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  • Megan

no knead to fret: the pizza dough everyone should try once

Updated: May 29, 2023

In this dish:

- flour

- salt

- yeast

- warm water

-olive oil

- tomato sauce

- garlic

- shredded mozzarella

- shredded cheddar

- shredded parmesan

About eight years ago I discovered Bon Appetit’s No-Knead Pizza Dough recipe. That recipe turned me into a pizza maker. It inspired me to own a pizza stone and pizza peel. Because of that recipe, I dream of someday building a wood-fired pizza oven in my backyard.

All that said, homemade pizza does not lie solely in the domain of zealots like me. You don’t need to dream of customizing your own pizza oven to get into this craft. You actually don’t even need a pizza stone and pizza peel (though if you start making this stuff with any regularity, these tools make the process much more fun).

The only thing you need to do is plan 18 hours ahead. Here’s the scoop:

DAY 1 (say, around 8pm): Whisk 3 ¾ cup flour, 2 teaspoons fine sea salt, and ¼ teaspoon active dry yeast in a big bowl. Slowly add 1 ½ cups warm water, working the water and flour together with a wooden spoon. Once all the water’s in, use the wooden spoon or your hands to bring the dough together into a rough ball. Then cover the bowl with some plastic (or the latest: earth-friendly beeswax) and let the dough rise for EIGHTEEN HOURS.

In the meantime: Watch your shows, pet your kitties, go to sleep. You need sleep! That’s one of my favorite parts about making this dough. It’s alive and growing and developing flavor while I’m completely unconscious.

DAY 2 (based on above start time, that’d be 2pm): Eighteen hours later, your dough will be full of bubbles and smell amazing (if you like that yeasty fermentation funk). Use a spatula to scrape the dough out of the bowl and onto a heavily floured surface (don’t hold back on the flour—the dough will be quite wet). Sprinkle more flour over the top of the dough before pressing it down to push out all those gas bubbles. Then divide the dough into three equal sections. Shape each into a ball, sprinkling on more flour as needed.

You’ve made three dough balls. Congrats! Wrap any that you’re not ready to use just yet in plastic and leave in the fridge. If you’re saving them for more than a day, freeze them in a gallon plastic bag. On whatever day you choose to use them, leave enough time for the dough to come to room temperature, plus about 30 extra minutes to rise.

If you’re ready to bake now, sprinkle flour on a baking sheet with no edges. Plop a dough ball (one dough ball can feed one or two people) on the floured pan, sprinkle more flour atop the dough ball, then cover with plastic and let rise for another half hour.

While the dough’s rising, heat your oven to 500°F. If you have a pizza stone, pop it in the oven so it heats up too.

When your dough ball has risen into a soft, puffy pillow, start working it into a flat disk. I do this by first flattening it with my hands and then picking it up and holding it by its edge, shifting my grip along the edge and letting gravity help stretch the dough. Then you can drape the disk of dough over your floured fists and gently continue to stretch the dough. There’s no way to get good at this without just doing it. It’ll be fine!

With your dough flattened into some oblong shape or another on your sheet pan, hit it with your toppings.* I suggest canned crushed tomatoes, some olive oil, mozzarella, and a second cheese, like goat, feta, or parm. At least, that was my starting point. Now I throw on whatever I have on hand, which usually includes onion and kale. Into the oven it goes.

Bake for about 4 minutes, and then turn your oven to broil. Leave the pizza in for another 3 or 4 minutes to get all bubbly and charred on top. Out of the oven, hit the pizza with salt, pepper, and a lick of olive oil. Let it sit for five minutes before cutting into it.

The experience might be a little overwhelming your first time around. But I strongly encourage you to give it a shot. Even if you have no desire to adopt pizza making as a hobby, I think everyone should experience biting into this crust, knowing how it all began, how it came alive in your home while you slept, and how you used your hands to coax it into its final form.

Also: it tastes really good.

That’s the scoop. To the yeast store** with you!

*If you’re using a stone and peel, I suggest par baking the crust before adding toppings. I do this so the dough-crust is strong enough to support all the toppings as I slide it from the peel onto the stone. Par bake for 4 minutes, add the toppings, then back in to broil for another 4.

**The baking aisle of any regular grocery store. Yeast stores are not a thing.


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