Let’s begin with an admission: I am a pizza lover. I could probably eat pizza every day of the week. Neapolitan, thin crust, toppings galore – you name it, and I’m on board. So naturally, as part of my eternal quest to find the best pizza, I figured that I should also try my hand at making it myself.
Over the years I’ve DIY’ed the pizza game with Trader Joe’s pre-made dough, Boboli pre-made crusts, and even hit up my local pizza joint for a ball of their dough, but it’s not the same as when you create it with your own hands and watch it rise before your own eyes. I’m a huge fan of Jim Lahey’s, and have been a follower and fan of his since I moved to New York City, so when I was faced with what recipe for select for the all-important pizza dough, there was no doubt in my mind that I should use his recipe. One of my favorite food blogs, Smitten Kitchen, does an awesome adaptation of his classic recipe that I selected as my pioneering pizza run, and I could not have been more pleased with the results. I did two rectangular pizzas, and did four groups of toppings so that we could try it all. One quarter margherita, one quarter white pizza with crispy kale and garlic, one quarter artichokes, and one quarter black olives. Up next: experimenting with freshly sliced peaches and ricotta on my pizza for spring. Read on for the recipe I used and some helpful tips!
Jim Lahey’s Pizza Dough (slightly adapted by Smitten Kitchen)
Original recipe can be found here.
Note: the scariest thing about this dough is that it is very, very soft. You won’t roll it out, you’ll stretch and nudge it with floured fingertips into a pizza-like shape. It will stick to things and annoy you; you will be convinced that this messy blob will never become a pizza. Do not panic. When it comes out of the oven, you’ll know why you put up with it — the exterior crackles, the interior stretches, and the flavor has the depth of an artisanal loaf of bread.
Yield: 2 9×13-inch roughly rectangular or 2 12-inch roundish pizzas. We find that they serve 4 for dinner. Dibs on leftovers go to the person washing dishes.
- Overnight Dough Schedule: Begin between 8 and 9 p.m the evening before for dinner between 6 to 8 p.m. (approx. 22-hour dough)
- All-Day Dough Schedule: Begin between 6 and 8 a.m that day for dinner between 6 to 8 p.m. (approx. 12-hour dough)
- Part-Day Dough Schedule: Begin around noon that day for dinner between 6 to 8 p.m. (approx. 6-hour dough)
3 cups (375 grams) all-purpose flour (bread flour works too)
Slightly heaped 1/8, 1/4 or 1/2 teaspoon active dry yeast (for Overnight, All-Day, or Part-Day Schedules respectively, above)
1 1/2 teaspoons sea or kosher salt
1 1/4 cup water, plus an additional tablespoon or two if needed (updated)
Toppings of choice
In a very large bowl, mix all ingredients with a spoon. The dough will be craggy and rough; this is fine, but if it feels excessively so, add another spoonful or even two of water. (See Note up top about altered water level/flour heaviness.) Cover bowl with plastic and keep at room temperature for approximately 22 (for Overnight schedule), 12 (for All-Day schedule) or 6 (for Part-Day schedule) hours, or until the dough has more than doubled. This takes longer in a chilly room and less in a very warm one, but don’t fret too much over this, as the dough is generally forgiving of a loosened schedule.
Prepare pizza stone and paddle sprinkling it with cornmeal. You can also use any old baking sheet you have around, however, based on early commenters, the pizza tends to stick to these more, so I now recommend that you prepare it by very lightly, thinly coat it with olive oil or a nonstick cooking spray before sprinkling it with cornmeal. Heat oven to its highest temperature, usually between 500 and 550 degrees F. If you’re using a pizza stone, place it in the oven so that it heats too.
Flour your counter very well. Scrape dough out of bowl onto floured counter; in the time it has risen it should change from that craggy rough ball to something very loose, soft, sticky and stretchy. Flour the top of the dough, and divide dough in half (or more pieces, if you’re making smaller pizzas). Form them into ball-like shapes. Grab first round with floured hands and let the loose, soft dough stretch and fall away from your hands a few times before landing the dough on your prepared baking sheet/paddle. Use floured fingers to press and nudge dough into a roughly round or rectangular shape. Add desired fixings and bake pizza for 10 to 15 minutes, rotating if it’s baking unevenly, until the top is blistered and the crust is golden. Repeat with remaining dough.
Do ahead: Once risen and formed into ball-like shapes, the dough can be wrapped in plastic and refrigerated for up to 3 days, says Lahey. He doesn’t say anything about freezing the dough, but I have done so successfully with others. However, if you don’t mind me being a little pushy here, I honestly feel that by the time the dough is defrosted and ready to use, you could have easily made a fresh one, so I don’t usually bother. When you’re ready to use a refrigerated or defrosted-but-still-cold dough, Lahey says that you should return it to room temperature by leaving it on a counter covered with a damp cloth for 2 to 3 hours before using it.
Meanwhile, heat oven, if you have not already, to its top temperature, usually 500 to 550 degrees F. If you’re using a pizza stone, place this in the oven so that it heats too. Add toppings to your pizza dough.
Bake for 10 to 15 minutes, rotating once if needed, until the top is bubbled and lightly charred and the crust is golden. (You’ll get better color than I did on the crust if you use a baking pan without sides, or if you bake it on the back of your baking sheet.) Slide pizza onto cutting board or serving plate and cut into squares or wedges.