Detroit Style Pizza

I was raised on Buddy’s pizza in Detroit for most of my childhood. It left its mark on me as the epitaph “I could really go for some Buddy’s pizza right now” is still a common utterance some thirty-odd years later. I’ve always assumed, wrongfully so, that Buddy’s pizza was something that I would never be able to obtain outside of Detroit. I also deemed it impractical for me to fly up on a Friday afternoon just to go get a $20 pizza. Not that I haven’t given it due consideration on occasion and even, perhaps, questioned the value of my Delta frequent flyer miles in such an endeavor.

About three months ago, right around the time the quarantine began, my mom called me one night and said “I know how to make Detroit pizza”. She then related the story to me of how she had scoured the internet and old newspaper clippings from Detroit in the 80’s and came up with a recipe that tastes, as near as I can tell from a 30-year old taste bud memory, just like Buddy’s pizza.

Her recipe is below along with some helpful videos for first-timers. I use a rectangle 9×13 Calphalon baking pan, that used to be my wife’s for general cooking but has now been adopted as my pizza-only pan so as to avoid any contamination from other flavors. The purist in me wants to go scavenge some old automobile parts bins for the full ambiance but I’m holding out for Santa to bring me a 10×14 Detroit style pizza pan from at Christmas.

The recipe below will make enough dough for two pizzas. Much to my chagrin, we bake one pizza at a time and freeze the second dough ball for pizza another time. One pizza will feed two people. Or just me when the wife isn’t around to enforce portion control.

The Wisconsin Brick cheese is important. You can substitute other cheese types, as Wisconsin Brick isn’t readily available in most places, but you will not get the same taste. It’s possible most people won’t notice, but if you want real Detroit style pizza flavor, this is a really important ingredient.

I recommend against ordering cheese from Amazon. While Wisconsin Brick is available on the site, it is possible that you will get a substitute cheese that is not real Wisconsin Brick cheese. There are no returns on perishable food items, even if you don’t get the right product. My mom found this out the hard way.

I have had good success with Shullsburg Creamery in Wisconsin. You want “Wisconsin Mild Brick cheese”. They come in 6 lb loaves or 1 lb retail packages. The cheese will freeze fine. Given it takes a week or so for the cheese to get here, which will come via FedEx wrapped in a foam cooler and surrounded by freezer blocks, I tend to buy multiple 6lb loaves then cut them into 18oz bricks and then freeze the 18oz bricks for easy thawing and portioning.

The best instructional video to follow is from Glen & Friends on YouTube. His recipe is modified slightly based on information my mom was able to find from an old Buddy’s pizza newspaper article published back in the 80’s.

The G&F’s recipe is below along with my notes and my mom’s modifications.

Pizza Ingredients

425 mL (1 ¾ cups) 90ºF water <== The water must be 90ºF to activate the yeast and not kill it. My wife was right in this regard, I was wrong.
75g (125 mL / ½ cup) Durham semolina flour <== This is a special kind of flour, not normal flour. When shopping during a pandemic you are unlikely to find this easily. It took me three trips to Publix and Kroger before I found some.
10 mL (2 tsp) sugar
10 mL (2 tsp) instant dry yeast <== There are several kinds of yeast at the store. If you send your husband to forage for supplies, be explicit on what you want. I didn’t know what to get, couldn’t get a hold of my mom or wife, so just bought 1 of every kind they had and then returned to the mothership.
500g (875 mL / 3 ½ cups) bread flour
10 mL (2 tsp) sea salt
canola oil to oil pans and bowls
680g (24 oz) shredded Wisconsin Brick cheese <== I use 18 oz approximately.
350g sliced pepperoni
1 tablespoon of powdered milk <== This is a modification from G&F’s recipe
1 tablespoon of dry malt powder diastatic <== This is a modification from G&F’s recipe. It is not the same malt that is used with ice cream to make a malted milk shake.
1 batch of pizza sauce (see below)

Pizza Sauce

The pizza sauce I use is also from Glen & Friends. It is quick to make and I usually make it while the dough is rising in the pans and the temp is coming up on the oven. It takes about 20-25 minutes to whip up and is straightforward.

Pizza Sauce Ingredients

796 mL (28 oz.) can crushed tomato
398 mL can whole tomatoes <== I’ve been informed that we use diced tomatoes and not whole tomatoes
5 mL (1 tsp) dried oregano
5 mL (1 tsp) dried basil
2 mL (½ tsp) salt
5 mL (1 tsp) sugar
5 mL (1 tsp) granulated garlic
15 mL (1Tbsp) onion powder
2 mL (½ tsp) pepper
5 mL (1 tsp) chili flakes
Fresh chopped basil

To make it, combine all that in a sauce pan and simmer for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. It’s that easy.

Let’s make some Detroit pizza!

Here are the steps to make the pizza.

  1. Combine water, semolina, yeast, powdered milk, and sugar to the bowl of a stand mixer.
  2. Let sit for 5 – 10 mins to ‘prove’ the yeast.
  3. Mix the bread flour, the dry malt powder diastatic, and salt into the water yeast, until fully combined and a ragged ball is formed.
  4. Let rest for 15 minutes.
  5. Knead on med speed for 7-8 mins until smooth and elastic.
  6. Divide dough into two balls and place in oiled bowls.
  7. Cover bowls and let rise for 1-2 hours.
  8. Generously oil 2 Detroit Style Pizza Pans; bottom and sides.
  9. Place each dough ball in a 10 x 14 pan and press out as much as you can until it springs back.
  10. Cover and let rest for 5-10 mins.
  11. Uncover and fully press out dough so it’s all the way to edges and into the corners. Cover and let rise at room temperature for 2 hours, it will rise about a ½ way up the pan.
  12. Preheat oven to 475ºF. <== Begin cooking pizza sauce here
  13. [while sauce is simmering] Add pepperoni and grade the cheese onto the pizza or into a bowl then apply. Traditionally pepperoni is placed directly onto dough under the cheese with sauce on top.
  14. The sauce is ladled on top in two stripes either before or after cooking. <== I prefer to cook with the sauce on the pizza because I like that it gets absorbed into the cheese and crust in spots.
  15. Cook for 15-20 minutes. It’s done when you have a golden bottom crust. It should look like the following picture. Use a metal spatula, the kind you use to flip burgers on the grill, to cut slices and work the pizza out of pan.
Detroit Style Pizza

Hope this is helpful for everyone. Enjoy!

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