I Made You A White Pizza

“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.

Some tips:

  • *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.

Recipe and full run-down of technique is everywhere, but here and here are good places to start.

***I managed to buy the largest basil leaves in the world. Don’t let them fool you, the pizza is about 10-inches across.

25 comments to “I Made You A White Pizza”

  1. long-time reader, first time commenter here to say:

    1) huge congrats on your saveur win. I am such a huge fan and was delighted to see the news.

    2) I made the bon appetit version of this crust a few weeks ago and I’m here to tell you that if you think it was insane after one day, try letting the dough ripen three or four days (per his do-ahead method). un-freaking-believable. I had a couple of friends over to help me eat the pizza (and thank goodness, because otherwise I would have been sorely tempted to eat it all myself) and one of them nearly cried. I couldn’t believe the difference the “ripening” made. the day one vs. day four pizzas were like amateur vs. professional–the day four I could seriously have been eating at Co. in NYC. the four-day ripening does require a little foresight, but it’s TOTALLY worth it!!

  2. Jenny- Thanks! and good to hear about the pizza. The future is bright!

  3. homemade pizza + 30 Rock quote = blogging brilliance. thanks for sharing your fears and foibles with this cooking hurdle; the first time I made homemade pizza i didn’t have a stone or a peel, so used the back of a cookie sheet. it wasn’t pretty, but. the. taste. makes the burned fingers and muttered curses worth it :)

  4. I first made this pizza recipe in February. I have made it no less than six times since. I had almost resorted to trying to make pizza in my fireplace (no kidding) because I was so desperate for wood fired pizza at home. Now, I don’t need to! :) I haven’t used the broiler method just a pizza stone on the bottom rack at 500 degrees. I also had a crusty skin on top of the dough a couple of times, but I just folded it in and never noticed it. Yay!

  5. Valerie says:

    May 5th, 2012 at 7:38 am

    I love Jim’s pizza recipe. I don’t have a pizza stone, nor do I know how hot my oven gets, but it comes out so well. So well. Can you share your white pizza approach? I always use red sauce. And now that I make pizza every other week I could use some variety.

  6. I also have a ridiculous oven set-up and no pizza stone, but I’ve been making great pizza from Jim Lahey’s first book with it for ages. I turn my oven all the way on broiler setting (500F) with I’m putting the pies together, and then build the pie on the back of a SKILLET. It works the same as a pizza stone. Then just stick the upside-down-skillet-with-pizza in the oven for 7-10 minutes, depending on toppings, and it is SO GOOD.

    Seriously, my friend who isn’t much of a cook came over, half expecting frozen pizza, and was blown away. I was happy.

  7. I’d been making pizza dough this way for a while (before I heard of Jim Lahey.) Then I did, and I make his bread all the time, thank you Jim Lahey!

    My little tweaks: mix the dough in the food processor–just so much easier. Put it in a an oiled bowl, and flip it around to coat the top with a little oil, cover and refrigerate. Leave it overnight in the fridge (or longer), then take it out the next day, warm it up for about an hour while you preheat oven, prepare toppings, etc. Slide it onto the pizza stone placed on the bottom shelf of the oven. After about 5 minutes, move it to the top shelf. Place it right on the rack (use 2 spatulas or a peel.) The bottom crust will be nice and crispy, the top can finish cooking on the top shelf, and the pizza stone is now free to place the second pizza. Now I’ve talked myself into a pizza dinner tonight….Thanks!

  8. YES, YES, YES, I love this dough! So amazing!

  9. From the internet comments here: http://cooking.stackexchange.com/questions/19307/how-do-i-get-a-chewy-crust-from-homemade-pizza-dough:

    “pizza dough should be quite sticky and wet, so it can bubble up and get crisp.” But “good” is good, so congratulations on what sounded like a delicious success!

  10. what a coincidence–grilled pizza last night, and last weekend. Used the Emile Henry Flame stone directly on my gas grill which gets up to 700F if you believe the thermomometer. Used rimless cookiesheet as a peel. All that cornmeal burned off quickly on the grill and didn’t fill my home with smoke ;) So if you have a grill I would totally recommend this method.

  11. First, congrats on the Saveur award. So exciting! I made two batches of this dough last week and totally agree about allowing the dough to ripen for three or four days. I noticed a HUGE difference in taste and texture with the batch that I made four days before preparing the ‘za. And if you haven’t tried Marcella Hazan’s simple tomato sauce (the one with onion and butter) as the base for a pie with tomato sauce, you must do so ASAP. Nirvana.

  12. I have been making pizzas for a while now and have never really had anywhere near the drama you had! I am a bit of a winger and I have to say that this winging thing does work too!
    The simplest pizzas are always the best and yours is superb xx

  13. Elizabeth says:

    May 6th, 2012 at 2:09 pm

    But what IS white pizza?

