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.