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72-hour pizza

Sat, 10 September, 2022

Pizza made from scratch but with minimum effort: no knead dough fermenting over three days produces sublime results. Best baked on stone or steel!

72 hour pizza

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!

pizza from scratch in 3 days

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. I only tweaked it very slightly, adding oil and sugar to the dough. Even with the baking steel, it takes longer for the pizza to cook in  home conditions and oil stops the crust from drying out too much over those interminable five to six minutes. As compared to one or two in a wood-fired ovens in Naples.

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, top and bottom heating elements on.

the best pizza in the world

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

1 tbsp olive oil

1 tsp sugar

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.

mixed pizza dough

After the initial fermentation it goes into the fridge for its 72-hour stasis.

fermented dough

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.

shaping dough balls

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.

risen dough balls

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.

rolling out pizza

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.

seventy two hour pizza

The toppings

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.

the easiest pizza sauce

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.

building pizza

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.

pizza baked on steel

72-hour pizza

Servings: makes 6 large pizzasTime: 72 hours


  • For the dough:
  • 350g Italian 00 flour
  • 400g strong white bread flour, more for dusting
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • ¼ tsp instant yeast
  • 525g filtered water at room temperature
  • 24g fine sea salt
  • 3 tbsp olive oil, plus more for brushing
  • For the basic topping:
  • 2 x 400ml tins good quality chopped tomatoes
  • 1 tsp salt
  • a pinch of oregano
  • a pinch of red pepper flakes
  • 10-12 cherry tomatoes
  • salt
  • 500g cooking mozzarella
  • 30g (6 tbsp) grated Parmesan
  • 1 bunch fresh basil
  • olive oil, for drizzling
  • a handful of pitted olives
  • basil pesto (optional)


1. Prepare the dough between 72 and 96 hours (3-4 days) before you intend to bake the pizza.

2. Stir both flours, the sugar and the instant yeast in a very large bowl. Dissolve the salt in the water in a jug or another bowl, add the oil and pour into the flour mix.

3. Mix with a wooden spoon or a dough whisk, then briefly knead with your hands to obtain sticky, rough dough with no dry flour visible.

4. Transfer it back into the large bowl, cover with cling film and leave in the kitchen for 12-24 hours. After that time, place it in the fridge for 2-3 days.

5. On the day of baking remove the dough from the fridge about 6 hours ahead of going in the oven. Turn it out onto a floured surface and divide into 6 pieces, about 215g each.

6. Prepare 6 x 300ml or larger containers with lids, or bowls and cling film. Brush or spray them with olive oil.

7. Shape the pizza balls by folding the dough pieces onto itself with heavily dusted hands, until you have taut, smooth balls. Pinch and seal the seams and drop them into prepared tubs. Cover with lids or cling film and leave at room temperature for 4-5 hours.

8. To prepare the tomato sauce, line a colander set over a bowl with muslin cloth. Spoon the chopped tomatoes onto it and leave to drain for at least 30 minutes. Scrape it into a bowl and stir in the 1 tsp salt, oregano and pepper flakes.

9. Halve the cherry tomatoes crosswise, sprinkle with salt and set, cut side down, on several layers of paper towels.

10. If using mozzarella balls in water, drain them and squeeze out as much moisture as possible by wrapping them in paper towels. Dry a mozzarella block as well if using, before slicing or shredding.

11. Preheat the oven to maximum temperature, top and bottom heating elements, and place the pizza stone or a baking steel on a rack set at the middle position. It needs to heat up for at least 1 hour.

12. One at a time, turn out the pizza balls onto a floured surface and stretch or roll out, dusting with more flour, until very thin. Transfer it onto a floured sheet of parchment.

13. Spread the dough with tomato sauce, then sprinkle with Parmesan. Dot with basil leaves, then tear or slice the mozzarella and arrange over the pizza without crowding it. Drizzle a little olive oil. Dab the cheese with a little pesto, if using, and arrange tomato halves and olives around, sparsely. You can prepare the next pizzas at this stage, each on a floured sheet of parchment.

14. Using a pizza peel or a rimless baking tray slide the pizza onto the baking stone or steel. After a minute, very carefully, pull the parchment from underneath the pizza, lifting the base gently with a spatula. Bake for about 10 minutes on the stone and 5 minutes on the steel, or until the cheese is bubbling madly and the edges are scorched and charred.

15. Remove the pizza from the oven using the peel or the baking tray and the spatula. Place it on a wooden board, slice with a pizza wheel and enjoy.

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