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One of my favorite pizza dough recipes is Jim Lahey’s no-knead dough, on which this recipe is based. It’s simple, doesn’t require any equipment, and doesn’t make a big mess. (My wife disagrees about the mess: I have a talent for covering the kitchen in flour.) I make this dough at least once a week, sometimes quintupling the recipe and saving the extra balls of dough to use throughout the week or for the pizza classes we teach.
Through the years, I have edited Jim’s original to make it my own. One change is that I use bread instead of all-purpose flour, which adds the perfect heft to your finished crust when baked at high heat in a home environment. And somewhat ironically, I actually knead the “no-knead” dough. After I incorporate all the ingredients I get my hands wet and knead the batch for 2 to 3 minutes. Without this step, I’ve ended up with dried clumps of flour in the dough. There are worse things in life, but we’re seekers of pizza perfection.
This dough is simple and foolproof—but you do need TIME. Not hands on or working time, but time for a 24-hour rising period and then a 48-hour cold ferment. That’s 72 hours total, in case you don’t have a calculator.
The first phase is a 24-hour period of allowing the dough to bulk ferment (or to rise as one unit before being divided into individual dough portions) at room temperature. Just find a spot where you can park the dough where it will not be disturbed. The dough will impart a pleasant aroma will make your kitchen smell like a bakery.
Next, you’ll portion out the dough, ball it up and store the individual portions in the refrigerator for a minimum of 1 day, but up to 10. This is when the dough will develop some kick ass flavor. The process is called cold fermentation, and it slows down the activity of the yeast to produce amazing flavors in your dough. The “strike zone” for the dough, in terms of optimal texture and flavor, is on days 3 through 5 (or, 48-96 hours after the bulk fermentation that occurs in step 4). You can take the dough out of the fridge and make pizza earlier—but the full 72 hour method is what gives it a truly memorable taste and texture.
72 Hour Pizza Dough Recipe (makes 7- 12"pies)
Recipe from Baking With Steel
1100 grams (7 1/2c) bread flour
38 grams (4 tsp) fine sea salt
2 gram (1/2 tsp) active dry yeast
780 grams or 3 1/4 cups of water
In a large bowl, whisk together the bread flour, salt, and yeast.
Slowly add the water, and mix with a wooden spoon just to combine. Once the mixture is moistened, lightly flour a countertop or large cutting board and remove the dough from the bowl with lightly oiled or wet hands (to discourage sticking). Knead for 2-3 minutes to remove clumps. The dough won't become elastic, but should easily form a loose ball.
Place the dough in a lightly oiled bowl and cover with a damp, clean kitchen towel or plastic wrap to prevent it from drying out and developing a skin.
Place on counter and let sit 24 hours at room temperature. It will double in size and you may see bubbles forming on the surface.
Lightly flour a large cutting board or your kitchen countertop, and place the dough on it. Wet or lightly oil your hands again.
Divide dough into seven equal portions and make your dough balls.
Place the dough balls into oiled cylindrical airtight containers (deli takeaway containers are ideal), date the containers, and place in the fridge for 48 to 96 hours.
Remove from refrigerator at least 1 hour before use to allow the dough to come to room temperature; this lets the gluten relax and makes the dough malleable.
One master dough, infinite variations
Peak period of fermentation: The peak period for making pizza with this dough is between 48 and 96 hours after the initial “bulk ferment,” when the dough doubles in size. (If you start the dough on Tuesday, prime pizza time will be Friday through Sunday.) Feel free to experiment with fermentation times until you find what works best for you.
Alternate liquids: You can substitute alternate liquids for the water called for in this recipe in a 1:1 ratio. Beer adds a nice, malty touch; a little milk will make your dough extra rich. If you’re feeling crazy, try something like coffee--really! Coffee in a dessert pizza crust upgrades you to a culinary genius.