Baking legend Jim Lahey gives us a sneak peek at his new book's no-knead pizza dough recipe, the star of our fuss-free D.I.Y. pizza party.
Conde Nast Digital StudioIt's not dinner, it's a party. That's what you should keep in mind at this casual get-together, where guests get to work--and love it. Hosting is mostly about organization. The day before, start the dough, from Jim Lahey's new book, My Pizza. (If you're pressed for time, you can buy some dough at a local pizzeria.) The night of, set out bowls of toppings so guests can design their own pies. At any given moment, some people will be huddled around the oven, others will be topping the next batch, and some will be digging into perfectly charred pies. Childhood pizza parties were never this fun.
Step 1: Master the Dough
This dough is chewy, bubbly, and better than what you'll get at most pizza places. It bakes wonderfully in a home oven, on a pizza stone, or a baking sheet. And thanks to the brilliant no-knead method of Jim Lahey--owner of New York's Sullivan Street Bakery and pizza spot Co.--it's easy to prepare, deriving its character from overnight fermentation, not laborious kneading. Get the recipe: Jim Lahey's No-Knead Pizza Dough.
Step 2: Top That
There are a few things to keep in mind when building your toppings bar for your party: Variety counts. Balance classics, like fresh mozzarella, with a few things you won't find at the pizzeria down the street. Prep toppings before guests arrive. When it's time to assemble, you don't need a recipe. Start with a drizzle of olive oil on the dough; end with salt and pepper, and get creative in between.
See also: 5 Easy Baking Sheet Dishes
To make a classic pie, spread crushed tomatoes almost to the edges of the pie and scatter hand-torn pieces of mozzarella over. It doesn't need to be neat--it'll all melt together beautifully. You can lose the tomatoes, swap the cheese, add a few ingredients, but the principles are the same. Here are some of our favorite toppings:
Forget the sauce; using your hands, crush canned Italian plum tomatoes with their juices, or puree in a blender.
Pick two soft varieties, like fresh mozzarella, stracciatella, ricotta, or Robiola. Offer one hard cheese, like Parmesan.
Lamb Meatballs (click for recipe):
Roll them small so they won't overpower the pie.
We swear they improve just about everything.
Slice thinly and use them to lend bite.
Cut strips of bacon crosswise into 1/2" pieces. Render them on a baking sheet in a 400 degree oven until almost crisp (they'll cook more on the pizza).
Shave them with a knife or mandoline.
Add this traditional pizza herb just before serving.
For a fresh hit, scatter some over the pie when it comes out of the oven.
Related: Three Recipes Every Cook Should Master
Don't forget... Thinly sliced garlic, red pepper flakes, and sea salt can make a good pizza great.
Conde Nast Digital StudioStep 3: Keep Dessert Easy
You need something sweet to top it all off, so Lahey gave us a recipe for the ultimate chocolate chip cookie (think crunchy edges and soft centers, i.e., perfection). Get the recipe: Chocolate Chip Cookies
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