Pizza made from scratch but with minimum effort: no knead dough fermenting over three days produces sublime results. Best baked on stone or steel!
This pizza will change your pizza outlook. It will change your attitude from ‘can’t be bothered to cook, let’s get a pizza’ to celebrating a special Pizza Event. It will put you off Domino’s, let alone Papa John’s, for life.
Get a baking steel if you’re serious
Admittedly, it works at its peak powers if you own a baking steel, a wondrous tool devised by Andris Lagsdin of Baking Steel website. Andris had launched the online steel shop via a Kickstarter campaign, backed by some renowned names, and now flogs them to pizza afficionados all over, including UK.
The steel is a serious matter. It is seriously heavy (16 lbs), seriously big (16 x 14 in) and seriously expensive: around £90 for the basic model.
Do not EVER drop it onto your kitchen worktop, floor tiles or toes. Make sure you have good ventilation with that big boy in the oven. Take incredible care moving pizza et al into and out of the oven or risk third degree burns.
But my word, does it make incredible pizza!
Steel aside, the recipe is genius
Still, steel or no steel (hehe), the 72-hour recipe I got out of the accompanying booklet, developed by Andris and his mate, chef Craig Hastings, itself takes you almost all the way to pizza paradise.
So don’t be discouraged if all you have is a clay or ceramic pizza stone. Just make sure to heat it up for at least an hour in the oven turned on to maximum.
How to make the dough
Even if you’re not a natural baker or dough maker, take courage: this is a no-knead recipe. The flavour and the texture develop on their own just sitting there, in the fridge, for three days.
So the only thing you need to pay attention to is to schedule making your dough well: if it’s to be pizza on Saturday, mix the dough on Tuesday or Wednesday night.
My proportions in the recipe are for 6 large pizzas, which is a good-sized pizza event, of course. If you want to start small, scale them down to:
500g flour (mix of Italian 00 and strong white bread flour)
350g filtered water at room temperature
16g sea salt
and a pinch of instant yeast
Those amounts will make 4 pizzas. But I’d recommend making the full works and freezing some shaped, unproofed dough balls for when you next crave pizza. Which will be very soon.
You can mix all the ingredients in a very large bowl with a wooden spoon or a dough whisk, if you have one.
As soon as there is no dry flour visible, it’s done; to be covered with cling film and ferment at room temperature for 12 – 24 hours, depending on ambient temperature.
After the initial fermentation it goes into the fridge for its 72-hour stasis.
The day of the Pizza Event
There is not much work involved initially on the day, either. Just dump the dough, straight from the fridge, onto a heavily floured surface and divide into 6 portions (about 200g each).
Six plastic tubs, Tupperware or clean ex-yoghurt, ice cream or similar containers lightly greased with oil inside will be extremely handy (so start saving tubs now!).
Shaping dough balls is all about tightening the outside surface so stretch and fold, stretch and fold each one until you can pinch the seam into a perfect ball. Andris has his own technique which is shown in a useful video on the Baking Steel website.
Drop each ball into a tub and leave them in the kitchen for 4-5 hours to prove, expand and threaten to escape the tubs.
You might not immediately start preheating the stone/steel but it’s imminent. It really needs to be screaming hot – this is not the time to save on your energy bills.
When it’s time to roll out and dress pizzas, I usually use squares of parchment which can be reused. Even with the use of a proper pizza peel, the dough tends to stick in the most critical moment: when sliding onto the baking surface.
Instead, I let it set for a couple of minutes in the oven and then yank the parchment out, lifting the pizza with the peel or a heatproof spatula.
The whole baking takes less than 10 minutes on the steel, a little longer on the stone, which is why it is essential to get it as hot as the devil.
I found long ago that the best tomato sauce is made very easily: by draining tins of good quality chopped tomatoes off the watery liquid.
Seasoned just with salt, plus optionally a few flakes of red pepper and oregano, it will beat all the fancy basil-infused, simmered for hours sauces made with fresh tomatoes. It’s pizza. It has to be simple, including toppings.
That tomato sauce is followed by my tried and trusted sequence of basic toppings, always in that order: grated Parmesan, a few fresh basil leaves, sparsely spread mozzarella, a drizzle of olive oil and halves of cherry tomatoes and olives.
For variety, you can dot some basil pesto onto mozzarella slices.
For meaty pizzas, add pieces of cooked ham, prosciutto, cooked pancetta, peperoni, bits of Italian nduja sausage or shredded cooked chicken onto mozzarella, before tomatoes and olives.
Always be moderate in dressing pizza: less is so much more in this case.
More pizza recipes
Pizza bianca recipe, Roman flat bread with topping of just olive oil and salt flakes. Pizza bianca is traditional Roman street food, sometimes stuffed with prosciutto and cheese.
Sicilian-style pizza cooked in a pan, with thicker, airy base and topping of caramelised onions and tomato sauce.
Tomato and cheese scaccia, Sicilian flatbread filled and folded, is as much fun to make as delicious it is to eat. See the accompanying video showing how to fold thinly rolled out pizza dough.