Thursday, February 16, 2012

First time's a charm with no-knead pizza

There is a curious temptation in things that are offered but vanish before you stake your claim. We've all had the experience staring down the last cookie on the plate, telling yourself you don't want it, or you'll save it for later -- until someone snatches it and you're sorry.

I felt that way when Food52 posted Jim Lahey's no-knead pizza dough as part of its Genius Recipe series, only to take it down following a request from Lahey's publisher, who understandably didn't want it circulating in advance of the release of My Pizza in March.

Before the post went dark, one reader slyly note that it can be found elsewhere, notably at Tasting Table, which posted it two years ago. It's reportedly been amended since then, but given the buzz it's generated  -- and Lahey's broad acclaim since his no-knead bread was first blessed by Mark Bittman in 2006 -- I figured it was worth a try.

It was. It's simple and, though you need to start the process the day before you bake, virtually hands-off until it's time to pat the sticky dough into shape. We made four personal-sized pizzas tonight -- two with arugula-pine nut pesto, a lucky leftover from Molly Steven's salmon entry in All About Roasting, and two with spoonfuls of Classico Creamy Alfredo lightly streaked with pesto. Both were topped with slices of fresh mozzarella and a scattering of home-canned tuna. Just before serving, sprinkle lightly with Maldon or other top-quality sea salt.

I couldn't resist tweaking the recipe linked above, so I used two cups of AP flour and one of white-wheat flour. I also substituted 2/3 cup of the water with leftover whey from my last batch of labneh, which imparted a mild but appealing tang.

The dough did not rise as much as I expected and, true to virtually every reference to the recipe I've seen online, it was wet and sticky. Given how much flour gets worked in at the end, I think I'll add an extra tablespoon or two on the front end next time.

While the linked instructions don't provide precise cooking directions, I preheated the oven to 500 degrees for about 40 minutes to let my pizza stone and a heavy comal get good and hot. I pressed the dough into shape atop parchment paper, which made transfer to the oven simple. The pizzas cooked on the stone were golden brown and crisp in seven minutes, but the pies baked on the comal were still a bit wet in the middle. If you've got a stone, this is a good time to use it.

Graham, who favors zpizza's cheese pizza dotted with fresh ricotta, declared them both a success -- and even preferred the pesto pizza.

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