I’ve written about pizza dough previously. Several of you have mentioned what good results you’ve had with the dough which is comprised of soft-protein flours, including cake flour. Well today I want to try an experiment. The web is presently awash in references to Jim Lahey’s No-Knead Pizza Dough. Its gorgeous siren call can be see on the cover of the current issue of Bon Appétit. The instant I saw it, I felt all Bobby Flay. This was a throwdown!
No-knead bread made a splash back in the late ’90s, just as I was finishing culinary school. I was a newly-minted culinarian who had learned the gospel of bread at the feet of Peter Reinhart. I did recipe testing for The Bread Baker’s Apprentice. The thought that what I knew as BREAD could be made without kneading was downright laughable. A good friend of mine visited a bakery in Southern California that was predicated on the concept, and she (no slouch of a baker herself) found the breads actually quite good. She brought back an article about the place for me to read. I don’t doubt that their flavor was good; it was the texture I questioned. Photos of these breads in cross-section just did not measure up to the standard I had both learned and adopted.
You can read the pizza dough recipe and the gist of the article in Bon Appétit here. The magazine article explains that the dough derives “its character from overnight fermentation, not laborious kneading.” Excuse me. If kneading pizza dough (which under my and other methods gets just enough to bring the dough together, and with a mixer at that) is laborious, what’s next? No-eat food? Forget all that laborious cooking, and just look at food. I am starting to smell snake oil.
But try it I will.
The dough needs to be mixed 18 hours in advance. 18. Hours. We have a problem. I make my own pizza dough so that I can get a better pizza than I can buy, and within a reasonable amount of time. It’s as simple as that. I do it in the space of one day, specifically about 12 hours. I mix the dough in the morning, let it proof in the fridge during the day, and have pizza that night. So, if I want a no-knead pizza at 6:00 tomorrow evening, I need to have the dough mixed by noon today. I get long-range planning; I’m just not accustomed to practicing it with Saturday night dinner. By that timing, I’m almost an hour late. I’d best get moving.
I’m going to make a half batch. Because tomorrow morning, you see, I’m going to make a half batch of my pizza dough, and as much as I love good pizza, there is a limit to how much even I can eat. I have a feeling neighbors will be involved.
I mixed together 3.75 cups of all-purpose flour, 1/4 teaspoon of active dry yeast, and 2 teaspoons of fine sea salt. To that I added 1 1/2 cups of water. The instructions don’t specify a temperature, so went with my standard of about 80 degrees.
I then mixed “the dough gently with [my] hands to bring it together and form a rough ball.” My friends, I do believe kneading has been committed. Not a lot, mind you, but I am fairly certain that a bit of kneading was required to “bring it together and form a rough ball.”
The instructions go on to tell me to transfer the dough to a clean bowl and cover it with plastic. But since they don’t tell me to oil the bowl, I simply left the dough in the original bowl and covered it.
And then I washed my hand because it looked like it had kneaded something. To be continued.