Pizza Pizza

Pizza has single-handedly transformed our food life over the last couple of months. We’ve gone from a diet of vegetables and meat served over pasta to a diet of vegetables and meat served on bread, occasionally mixed with vegetables and meat rolled into a burrito. But vegetables mean variety, and the more vehicles you have for delivering them, the more exciting your menus seem.

For us, the revolution started with the amazing chicken liver pizza I made in June. But the dough, though excellent, was a barrier. Like most of us, I don’t have the time or the patience on a weeknight to wait for all that rising and resting.

That’s where five-minute no-knead boule dough comes in. Quietly gurgling away in the fridge most days of the week, this dough is ready to leap into action whenever pizza is called for. You just pull off a chunk, roll it out, and have homemade pizza in just a little more time than it takes for the oven to heat up.

Be forewarned that if you are a pizza snob, you won’t find perfection in this crust. It lacks the tender softness of the best doughs and often veers too far into the realm of the crispy. But if you are looking for a quick and better than average supper on a pretty darn good crust, this dough is your faithful friend.

A side note: Don’t be intimidated by the amount of writing in the recipe below. It takes only a couple of times through to get the technique down and do it from memory.

Here’s the basic dough recipe again.

Five-Minute No-Knead Boule Dough

NOTE ABOUT FLOUR: The important thing is not so much the amount of flour but the final consistency of the dough. The range given here should allow for the many different types of flour you might use at home. Note that bread flour will also work in this recipe. The amount used will tend toward the lower end of the range.

6 1/2 – 8 c. unbleached all-purpose flour
3 c. lukewarm water (test on the inside of your wrist)
1 1/2 tbsp. yeast
1 1/2 tbsp. kosher salt

Add yeast and salt to water in a 5 quart bowl and stir. Add 6 1/2 cup flour with a wooden spoon and stir until uniformly moist. Dough should be soft and conform to container. If it is too thin (e.g., the consistency of thick cake batter), add more floor until it just holds together into a ball but is still soft. Cover loosely with towel and let rise at room temperature until it begins to collapse or flatten on top, 2 – 5 hours. At this point you can refrigerate dough in lidded but not airtight container for up to two weeks. (Refrigerated dough is easier to work with.)

Topping Preparation

Have toppings prepared and oven preheated before working with dough.

It’s a good idea to roast vegetables that are “wet” ahead of time (squash, broccoli, zucchini, etc.)–and all other vegetables are good roasted as well. To roast, cut up vegetables to desired size and put in a bowl. Add a couple of teaspoons of olive oil, salt and pepper. Scatter over cookie sheet and place under broiler, on top rack, on high for 10 – 15 minutes, stirring frequently. Watch carefully to avoid burning. Vegetables are ready when they have begun to brown.

Here are some favorite combinations we’ve tried lately.

Anchovies, onions, chopped fresh cayenne or other pepper, and a mix of gorgonzola and cheddar cheeses

Roasted squash, onions, garlic, red pepper, and Parmesan cheese

Sliced leftover steak, chopped fresh jalapenos, onions, and white cheddar cheese

Baking

Place baking stone on bottom rack of oven and preheat to hottest temperature possible. (In the case of my oven, this is 550 degrees.) Sprinkle cornmeal on pizza peel. Dust a rolling surface with flour. (I use a non-fuzzy kitchen towel.) Dust your hands with flour and pull off a piece the size of a small grapefruit. For very thin crust, pull off a smaller piece; for thicker, pull off a larger one. Sprinkle dough with flour and roll out to desired size.


Rolling out pizza dough. If you’d seen my hair in the original photo you’d understand why I cropped my head off.


Transfer dough to peel and repair damage than will inevitably ensue until you get more practice. Make sure there are no holes in the crust and that the shape roughly conforms to what you imagined (e.g., round or square). Brush surface of crust with a tablespoon or so of olive oil. If using tomato sauce, spread sauce over surface. Add toppings.

Slide pizza onto baking stone–a few forward shakes, and pretending that you are trying to pull a tablecloth out from under a table loaded with dishes, might help. And remember that even disasters like this still taste good.

If you don’t have a pizza peel or a baking stone, transfer the pizza dough to a cookie sheet, add your toppings there, and cook on the bottom rack of the oven.

Bake for 8 – 10 minutes. Add cheese toppings. Bake 2 – 3 minutes more. Remove from oven and let cool a few minutes before slicing and serving.

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