I have quite a collection of pizza dough recipes, but somehow, I’ve never made this dish at home. It’s something that I always prefer to eat out, at places where they have the high-burning ovens that create that crisp-chewy crust, preferably with some char on the top edge. Last night, that changed. I whipped up a batch of Jim Lahey’s No-Knead Pizza Dough from this month’s Bon Appetit magazine and invited some friends over to sample the results.
Four ingredients and a bunch of time, as with his No-Knead Bread recipe, that’s all it takes to make this dough. Plan to start this recipe a day before you want to serve the pizzas.
The water needs to be at least warm. Boiling hot water will kill the yeast and water that is too cold will not activate its chemical properties. I’ve messed up yeast before, so I’m always a bit intimidated by working with it.
The dough just needs to come together before it has to sit for a while. It will not look like much, but this is only the first stage of the process.
After about twenty hours, this was the result, all bubbly and risen high. I let the dough sit a bit longer as my kitchen temperature was a bit cooler than that stated in the recipe instructions. Also, note that the top is a bit dry, which is an error that I made in prepping it. I should have left plastic wrap on top instead of covering the bowl with a towel.
It took a bit of work and a bunch more flour to get the dough divided up into rounds for the second stage of the rising process. Still, I think they look kind of beautiful, don’t they?
While the dough was in its last rise and the oven was heating up, I pulled together some toppings for the pizzas, so that when my guests arrived, we could put everything together.
I decided to go with rectangular-shaped pies, as I don’t have a pizza stone. The dough was still really sticky when I tried to shape it, so I just worked with it the best I could. The baking sheet was lightly greased with olive oil before I put the dough on it, in the hopes that the bottom would get extra crispy. Then, my friends joined in to pile on their choices of toppings. As it was a Lenten Friday, with some of the group observing dietary restrictions, we split the pizzas up into all-veggie and meat-eater friendly.
Of the six rounds of dough, we devoured four. A salad on the side and a couple of desserts, including this Torta al Cioccolato, made of the rest of the meal, along with a few bottles of wine and beer. It was definitely a casual, relaxed, hang-out kind of Friday night with topics ranging from Downtown Abbey to the Oscars to jobs to dating.
The pizzas were a hit, with a couple of my friends completely shocked that this was my first attempt to fix them at home. They were the perfect group dinner: easy to prep, cook, and serve, even with the staggered arrival times of my guests. Although the smoke detector went off twice, as my apartment isn’t really ventilated appropriately for high-heat cooking, I would certainly make these again. Maybe, someday, I’ll even get to prepare them in my own backyard Italian pizza oven.