La Dolce Vita: Time does all the work

Web Lead

Should anything this easy taste this good? I wondered as I bit into the pizza I had just pulled from the oven.

The story actually starts near six years ago, when I read a New York Times article about a simple way to make bakery-quality bread in a home kitchen. I’m talking about bread that has a crunchy crust and chewy interior, like a good baguette or Italian loaf.

I enjoy making bread, so the article really got me thinking. Chewiness results from the formation of gluten in the dough, so a combination of kneading and resting it can approximate the chewiness one expects from an artisanal loaf. But the crisp crust is elusive for the home breadmaker — it comes from a combination of high heat and moisture that a regular oven just can’t provide.

The Times article was about Jim Lahey, a New York City baker who had come up with a way to overcome these challenges at home. Somehow I managed to forget about the article, not trying his technique. Then, a few weeks ago, I saw his name on the cover of Bon Appetit while I was browsing my grocery store’s magazine selection. “Make pizza like a pro…pie master Jim Lahey shares his secrets”, the cover said. Snaking around the edges of a rustic and very attractive pizza was another sentence: “It all starts with a no-knead dough as easy as pie.”

So, I dutifully started out on the odyssey to replicate that scrumptious-looking pie. I halved the recipe so that I could make three small pizzas the following night. Just under four cups of flour, four teaspoons of sea salt and a quarter-teaspoon of yeast (yes, a quarter-teaspoon) were mixed in a bowl, to which three cups of water were added. Clean hands mixed the ingredients into a sticky and very rough dough, which was then covered with plastic wrap and left to sit until the following afternoon.

A few hours before dinner time, I turned the gloppy mixture out of the bowl and onto a floured board and shaped it into three soft balls, which then sat to rest and rise. An hour before it was time to eat, I put a pizza stone into 500-degree oven.

Toppings prepared, I began to shape the first pie. The dough was so loose and stretchy that all I had to do was flatten it a bit, then work it with my hands, holding it up so that its weight would allow it to stretch downward. I held the dough by its edge and rotated it like a steering wheel. Soon it was about a foot in diameter and maybe a quarter-inch thick. I placed it on parchment paper atop an aluminum pizza peel.

I spread some spaghetti sauce on the dough, then laid thin slices of salami on top. Then I scattered caramelized onions and fried mushroom slices and covered the works with shredded pecorino Romano, one of my favourite cheeses. Slices of fresh mozzarella were arranged on that, then a final sprinkling of grated parmigiano reggiano completed the toppings. I slid the pizza onto the hot stone and turned the oven setting from bake to broil, and began to prepare the next pie. Five or six minutes later, the first one, blistered, bubbly and smelling like heaven, was ready to pull out. The hot stone baked the dough beautifully and the broiler melted the toppings and browned the cheeses and dough edges.

We sat down to slices of this very chewy pizza and toasted the recipe’s success with glasses of 2006 Setta Coppa, Sal d’Angelo’s great Bordeaux-style blend that he makes on the Naramata bench. D’Angelo Estate Winery has been one of our favourites since it opened, and we have happy memories of our stays at the winery’s bed and breakfast.

The pizza, I am convinced, was the best I have every made. And since, I have been experimenting with Jim Lahey’s bread-making recipe, having found it in the New York Times archives. The results will have to wait for a future column.

Lorne Eckersley is the publisher of the Creston Valley Advance.


Just Posted

Increases in taxes, utilities lead to higher rents, businessman tells Creston Town Council

Local businessman and landlord Keith Goforth accused the Town of being unsupportive of business development.

Everyone is entitled to their opinion

I do not appreciate having someone’s opinion shoved in my face.

Let there be peace

Let us show respect and love

Holiday season means more impaired drivers are on the road

It was another slow week for Creston RCMP members, who responded to… Continue reading

Committee for an Affordable Fire Hall ready to get to work

The public will be invited to submit their written ideas for “the top ten ways to get an affordable fire hall.”

VIDEO: Average Canadian food bill to rise by $348 in 2018

Atlantic Canada and B.C. will see the most increases for consumers

Court denies WestJet’s bid to toss out discrimination lawsuit of former worker

Mandalena Lewis is suing WestJet over allegations of gender-based discrimination

Sagmoen neighbours recall alleged hammer attack

Woman was screaming outside Maple Ridge townhouse in 2013

Accused B.C. drug smuggler to be extradited

Supreme Court of Canada upholds extradition order for accused Shuswap drug smuggler, Colin Martin

One convicted, two cleared in 2014 deaths of men in B.C.’s Cariboo

Andrew Jongbloets convicted of manslaughter in deaths of Matthew Hennigar, 23 and Kalvin Andy, 22

VIDEO: Researchers rely on drones to survey aftermath of B.C. wildfires

UBC researchers use drones to study the historic 2017 wildfires in B.C.’s Interior

AHUS patient Shantee Anaquod is home for Christmas

Less than a month after receiving first dose of $750K drug, 23 year old healthy enough to go home

Firefighter dies, thousands more take on California blaze

This is second death linked to the Thomas fire, northwest of Los Angeles

Moose calves rescued in northern B.C. are ‘golden nuggets:’ researcher

Calves discovered near Prince George in late May. Mother had been killed by a car

Most Read