Sometimes it tickles me to realize what a sliver of things show up in this little blog life of mine. For instance, an abbreviated list of the wide expanse of Things that Happen and are Not Pictured in my Non-Blog Life:
- Cleaning up artful mess
- Cleaning up artless mess
- Fits of food rage (RIP mini cakes)
- More dishes
- Realizing a long time later that I forgot to clean up artful mess because I was too excited about eating
- Sometimes work
- Spilling flour
- Spilling everything else
- Lots and lots of delivery pizza*
*By delivery, I really only mean Papa John’s. I know, I know, in New York. A New York slice is a thing much appreciated. But for elastic-waistband-pigging-out, there’s no love like our Papa J’s love, y’all. To the point where we’ve adapted their weekly specials into our everyday vocabulary (“Early Week Mania” Monday through Wednesday guys, just sayin’).
Between living in New York and living on Papa John’s, it’s a serious recipe indeed that can inspire me to try a homemade version — made only from the stuff of legends as fabled as Jim Lahey’s no-knead pizza dough. (Heralded here, and here … and here … and here!) I’m not convinced that every baked good can be made no-knead to be just as delicious as its traditional counterpart, but between Artisan Bread in Five’s brioche and this pizza, no-knead is making a compelling argument.
The entire pizza is a little bit of an exercise in slow, patient food, which is perhaps what makes it so good in the end. The no-knead dough sits for a full day, chilling out and acquiring words like “artisanal” and “complex” as it goes; the garlic is gradually roasted into something that is aromatic and pungent yet subtly sweet and, when mashed, tastes like grown-up mashed potatoes with sass and panache; the onions are sautéed low and slow until they’re jammy and sugary, with a splash of balsamic vinaigrette for extra depth. But all of it is autopilot easy, and the result is a pizza that’s good enough to, yes, make us forget all about peperoncini peppers and little cups of Garlic Dipping Substance. (For now.)
- for the dough:
- 2 cups (250 grams) all-purpose flour
- 1 tsp sea or kosher salt
- 1/8 tsp active dry yeast* (see Notes)
- 3/4 cup plus 1 tbsp water
- 1 tbsp honey (optional)
- for the garlic paste:
- 2 bulbs garlic
- 1-2 tsp olive oil, plus more for drizzling during roasting
- 2-3 tsp milk or cream
- pinch crushed red chili pepper
- for the toppings:
- 1/2 red onion, sliced thin
- 2 cups spinach
- oil for sautéing
- salt and pepper, to taste
- 1-2 cups shredded mozzarella (sub with half provolone if desired)
- for baking:
- about 1 tbsp cornmeal, or however much is needed to prepare baking surface
- 1-2 tsp olive oil, for brushing the dough before topping
- For the dough: In a small bowl, combine water and honey, if using, and stir to dissolve. Sprinkle the yeast overtop the water and let proof for a few minutes. In a large bowl, sift together flour and salt, then add the yeast mixture and stir until it forms a sticky dough. (Proofing the yeast isn’t required in Lahey’s recipe or most adaptations of it -- you can really just combine all the dough ingredients in a large bowl and mix.)
- Cover bowl with plastic and keep at room temperature for approximately 18 hours, or until the dough has more than doubled. ( Note: If you're like me and you tend to forget to do this the night before, just double the yeast and the dough will rise in 6-8 hours instead, but with a flavor that is still comparable, in my opinion.)
- For the garlic paste: About an hour before the dough is ready, start by roasting the garlic. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Slice off the top of the garlic bulb so that each clove is exposed. Drizzle a bit of olive oil over top, rubbing each clove to make sure the oil is well-distributed, then wrap in foil and bake for 30 minutes. The garlic should be soft when pressed when it’s done.
- Take the roasted garlic and pop out the cloves by squeezing, or with a fork. Combine with one teaspoon olive oil, two teaspoons of milk, and a sprinkle of crushed red pepper (optional), and mash with a potato masher or whiz in a food processor until it becomes a paste.
- For the toppings: While the garlic is baking (or after, if you’re bad at multitasking like I am), caramelize the onions. I do this by heating a few teaspoons of oil over medium-low heat in a large cast-iron skillet or saucepan, and spreading the onions in a single layer evenly across the pan. Stir until onions are evenly coated with oil, then let the onions sizzle gently in the pan for at least 30 minutes and up to 45-50, stirring no more than once every 5-10 minutes. Once onions are very soft, jammy, and smell deeply sweet, they're done. In the last five minutes, season with salt and pepper to taste; I also like to drizzle a little bit of balsamic vinegar in the last five minutes to loosen the fond and to add a bit of extra flavor, but you can feel free to use water, chicken stock, or a bit of wine for the same effect. When done, set aside.
- Heat a bit of oil in a saucepan and sauté the spinach until just wilted, seasoning with salt and pepper as desired, drain any liquid, and set aside.
- To bake: When the dough is ready, prepare your baking surface by sprinkling it liberally with cornmeal. I used a cast-iron skillet and found it to work wonderfully, though you can also use a baking sheet or, of course, a pizza stone. Preheat your oven to its hottest setting, about 500-550 degrees F. You can preheat the skillet or pizza stone if you like, but I didn’t and found my pizza to be just fine.
- Scrape the dough out of your bowl onto a well-floured surface. It should be quite sticky and soft. Flour the top of the dough, then divide the dough in half and form them into ball shapes by tucking the edges underneath itself. If you’re baking these one at a time, cover one ball of dough with a damp towel while you prepare the other.
- Gently press, shape, and stretch the dough into a flat circle or rectangle however you like (I’m no pizza shaping expert!) Again, I used a 10-inch cast-iron skillet for this, so I shaped the dough into two 10-inch rounds.
- Brush a small amount of olive oil over the dough, then spread the garlic paste in an even layer across it. Sprinkle desired amount of cheese over that (I like a mixture of mozzarella and provolone if I’m feeling spendy), then your caramelized onions and spinach. I've also added turkey bacon (or you could use regular bacon).
- Bake at 500 for 10-12 minutes, or until the pizza reaches your desired brownness. Slice and stuff face.
If you're looking for a shorter rise time, double the yeast to 1/4 tsp and all you need will be 6-8 hours before the dough is ready to bake.
Finally, I know this white pizza is a bit untraditional in that it doesn't contain ricotta -- feel free to whisk it into the garlic paste or add a layer on your pizza if that's your jam.