lazy pizza dough + favorite margherita pizza
Lazy Pizza Dough
I used Jim Lahey’s No-Knead Pizza formula* as my jumping off point, but then made a few changes. First, I adjusted the yeast levels to rising times that I thought would work better for most of our schedules (i.e. so you can start after dinner for dinner the next evening, before you go to work or at lunchtime for dinner the same day). Then, I adjusted the volume. His original recipe is supposed to make 4 10 to 12-inch round pizzas but I found if I 3/4-ed it, it actually made two perfect 9×13-ish pizzas (we like the way rectangular pies slice up at home) or two 12-inch rounds, which neatly fed 4 people for dinner. The proportions below are for these sizes. Finally, Lahey finds that his cups of flour weigh in more heavily than I do (133 grams vs. 125 grams), but for simplicity (they also match the King Arthur package weights, and I mostly use KA flours at home), I defaulted to mine instead. I’m sorry if that last sentence made your head hurt, too.
The best things to know about this recipe are that it doesn’t need to be kneaded and the yeast doesn’t need to be proofed. You simply dump and stir the whole mess together in one bowl (this will take less than 5 minutes of your time) and go on with your day; it will be ready when you are. If you get started with it an hour late or early on either end, you should find the pizza dough just fine to use. It rises at room temperature; it doesn’t take up space in your fridge or require time to warm up; it doesn’t need to be babysat. You can choose the schedule that works for you because it fits itself to your day, not the other way around, thank goodness.
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.
Updated with extra water: Early commenter fairly consistently said they found the dough drier than they expected, and this is my fault. My doughs were so soft with 1 1/4 cups water that I dropped it down to 1 cup + 3 tablespoons when writing this, obviously this was incorrect. Do keep in mind that 125 gram cups are light cups of flour — spoon-and-sweep or fluff-and-sweep style, and three cups packed more tightly (say, scoop-and-sweep) will indeed make the dough feel firmer. In the end, the dough should be mostly fine regardless, but I do feel that more damp doughs seem to have more of that crackly exterior/stretchy interior of dreamy pizza doughs. Hope that helps.
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.
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)
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.
About 30 minutes before dough is ready, begin draining tomatoes if you’ll be following the margherita recipe below. 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 (see below for My Favorite Margherita Pizza) 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.
Whole wheat variation: Feel free to replace up to half the flour with whole wheat without altering any other ingredients.
Gluten-free variation: Sadly, no results to report yet, but if/when you try this with a gluten-free flour mix, I’d love to hear/share your results. Thank you.
My New Favorite Margherita Pizza
2 12-inch round or 9×13 rectangular pizza doughs
1 28-ounce can whole peeled tomatoes
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon sea or kosher salt
Red pepper flakes, to taste
Pinch of sugar, if desired
8 ounces aged mozzarella (sold in plastic, not water) (use more if you like your pizza with extra cheese)
1/4 cup finely grated parmesan or pecorino romano cheese
Two glugs of olive oil
Few leaves of fresh basil, torn or sliced
Place tomatoes in a colander set over a bowl and give the tomatoes a little squeeze so they release any trapped juices. Let them drain for 30 minutes, if you can spare it. (We think you should save the reserved juices for Bloody Marys.)
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 salt, garlic, red pepper flakes and sugar (if the tomatoes taste overly acidic to you), to the tomatoes and blend in a blender or with an immersion blender until they reach your desired sauce texture. (I like it smooth, personally.) This will make more sauce than you need; you can save the remainder in the fridge for up to a week, or in the freezer for longer.
Add 1/3 cup of sauce to each stretched-out dough and spread it evenly. Tear or crumble mozzarella into tiny bits and scatter it over the pizzas. Some people like their basil and parmesan or pecorino added only after the pizza comes out of the oven, some like it baked on; I tend to add half the sharp cheese before and half after. I’ll let you decide. Finally, give each assembled pizza a quick drizzle with olive oil and bake it 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.) As soon as the pizza comes out of the oven and is still blazing hot, finish with basil and parmesan or pecorino, if this is when you prefer to add it.
Slide pizza onto cutting board or serving plate and cut into squares or wedges.
Toppings: Favorites include spinach or other greens, thinly sliced mushrooms or thin shaves of whatever vegetables are in season (cough, being neglected in the fridge). Here’s my toppings advice: Whenever you can, saute the vegetable gently in olive oil on the stove until it softens or wilts. Just a minute or two will make a huge difference in outcome. Mushrooms will be roasted, not just dried. Spinach will merge into the pizza. Is someone at the table skeptical of vegetables on their pizza? I’ve “heard” that if you lay them on top of the sauce, below the cheese, few are the wiser.
* My other influence in fleshing out some of my pizza theories listed above was a lovely book I was lucky enough to preview over the summer from beloved food blogger Molly Wizenberg called Delancey, about building the pizza restaurant in Seattle. It won’t be out until May but I loved it so much, I think it’s well worth preordering. Aren’t I pushy?
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