I like to think of Detroit pizza as the Sicilian’s chubby cousin. Not so rustic as, say, a focaccia, but not quite as soft and fluffy as a New York–style Sicilian slice.It’s special occasion pizza that’s dripping with cheese, fluffy in the middle and laced with crispy edges. This is not every Friday night pizza or you’ll soon be purchasing a defibrillator. But it is really good pizza.
And despite the decadent use of cheese you don’t need a wood-fired oven or 900 degrees to get professional quality. You do sort of need a special pan, if you want to get technical, but this simple and easy dough recipe is perfect for homemade pizza.
What is Detroit Pizza?
Detroit-style pizza has been having a bit of a moment the last few years. While there isn’t a dedicated Detroit style shop in the Boston-area, I did notice it on a few menus recently, like Portland’s Otto.
Detroit-style pizza was created at Buddy’s Pizza in Detroit, of course, more than 70 years ago. It’s known for it’s thick and crisp edges and bottom with cheese that’s almost burnt all the way to the edge. It’s baked in a dark, square (usually 10×14), seasoned pan that helps promote those crisp, cheesy edges. I’m typically not a fan of buying a uni-tasker for just one type of pizza and you can probably get away with making the pizza in something similar but the pan does really help if you’re after authenticity. Bit of a splurge, but I have the LloydPans one and no complaints.
The other defining characteristic of Detroit pizza is the toppings. More specifically, the order of the toppings. It’s all reversed. First, the optional toppings like pepperoni or mushrooms go down first on the dough, then the cheese (more about the cheese in a minute), then sweet, herbed sauce, traditionally laid down in three broad strips.
The final unique thing about Detroit pizza is the cheese. For a truly authentic Detroit pie, you need to use Wisconsin brick. It’s a young, soft cheese similar to cheddar but with a high fat content. It’s hard to find outside of Wisconsin. You can order it online but you are going to pay unless you’re buying a lot. Via Serious Eats, the best combination of supermarket cheeses to try to replicate the buttery flavor of the brick is low-moisture mozzarella and Jack.
Based on my favorite no-knead, no-stretch dough from Serious Eats, this high-hydration dough for the Detroit pie comes together quickly in the food processor and barely needs any stretching to get it to fit all the way into the corners of the pan.
Two to three hours after making it, you’re ready to top and put it in the oven.
Typically, I like to keep any red sauces for pizza very simple. Whole tomatoes, crushed by hand, some fresh garlic, salt, maybe a little sprinkling of herbs. The Detroit sauce is a little more involved. The Detroit pie calls for heavily seasoned crushed tomatoes, maybe to stand up to all the cheese and rendered fat.
I use minced fresh garlic, a little pinch of pepper flakes, and a good amount of dried oregano sautéed in extra-virgin olive oil before adding tomatoes. Finish the sauce by adding a small dash of garlic and onion powder and a bit of sugar. Let is simmer down and reduce while the dough is proofing.
- 10 1/2 ounces bread flour
- 1 1/2 teaspoons instant yeast
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 8 ounces lukewarm water
- olive oil, for greasing the pan
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 teaspoons dried oregano
- Dash red pepper flakes
- 1 (28-ounce; 800g) can crushed tomatoes
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon (onion powder
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- Kosher salt, to taste
- Combine flour, yeast, and salt in the bowl of a food processor and pulse to combine. Add water, then turn on processor and process until dough comes together in a shaggy ball, about 20-30 seconds. Continue processing for 20-30 seconds longer.
- Form into a tight ball by pulling the sides up and over, giving a quarter turn and repeating.
- Transfer dough to a bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and set aside in a warm place until dough has roughly doubled in volume, about 2 hours.
- Add a couple tablespoons olive oil in the bottom of your pan. Transfer dough to the pan and turn to coat in oil. Lightly press down on dough and spread it toward the edges. Spread it as much as you can without tearing. It probably won't go all the way to the edges. Cover in plastic or a kitchen towel and set aside for 30 minutes to allow dough to relax.
- Adjust oven rack to lowest position and preheat oven to its highest setting. Heat olive oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat until shimmering. Add minced garlic, oregano, and pepper flakes and cook about 30 seconds. Add tomatoes, garlic powder, onion powder, and sugar. Bring to a simmer and cook until reduced to about 3 cups, about 30 minutes. Season to taste with salt.
- After 30 minutes, return to the dough, stretch it out again. It should reach the edges this time. If not, let it rest a little more and try again.
- Once dough is stretched to the corners, it's time to top. Lay down any toppings first and then the cheese, spreading all the way to the edges. Finally layer on the sauce in three even rows.
- Bake until edges are dark brown-to-black and bubbly and the cheese on top is starting to brown, 12 to 15 minutes.
- Remove from pan with a thin spatula, cut, and serve.