“I made you a white pizza” was said by Jennifer Aniston on an episode of 30 Rock a while back. For some reason it struck me as funny and has stuck with me. Maybe because white pizzas seem a little sillyfoodie, and also Jennifer Aniston. But white pizzas are also delicious. At the time, I thought it would be an amazing blog post title. I guess I still do.
I did make you a white pizza but I was so excited about it that I forgot to take photos. So I made you a red pizza and managed to take some pictures—not because it was any less delicious or exciting—but because I had gotten over the initial shock of having made a good pizza at home.
The recipe comes from Jim Lahey’s newest book, My Pizza, which has gotten its share of internet attention. Lahey presents a technique for producing quality pies in a home oven, it involves a pizza stone and your broiler. Lahey wisely breaks down the technique to work in several different oven types. My oven managed to defy all of the instructions (I have a broiler drawer that does not fit my pizza stone and would be impossible to use a pizza peel in because the door does not fold down). I felt a little discouraged. I turned to the internet where I found a countless number of pizza nerds strategizing how to make good pie at home. Technical food talk, while impressive, makes me never want to cook again. I decided to just wing it.
Things went poorly from the start, when mixing the pizza dough. Lahey, who was so specific about what the doughs should look like in his first book, suddenly just tells you to mix the ingredients together. Huh? I wanted to know what it should look like! What does the properly hydrated dough look like? Mine was very dry and rough. I splashed it with some water. Still dry and rough. I decided to just cover the bowl with a towel and see what happened. I let it rise for 18 hours. It wasn’t quite doubled, but we were hungry. Also, a sort of crunchy skin had formed (Lahey does not have you oil the bowl or dough and does not mention a crunchy skin). I felt defeated as I formed the soft dough into balls that were riddled with crunchy pieces of crust. Ugh. Bryan encouraged me to press on.
Overwhelmed by the pizza cooking techniques, I simply put my pizza stone on the bottom rack of the oven and preheated the oven to 500°F (which I learned is more like 575°F in my oven). I let the oven preheat for 30 minutes and proceeded with the rest of the recipe as directed. I was surprised by the small size of the pies, but they grew a bit in the oven and ended up seeming reasonable if each were to serve one person. I needed to cook each pizza for 7-10 minutes using my set-up, to get nicely browned and blistered crust.
We cut into the first pizza and, holy s**t, it was good. Honestly, I can’t imagine a better pizza at home. And it was so easy! especially if you are not stressing out along the way about all of the thing that are going wrong. Those of you with broiler set-ups that align with the recipe should use them and your baking will be faster. But for everyone else, don’t feel like it needs to be perfect. Maybe in the end the brilliance of Lahey’s recipe is that it will work even if you manage to f-everything up.
Now, it is worth noting that I already covered Lahey’s first version of no-knead pizza dough on this site. I still love that recipe, but it produces something closer to a flatbread than a pizza. The new recipe makes a pretty traditional pizza pie, along with all of the requisite chew and deliciousness.
I am beyond excited by this. I always felt like making pizza at home was not worth the effort and energy expended. Now, I can’t wait to make pizza again.
- *Mise en place has never been more important. Well, that might be overstating it, but you know what I mean. Before you start baking pizzas, have a topping station set-up so you can quickly top the pies and slide them into the oven.
- *Topping ingredients need to be top quality. I was lucky enough to have buffalo mozzarella. Also, salt is important. I finished each pie with a sprinkle of salt.
- *Eat the pizzas as they come out of the oven. Do not wait. This works best for serving four people because you can cut each pizza in quarters and eat salad and olives in between.
- *Both times I have made this recipe, my third and fourth pizzas were my best. I found myself getting progressively better with each turn. So, save fancy ingredients for pizza 2-3. Think of the first pizza as a trial. It will still be delicious, but it will just get better.
- *After a couple of gos, I think that the properly hydrated dough is a little rough and shaggy, but generally moist. I needed to add an extra tablespoon or two of water to the recipe.
***I managed to buy the largest basil leaves in the world. Don’t let them fool you, the pizza is about 10-inches across.