Photo Credit: Reprinted from My Pizza by Jim Lahey with Rick Flaste. Copyright 2012. Photos copyright 2012 by Squire Fox. Published by Clarkson Potter/Publishers, a division of Random House, Inc
Pizza Night occurs about once a week at our house. It’s cheap, easy to make from scratch and never gets boring because I vary the toppings from week to week, occasionally rerunning old favorites (spinach/curry powder/feta cheese; tomatoes/olives/goat cheese; pesto/ricotta/roasted tomatoes). Best of all, one pizza leaves my husband and me with leftovers for lunch the next day.
The downside of Pizza Night is that my pizza dough ranges from crispy-chewy-delicious to soggy-spongey-meh. I used to blame my 1960s-era gas oven, but after trying the pizza dough recipe from the new cookbook My Pizza, I now blame my old recipe.
Written by Jim Lahey, the genius baker behind New York’s Sullivan Street Bakery and pizza restaurant Co., My Pizza follows Lahey’s no-knead bread making formula, which became an Internet sensation back in 2006, after The New York Times wrote an article about it. People loved the recipe for its simplicity and no-fail results, and the method is the same for making pizza: you simply combine flour and a little yeast with water, mix it together, then let it rise for about 18 hours. Like Tom Petty says, the waiting is the hardest part.
When the dough is finished rising, you gently form it into a ball then stretch it out into a round shape. After you add your toppings, the pizza is cooked on a preheated pizza stone in a blazing hot oven. This is another reason why Lahey's recipe works so well: the preheated pizza stone crisps up the bottom of the pizza. The only trick is that you need a pizza peel to safely slide your rolled-out dough onto the extremely hot stone.
While the dough's rising time is long, the cooking time is short, less than 10 minutes for most pizzas. The result? A wonderfully chewy yet crisp-around-the-edges pie. And that’s just the crust – My Pizza is full of imaginative toppings like leeks and sausage, ham and peas (shown above) and corn and tomato. But don't worry, picky eaters -- plain old cheese and tomato sauce will work too.
The only downside to his technique is that you need to plan ahead. But it’s a great weekend project that will set you up for pizza deliciousness on a busy weeknight, when a 10-minute dinner is a little slice of heaven.
500 grams (17 ½ ounces or about 3 ¾ cups) all-purpose flour, plus more for shaping the dough
1 gram (1/4 teaspoon) active dry yeast
16 grams (2 teaspoons) fine sea salt
350 grams (1 ½ cups) water
1. In a medium bowl, thoroughly blend the flour, yeast, and salt. Add the water and, with a wooden spoon or your hands, mix thoroughly.
2. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap or a kitchen towel and allow it to rise at room temperature (about 72°F) for 18 hours or until it has more than doubled. It will take longer in a chilly room and less time in a very warm one.
3. Flour a work surface and scrape out the dough. Divide it into 4 equal parts and shape them: For each portion, start with the right side of the dough and pull it toward the center; then do the same with the left, then the top, then the bottom. (The order doesn’t actually matter; what you want is four folds.) Shape each portion into a round and turn seam side down. Mold the dough into a neat circular mound. The mounds should not be sticky; if they are, dust with more flour.
4. If you don’t intend to use the dough right away, wrap the balls individually in plastic and refrigerate for up to 3 days. Return to room temperature by leaving them out on the counter, covered in a damp cloth, for 2 to 3 hours before needed.
Note: Don’t freeze the dough, but you can store it in the refrigerator, wrapped in plastic, for up to three days. In effect, when you’re set to use it, you have your own ready-made dough.
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