Rating: 4 stars
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Despite its reputation as a convenience food, the most essential element of great pizza is time. A slow fermentation gives our pizza dough its chewy-crispy texture and depth of flavor. It starts with your choice of sourdough starter (aka levain) or a simple mixture of flour, water, and active dry yeast (poolish) left to ferment for 12 hours. Both options start fermentation and build flavor in the dough overnight. Strategic stretching of the dough during the initial fermentation stage develops gluten and makes the dough evenly elastic and forgiving to work with. Each 9-ounce dough ball will make one 10-inch pizza, a personal-size pie that's also easy to maneuver around home countertops and ovens. This overnight dough is easily doubled for pizza parties. Not cooking for a crowd? The raw dough may be frozen. 

March 2022

Gallery

Credit: Photo by Christopher Testani / Food Styling by Torie Cox / Prop Styling by Audrey Davis

Recipe Summary

active:
20 mins
total:
3 hrs 20 mins
other-time:
Plus 12 hours standing
Yield:
Makes 6 (9-oz.) pizza dough balls
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Ingredients

Ingredient Checklist

Directions

Instructions Checklist
  • Stir together 2 1/4 cups warm water and levain in a large bowl until levain is mostly dissolved. Add flour and salt. Stir using a wooden spoon to form a shaggy dough. When dough becomes too stiff to stir with spoon, knead dough in bowl to form a ball. Turn dough onto a clean work surface, and knead until there are no dry patches of flour, about 1 minute. (Dough will be sticky. To easily clean doughy hands, sprinkle hands lightly with flour, and rub together over a trash can to loosen any stuck dough.) Place dough in a clean large bowl, and drizzle with oil. Knead dough in bowl until oil is incorporated, about 1 minute. Cover bowl tightly with plastic wrap, and let rest at room temperature until dough begins to rise, about 1 hour.

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  • Uncover dough; starting at edge of bowl farthest from body, use a wet hand to lift edge of dough and stretch until there is tension, approximately 1 foot in the air. Press the dough in toward the center; rotate bowl 90 degrees, and repeat motion to fold dough 4 times total. Flip dough seam side down; cover tightly with plastic wrap, and let stand 1 hour. Repeat folding process 1 more time.

  • Cover dough bowl tightly with plastic wrap, and let stand at room temperature until tripled in volume, about 12 hours, or refrigerate until increased in volume 2 1/2 to 3 times, at least 24 hours or up to 48 hours.

  • Line a large rimmed baking sheet with plastic wrap, leaving about 3 inches of overhang on all sides; lightly grease plastic wrap with oil. Alternatively, lightly grease insides of 6 lidded plastic pint containers with oil. Set aside.

  • Uncover dough, and gently press to release air bubbles. Turn dough out onto a heavily floured work surface. Divide dough evenly into 6 portions (about 9 ounces or 255 grams each). Working with 1 dough piece at a time, stretch and fold 4 corners of dough in toward center. Flip dough seam side down. Using a bench scraper and a lightly floured hand, drag dough across work surface, rotating dough gradually with your hand as you pull it with bench scraper, until dough forms a taut ball. Using bench scraper, transfer dough ball, seam side down, to prepared baking sheet (or to 1 prepared pint container). Repeat process with remaining 5 dough pieces, spacing evenly apart on baking sheet, and pulling plastic wrap up between dough balls to prevent sticking (or place in 6 oiled plastic pint containers). Cover tightly with plastic wrap or lids.

  • For faster dough, let proof at room temperature 1 hour, and then refrigerate at least 1 hour or up to 5 hours. Alternatively, for more flavorful dough, let dough proof more slowly in refrigerator, at least 6 hours or up to 3 days.

Make Ahead

Dough balls can be frozen in lightly greased individual freezer-safe pint containers up to 2 weeks. Let thaw in refrigerator at least 12 hours or up to 2 days.

Notes

If you're new to making pizza, prepare a double batch of dough to get the hang of shaping and baking. Practice makes perfect.

Poolish and Levain

For this recipe, you will need to make a preferment—either a poolish or levain—to start the fermentation process and build flavor in the dough. A poolish uses yeast to start fermentation, while a levain uses mature sourdough starter. To make a poolish, stir together 3/4 cup unbleached bread flour (about 3 1/4 ounces or 95 grams), 1/2 cup warm water (about 80°F) (4 ounces or 115 grams), and a pinch of active dry yeast (about 1/16 teaspoon) in a medium bowl. Cover loosely with a clean kitchen towel and let ferment at cool room temperature (about 65°F) until increased in volume 2 1/2 to 3 times and passes the float test (see note below), about 12 hours. To make a levain, stir together 1/2 cup warm water (about 80°F) (4 ounces or 115 grams) and 3/4 ounce mature sourdough starter (about 1 1/2 tablespoons or 25 grams) in a medium bowl until starter is mostly dissolved. Stir in 3/4 cup unbleached bread flour (about 3 1/4 ounces or 95 grams) until well combined and mixture resembles thick batter. Cover loosely with a clean kitchen towel; let stand at room temperature until increased in volume 2 1/2 to 3 times and passes float test, at least 4 hours or up to 8 hours.

Your poolish or levain needs to rest from four to 12 hours to ferment before it is ready to use. You'll know it is ready to work by doing the float test. Using wet fingers, pinch off a small portion (about 1/2 teaspoon) of poolish or levain, and drop it in a glass of room-temperature water. If it floats, it's ready to mix into dough. If it sinks, continue to ferment, performing the float test again after 30 minutes.

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