Cook, Pangea Kitchen
I have worked with dough for almost a decade, but I’ve never made anything quite like our Detroit-style pizza dough.
This dough takes days to make. The process is delicate — almost tedious — and it’s pretty easy to mess up. But, when it’s right, it creates an incredible pizza. It is crunchy on the outside, soft and fluffy in the middle, and has just a hint of sweetness.
There’s really nothing like it!
I became a certified Detroit Style Pizza Maker about two years ago after a pizza maker from The Detroit Style Pizza Company came to Pangea Kitchen and trained me in the art. Before that, we had been making Sicilian style pies. The Sicilian is actually quite similar to the Detroit, but for a key difference — the Sicilian’s dough is pre-cooked and frozen. Now, this pizza wasn’t bad, but we knew we could do better.
Now, the Detroit is undoubtedly more complicated to make. But, in my opinion, it is absolutely better. When I make this dough, I begin with the water. Now, believe it or not, this is the first hurdle, and it’s actually pretty easy to stumble on because the water has to be the exact right temperature. Five degrees too hot, and the yeast will activate too quickly. Five degrees too cold, and it doesn’t activate at all. This is an extremely important detail to get right. I’ve lost hours (even a full day) of work because the water temperature was off.
Once we’re confident the water is ready, we then add in a little oil, flour, sugar, salt, and the all-important yeast. Then we mix — but not for long. Just a few minutes is all you need, then you have to let the mixture sit around 15 minutes to give the yeast time to wake up. (As you’ll soon see, the majority of the time it takes to make this dough is spent letting it sit — totally undisturbed and at just the right temperature — so the yeast can do its job.)
After another round of mixing and resting, it’s usually safe to start cut, weigh and ball the young dough into the pieces that will eventually become the pizza base. This is the point where the process gets really delicate. These balls have to be rolled up tight. Otherwise, there will be a lot of air in the dough. That will kill the yeast, which kills the dough. Now, the yeast has a big job to do. Over the next 24 hours, it will ferment the dough to just the right consistency to create the fluffy texture you expect from a Detroit-style pizza. During this period, these balls have to remain in a cooler, and they cannot be touched — at all. If someone walks by and taps one, the rising dough collapses and the yeast is dead.
Like I said, this is a very delicate process.
After that initial 24 hours, we take the dough out of the cooler and let it continue to rise. By the end of day two, they’re pretty puffed up. But by day three, the yeast is slowly dying off, and the balls settle back down.
Assuming everything has gone right, this is the point we can start panning. We press the balls flat into the pizza pans — careful not to pull it and allow air to seep in. It usually takes a few presses for the dough to settle into the right consistency and at long last be ready to bake.
We make around 100 Detroit-style pizzas a day. That’s a lot of dough. So, I start a new batch of dough every morning to keep the stream of pizzas going all week long at Pangea Kitchen!