I’ve posted about great pizza doughs before – specifically, the best flavoured and textured pizza, which we* have tried – Alton Brown’s pizza recipe. His method requires planning a day in advance to get the full development of flavour, but it gives you a lovely crispy and chewy crust (balance of crispiness and chewiness dependent on the thickness you choose). Despite our success, however, I have not returned to this dough frequently, simply because the dough was sticky and I am not sure of my kneading and stretching skills. I am yet to see that window-pane in the dough…sigh…but it remains an aim of the family to try this again and again.
That doesn’t mean I don’t get great homemade pizza! Our (Lilandra and myself) current go-to recipe for pizza comes courtesy Rose Levy Berenbaum, author of the Bread Bible, from which this recipe is taken. RLB herself noted on her site that her recipe is in fact a no-knead dough recipe!** And therein lies much of the allure of this recipe – no need to knead, a very beginner-friendly method of shaping the dough, and a lovely airy, chewy crust. There are instructions for an overnight rise in the refrigerator, which adds to the flavour, however, I have been reasonably happy with the 2 hour prep method, which is why the recipe is on my shelf next to the Hops Bread recipe because I turn to those even on an evening after work. I suspect the flavour element is helped by the dough having the olive oil layer on the outside of the crust, which coupled with high heat in the oven results in a crispy flavourful outside, with a chewy airy inside!
The recipe makes a 10 inch pizza. My notes are in red.
¾ cup plus 1 tablespoon flour (4 ounces), preferably unbleached all-purpose or Italian-style
½ tsp. instant yeast
½ tsp. sugar
½ tsp. salt
1/3 liquid cup water at room temperature (70 to 90 degrees)
4 tsp. olive oil (this adds up to quite alot if you are making multiple pizzas, see note on Step 3)
1. In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, instant yeast, and sugar. Whisk in the salt (this keeps the yeast from coming into direct contact with the salt, which would kill it).
2. Make a well in the center and pour in the water. Using a rubber spatula or wooden spoon, gradually stir the flour into the water until all the flour is moistened and a dough just begins to form, about 20 seconds. It should come away from the bowl but still stick to it a little, and be a little rough-looking, not silky smooth. Do not overmix, as this will cause the dough to become stickier.
3. Pour the oil into a 2-cup measuring cup (to give the dough room to double in size) or a small bowl. With oiled fingers or an oiled spatula, place the dough in the oiled cup and turn it over to coat on all sides with the oil. Cover it tightly. (You need enough oil to completely coat the dough with some excess visible, so, if you double or triple the recipe, don’t use the full amount of oil in the recipe – estimate it based on your bowl and the dough, otherwise this crust/dough can get really oily)
4. If you want to use the dough soon, allow it to sit at room temperature for 1 hour or until doubled. For the best flavor development, make the dough at least 6 hours or up to 24 hours ahead, and allow it to sit at room temperature for only 30 minutes or until slightly puffy. Then set the dough, still in the measuring cup, in the refrigerator. Remove it 1 hour before you want to put it in the oven. (remember, increased dough-development time means increased flavour!)
5. Preheat the oven to 475 degrees 1 hour before baking. Have an oven shelf at the lowest level and place a baking stone on it before preheating. (my oven in Guyana does NOT get hot enough to really make this or any crust really sing! sigh)
6. With oiled fingers, lift the dough out of the measuring cup or bowl. Holding the dough in one hand, pour a little of the oil left in the cup or bowl onto the pizza pan, and spread it all over the pan with your fingers. Set the dough on the pan and press it down with your fingers to deflate it gently. Shape it into a smooth round by tucking under the edges. If there are any holes, knead it very lightly until smooth. (I just shape into a ball, the extra kneading is not usually necessary, but the oil helps with the handling of the dough) Allow the dough to sit for 15 minutes, covered, to relax it.
7. Using your fingertips, press the dough from the center to the outer edge to stretch it into a 10-inch circle, leaving the outer ½ inch thicker than the rest to form a lip. If the dough resists stretching (as will happen if you have activated the gluten by overkneading it), cover it with plastic wrap and let it rest for a few minutes longer before proceeding. (The first few times we did this, we ended up with misshapen, unevenly thin crust, with some holes. It didn’t affect the flavour or texture however awkward it looked. Once you get used to the method, round evenly thick pizzas are achievable)
8. Brush the surface of the dough with any remaining olive oil (I sometimes forget this part). Cover it with plastic wrap and allow it to sit for 30 to 45 minutes, until it becomes light and slightly puffy with air.
9. Set the pizza pan directly on the hot stone and bake for 5 minutes.( I don’t have a stone, but I manage)
10. Remove the pan from the oven and spread toppings (such as Pizza Tomato Sauce) over the dough. Return the pan to the stone for 5 minutes or until the toppings have melted and the crust is golden; or, for an extra-crisp and browned bottom crust, using a pancake turner or baker’s peel, slide the pizza from the pan directly onto the stone. After 2 minutes, slip a small metal spatula under one edge of the pizza; if the bottom is golden, raise the pizza to a higher shelf.
11. Transfer the pizza to a cutting board and cut with a pizza wheel, sharp knife, or scissors. Serve hot.
One of the common elements to be found in Alton Brown’s recipe, Rose Levy Berenbaum’s and even Reinhart, would be that pizza crust requires HIGH HEAT. Pizza ovens are to be like furnaces if you can get that. A baking stone helps with the evenness and retention of heat for the baking surface for pizza, which is why it is recommended, but don’t be turned away by its inclusion in this recipe.
Parbaking is also essential for this crust. It is light and airy, and given the no-knead method and the resulting wetter, looser dough, ANYTHING put on the crust before baking will weigh it down immediately. Trust me. We tried just brushing it with some sauce and watched it sink. Not completely, but enough. You could probably get away with a very light sauce, brushed very lightly…but definitely NO toppings.
So, from the Lilandra and Chennette family pizza-test kitchen, try RLB’s pizza dough!
* pizza is a regular family endeavour
** you can visit her site for user comments on the recipe and her responses
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