In this series, we’re exploring various types of pizza –from crackery thin Milwaukee style pies to Chicago-style deep dish – and sussing out the secret sauce behind each one. View the full list of features in the Knead to Know series here.
Pizzas come in all shapes and sizes. But few are more distinctive than Detroit style, a rectangular pan-style pizza with a distinctive crust and a style all its own.
As the story goes, the pizza was created when bar owner Gus Guerra and his wife, Anna, took a batch of her mother's Sicilian dough, topped it with cheese and sauce and baked it in a blue steel auto parts tray. What emerged from the oven was a chewy, satisfying pie with distinctively dark, crispy lacey edges made from caramelized cheese.
What distinguishes a Detroit style pie is largely its crust, which is made with a high-moisture dough with a smooth, silky gluten structure that produces an open, chewy crumb. From there, it’s about the toppings, which are applied with cheese on the bottom and sauce on the top. A key is the use of Wisconsin brick cheese, which bakes up gooey and buttery in the middle, but gets crispy and dark around the edges. The fats from the cheese also drip down the edges of the pie, giving the bottom of the crust an almost “fried” like texture.
On top of that cheese is a thick cooked tomato sauce, which is liberally seasoned with garlic and spices and spread over the top of the pizza in thick racing-style stripes. As for toppings, pepperoni is the most common and you’ll find it either on top of the pizza where it gets cupped and crispy or (more rarely) buried beneath the cheese.
To learn more, we headed to Flour Girl & Flame in West Allis where co-owners Dana Spandet and Dan Nowak share the secrets behind their wood-fired version of the classic Detroit style pie (which they offer on a semi-regular basis. [Video: Courtney Bondar]
More Detroit style pies
Even Odds Pizza
372 Falls Rd., Grafton, (262) 376-0420
1857 E. Kenilworth Pl., (414) 276-3000
9129 W. Greenfield Ave., West Allis, (414) 831-5800
6813 N. Green Bay Rd., Glendale, (414) 533-0082
2491 N. 124th St., Brookfield, (262) 788-5007
Lori is an avid cook whose accrual of condiments and spices is rivaled only by her cookbook collection. Her passion for the culinary industry was birthed while balancing A&W root beer mugs as a teenage carhop, fed by insatiable curiosity and fueled by the people whose stories entwine with each and every dish. She’s had the privilege of chronicling these tales via numerous media, including OnMilwaukee and in her book “Milwaukee Food.” Her work has garnered journalism awards from entities including the Milwaukee Press Club.
When she’s not eating, photographing food, writing or recording the FoodCrush podcast, you’ll find Lori seeking out adventures with her husband Paul, traveling, cooking, reading, learning, snuggling with her cats and looking for ways to make a difference.