team, this pizza crust is, put modestly, amazing. the modesty continues as i tell you that i took jim lahey’s basic recipe (yes, that jim lahey *salty language warning*), and, uh, improved it.
now, before you go off thinking i’ve lost my mind and/or point out that he is a god among at-home bread makers and i have… no formal culinary training, let me assure you of two things: 1) it was totally by accident and 2) i was pretty sure i had seriously messed up the dough, right up until i tried it.
let me ‘splain.
for a long while, i was consistently using and satisfied-ish with a pizza dough recipe that the author said was a modified version of lahey’s pizza dough. and it was, you know, good, but after awhile, i got sick of it not being amazing (in fairness, i had made some tweaks over time that may have gone off in the wrong direction). so i decided to track down the original lahey recipe to see what the differences were and if going back to the source might yield a better outcome.
happy coincidence had my path cross with lahey’s my pizza cookbook a short time later and i quickly snapped a picture of his basic dough because it’s 2016 and that’s what we do when we want a copy of something.
once i got home, i eagerly tried out the pizza dough recipe. never one to learn my lesson when it comes to tweaking recipes (/isn’t that kind of the whole point of this recipe blog?), right off the bat i started making changes. by which i mean, i forgot to start the dough the requisite 18 hours before dinner time and when i woke up in the morning, i realized we needed dinner… tonight. since 9 is half of 18, i doubled the yeast so that the dough would be ready in half the time and we could eat dinner at a reasonable time for our time zone, rather than a late-ish dinner on hawaiian time.
and the pizza dough was…promising but also kind of a disaster (see #2 above). it was much more finicky and delicate than the dough i was used to working with and i may or may not have stretched portions of that first dough paper thin to the point where huge holes spontaneously appeared. but the taste (and texture, at least in the parts where there was dough, rather than hole) was a definite improvement over my previous go-to pizza dough recipe.
i had noticed when i was mixing it all together that it seemed significantly drier than the dough i was used to working with. the second time i mixed up the dough, it came out dry again. i decided to “fix” this by adding “just” a tablespoon of water, after i had already mixed in the original quantity of water. i’m sure there are serious bakers who just gasped at this BUT, luckily for me, i didn’t know that this is probably not considered a good solution… and it turned out to be so delicious! for serious. the taste. the texture. everything. all i want to eat these days is this double modified dough.
well, technically it’s often triple modified. here’s the truly weird part of my new little path to pizza perfection: because the dough is so soft, it often stretches itself out into a totally unreasonably long rectangle. the first time it did this, i just folded it over on itself because i was hungry and didn’t want to fight with it. when i discovered how even more amazing folded over dough is (what am i even saying?!), i incorporated it into my new pizza dough making routine. i went back to not folded over dough once just to confirm, and the folded over dough is definitely better.
i realize that dough with a 9-hour time frame, unconventional hydration instructions, and folding instructions as if it were a laminated pastry dough, is, at best, difficult for those who work 8+ hours a day and commute to/from work BUT i didn’t want to withhold this pizza dough recipe from you while i keep tinkering to see what happens if… i mean, at the very least you probably have a day or two off each week when you could make this dough (and if you don’t, well, you’re probably not doing a lot of pizza from scratch no matter how may hours the dough needs to rise).
so, here it is. version 1. updates will be forthcoming, as soon as i can convince myself to risk pizza perfection in service of understanding which variations work and which ones we should all stay away from. more to come, but in the meantime while you’re waiting, make this pizza dough!
- 250 g. (8 7/8 oz.) flour (i like 83 g. white whole wheat and 167 g. all purpose flour best). if you’re using solely all purpose flour, 250 g. is about 2 cups plus 1 tablespoon. if you want to use white whole wheat like i do, use 2/3 cup of white whole wheat and 1 1/3 cup + 1 tablespoon all purpose. (you will need additional flour to roll out the dough)
- ½ teaspoon active dry yeast
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ¾ cup water plus 1 tablespoon, divided
- cornmeal for transferring dough (optional but recommended)
- mix the dry ingredients in a large bowl. add the ¾ cup water and stir with a wooden spoon until the dough is as combined as possible (in a minute or less – no serious kneading necessary).
- the dough should be pretty shaggy and dry at this point. add the tablespoon of water to the ball of dough and stir until it’s mixed in. the dough will get pretty soft and wet (and you will think i’ve ruined your dinner). cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap and set aside in a warm (72° F) spot for about 9 hours.
- preheat either your grill or your oven. if you’re using the oven, set it to its highest temperature and if you have a pizza stone, set that in the oven now to preheat too.
- when the dough is ready, it will have spread out into a flat surface that is dotted with bubbles.
- dust your counter liberally with flour and have more handy to add as you’re rolling out the dough. either pat or gently roll the dough out into a rectangle(ish). the dough will be very soft and sticky and you will curse me a little bit. add flour liberally as you’re working with the dough. your dough will likely sort of accidentally start stretching out really long on one dimension – this is good. once it gets stupidly long (close to 3’), fold it in half over on itself so that you have a more normal sized rectangular pizza crust.
- if you have corn meal, liberally dust a baking sheet (upside down if it has a rim) with the corn meal. if you don’t have corn meal, don’t buy it just for this but use lots of flour to dust the baking sheet and work quickly so that the dough doesn’t turn the flour into paste and stick to the baking sheet before you can get it into the grill/oven.
- carefully transfer the dough to the treated baking sheet. if any holes appear, just mash them back together a bit and don’t worry about it too much.
- before you open the oven door/grill lid, gently wiggle the baking sheet back and forth to test if the dough is sticking to it or if it’s moving freely. if it’s stuck anywhere, gently slide your hand under the dough to release it.
- open the grill/oven and shimmy the dough off the baking sheet onto the rack or stone. if it folds up a bit and you’re able to pull it apart and straighten it out with heat resistant tongs, do it, but if the folds immediately weld together, don’t worry about it.
- bake the dough for about 4 minutes, keeping in mind that in a grill, the bottom will cook much faster than the top so keep an eye on the bottom.
- use the baking sheet and tongs to pull the dough back out of the oven/grill. if it’s stuck, leave it another 30 seconds to 1 minute. it shouldn’t stick when it’s ready to be removed.
- if you grilled the dough, flip it over so that the cooked side (bottom) is the side that you put the toppings on. no need to flip over dough cooked in the oven.
- top with your favorite toppings, using a light hand, especially with wet toppings like tomato sauce and watery vegetables like zucchini, mushrooms, eggplant, etc.
- repeat the process to slide the topped pizza back into the oven/grill and cook for a few more minutes (usually about 7 minutes in the oven, a bit less than that on the grill). if you’re grilling, remember that the bottom will cook faster than the cheese on top.
if you live in an especially dry climate (or it's cold outside and the heat is drying out the air inside), you may want to cover the dough with a double layer of plastic wrap and/or spritz the top, especially the edges, of the dough with water about halfway through the rise time.
adapted from jim lahey’s pizza dough in my pizza.