Cookbook VS Cooked (vs Drunk): Jim Lahey’s No Knead Pizza Dough

If you care about basketball you know last weekend was All-Star weekend, which is cause for celebration at my house since my husband cares more about basketball than anyone I’ve met. Saturday was the Dunk Contest and we hosted a party in its honor. I took the opportunity to try Jim Lahey’s (of NYC’s Sullivan Street Bakery and Co.No-Knead Pizza Dough as featured in this month’s Bon Appetit. It seemed like the perfect fit for the occasion- the recipe produces enough dough for six pizzas, which would feed the hoard of hungry men (and a few ladies), go well with the beer people would bring, and (most importantly, pro tip here people) would require me to keep to the kitchen, rolling dough and whatnot, and out of the hassle of feigning interest in something I didn’t particularly care about (and save my friends the annoyance of me talking to them throughout). My plan worked perfectly.

As suggested, I started the dough eighteen hours in advance (true dedication considering this meant 1 AM on a Friday night…after some Korean BBQ that left me lethargic). It was pretty painless: get a medium bowl; mix flour, sea salt, and yeast; transfer to large bowl; let rise until doubled in size and bubbly. I placed a dark napkin over the bowl on top of the requisite plastic wrap because I’m superstitious like that: for some reason I believe my doughs turn out better when they have a cloth on top. While the yeast did it thang I shopped for ingredients for the four pizzas I had in mind:

#1, Inventive Veggie
Caramelized red onions, roasted butternut squash, goat cheese

#2, The White
Thin sliced potatoes, rosemary, olive oil„ sea salt, shaved Parmesan

#3, For Comfort
Buffalo chicken, blue cheese, scallions

#4, Oddball
Meatballs; red, green, yellow, and orange peppers;chili oil

Shopping on a Saturday in Cambridge took about an hour and a half and as is my habit when entertaining I took the Trader Joe’s route, sacrificing quality of ingredients for convenience and price. Prepping the ingredients was a breeze: slice, dice, and place in containers. For the sauce I quickly pureed some canned diced tomatoes. I saved the caramelized onions for an hour pre-party (because nothing says “Welcome" like the smell of sauteed onions and butter) and threw on some Missy Elliott as the oven preheated to 500. There’s another tip for you- onions like old school Missy Elliott.

Since the Dunk Contest was going to take center stage I didn’t opt for the “pizza party" route as suggested in the Bon Appetit article, although I’d love to do this in the future to pull folks in to the process (the more the merrier and all). As folks arrived I started rolling, pulling in some friends to ladle up the sauce and layer toppings (fun!).

The dough did its thing and produced a thin, perfectly brown crust with (butterflies in my heart) a few magical air pockets. If I can get those air pockets at home I’m done- success that I attribute to the recipe calling for the oven to be preheated an hour ahead of time (so maybe save this for the colder months). The crust’s taste was the perfect compliment to stronger, varied toppings: not too yeasty or overwhelming while able to stand on its own- something like what you’d expect from a trendy “gourmet style" pizzeria (like Co…)

Pizza #1, the veggie, was the best in my opinion and many of my friend’s too. Whether this was because we were hungry or just love goat cheese I don’t know. Pizza #2 ended up being the Oddball, which topping-wise was the favorite. Next time, though, I’d switch out the meatballs for sausage crumbles as the weight distribution with a thin crust was a little challenging, especially for those of us who had been enjoying the variety of beers, wine, and whiskey at hand. Speaking of beer, by the time folks were ready for the third pizza, For Comfort, I’d had maybe one too many. The dough was uneven, causing half my pizza to stick to the pan, and I forgot to add a dash of salt to bring out the buffalo flavor (although the scallions browned up nicely). Most offensive of all (to my pride at least), I didn’t allow enough time for the dough to get crispy and took it out at least five minutes too early. As I (messily) sliced through the chicken chunks I hung up my apron, declaring: “This will be the last pizza of the night…the beer, so much beer…"

Here is the recipe, ideas for a DIY pizza party, and extra step by step tips- all via BON APPÉTIT. If you make this, or have a recipe idea you’d like us to feature in our Cookbook VS Cooked series, let us know!