Jim Lahey's no knead bread. His no knead pizza dough is also great and what makes it so easy is that you put the ingredients together the night before and that's it. And 18 hours later home after work you turn on the oven and you're making pizza! Yes, it's that simple.
Photo: Plain dough with Celtic Sea Salt, Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Fresh Black Pepper and Grana Padano
I've been working on a dough made with a starter, my uncles 35 year old starter. Call it a Biga, a French Poolish, or a Sourdough Starter they are all Pre-ferment also known as 'mother dough'. They're all slightly different and you can read more about them by clicking on the links, but they all require time to ferment, which can be 30 minutes to 3 days. It's this fermenting process that gives the final product it's unique taste and flavor ~ it's all based on chemistry to activate and increase the enzymes. It's all about the process of getting back to basics. The way all bread products used to be made before the development of "additives" which speed up the enzyme process enabling companies to make more in a shorter period of time. (Unfortunately most of the additives are harmful to humans in some way) Which is why we're getting back to basics and doing things the "old fashioned" way and still saving you time and money!!! Hahahaha I sound like an advertisement. Well maybe this should be the ad for my "Uncles Starter" You too can own a piece of my sourdough! Please contact me for shipping details.... firstname.lastname@example.org
I've spent a lot of time researching and experimenting with different proportions for my pizza dough. And I'll tell you it doesn't always come out right. That's why when O & I make pizza for 4 or 5 I make enough dough for 10. Luckily you can buy 5 pounds of flour anywhere from $1.39 to $4.99 making it between $0.29 and $1.00 a pound.
Keep in mind the past 2 years have taught me a lot. The most important thing I've learned is that the dough is always different and it's alive. I find it very easy to make dough in the summer but my apartment is very cold in the winter and it can take up to 8 hours for my dough to come to room temperature. Sometimes it's very disappointing. So it's important that you know and love your dough, have patience with it keep it cool or warm as needed and don't forget about the humidity.
Una Pizza Napoletana fame, now on 11th Street and Howard in San Francisco. Actually I'd really love to meet Anthony and make my pizza for him in his oven.
Photo: Caramelized onions, green olives, sweet fennel sausage and no cheese!!
New York has so many pizza places claiming to be the best. Everyone from Patsy's & Lombardi's to Keste & Motorino. including the top 10 Pizzas from 2009 so I don't leave anyone out. I've had pizza at Keste, Motorino, Patsy's and at Una Pizza (before they moved to San Francisco). I'm now at the point that unless I'm with a group eating pizza I don't need to go out for pizza anymore. I make the best pizza I've ever eaten, and I'm making it at home! Of course it helps to buy great ingredients like mozzarella, grana, and ricotta from Dipaolo's at 200 Grand Street and the best sweet fennel sausage from Faiccos Pork Products next to Murray's on Bleecker street. though the sweet sausage at Eataly on 23rd & Fifth is quite good and I recommend a trip there.
So to get started first you must have some sourdough starter. Then you must feed it by following the directions and letting it sit until the foamy bubbles come to the top. This can take anywhere from a few hours in the hot weather to over night in the cooler months.
Then you must have a recipe. The recipe I'm about to give you requires you to have a pizza peel and a pizza stone (and your ingredients of course). Get the best stone you can and if you can't find one you like put some unglazed terracotta tiles in a sheet pan). Place the stone on the floor of your oven (hopefully the heat is coming from the bottom and it's not electric). Don't be discouraged if you have an electric oven. I have made this dough in several different locations, different ovens, different seasons and with children who didn't follow the instructions to the letter. Every time it is different but it's also been great fun and better than 99% of the pizza out there. (I'm not modest when it comes to my pizza!)
I am using the following recipe with some variations depending on the ambient temperature. I take out my scale (Oh Yes, You Must Have a Scale one that registers both grams as well as ounces), and put the mixing bowl on it then tare it out. (that is to zero it). I prefer a digital scale but use what you have.
I want to post this now so keep in mind I may be making some adjustments to the procedure. Sometimes reading what you've written several times isn't enough and over time you find things that need correcting. So if you notice anything or have any questions, please, email me or call!
Combine the ingredients in a stand mixer bowl and mix until the flour is all wet. Let the dough sit for 20 minutes. and then in the mixer mix "knead" the dough for 6-8 minutes. At this point you may notice your dough is a little too wet or too dry. Too dry is obvious the dough will not pick up all the flour and you might need to add a little water an extra tablespoon at a time. Too wet it doesn't hold together so add some extra flour. You will have to make the decision as to how much and experiment as to the right consistency. (If you don't have a stand mixer then choose a different recipe, one that contains yeast)
The Basic Recipe
250 ml cool to room temperature water
14 grams of sourdough starter (it's easier to use grams when using small amounts)
400 grams of all purpose or bread flour
2 teaspoons sea salt.
Once the dough has been kneaded cover it with plastic and put it in the refrigerator for 3 days. Yes you heard me right 3 days. On the morning of the third day, this would also be the day you're going to make pizza for dinner. Take the dough out and divide it into 3 pieces shaping each one into a nice ball. You can use some flour if you need. Then sprinkle some flour down place the dough on the flour and cover with plastic or place in a covered plastic container.
If it's summer and very warm out put the dough back into the fridge and remove it about 4 hours before you're going to cook it. If its winter and very cold in your apartment you can take the dough out as late as noon. This is all assuming you're going to be making the first pizza around 7pm.
Heat your oven to 550 degrees or the highest temperature it will go up to for 1 hour before your dough is ready. Have all your ingredients near by and cheese cut to size.
Using your hands just like you've seen the pizza guys start to stretch your dough.You can use extra flour but try only to add what you need. Be gentle with your dough it might be very soft and tear when you stretch it or it might toughen and spring back. If it's tough just let it rest for a moment until it's pliable again.
Sprinkle some flour on your pizza peel (so you can slide it into your oven onto your pizza stone). Leave it alone for about 2 minutes then check it. Turn it if you can and let it cook until the toppings bubble and the sides and top start to brown. This might take anywhere from 3-5 minutes, just don't let it burn.
You may notice the top of the dough doesn't get much color. This is related to the temperature and a home oven. I have on occasion gotten more color on top and you can experiment by moving the pizza off the stone etc. But the only way to truly get color on the top is to have a pizza oven that can get up to over 800 degrees F and that's not happening in your GE home oven. Don't let that bother you, the pizza will taste amazing just the same.
Yes you too can make the best pizza you ever had at home!
Have Fun & Enjoy!