when i was in high school, my dad and i acted out the same scene from our family play nearly every Friday night. he’d be sitting at the kitchen table reading the newspaper. i’d walk in and put my hand on his shoulder. hey, dad. mom’s gonna be home in about an hour. what do you want to do for dinner? any other day of the week, he’d already have something simmering on the stove. but not on Friday. dad would look up at me over his reading glasses and say, as if it were an epiphany, how about getting a pizza? my lines: that’s a great idea! what kind should we get? dad’s line: well, your mother likes anchovies. seriously? my lines: that’s gross. let’s just get them on half. then one of us would move stage left, pick up the hand set of our avocado-colored wall phone (a chic complement to our major appliances) and dial Liberty Pizza.
to me, Liberty Pizza was the closest thing to pizza heaven in the galaxy. small and local, the staff took great pride in their craft and product. on Friday nights, Liberty’s was hopping. my dad would pull up in his VW, squeezing into any space that remotely resembled a parking spot; i’d run in to pickup our large Liberty’s special. to this day, my mouth waters just thinking about it. as an undergraduate home on holiday breaks, my parents would ask, well, where would you like to go out to eat first? they’d excitedly—and predictably—suggest very nice restaurants, where we could all dress up for a night out on the town (and i would strenuously object to wearing anything but jeans). but i’d just as enthusiastically and religiously reply, Liberty’s! faces fallen, but ever-supportive, the curtain would go up on an encore performance of the family pizza play.
over the many years my parents lived in our childhood home, visits meant having a least one delicious pie from Liberty Pizza. i’ve regularly experimented with pizza recipes, but all have paled in comparison to Liberty’s. until last Friday night, when i discovered the most wonderful, the most perfect pizza dough i’ve ever eaten. the texture: crispy on the outside, soft and chewy on the inside. i topped my first effort with scant amounts of whole-milk mozzarella and thin slices of red onion, Fresno peppers and Finocchiona salami. this week, as my next batch of dough is rising, i’m roasting garlic to use as my featured topping.
perhaps i was channeling my dad. or thinking back fondly on those dad and daughter runs to Liberty’s. as mom and i used to say (giggling and simultaneously), it was definitely serendipitous. i’m dedicating this post to my friend Mary-Ellen, whose love and appreciation for family, uplifting spirit and geographic proximity to Liberty Pizza command admiration, respect and a little green envy.
No-Knead Pizza Dough
based on a Jim Lahey recipe, published in bon appetit
makes two good-size, thicker pizza crusts (if you like your pizza crust thinner, divide the dough in thirds, rather than in half and stretch!)
this dough needs to ferment for 12 – 18 hours, so plan accordingly.
UPDATE – 13 April 2012: i’ve experimented with the pizza dough recipe several times and suggest a scant 3 1/2 cups flour to make the dough easier to wrangle. volume of flour lands between the quantity recommended in bon appetit and Jim Lahey’s My Pizza cookbook.
3 1/2 (scant) cups all-purpose, organic flour, more for dusting
1⁄4 teaspoon active dry yeast
2 teaspoons sea salt
1 1⁄2 cups water
- very lightly coat a medium-size bowl with olive oil; set aside.
- in the bowl of a stand mixer, hand-whisk the the flour, yeast and salt. alternatively, mix everything together for steps 2 and 3 in a large bowl with your hands or with a silicon spoon. just easier for me with the stand mixer.
- with the dough hook attachment in place, add the water and mix until the dough comes together. it will be extremely sticky and seem, well, unseemly for dough. be careful not to overwork it.
- gather the dough and place in the oiled bowl.
- cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let rest for 12 – 18 hours at a room temperature of 72°.
- when the dough’s surface is covered with bubbles (mine had large and small) and it has doubled in bulk, transfer it to a lightly floured work surface; sprinkle the top of the dough with flour.
- gently shape the dough into a rectangle.
- divide the dough in half; keep one half of the dough covered with plastic wrap, until you’re ready to work with it.
- take one half of the dough and fold each of the four corners into the center.
- with the seam side down, gently form into a ball, and dust with flour.
- repeat with the other half of the dough.
- cover each ball with plastic wrap and let rest at room temperature (72°) for 1 – 2 hours.
- while the dough is rising, preheat oven to 475°.
- sprinkle a large baking sheet lightly with corn meal; set aside.
- very gently shape one of the balls into a 12-inch disc, preserving as many of the bubbles as possible.
- place the dough on the baking sheet and stretch into desired shape. the dough will likely be more abstract/oblong than round.
- drizzle olive oil lightly over dough, then cover with the toppings of your choice.
- bake until bottom and top are golden brown, around 15 minutes.
- repeat with remaining dough.