I’ve been making pizza dough for years and years. Whole grain, quick method, polish method are a few that we have tried, in addition to kneading versus no-knead.
They were all wrong!
Turns out, to get a pizza that is crispy and shatters, while chewy, it really is all about the flour. I came across a recipe for a method, the Lahey method, and the only real difference I could find was in the flour. It was advised to use “00” flour. And what a difference it made!
Sometimes when I look for a recipe inspiration, I look at the images instead of the web pages, to see if the end result is close to what I am seeking. I’m sure many other foodies do this, too. Why read the recipe if the end result is not what you are seeking?
It’s not so much that I was seeking to improve on the doughs I’ve made in the past, but rather having a pizza dough that was bubbly and crispy – a dough that shatters when you bite into it, but is also chewy and flavorful.
The image I found that that best matched the results I desired was from a website called http://www.alexandracooks.com. Interestingly enough, the quantities were identical to what I’ve always used, but the difference was in the flour. I was curious if there actually would be a difference, so, since we were having company over, I made two batches – one with the Tipo 00, and the other with regular old all-purpose. I followed the same technique with both, the no-knead way, almost like making a poolish. I do some kneading in the bowl in the beginning, just to bring it all together. Kneading is no longer fun when you have arthritis, so I pretty much gave up on kneading years ago, and, found that by and large, it wasn’t as important as letting the dough rise sufficiently.
The result? The dough made with Tipo 00 did have a crispier crust, where the bubbles shattered when bitten into. The all-purpose was crispy also, but did not shatter. It’s worth a try to compare the two.
It’s a pizza party: everybody gets to make their own.
To make the dough according to http://www.alexandracooks.com using the Lehay method, you will need:
- about 7 1/2 cups Tipo 00 Italian flour (this is a whole kilo; typically, the flour is sold in small kilo-sized bags)
- 3 cups warm water
- 4 teaspoons salt
- 1/2 teaspoon yeast (I used a teaspoon since I knew I did not have enough time to let it proof for 18 hours, only about 8 hours)
To make the dough with all-purpose (and, it’s a smaller batch), you will need:
- 4 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 1/2 cups warm water
- 1 1/2 teaspoons salt (I usually use kosher)
- 1 package yeast (or a little less, depending on how long you plan on letting it proof)
Method, using the sponge method:
First, dissolve the yeast in the warm water. This lets you know that the yeast is still alive. After a few minutes, it should start to bubble. Note: many recipes for traditional breads have you add a sugar of some sort to feed the yeast, but it’s not really necessary. If I do add a sugar (depends on my mood, and how much time I have till dinner), I usually just use a few teaspoons of honey or barley malt syrup.
Combine all of the salt with half of the flour and stir to mix with a wooden spoon, whisk, or your hands (whichever you prefer to wash!) I usually stick to a wooden spoon to make my dough. If you are using a stand mixer with a dough hook, just let it run a few spins.
Add the dissolved yeast and water to the bowl with the salted flour. Using a wooden spoon or dough hook, mix well so that all of the flour has absorbed the water. It will be very wet, and not be able to hold any shape; but, remember, you have only used half your flour, but all of your water. Let the sponge ferment from anywhere to 1 to 2 hours, up until 24 hours. It will be quite bubbly, and if you let it go for more than 12 hours, it is possible that the dough has “collapsed” upon itself.
When you are ready to finish your dough, add the remaining flour and work it in with the wooden spoon or the dough hook. As the flour is absorbed into the dough, it will become quite stiff. At this point, I tend to knead it for a few minutes with my hands, in the bowl. No need to dirty the county. Not a lot of kneading is necessary for this crispy pizza dough, just to bring it together. The dough will still be quite sticky, but, it will take form. Once it is at that point, pour a few teaspoons of olive oil over the top of the dough, and roll the ball of dough around to get the oil over the outside. If however, you want a dough that is more cohesive, one that can be rolled out and tossed in the air, you would definitely need to knead it a lot longer to develop the gluten. But, you won’t get too many of the blistering bubbles. Let the dough rest for a few more hours. About once an hour, I lift the dough out, letting it stretch, and fold it back on itself. A gentle way to develop the gluten, and add in a few air pockets.
To make your pizza, divide the dough into 6 balls; more if you are making the large batch, and shape them into balls. Do not work them too hard or you will work out all of the bubbles. Bubbles are good! Let them rest another 20 minutes or so while the oven (or hot grill), heats up. We like the grill! This is a pretty wet dough, and can’t be rolled out. Rather, you just stretch it out gently with your fingers. I’ve learned to do this ON well floured parchment paper, as it aids in transferring the dough to the oven or the grill.
These are not uniformly round pizzas, but, the crust is shatteringly good!
To bake the pizzas in the oven, once they are rolled out (stretched out), place them on a baking sheet, add your toppings, and bake. 500 degrees will help get a good crust.
To bake the pizzas on the grill, first, you will need to “bake” the pizza dough on the grill on both sides, then add your toppings, and return it to the grill to melt the cheese. Make sure your grill is very hot! When we’re doing this for a group, we usually finish them in the oven, just to keep the pizza shells going on the grill. Make sure that your grill is well oiled, and, it doesn’t hurt to rub a little oil on the side that is going down first so that they don’t stick (especially since the dough is so wet.)
To see Alexandra’s original post, check it out here: