italian – how could I possibly make a good “gravy”!?

While marinara made with a can of crushed tomatoes is delicious, I felt it was time I face my fear and make it from scratch.  And, of course, I also wanted to incorporate my beloved therapeutic-grade essential oils into the recipe to see how it  enhanced the flavor.

The sauce took me a few hours to make, because I took my time (and took photos as I went along), so you will want to plan ahead to make this on a day where you have some free time.  Those of you with small children are thinking, “free time, what the hay-hay is that??”  If you have small children…I am sorry…maybe you should save this recipe for another 12 years and then give it a try!  Seriously though, I think you can pull this off if you start cooking right when the kiddos go down for a nap.  I believe in you.

I will spare you the annoyance of reading each step between each photo.  I used to do that, and now understand how annoying that is!!

Feel free to browse the photos below, which are in the order of each step of the recipe.  Some people feel better if they can see how it is supposed to look along the way.  So, enjoy the beauty of these colorful fresh ingredients!:

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Garlic cloves before peeling.

Garlic cloves after “quick peel” in a jar.  I’ll explain below.

Blending roasted ingredients with basil & parsley

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I did it!  Delicious!  Roasted marinara sauce with broiled asparagus coated in olive oil, salt, onion powder and garlic powder, and unleavened whole wheat “bread” (see recipe at bottom of page) with a little shredded basil on top.

ROASTED MARINARA SAUCE

Ingredients:

  • 25 Roma tomatoes, cored
  • 2 sweet vidalia onions, quartered
  • 2 Tbs fresh chopped parsley
  • 1 shallot, diced
  • 1 whole bulb of garlic, cloves peeled (see note in the recipe for “Easy Peeling”)
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt (preferably Pink Himalayan)
  • 1/4 C sugar or “Date Paste” (See Recipe for “Date Paste” in the Pizza Crust recipe at the bottom of this blog)
  • Small bunch of fresh basil leaves
  • 3 cans tomato paste, for thickening
  • 2 drops Oregano essential oil (therapeutic grade only, with “Supplement Facts” on bottle – comment below for my favorite brand)
  • 4 drops Basil essential oil
  • 2 drops Black Pepper essential oil
  • 4-6 pepperoncinis, for a little heat
  • *Optional:  1/4 cup dry red wine, diced carrots

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 425F.

Wash and core the tomatoes.  Split them between two 9×13″ baking dishes, or put all of them in a large roasting pan.  The tomatoes can be left whole; they will break down during the roasting process.

“Easy Peeling” of garlic cloves.  Toss a few garlic cloves in an empty, clean, glass jar, screw the lid on, and shake vigorously for a minute.  The peelings should become loose so that you can just peel it off of the clove.  Don’t overload the jar, only a few cloves at a time.  Cut off the hard ends of the garlic cloves.

Arrange the quartered onions and peeled garlic cloves (and diced carrots, if using) around the baking dish with the tomatoes.  Drizzle olive oil over all and then use your hands to toss the tomatoes, garlic and onions to coat everything well with the oil.  Season everything generously with salt.

Roast tomatoes in the preheated oven for 40 minutes, or so.  The tomatoes and onions will look wrinkled, roasted, and slightly charred.  For a thicker sauce, cook longer and stir occasionally to keep from burning.

Remove the pan(s) from the oven and set on the counter to cool for 10-15 minutes. You can easily remove the tomato peelings if you want, but I left them on.

Place a large colander inside a large bowl.  Pour the roasted tomato ingredients into the colander.  The bowl underneath the colander will collect all the juice.  You need this juice for later – don’t toss it!

Scoop the roasted tomato ingredients into a blender or food processor.  Add parsley, and most of the basil leaves (save a few to shred and top your final pasta dish as a garnish).  Puree until it reaches your desired consistency.  You may need to do it in separate batches if you have a small food processor.

Put about 2 Tablespoons of olive oil in a large pot or stock pot.  Warm on medium heat, and then toss in the diced shallots.  Cook until they are soft.

