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A Wet No-Knead »

It is surprisingly easy to make a really good pizza at home. Today we're going to make a Neopolitan style dough and use it as a thin crust for our pizza.

You can make the dough the same day or leave it in the refrigerator for days which makes a last minute weeknight meal very easy to make.

Several friends have impressive outdoor pizza ovens but you can get very good results in your home oven.

One of them posted his recipe which was a 62% hydration dough.

That seemed low to me.

After investigating, though, I found recommendations for a 60% dough using 00 flour that said you may need more hydration for an all purpose flour.

I made the dough a couple of weeks ago using the 00 flour and it came out great but I didn't think it would be fair to require that in a recipe I shared here so I made it again this week with an all purpose flour. I found it didn't need more water but you may want to add some.

So here's what I did. Last time I made pizza from 250g pieces of dough. This time I wanted to use less dough and roll it thinner so I chose 200g pieces. Four of those were 800 g total. If I'm making a 60% hydration then 100% is flour and 60% is water and together they make around 800g. So 160% is 800g tells me I need 500 g flour and 300 g of water.

Math. I know.

So 500 g all purpose flour, 300 g warm water, 8 - 10 g salt though several recipes boosted salt to 3% which is 15 g, and 3 - 4 g yeast.

"Daniel," you say, "why aren't you giving us the volume measurements any more?"

I did say that if you are going to get serious about baking you need a home scale. You can get one for $20 (you can always spend more if you want) and it will change the quality of what you bake. Also a food thermometer is handy.

The reason is that a cup of flour weighs so many different amounts. King Arthur lists 120 g on their Ingredient Weight Chart, Cook's Illustrated says 142 g on their Baking Conversion Chart. Last time I mentioned that Andrew Janjigian uses 140 g and Mark Bittman's is at about 128 g / cup.

I measured myself last night and for my current flour using the method I was taught to measure a cup, I consistently get 134 g / cup. My recipes were using the King Arthur amount - so your dough may have been a little drier than mine if you were using volume measure. By the way, you measure a cup of flour by taking spoonfulls of flour and putting them in a cup measure until it is over flowing and then taking a knife and leveling off the top. You don't dip the cup in the flour and fill it that way.

OK. However you measure your ingredients, there are two ways to mix them.

Either - mix these all together and knead like we've been doing.

Or, you're ready to learn about autolyse.

With autolyse, you mix the flour and water together and let it sit twenty-five minutes or so before adding the other ingredients. This allows the flour to completely hydrate. It also benefits the dough along the way and, supposedly, the height and flavor of the final loaf.

This process and so many other techniques, were discovered fifty years ago by Raymond Calvel. His book "The Taste of Bread" was translated into English. In addition you'll find comments and adjustments by the great baker and teacher James MacGuire. A pdf is currently available on Springer's site.

After the autolyse add your yeast and salt and mix them in and knead the dough.

Let it rise for two hours with a fold half way through. As always, if the dough doesn't look like it is rising enough give it more time. If it needs more strength give it another fold.

At this point you can refrigerate the dough over night or until you need it. If you're baking with it today, weigh out your 200 g portions and form each into a round and cover it with plastic wrap for an hour.

During this hour preheat your oven as hot as it will go. If you have a baking stone use it.

What should you put on a pizza?

That's up to you.

I took a class with a friend from a teacher who said "anything you can put in a bowl you can put on a pizza".

If you're more conservative, here's a fast tomato sauce you can make.

Open a can of whole peeled tomatoes. Pour the juice into a cup or bowl. Take an immersion blender, a regular blender, a food processor, your hands, ... and liquify or seriously break up the remaining tomatoes in the can. If you want, add a tough of salt and possibly olive oil.

Flour your counter top. If your dough is really extensible, start to stretch it with your hands. If not you may need to roll it out on the counter. It should stretch pretty thin without tearing. If it tears, pull the torn pieces on top of each other and press them back together.

Top the pizza and put them in the oven. I find I have to turn them about half way through. The time varies and you have to watch the pizza because they can go from underdone to burned quickly. As with any other bread, over time you will learn your formula and oven and get better.

With the right toppings and this really tasty crust, even an ok pizza is pretty great.