Baker extraordinaire Jim Lahey of Sulivan Street Bakery and Co. has followed up his brilliant My Bread with a pizza-oriented sequel, My Pizza: The Easy No-Knead Way to Make Spectacular Pizza at Home.
With a single recipe for pizza dough (see below) as a starting place, the book is more or less a pizza topping book, with recipes for pies topped with everything friom leek and sausage to a wintry combination of brussels sprouts and chestnuts. There are also a handful of recipes for soups, salads, and desserts, including gelato and some especially delicious-looking chocolate chip cookies.
At the heart of the book is the pizza dough recipe, which produces enough dough to make four 10 to 12 inch pizzas. Like Lahey's no-knead bread recipe, the pizza dough recipe requires a very long fermentation period of 18 hours. While this might have you thinking fugetaboutit, it's actually pretty easy to work into your schedule. And, like the no-knead bread recipe, the pizza dough requires no kneading. I tossed together the ingredients for the dough at 11:00 p.m., right before going to bed, and by dinner time the next day, the dough was ready to be shaped, topped, and baked.
For my test drive, I stuck to basics and made the Margherita Pie (recipe below), which combines dough, a sauce of raw ground fresh or canned tomatoes (I used a can of crushed tomatoes), and hand-pulled hunks of fresh mozzarella. Basil, grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, and salt are added after the pie is baked.
Lahey recommends using a combination bake-and-broil method similar to what Melissa Clark wrote about in the New York Times last year. Lahey's technique involves preheating a pizza stone at high heat on an oven rack raised up close to the broiler, and then turning the broiler on 10 minutes before you slide the pizza into the oven. This has the benefit of cooking the toppings as the crust quickly browns. In just four or five minutes, you wil produce a beautiful, thin-crusted pie with a bubbling, bursting, blackened edge that will wow you and your dining companions.
N.B. Lahey writes that you can leave unused dough in the refigerator for up to three days, but I left mine there for an entire week. Not only did it still produce a fine pizza, but the dough was actually much more pliable and easy to stretch than the first batch that I had used immediately.
Makes one 10- to 12-inch pizza
1 ball of Pizza Dough, shaped and waiting on a floured peel (see below)
70 grams (¼ cup) Basic Tomato Sauce (see below)
200 grams (7 ounces) fresh mozzarella, pulled into 10 to 12 clumps
10 grams (3 tablespoons) finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
Pinch of fine sea salt
6 basil leaves, or to taste
1. Put the pizza stone on a rack in a gas oven about 8 inches from the broiler. Preheat the oven on bake at 500°F for 30 minutes. Switch to broil for 10 minutes. (For an electric variation, see page 18.)
2. With the dough on the peel, spoon the tomato sauce over the surface and spread it evenly, leaving about an inch of the rim untouched. Distribute the mozzarella evenly over the pie.
3. With quick, jerking motions, slide the pie onto the stone. Broil for 3½ to 4 minutes under gas (somewhat longer with an electric oven; see page 18), until the top is bubbling and the crust is nicely charred but not burnt.
4. Using the peel, transfer the pizza to a tray or serving platter. Sprinkle the Parmigiano and salt evenly over the pizza. Distribute the basil on top. Slice and serve immediately.
Makes 4 balls of dough, enough for 4 pizzas
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.
Basic Tomato Sauce
Makes 620 to 800 grams (depending on whether you use fresh or canned tomatoes, which yield a greater volume); or enough for about 8 pizzas
700 grams (1 ½ pounds) ripe plum tomatoes or 1 794-gram (28-ounce) can peeled Italian plum tomatoes
20 grams (about 2 tablespoons) extra-virgin olive oil
2 grams (1/4 teaspoon) fine sea salt
1. If using fresh tomatoes, bring 4 quarts water to a boil in a 5- to 6-quart pot.
2. Cut away the dry stem area of the tomatoes, leaving the core intact. Place 2 or 3 tomatoes at a time in the boiling water for 5 to 10 seconds. Remove with a slotted spoon and put on a rack to cool. Peel the tomatoes with a paring knife.
3. Whether using fresh or canned, cut each tomato into several wedges and run them through a food mill over a medium bowl to create a pulp (not a fine puree; you want to retain some texture). If you don’t have a food mill, just squish them with your hands—it’s messy but fun.
4. Stir in the olive oil and salt. The sauce will keep, covered, in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.
Recipes copyright Jim Lahey. Reprinted with permission from the publisher.