Dump the pureed tomatoes, and the reserved juice, into the pot.  Season with additional salt, if needed.  Add the essential oils and any herbs you might want to add to the sauce to flavor it to your liking.  Add the pepperoncinis and cans of tomato paste.  If you are using red wine, add that to the pot as well.  Mix thoroughly.  I had to use a whisk to make sure the thick tomato paste was dispersed throughout the sauce.

Simmer on low, covered, for an hour or longer, so that all the flavors blend well together.  The longer the simmer, the better the flavors will be.  Stir occasionally so that it doesn’t burn.

Serve immediately as pasta sauce, or on homemade pizza (Click here for the pizza crust recipe that I also used as garlic bread with this meal.  For garlic bread, I just rubbed olive oil all over the dough and sprinkled generously with garlic salt and then baked it).  You will also find the “Date Paste” recipe within the pizza recipe.

Or, you can cool all of it completely and freeze it in containers or Ziploc bags for later use as a quick meal!

Mangia tutti!!

FYI – Not all essential oils are created equal.  Most oils are adulterated, contain fillers and contaminants and come from Lord-knows-where.  The oils I use give full disclosure of their countries of origin, and they are third-party tested for absolute purity.  They are 100% pure, therapeutic-grade, and extremely potent.  If you would like to use this brand, please comment below and I’d be happy to point you in the right direction.

**[PLEASE NOTE:  According to the compliance rules of the FDA, I am unable to disclose my favorite oil company’s name in the body of this blog, but you can comment below with your email address, and I’ll send you the link, along with some great educational materials on essential oils.]

Scrumptious Homemade Eggnog

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‘Tis the season for a delicious mug of creamy, nutmeg-y goodness.

I’ve been wanting to taste the difference between homemade eggnog and a bottle of Dean’s thick and creamy store bought eggnog.  I have discovered that homemade eggnog is SO. MUCH. BETTER.  The two aren’t even on the same plane of goodness.

I wish I’d have doubled the recipe before making a batch for my family’s Christmas Eve party, because it was gone within minutes.  We loved it so much that we made it again the next day.

Adding a drop of cinnamon or cassia essential oil will give it a much deeper flavor than ground cinnamon from the shore.  Cassia oil gave it an especially unique sweetness. Ahh!!  I love my oils!   Just make sure you only use one drop…they are potent and it may ruin the flavor of the actual nog should you use too much oil.

Below are photos of the process, so that you can see how it should look.  The actual recipe is at the bottom of this blog.

Here’s the recipe I used, and will be using every year from now on.  It is simple and easy to make.  Give it a shot if you have some extra time!

EGGNOG WITH ESSENTIAL OILS

3 cups whole milk
1 cup heavy cream
1 drop cassia or cinnamon essential oil (see note in red below)
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp grated nutmeg, plus more for garnish
5 eggs, separated
2/3 cup granulated sugar

In a saucepan, combine milk, cream, cinnamon oil, vanilla and nutmeg.  Bring to the boil over a medium heat. Once boiling, remove from the heat and allow to steep.

In a large bowl or stand mixer, beat egg yolks and sugar until combined and thick ribbons form when the whisk is lifted.  Slowly whisk in the milk and continue to mix until the mixture is combined and smooth.

Before serving, beat the egg whites in a large bowl or stand mixer until soft peaks form. Gently fold into eggnog until combined.  Store in the fridge for up to 3 days in a tightly sealed pitcher.  Or serve immediately.  If refrigerated, shake it before you serve it.  Garnish with grated nutmeg or cinnamon.  Serves 8.

I hope you love it as much as we did!

Merry Christmas!!

FYI – Not all essential oils are created equal.  Most oils are adulterated, contain fillers and contaminants and come from Lord-knows-where.  The oils I use give full disclosure of their countries of origin, and they are third-party tested for absolute purity.  They are 100% pure, therapeutic-grade, and extremely potent.  If you would like to use this brand, please comment below and I’d be happy to point you in the right direction.

**[PLEASE NOTE:  According to the compliance rules of the FDA, I am unable to disclose my favorite oil company’s name in the body of this blog, but you can comment below with your email address, and I’ll send you the link, along with some great educational materials on essential oils.]