Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Jim Lahey's No Knead Pizza

I’m a pretty quiet person.

Until I talk about books and baking, bread in particular.

So it’s only natural that I love collecting books about bread. My recent purchase is My Pizza by Jim Lahey. The whole book is about pizza making. Even though I already have American Pie: My Search for The Perfect Pizza by Peter Reinhart, another perception in preparing and baking one of the most loved dishes in the world is always appreciated. Besides, what Peter Reinhart stated in his book about the quest of finding a perfect pizza has ingrained, embedded in my prefrontal cortex. There will always be somebody who makes better pizza. The thing is even though we like the better ones, we will always cherish and savor the memory of the great pizza we’ve had earlier in life. It’s like nicely behaved ex lovers, really. Except that I have no need to revisit them.

There are so many wonderful pizzeria out there, it truly depends on what mood we’re in at the moment we want them. Right now I am into Jim Lahey’s but who knows what will be my favorite three months from now? One thing I know is that even if I find another killer pizza in the future, I will always love Jim Lahey’s dough, Peter Reinhart’s, Jeff and Zoe’s from the Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day, and many others whose pizza recipes I’ve tried and tested.

No knead trick in Jim Lahey’s recipe is basically the same as in other no knead recipes except that his does not require refrigeration but if you do not want to bake all at once then you can store some of the pizza dough in the fridge for later use.

To get the crispy and charred crust, a very hot oven is crucial. Traditionally, Italian pizzas are cooked on bricks in a wood-fired oven. This ensures the crispy crust, but also cooks the rest of the pizza “properly” as well. Now a brick oven is not something one can have inside an apartment or a lawn-less house in the city, right? That is why we have baking stone. Baking stone, especially one that has been used over and over again, gives a bit of that charred flavor as well. The crust cooks more evenly and moisture is drawn out of the dough rather than steaming the dough.  But if you don’t have it, it’s okay. Just make sure your oven is really hot.

Okay.. I actually don't feel comfortable in showing you the inside of my oven. No, it's not dirty. It's just.. stained. Anyhow, that's my baking stone which has definitely seen better days. But like most of the best humans, the stained are the most interesting ones.

Okay, let's get to the recipe.

500 gr all purpose flour
1/4 tsp instant yeast
2 tsp salt
1 1/2 cup water
Note: You can substitute half of the amount of flour with wheat flour

-Mix all ingredients in a bowl, stir with a spoon, cover it with plastic, and let it sit for at least 18 hours.
It is best if you do it at night if you want to have pizza for lunch. This is what the dough looks like after 18 hours:

-Flour your work surface, place your dough on it, then divide it by four.
-Make a ball from those pieces of dough.

-If you choose to keep some for another day, a two days refrigeration will yield a lovely tangier taste, wrap the dough individually. Otherwise, cover loosely with plastic while you prepare the topping.
-Preheat your oven to 250C. If you have a baking stone, preheat it along with the oven. If you don't, preheat your oven anyway.
-Take a ball of dough and flatten it on a baking sheet however thin you wish your pizza to be.

-Slide the pizza on the baking paper with the baking paper as well onto the baking stone if using. Otherwise use any pan and bake for 5 minutes.
-Take your pizza out, put any topping you want, then bake it again until the mozzarella melts. If your using baking stone, remove your baking paper.

Drizzle your pizza with olive oil before you bake it again and after for an out-of-this-world oomph. I use my pizza peel here. That is a great tool for sliding anything to the baking stone.

Here's the result...

Would you look.. at.. THAT!

This meatless pizza is better on the palate and for your health than any pizza you would call for a hungry night delivery. It saves you lots of money, too. Of course you can have a carnivorous pizza. I would as well, if somebody would be kind enough to give me some cold cuts.

What I am asking you is to not be afraid to attempt pizza or bread baking if you don't have a baking stone. Having it is a plus, sure, but it's not a done deal. This recipe ensures you two days of lunch or dinner and what can be better than made with love made at home meals? A pair of Louboutin shoes would be the right answer but we're talking meals here.

So don't bother kneading. Just mix, sleep, wake, and bake!


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