  14. Hey all, glad to see so many pizza makers!
    Valerie- For my white pizza I used a simple bechamel sauce as the base. I topped with a bit of buffalo mozzarella, Parmesan, and a few rosemary leaves. It was simple and delicious!
    Elizabeth- White pizza doesn’t use red sauce. They usually use some sort of creamy base, usually bechamel.

  15. Carollina says:

    May 6th, 2012 at 7:51 pm

    My husband & I are lucky enough to have an outdoor pizza oven. (You and your husband should come over and check it out sometime.) We’ve used a variant of Lora Brody’s bread machine pizza dough recipe (which she said was modeled on Al Forno’s). I have Jim Lahey’s book and am looking forward to trying his dough recipe when the weather is a little more dependable.

    PS-Congrats on the win; it’s totally deserved! I voted for you.

  16. Your pizza looks gorgeous – lovely pillows and air bubbles in the crust. I really need to get myself a baking stone – makes all the difference.

  17. Tim – You’ve almost calmed all my pizza fears. My oven is ancient and doesn’t even have a broil setting so whenever I see pizza + broil, I immediately back down and stick to my cookie sheet ways. After reading this post I’m going to buy a pizza stone, it only makes sense since we eat it at least once a week at home. My one remaining concern is about the leftover dough…can you freeze it? I generally only make 1 10″ pizza at a time and freeze the other three balls. Do you think this dough would freeze/thaw well? If not, I guess I’ll just have to plan a pizza party. Oh, and I second the Marcella Hazan sauce recipe, it’s perfection. Beautiful pie!

  18. Talley- Lahey says this dough can’t be frozen, but it can be stored in the fridge for a couple of days. Pizza for a couple of days in row? Not a bad idea.
    Yes, I love the Hazan sauce recipe too, but it is too sweet for pizza for me! I eat it regularly with pasta. It is a good suggestion.

  19. The first week of December 2011, a friend and I established a weekly “pizza night,” which we have stuck to religiously. (Wednesday is our usual evening.) At first, we tried a different pizza every time, then we started to discover favorites that deserved a second chance.

    A few things learned along the way:

    – Pizza is like Midwest casserole: a perfect place to use your leftovers. One of our surprises was “pizza puttanesca.” On a Tuesday we made pasta puttanesca (with homemade pasta, another new discovery), but had too much of the puttanesca sauce. The next day, we threw it on a pizza and Oh. Em. Gee. A favorite was born.

    – Find a favorite dough recipe (I use the King Arthur Flour recipe from their website as my base dough) and then play, play, play. No matter which recipe or variation you use, time adds flavor. Make it a couple of days (or even weeks) ahead if you can (I always make a double batch, and then throw the extra ball in the freezer for future pizza emergencies). The extra time sitting around — as when making sourdough or other slow-ferment breads — always pays off in complex, delicious flavor.

    – Never ever ever expect a specific result. I don’t care how scientific you get about it, how much data you record, how well you document and repeat your techniques, every pizza will be a surprise. Unless you’re planning to open a pizzeria and need predictable results a hundred times a night, I say *relax* and enjoy the element of surprise. I’ve followed recipes or my own notes on procedure to the letter, and had a completely different pizza from the one I made before. And therein lies the joy of cooking (at least for me).

    Enjoy! A half a year of weekly pizzas later, I still can’t wait until tomorrow night. And I have absolutely no idea what it’s going to be. (Although last week’s carmelized-fennel-and-onion pizza was a huge hit and bears repeating!)

  20. Thanks Tim! Great to know that you can freeze it. A week o’pizza also sounds hard to pass up, and might be a good opportunity to see on what day (1-4) the dough is best.

  21. I’ve been making this pizza once a week since I saw it on the cover of Bon App mag. My family is hooked. And it is so easy. We make it every thursday after going to the open market and have enough dough left to make a pie for lunch on Sat & Sun. It’s awesome, try it everyone!!

  22. this recipe broke my pizza stone during my first pie, and it looks like I’m not the only one: http://www.food52.com/recipes/16641_jim_laheys_noknead_pizza_dough . venture forward at your own risk.

  23. Chopped garlic steeped in quarter cup melted butter makes an amazing “sauce” and then top with ricotta, any other toppings desired for a delicious pizza. Basil or spinach wilted on top, fantastic! This would do two or more pizzas.

  24. I’m so hungry for this.

  25. hello Tim, what a great blog discovery! I found you through Nikole.
    I forgot about the white pizza thing, in Italy is called in that way only in certain regions, to me (being genovese) it’s either focaccia or pizza ai 4 formaggi o focaccia al formaggio! white pizza or pizza bianca is a no no from where I come! ;D The best cheese to top a pizza bianca is stracchino, such an underrated cheese outside Italy ( I live in UK and it’s hard to find), but almost better than mozzarella (especially if is not bufala mozzarella!). Anyway, I love your blog, congrats for the award, well deserved!
    PS: Beautiful wedding picture!… patience is a great virtue and in this world we need a lot I’m afraid.

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