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No-Knead Pizza - New York Magazine


weinoo
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In the current issue of New York Magazine, there is a recipe for a DIY Pie from Co.'s Jim Lahey. Now, while the recipe looks good, if anyone makes pizza like this, I think they're nuts. To whit,

To make pizza: Place pizza stone on the middle rack of the oven and preheat on high broil. Stretch or toss the dough into a disk approximately 10 inches in diameter. Pull rack out of oven and place the dough on top of the preheated pizza stone. Drizzle 5 generous tablespoons of sauce over the dough, and spread evenly. Try to keep the sauce about ½ inch away from the perimeter of the dough. Break apart or slice the buffalo mozzarella and arrange over the dough. Return rack and pizza stone to the middle of the oven and broil for approximately 6 minutes. Remove and top with basil, olive oil, and salt.

In other words, the instructions are telling you to pull a rack with a stone heated to 600 degrees, out of the oven and to work on top of that. What? Who takes a pizza stone out of the oven once it's heated up? Kids - do not try this at home. This is a public service announcement.

Mitch Weinstein aka "weinoo"

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My pizza stone came with a metal rack for picking it up when hot, or I suppose for serving pizza on the stone at the table, though I don't think it would do a very good job of protecting the table from the high heat of the stone. The stone lives in my oven most of the time, but this rack seemed thoroughly impractical, so I threw it away after not using it for several years.

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I have a thick piece of welsh slate underneath my grill (broiler). I preheat for an hour , shape the pie on a teflon mat before sliding onto the stone with a peel. Then I turn the grill off for a few minutes to give the crust a chance to brown and then turn it back on again to finish off the top. Works a treat.

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I automatically assumed that the instructions were to pull the rack out but not out of the oven! In other words, to work on it with the rack and the pizza stone part way out of the oven.

Anna Nielsen aka "Anna N"

...I just let people know about something I made for supper that they might enjoy, too. That's all it is. (Nigel Slater)

"Cooking is about doing the best with what you have . . . and succeeding." John Thorne

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I automatically assumed that the instructions were to pull the rack out but not out of the oven!  In other words, to work on it with the rack and the pizza stone part way out of the oven.

Isn't that even MORE insane, as all the heat goes out of the oven and you're still working on something that is scalding hot, but now is not even stable.

Mitch Weinstein aka "weinoo"

Tasty Travails - My Blog

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We do something somilar in my house, but instead of placing the dough on a heated stone in the oven, it goes on a heated grill for a couple of minutes.

The dough is pulled off, flipped over and toppings are placed on. Then, the dough goes back on the grill for a few minutes - just to cook the underside.

My dough recipe has little yeast in it, so it doesn't rise much.

Toppings are flavorful, and are used sparingly.

Beaches Pastry

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What's next, crawling in your 800 degrees wood burning oven dressed in an asbestos overall to make your pie?

That being said, if the dough is particularly wet (as many no-knead dough are), it will stick to almost any surface... so even a good pizza peel might not work.

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When working with wet doughs, I prep a plate of cornmeal and flour and coat the doughball lightly in that before shaping. Then I shape onto a non stick matt which then goes onto a peel. Solves the problem of the pie getting stuck on the peel.

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I automatically assumed that the instructions were to pull the rack out but not out of the oven!  In other words, to work on it with the rack and the pizza stone part way out of the oven.

Isn't that even MORE insane, as all the heat goes out of the oven and you're still working on something that is scalding hot, but now is not even stable.

I wasn't supporting the method, simply giving my interpretation! :biggrin: I would guess that much would depend on how stable your rack is when pulled halfway out and holding a heavy pizza stone. And how quickly you could spread the sauce and lay cheese over it.

Anna Nielsen aka "Anna N"

...I just let people know about something I made for supper that they might enjoy, too. That's all it is. (Nigel Slater)

"Cooking is about doing the best with what you have . . . and succeeding." John Thorne

Our 2012 (Kerry Beal and me) Blog

My 2004 eG Blog

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Were anybody other than Jim Lahey to make this recommendation, I'd say it's insane. With his name behind it, I'd put it in the category of "worth trying once." It doesn't seem like a good idea, but maybe it works.

A friend and I did recently use his dough recipe and it came out incredibly well. On a grill, though, and with the pizzas assembled on a peel and slid onto the stone (actually an inverted bottom of a ceramic planter). The wet dough is not exactly easy to work with, so I get the idea of building the pizza on the stone, though it does seem a little odd.

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Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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Whether it means to pull the rack all the way out or not, I don't think heat loss from the oven is a huge deal in this case since the stone is already preheated, and he says to turn the broiler on to cook the top of the pizza after it is back in the oven.

