From Baking Steel Inventor Andris Lagsdin: the Story of our 72 Hour Dough
One of my favorite pizza dough recipes is Jim Lahey’s no-knead dough, on which this recipe is based. It’s simple, doesn’t require any equipment, and doesn’t make a big mess. (My wife disagrees about the mess: I have a talent for covering the kitchen in flour.) I make this dough at least once a week, sometimes quintupling the recipe and saving the extra balls of dough to use throughout the week or for the pizza classes I teach.
Through the years, I have edited Jim’s original to make it my own. One change is that I use bread instead of all-purpose flour, which adds the perfect heft to your finished crust when baked at high heat in a home environment. And somewhat ironically, I actually knead the “no-knead” dough. After I incorporate all the ingredients I get my hands wet and knead the batch for 2 to 3 minutes. Without this step, I’ve ended up with dried clumps of flour in the dough. There are worse things in life, but we’re seekers of pizza perfection.
This dough is simple and foolproof—but you do need TIME. Not hands on or working time, but time for a 24-hour rising period and then a 48-hour cold ferment. That’s 72 hours total, in case you don’t have a calculator.
The first phase is a 24-hour period of allowing the dough to bulk ferment (or to rise as one unit before being divided into individual dough portions) at room temperature.
Next, the dough is portioned into balls, and enters the portion of the recipe referred to as cold fermentation. This is when the dough will develop some real kick ass flavor. Cold fermentation slows down the activity of the yeast to produce amazing flavors in your dough. The “strike zone” for the dough, in terms of optimal texture and flavor, begins on day 3 (48 hours after the initial bulk ferment, or 72 hours total). While yes, it’s possible to make pizza dough in a shorter period of time, the full 72 hour method is what gives your dough a truly memorable taste and texture.