Flatbreads have been consumed by the ancient Egyptians, Romans and Greeks. The humble pizza/pie (an expanded version of a flatbread), became popular in the USA in the mid-1900s when the Neapolitans came over for factory jobs. According to history.com, the first documented pizzeria was Lombardi’s in Manhattan, licensed to sell pizza in 1905 and is still in operation. Loads of people love pizza but making your own can be tricky. The dough is key and can make it a wonderful or just so-so eating experience.
The no-knead dough recipe is from Jim Leahey. Since buying his book back in 2012, it’s the only recipe I use and it works every time. Once the dough portions are shaped, they’re like tiny pillows – so light, soft, and airy. The toppings are whatever you fancy. The base can be plain with a bit of extra-virgin olive oil, covered with a bechamel, or the traditional tomato sauce. When we were in San Francisco last month, we stopped at The Market and had pizza and prosecco. The ingredients are similar to the one shown here with the exception of no tomato sauce. Their pizza included marinated peppadew chiles and I enjoyed the slightly sweet piquant pepper with the creamy burrata.
makes 4 balls of dough
(500g) 3 3/4 cups flour
1/4 teaspoon active dry yeast
2 teaspoons fine sea salt
1 1/2 cups water
In a bowl blend flour, yeast and salt. Add water and mix thoroughly with your hands or a spoon. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and allow to rise at room temperature for 18 hours. On a work surface lightly dust with flour and remove dough from bowl. Cut into 4 pieces and shape: take right side of dough and pull it toward the center, then left, then top, then bottom. Shape each portion into a round and turn seam side down on work surface. If sticky dust with flour. To shape the dough, watch the video of Jim. It’s easier for you to watch than for me to write it out.
For the pizza to be airy and chewy, the oven needs to be at 500f (260c). My oven goes as high as 550f and that’s what I cook it at. If you have a pizza stone, place it in the oven on a rack about 4-inches from the top element while it’s heating up. If not, use a heavy-based pan or something that won’t warp. Jim recommends the oven be heated at this temperature for 30 minutes before adding pizza. Turn off oven and switch on broiler for 10 minutes.
buffalo mozzarella or burrata
2 to 3 prosciutto slices, pan-fried
sweet cherry peppers, sliced in half
arugula, lightly dressed in extra-virgin olive oil
Parmesan, thinly sliced
Arrange dough on a lightly floured board or on a pizza paddle (if you have one). Lightly drizzle olive oil over base. Open oven door and slide dough onto pizza stone. Bake 3 to 4 minutes. It’ll have some charred areas but that just adds to the look and taste. Remove and finish dressing the pie with arugula, crumbled prosciutto, cherry peppers, Parmesan and place a torn apart mozzarella ball in the middle. Drizzle with extra-virgin olive oil and serve immediately.
The Culinary Chase’s Note: The sweet cherry peppers are an absolute delight. Enjoy!