This reminds me in a certain sense of the Heston Blumenthal method, which is to put the pizza--already topped though--on the bottom of a preheated pan--cast iron for example--and then to throw it directly under the broiler. It works well and the pizza is done within 2 minutes with a nice browned/crisp bottom and top, while still being soft inside.

I agree that it would be worth trying.

Edited by A Patric (log)
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As it so happens, I made Lahey's no-knead crust this weekend. It's wet, but not impossibly so. Still, I wouldn't bother with constructing the pizza on the screamin' hot stone--if you find the dough to wet to transfer by peel, just make the pizza on a piece of parchment. The crust will set very quickly on the preheated stone, and you can slide the parchment out to get all the benefits of the hot, moisture-absorbing stone. If I tried to top the pizza on the stone, I'd probably burn myself!

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The wetness of the no-knead dough presents two sets of challenges: first, it's difficult to stretch into a pie shape without ripping it; second, it's prone to stick to the peel, which makes it hard to slide onto the stone. One thing that helps is to work with a lot more flour than you at first assume you'd need. Lots of flour on your hands, on the peel, etc. This helps.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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Those pizzas look absolutely delicious.

I use Zoe Francois' no knead dough for pizza on my baking stone all the time - I shape it on a piece of flour-dusted Reynolds Release, slide it onto the stone using a peel, then pull the foil out from under about 3 minutes into baking time. It always turns out terrific.

Patty

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What's next, crawling in your 800 degrees wood burning oven dressed in an asbestos overall to make your pie?

Only Lahey would do that.

Were anybody other than Jim Lahey to make this recommendation, I'd say it's insane. With his name behind it, I'd put it in the category of "worth trying once." It doesn't seem like a good idea, but maybe it works.

But we all remember that the "original" recipe for no-knead bread was practically a disaster. Once it was tweaked, it worked fine - and to me the genius of that recipe comes down to baking the bread inside a dutch oven inside an oven.

Also, why aren't weights used in these recipes? The variance between your cup of flour, my cup of flour and someone else's cup of flour can be as much as 25%.

Totally agree with you about using lots of flour. As I saw recently at Keste, flour is your friend when it comes to these totally wet doughs.

As it so happens, I made Lahey's no-knead crust this weekend.  It's wet, but not impossibly so.  Still, I wouldn't bother with constructing the pizza on the screamin' hot stone--if you find the dough to wet to transfer by peel, just make the pizza on a piece of parchment.  The crust will set very quickly on the preheated stone, and you can slide the parchment out to get all the benefits of the hot, moisture-absorbing stone.  If I tried to top the pizza on the stone, I'd probably burn myself!

Exactly my feelings. Parchment is your friend. I've had too many pizzas not make it all the way off the stone, and cleaning pizza off an oven door/floor is no fun.

Mitch Weinstein aka "weinoo"

Tasty Travails - My Blog

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I always make my pizza dough no-knead. I do 70% hydration with AP flour (or "00 for pizza" when I can find it), perhaps 0.05% SAF yeast and no salt. Just enough mixing to get the lumps out. Then I ferment for around 12 hours and retard for several days (or, if I am going to use it right away, I ferment for around 24 hours).

Wet doughs can be difficult to work with.

One thing I've noticed is that most home pizza-makers like to maximize the size of their pizzas. I know I do this. Why make a 10 inch Neapolitan-style pizza when you can cover the whole pizza stone and make a pizza the size and shape of a quarter-sheet? Usually it's just more convenient for me to make one big pizza instead of two small ones. The problem is that, the larger the pizza, the more likely it is to stick to the peel, etc. This is not only due to the increased drag due to a larger wet surface area contacting the peel, but also because it takes longer to top the pizza and so it sits on the peel longer.

It was very interesting watching the pizzaiolo work at Keste a few days ago. Their dough seems quite wet. The pizzaiolo divided the dough, floured the surface and stretched the dough into a small circle. Then he topped the dough on the board (not on the peel) whith everything. These are Neapolitan-sized pizzas that finish at around 12 inches in diameter. But on the board, they are only perhaps 8 inches in diameter. So it takes no more than 60 seconds or so to get all the toppings onto the round of dough. He then slid the topped pizza laterally onto his peel. The peel at Keste is quite small, being more or less the same size as the eventual size of the pizza, and is made of thin metal perforated throughout with holes the size of a half dollar. The holes are a great idea, because they minimize drag. Yes, I want one. Anyway... once the 8 inch pizza round is transferred to the peel, the pizzaiolo stretched the dough out until it reached all sides of the peel and immediately slid it into the oven. This strikes me as best practice for a very wet dough like this, and Keste's is the softest in town.

