Cambridge pizza comes in from the cold

Home-delivered pizza in Cambridge, UK, tends to be mass-produced/commercial (Pizza Hut and Domino’s are taking over the world), or downright weird: really, tuna and corn? And the only dough or shells available are either ridiculously overpriced or laden with creepy chemicals. You can’t go to your neighborhood pizzeria and grab a blob of dough for a buck and a half, or even a pound; they’d just look at you funny.

So because of all that it’s been good to have an excuse to work on crusts. I’ve played with recipes from Alice Waters and Dan Lepard and have gotten incrementally better results each time in terms of flavor, texture, and – a repeated bugbear – ease of dough-handling. One recipe others on Serious Eats swore by had me swearing as well – and not in a good way; this was particularly galling to me at a time when my other bread efforts were paying attractive dividends.

Finally, a beautifully geeky recipe from Slice’s brilliant J. Kenji Lopez-Alt involving cold fermentation produced crust nirvana. I started the dough on Saturday evening, went off to Manchester the next morning for two days, and on Tuesday evening set about making pizza. A few important points: I was happy to use some Tipo 00 flour I had in the house. For Kenji’s kneading instructions I substituted Dan Lepard’s, which involves three cycles of kneading for 10-12 seconds followed by a 10 minute rest; sounds weird, but it works. I now use it in any bread recipe involving yeast or sourdough for which hand-kneading is an option. And I hesitate to admit that I may or may not have tossed a dollop of sourdough in with my dough – I simply can’t remember.

Anyway, the results were great; I’ve never had an easier time working with pizza dough. I took the dough out of the fridge , cut it into four individual pizza-appropriate volumes, rolled them into tidy balls, and after letting those rest for 10 minutes, easily coaxed two of them into circles. They didn’t spring back annoyingly upon contact with dusted flour, and obligingly stretched on a flat surface through hand-pressure – with a bit of rolling to get them evenly thin – and, miraculously, produced the exalted windowpane thinness in the middle without tearing. I was happy not to have to fall back on baking paper for easy transport. The constructed pizza slid easily from the back of a nonstick baking tray.

The oven was cranked to 550°F (225°C), or as high as I could get it, really, and the pizza stone was on the middle shelf. I missed the instruction in Kenji’s recipe about using the broiler, but it didn’t matter; I didn’t get the small, black blistering, but the texture of the crust was otherwise perfect: crisp then chewy around the edges, with no breadiness, and thin, crisp, and tender but not soggy in the middle.

I was also happy to have found some nice semi-fresh mozzarella that could be sliced from the block, ideal for a pizza.

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9 Comments

Filed under baking, bread, food, pizza

9 responses to “Cambridge pizza comes in from the cold

  1. Lovely job! The stay in the fridge makes the dough beautifully extensible and I must admit I like working with cool pizza dough too.

    I have kept pizza dough for about five days in the fridge, each day it gets a little softer until finally it does start to go into holes a bit too easily.

  2. That looks superb !!! thank you for sharing .. my mouth is watering at the thought of it !

  3. sounds great. it’s all about that long cold ferment.

  4. Sweet looking pie there Emily!

  5. Jo

    that pizza looks amazing!

  6. Recently in last couple of months I’ve been learning about the dough bouncing back and why….and know exactly what you mean…apparently it’s described as ‘unripe’ dough when it is like that, still full of large carbon dioxide gases, full of bounce & springy with bubbles. Much easier to handle when you have ‘ripe’ dough which still has life left but not so bouncy and fights with you…when it’s had longer proving time which can be done for shorter time out of the fridge.

    Personally for me a pizza crust is perfect when it’s a hybrid, though extremely happy to have pure SD too…but find when they’re 100% yeast just lacks depth of flavour the levain delivers.

    Lovely looking pizza Emily! x

    • Thanks, Azelia. Since writing that post I have been making a hybrid dough, with just enough yeast to get it kick-started (like 1/4 or 1/2 tsp). Haven’t tried it with only levain though with 3 days fridge-fermenting it would probably work fine! The other thing that helps me in handling springy dough that needs shaping, like pizza or challah, is to let each bit rest for a few min while going on to the next, and when I pick it up again it’s more yielding. It’s a dance, you know? 🙂 x

  7. Yes…it’s what the prof. bakers call pre-shape rest…after cutting pieces from bulk into right weight the dough is then resting while you carry on with cutting the 10s of kilos of dough in front of you by the time you’re done you start shaping the first dough you’ve cut which by then has had some rest…

    It’s also the tip Dan gave me to handle hybrid baguettes which are really bad at fighting with you! LOL! 🙂

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