I devour food magazines, but I do not usually cook from them. And if I do, it never involves dough because, well, my baking history is complicated but flour and yeast and baking soda and gelatin are simply not my friends. They hate me so much I have to hate them back. But I digress.
Bon Appetit always has great recipes, most of which I use for inspiration. I see an ingredient I should be using more or a way of cooking or some other cue that sparks my cooking instincts. With the instincts sparked, I walk away from the food magazine and either make something up or open up a cookbook. A couple of months back, while gearing up to redesign the site and trying to get my photographer friend Jennifer Olson reengaged, I decided to Cook the Cover of Bon Appetit, which was at that time a pizza by Jim Lahey. Said and done- not in time to submit for any contest but a great excuse to cook, learn to make pizza, and hang out in the kitchen.
Jim Lahey’s recipe can be found in its original form here. Here’s how my version went.
Pizza, the Cook the Cover Version
Ingredients: 500 grams (weigh don’t measure) all-purpose flour plus more for shaping dough; 2 teaspoons fine sea salt plus more for seasoning; 1/4 teaspoon active dry yeast; 1 14-ounce can tomatoes, undrained, puréed or crushed by hand; 8 ounces fresh mozzarella; 4 ounces stracciatella (optional); crushed red pepper flakes; fresh oregano leaves; extra-virgin olive oil.
Whisk flour, salt, and yeast in a medium bowl. While stirring with a wooden spoon, gradually add 1.5 cups water and stir until well incorporated. Mix dough gently with your hands to bring it together and form into a rough ball. I hear the most important part here is to let it be- don’t over-work it.
Place it in a larger bowl and cover with plastic. Let dough rise at room temperature (about 72°) in a draft-free area until surface is covered with tiny bubbles and dough has more than doubled in size, about 18 hours. The time may vary depending on the temperature in the room and likely the humidity.
Transfer dough to a floured surface. Gently shape into a rough rectangle. Divide into 3 equal portions. Working with 1 portion at a time, gather 4 corners to center to create 4 folds. Turn seam side down and mold gently into a ball. Dust dough with flour; set aside on work surface or a floured baking sheet. Repeat with remaining portions.
Let dough rest, covered with plastic wrap or a damp kitchen towel, until soft and pliable, about 1 hour. This dough an be made 3 days ahead. Wrap each dough ball separately in plastic wrap and chill. Unwrap and let rest at room temperature on a lightly floured work surface, covered with plastic wrap, for 2–3 hours before shaping.
Make the Pizzas
During the last hour of dough’s resting, prepare oven. To use a pizza stone, arrange a rack in upper third of oven and place stone on rack; preheat oven to its hottest setting, 500°–550°, for 1 hour.
Working with 1 dough ball at a time, dust dough generously with flour and place on a floured work surface. Gently shape dough into a 10″–12″ disk.
Sprinkle a pizza peel or rimless (or inverted rimmed) baking sheet lightly with flour. Place dough disk on prepared peel. Bake for 3-4 minutes. Take it out and spread about 3 Tbsp. crushed tomatoes over dough. Bake for 2-3 more minutes. Take it out again and now tear or crumble some mozzarella over top and bake it for one more minute at the most- you just want the cheese to warm up and melt. I found that attempting to bake the whole pizza at once- crust, tomatoes, cheese did bad things to everything- the dough needs to cook longer, the t
Transfer to a work surface. Spoon a few dollops of stracciatella over pizza or more mozzarella if that’s all you chose to use. Garnish with crushed red pepper flakes, oregano, and olive oil. Season to taste with salt. If you make more, reheat the stone under broiler for 5 minutes between pizzas.
Bake away – it’s easier than it seems.
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