The other workaround, and the only procedure I use for large "wet dough" pizza these days, is to cut a piece of parchment to size, spritz with oil, sprinkle with coarse cornmeal or semolina, transfer the stretched-out pizza dough to the parchment and build the pizza there. You still have to move with a certain amount of alacrity, however, because a wet dough can soak through the parchment and then you have a mess on your hands. Nevertheless, this usually allows one to transfer the pizza from the peel to the stone with a minimum of anxiety, and after a little while on the stone it is easy to slide the peel between the pizza and the parchment and withdraw the parchment.

Still... as soon as I can get a peel like they have at Keste, I'm not looking back.

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I think the easiest approach is to lightly oil a sheet of parchment while it's on a peel (i use flat cookie sheets for peels); stretch out the dough and build the pizza on the parchment, and slide the pie, parchment and all, onto the stone.

If the parchment insulates the crust and reduces char, the effect is minimal. There's no need for bench flour or cornmeal. Working with wet dough becomes easy (I use up to 75% hydration, depending on the flour).

An option I haven't tried is the self-releasing aluminum foil. Regular foil, even well oiled, is a disaster.

I love Jim Lahey, but not enough to pull a hot stone out of the oven.

Notes from the underbelly

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What's the rationale for using a very wet dough? I was hoping the article would give some clue, but it seems to be just the recipe.

Soft, tender, large holes, deliciosity and the ability to withstand the extremely high heat of these pizza ovens without drying out.

Mitch Weinstein aka "weinoo"

Tasty Travails - My Blog

My eGullet FoodBog - A Tale of Two Boroughs

Was it you baby...or just a Brilliant Disguise?

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With very wet doughs I've been using water instead of flour on my hands to make handling easier. This may not work at the stage when you're trying to spread a pizza dough on a board or get a topped pizza from a peel to a stone, but when handling wet bread dough it works well, and I suppose it might work if you were moving a wet dough like this directly from a bowl to a hot stone and spreading it on the stone.

I picked this up watching a sushi chef wetting his hands from a stream of water in a nearby sink when handling sticky rice. It works nicely for matzo balls, meatballs, cookie dough and other sticky things, I find, and it doesn't add flour to a dough you want to keep wet.

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I suppose it might work if you were moving a wet dough like this directly from a bowl to a hot stone and spreading it on the stone.

Do you really think it's possible to spread a dough on a hot stone with your bare hands?

Mitch Weinstein aka "weinoo"

Tasty Travails - My Blog

My eGullet FoodBog - A Tale of Two Boroughs

Was it you baby...or just a Brilliant Disguise?

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I suppose it might work if you were moving a wet dough like this directly from a bowl to a hot stone and spreading it on the stone.

Do you really think it's possible to spread a dough on a hot stone with your bare hands?

Sounds a bit iffy to me, but if people are trying it, I suppose the approach would be to stretch a very soft dough with one's hands and then transfer it to the stone and push it around a bit without touching the stone.

I suppose I've done something not unlike this, minus the stretching and pushing around, when transferring a too-wet ciabatta dough from a peel to a preheated stone and watching it spread out more than I had intended.

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Soft, tender, large holes, deliciosity and the ability to withstand the extremely high heat of these pizza ovens without drying out.

Yes, except I think the lower the oven temp, the wetter the dough needs to be.

Bread in general is improved with high hydration doughs for the reasons Mitch mentions. Pizza is an extreme case, because it's thin, and because we like to brown and char the crust. In a very hot oven (a legitemate wood-fired pizza oven is typically 800 to 900 degrees F) baking time is a couple of minutes or less. The crust can char in the time it takes for the middle of the dough to just set ... so you get the neapolitan ideal of a crisp outer curst and a tender, airy inner crust.

In a typical home oven, you'll be limited to 500 to 600 degrees F. Baking times can be as high as seven minutes. That's plenty of time for standard dough to dry out and toughen. Very high hydration helps prevent this.

Notes from the underbelly

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In a typical home oven, you'll be limited to 500 to 600 degrees F. Baking times can be as high as seven minutes. That's plenty of time for standard dough to dry out and toughen. Very high hydration helps prevent this.

Yes - almost counter intuitive, but true.

Mitch Weinstein aka "weinoo"

Tasty Travails - My Blog

My eGullet FoodBog - A Tale of Two Boroughs

Was it you baby...or just a Brilliant Disguise?

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Wetter doughs have several advantages for pizza. Primary among them are:

1. A wetter dough is more extensible with all other things being equal, meaning that it is easier to stretch it out to the size and thinness you want.

2. A wetter dough tends to have larger "air holes" and more of them. In bread, this leads to a more open and irregular crumb, in pizza it leads to a lighter, "puffier" and more open crust.

3. When the water cooks off in the heat of the oven, this creates steam. The steam contributes to the lightness, open-ness and tenderness of the crust.

4. More water in the dough means that the crust can still be soft and pliable (as opposed to dry and cracker-like or dense and bready) but still with a decent external char and with the top ingredients properly cooked.

Edited by slkinsey (log)

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