Cooking With Keras: No-Knead Pizza

What is Gluten?

My past two pizza posts have both involved making your own pizza dough. However, most people are tepid about all the steps involved, which is totally understandable. If I didn’t have a stand mixer, I would hate having to knead the dough by hand. It’s hard work!

So why do we even need to knead the dough? Flour has proteins in it called glutenin and gliadin. By kneading the dough, we break down these proteins and reallign them to form gluten structures. Gluten is able to trap gases (CO2 produced by yeast), which causes the bread to rise.

But given enough time, the bread can basically knead itself! But how?! With the help of enzymes! Flour contains enzymes that break down long proteins into shorter ones in a process called autolysis (auto meaning “self” and lysis meaning “break down”). I mentioned the autolysis step in my previous recipes where I let the dough rest for about 20 minutes before I start the kneading process. So if we give the dough even more time to break down the proteins into even smaller fragments, it’s easier to knead and form gluten!

Huh? But I thought this was no-knead dough, not easier-to-knead dough? Don’t worry, the kneading isn’t done by you! It’s done by the yeast..

Given enough time, about 8-24 hours at room temperature (extra time needs to be added since the salt in the dough slightly inhibits autolysis), the yeast is allowed to produced quite a bit of carbon dioxide. As these bubbles slowly grow, their stretching causes those proteins to align with each other. Slowly but surely, the bubbles moving through the dough, effectively forming the same gluten that would be formed by manual labor.


Let’s Make the Dough!

Even though this recipe is for a no-knead pizza dough, I’ve used the same dough to make regular loaves of bread, too! The recipe that follows at the bottom is what I use to make one 10-inch pizza using a cast iron skillet. You can also use a cake pan, springform pan, whatever. You can easily double the recipe, or make it slightly bigger or smaller based on your pan size.

After mixing together the flour, water, salt, and yeast, cover the bowl tightly with clear wrap and allow to sit on your counter for at least 6-8 hours. You can also keep it in the fridge for an extra day or two if you wish to make the dough ahead of time. Once the dough has more than doubled in size, it’s ready!

Turn the dough out on to the counter, and split it into portions if you’re making a double recipe like I did today. Form each piece of dough into a round ball.

In a well oiled cast iron skillet (or whatever round cooking vessel you have on hand), turn the dough to completely cover it in the oil. Turn on the oven and let it preheat to as high as it can go. My oven goes up to 525F.

Now it’s time to make your pizza sauce! You can use the same recipe found HERE from my deep dish pizza, or use a premade sauce, too! Press down the dough and allow it spread out and fill the entire skillet. This will take about 30-60 minutes, longer if the dough is coming straight out of the refrigerator.

Add your sauce, cheese, and toppings. For this pan pizza it’s best to use the pre-shredded cheese, as fresh mozzarella is too wet and will not produce the best results.

Toss the pans into the oven and set the timer for about 12 minutes. It might need more time after this. Cook the pizza until the cheese on top starts to brown.

If the bottom of the pizza is still soft, turn on your stovetop and cook the pizza for about another minute. Make sure you keep moving the pizza around in the pan to prevent it from burning.

Let cool, cut, and enjoy!

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Produces one 10-inch pizza

200g bread flour (~1 1/4 cup)
150g water (~1/2 cup)
1 tsp salt
1 tsp yeast

1. Combine flour, water, salt, and yeast in a bowl. Use a spoon or your hands and mix until all ingredients are incorporated.

2. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and allow to sit out at room temperature for at least 6-8 hours. More if possible. The dough should more than double in size.

3. Transfer the dough to a lightly floured counter and form into a ball.

4. Add 1-2 tbsp of oil to a cast iron skillet (or try garlic butter!), and roll the dough ball around to coat it evenly with oil. Press the dough down with your hands to flatten it. The dough will probably not reach the edges of the skillet yet. Cover again with plastic wrap and let sit for another hour at room temperature.

4. Turn oven on high, at least 500F. Make your sauce or use a premade one.

5. The dough should mostly fill the pan after the hour rest. Use your hands to press the dough around until it completely fills the pan.

6. Top with sauce, cheese, and toppings. Go crazy!

7. Toss the pan into the oven and cook until the cheese is slightly brown and bubbly, about 12 minutes. Using a fork or thin spatula, lift up the pizza to see if the bottom has browned. If it is not as crisp as you like, cook it on the stove top over medium-high heat. Make sure to move the pizza around in the pan to prevent the bottom from burning.

8. Let cool, cut, and enjoy!