This is simply the ultimate and easiest No-Need-to-Knead pizza dough recipe on the planet. You simply will not believe how easy this is to make. The idea came to me as a logical offshoot from Alton Brown’s Knead Not Sourdough recipe (Good Eats, The Food Network). Once you try this thin-crust pizza you’ll never again order out. It’s just that easy and simple to make.
17 ½ dry ozs. of unbleached flour, either general purpose or bread (that’s one pound plus 1 ½ ounces in weight, not to be confused with fluid ounces)
Note: If you don’t have a good kitchen scale, do yourself a favor and get one. If you’re serious about baking good yeast-based breads an accurate scale in vital, as it’s much more precise than attempting to measure flour by volume. Breads using other leavening agents such as baking powder are not nearly as critical, so you can usually get by with volume measurements in those cases.
⅓ cup cornmeal
1 tbs. Kosher salt (if using table salt instead, halve the amount of salt; Kosher salt is has a much coarser grain, and thus takes up twice the volume as an equivalent amout of table salt)
¼ tsp. active-dry yeast (an unbelievably small amount but trust me, it works)
12 fluid ozs. cool water (tap, filtered, bottled . . . it all works)
More flour for rolling the crust
Step 1. The night before you want to make your pizza, mix well the weighed flour, cornmeal, salt, and yeast. It’s imperative to mix this very well, as the yeast will die if it comes into contact with straight salt after the water is added. Stir in the water and work it in until the dry ingredients are fully incorporated. There’s no need to go wild here; you’re only looking to get the dry mixture wet enough to stick together.
Step 2. Place the dough into a large covered pan (I use a Dutch oven with a heavy lid), or into a large bowl covered with plastic wrap. Let the yeast do its thing. The natural fermentation process will do all the “kneading” for you. The only time you’ll need to touch the dough is to give it a quick couple of punch-downs and turns just before you go to bed and once again when you get up in the morning. After each punch-down/turn session, make sure you once again cover the dough or it will dry out.
Step 3. Approximately 19 hours into the fermentation process, divide the dough into four equal portions and form each portion into a tight ball. Cover the balls you are not yet ready to roll out to prevent drying. Take one ball of dough at a time and, using copious amounts of flour, roll it out into a 12- to 14-inch circle. You must use a lot of flour to prevent stickiness and to get a truly thin, thin crust. At this point you can go one of two ways:
Step 4a (method 1). Place your rolled-out pizza dough into a rimmed pizza pan with holes in the bottom and prebake the crust at 450° for two to three minute, until it just starts to puff. Remove the crust and let it cool while you roll out and bake the subsequent crusts. When you’re done, you will have four crusts either ready for the freezer or onto which you can place your toppings and bake for dinner later that evening. To freeze, wrap each crust separately in heavy-duty aluminum foil. To bake, load the crust with your favorite toppings and place the pizza straight onto a rack in the lower third of a preheated 450° oven for 13 to 15 minutes. The crust edges should get a rustic, dark brown, the bottom evenly browned, and the cheese nice and bubbly. Pull the pizza out of the oven and let set for a few minutes before cutting into slices.
Step 4b (method 2). The other way you can go with this, for that truly authentic feel, is to preheat a pizza stone at 450° for at least forty-five minutes. Roll out the crust as above (one at a time of course, and don’t forget to cover the ones you’re not working), place the unbaked, well-floured crust on a peel sprinkled with either cornmeal or course semolina flour (the cornmeal or semolina will act as mini ball bearings to help ease sliding the crust off the peel), top the pizza with your chosen ingredients and slide it from the peel onto the pizza stone using a series of quick, short jerking motions so the toppings don’t fall off the crust as it slides onto the stone. Bake at 450° for at least 15 minutes or until the edges are a dark, rustic brown and, when carefully lifted with a spatula, when the underside appears evenly browned beneath.
If you did everything correctly and didn’t put the more soggy ingredients directly onto the crust, it will have a crispy, almost cracker-like crunch and rustic French bread-like flavor that is indescribable.
Additional Tips: If you use a pizza sauce, go sparingly to preclude getting a soggy crust. If it’s a homemade sauce, make sure it’s thick enough not to get watery. Another interesting sauce to try is my jalapeño pesto recipe, but go lightly because it can be spicy. If you use tomato slices rather than sauce (Margherita-style pizza), place the slices above a protective layer of cheese. You might want to consider seeding the tomatoes first for some added assurance against sogginess. Pepperoni slices should first be defatted by sandwiching them between paper towels and briefly microwaving beforehand (but don’t overdo this or the pepperoni will be overdone by the time the pizza comes out of the oven). This also gives the pepperoni a nice crunchiness when the pizza is finished and keeps excessive fat from depositing onto the pizza. Place fresh, sliced mushrooms above the cheese and below the pepperoni or other meats. The fat from the meat will help cook the mushrooms, and the cheese will keep the moisture from the mushrooms from reaching the crust.
Wine Pairings: Wine pairings for pizza are pretty much dependent upon the toppings and even the choice of cheeses. Heavy, tomato sauce-based pizzas loaded with meat go well with Chiantis, California Sangioveses, and even Super Tuscans. Lighter Margherita-style, vegetarian, and other white-type pizzas (meaning they lack a tomato sauce base) need a lighter red such as a Pinot Noir or a heavier white such as Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, or Pinot Grigio. A spicy pizza using my jalapeño sauce or perhaps a barbecue chicken topping will pair well with anything from a peppery Shiraz to a slightly sweet white Riesling or perhaps even a Gewurztraminer in the case of something particularly hot.
Please feel free to drop by and list some of your own favorite toppings. I’m sure other readers of this recipe would love to get some new and creative ideas.