• Let’s do vegan Chicago-style deep dish Pizza!

    July 14th, 2010mr meanerdinner pies, other, products, recipes

    Back when I was a vegetarian living in London, I used to visit Chicago frequently. On my trips I would only eat two kinds of food: Mexican (as there is no Mexican food to speak of in the UK) and Chicago Pizza (same issue). Now that I’m a vegan living in LA there’s an abundance of incredible Mexican food to satiate my love of things from south of the border, but I really do miss the tastes and textures of a thick, cheese filled Chicago pizza that’s so humongously large that it has to be eaten with a knife and fork.

    I’d made the occasional Chicago pizza with milk cheese back in the day and was repeatedly told that I’d succeeded in creating a pretty good facsimile of the real thing. When I thought about making a vegan Chicago pizza, I wondered if the recent advances in vegan cheese (particular Daiya, Teese and Cheezly) would enable a similar taste and texture to the gooey, cheesy pie that’s all too common in Chicago.

    So, I set about creating a vegan version of the Chicago favorite using the same technique I’d used in the past, but entirely vegan. To prepare a Chicago-style pizza, much of the process is the same as a regular pizza but the method of “assembling” the pie is completely different.

    First off, you have to use an entirely different type of pizza pan as a Chicago pizza is basically a bowl of dough that contains the toppings (which are more like stuffings in this case). I use a medium-sized cake dish which you can pick up in Target for under $10. This contraption is basically a dish with a removable side so you can pack everything into it ready for the oven then flip a latch to remove the sides and pop the cooked pizza out when you’re done. Chicago Pizza dough is almost bread-like as it’s crumbly rather than chewy. There are millions of dough recipes online, but I usually buy pre-made dough (Trader Joe’s has a great pizza dough that rises in 15 minutes and tastes extremely good). For a more authentic dough, I used two packages of this, and kneaded in a few tablespoons of Earth Balance to make it a little richer and creamier. This also has the advantage of “buttering up” the crust so it ends up a little more crumbly after it’s cooked.

    The first step in assembly is to grease down the pan with a mixture of olive and vegetable oil then carefully line it with the dough, making sure that it’s about 1/4″ thick and very evenly packed. Next, thinly slice enough vegan cheese for a layer about 1/3″ thick on the bottom of the pan. I used Cheezly mozzarella for this as I thought it would go nicely next to the dough. Add in enough pizza sauce to cover the cheese (I used Ralph’s store branded, but you can use anything in a bottle or can), then add a squirt or two of Sriracha sauce on top to spice it up a little.

    The next task is to thinly slice some more cheese on top of that, this time getting a layer about 1/2″ thick. As I’m making a Chicago pizza, I used authentic new Teese from Chicago SoyDairy which works really well in large quantities, in that it melts yet stays together well.

    Next up I added in some Smoked Gouda Cheezly (Chicago pizzas often have multiple kinds of cheese, so I thought mine should too!).

    Although I had a bag of Daiya ready to inclusion I halted adding it at the last minute, fearing that the texture wouldn’t be quite right.

    The next layer is some more pizza sauce with a final layer on top of well strained diced canned tomatoes. This extra topping is important, as it provides a moisture layer so that pizza inside can cook.

    Finally, sprinkle the top liberally with vegan parmesan cheese. I use “Eat in the Raw” walnut-based parmesan as it stays intact and retains its flavor in the searing heat of the oven.

    The rest is simple: Pop your pie in a pre-heated oven at 500 degrees for 30 minutes, rotating the pan a little every 10 minutes to ensure the crust is evenly browned. When you remove the pizza, remember that you have a lot of hot, steamy tomatoes in there all mixed with cheese, so resist the temptation to slice and eat it right away, or the inside will just slide out on to your plate.

    I waited about 10 minutes before I very carefully sliced the pizza into large pieces with a sharp bread knife.

    One piece should be enough for a meal, and I eat it in traditional Chi-town style: on a plate with a knife and fork. Don’t try and pick this baby up with your hands – we’re not talking about a wimpy NY-style pizza here but a real, honest to goodness, mid-western pie that’s as wide and as deep as Lake Michigan.

    For fun, you can pack just about anything into the pizza. Stuffing ideas include fresh spinach, mushrooms, tomatoes, zucchini, onions, crumbled Field Roast sausages, jalapenos, vegan pepperoni. Heck, you can even put in barbecue sauce an pineapples if you lean that way.

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