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The Pizza Dough That Takes Three Days to Make

Don’t let that scare you off.

It does take about three days to make this pizza dough. But most of that time, the dough is just hanging out in the fridge, doing its own thing.

This recipe comes from the new “A16: Food + Wine” (Ten Speed Press) cookbook by Nate Appleman, Shelley Lindgren, and Kate Leahy. Yes, it’s the new cookbook from one of my favorite San Francisco restaurants, A16, where I have swooned over many a thin-crust, Neapolitan-style pizza.

The dough comes together in a mixer, then rests and ferments in the fridge for a couple days before it’s ready to use. It couldn’t be simpler. And the result is a dough that’s a breeze to stretch and manipulate, and which culminates in a deeply flavored crust.

I couldn’t resist documenting in photos my first attempt at this dough recipe. The pizza bianco with its green olives, mozzarella, and garlic is salty, and dreamy-creamy. The pomodoro with ricotta really lets the sweet-tang of the tomatoes shine through.

I’ll definitely be making this dough again. Yup, the dough that takes nearly three days to make. Take a deep breath and go for it.

Piece of pie.

Neapolitan-Style Pizza

(Makes four 9- to 10-inch pizzas)

For the dough:

1⁄4 teaspoon active dry yeast

1 1⁄2 cups warm water (100˚ to 105˚F)

2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil

2 teaspoons salt

4 cups “00” flour or all-purpose flour

Toppings of choice (recipes follow)

Extra virgin olive oil

To make the dough, in a small bowl, sprinkle the yeast over the warm water and let proof for 10 minutes. If the yeast has not dissolved into a soft, frothy paste in that time, hunt down a fresher batch and repeat the process. Stir in the olive oil and salt.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook, combine the flour and yeast mixture and mix together on low speed for about 2 minutes, or until the dough is shaggy and most of the water has been absorbed. Knead on medium-low speed for about 10 minutes, or until the dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl and looks smoother. Cover the bowl with a damp kitchen towel and let rest for 5 minutes. Knead on medium-low speed for an additional 10 minutes, or until the dough is very smooth, soft, and warm to the touch.

Lightly coat a large bowl with olive oil. Transfer the dough to the bowl, turn the dough so that both sides are lightly coated in oil, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate overnight.

The next day, punch down the dough with your fist, then fold over the sides and turn the dough over in the bowl. Re-cover and return to the refrigerator for at least 4 hours or up to 24 hours.

Remove the dough from the refrigerator and place it on a floured work surface. Divide the dough into 4 equal pieces. One at a time, cup the pieces in your hands and tuck under the sides until you have formed a smooth ball. Place the balls on the floured work surface, providing plenty of room between the balls, and cover with a damp kitchen towel. Let the balls proof for 1 1⁄2 to 2 hours, or until doubled in volume. Keep a water-filled spray bottle handy, and if you see a skin forming on the surface of the dough, spray the surface to dissolve the skin. The skin will prevent the dough from rising properly and will make shaping the dough difficult.

To make your oven pizza ready, place a pizza stone on the lowest rack and preheat the oven to its maximum temperature (typically between 500˚ and 550˚F) for at least 30 minutes.

To shape a ball of dough into a pizza base, place it on a well-floured work surface. Using the tips of your fingers, pat down the ball, flattening it into a disk. Place the palm of one hand in the center of the dough and gently but firmly press down. At the same time, with the other hand, pull the dough outward while rotating it clockwise to form a flat circle with a slightly raised edge, or cornicione. If the dough feels resistant as you stretch it, set it aside, covered with a damp kitchen towel, while you work on a second ball of dough. This will give the gluten a chance to rest, making the dough more pliable once you return to it. The entire time you are working on the dough, maintain a thin layer of flour underneath it to prevent it from sticking. If you don’t feel confident handling pizza dough, try starting with a rolling pin to ensure you begin with an even circle, and then return to hand stretching. Continue to stretch the dough, allowing time for it to relax as needed, until it is 10 to 12 inches in diameter.

Generously dust a pizza peel or a rimless baking sheet with flour. Slide the pizza base onto the peel, and then immediately shake the peel to ensure the dough isn’t sticking to it. Dress the base with the selected toppings. To transfer the pizza to the pizza stone, place the peel over the stone and quickly jerk it back. The pizza should slide smoothly off the peel onto the stone in one piece. It is important to bake the pizza immediately after putting the toppings on it, or the dough will soften and stick to the peel. If you are grilling the pizza, follow the instructions below, making sure not to add any of the toppings until the base has been brushed with olive oil, grilled on the first side, and flipped over.

Bake the pizza for 6 to 7 minutes, or until the dough is crisp and golden brown and the top is bubbling. Take care not to open the oven door often to maintain the high oven temperature. Using the peel or baking sheet, remove the pizza from the oven, drizzle with olive oil, and cut into 4 pieces with a knife or pizza cutter. Serve at once. Repeat with the remaining 3 balls.

Pizza Bianco

(Makes one 9- to 10-inch pizza)

1⁄2 cup coarsely grated grana

1 Neapolitan-style pizza base

5 fresh basil leaves

5 to 10 green olives, pitted

Pinch of dried chile flakes

1⁄2 clove garlic

3 ounces fresh mozzarella, cut into 1⁄4-inch-thick disks

Evenly scatter the grana over the surface of the pizza base, followed by the basil leaves, olives, and chile flakes. With a sharp paring knife or a mandoline, slice the garlic into paper-thin slices and distribute them evenly over the pizza. Judiciously distribute the mozzarella over the top. Bake as directed.

Pizza Pomodoro with Ricotta

(Makes one 9- to 10-inch pizza)

1 beefsteak tomato (about 4 ounces)

Kosher salt

1⁄2 cup fresh ricotta, drained if necessary

1⁄2 cup coarsely grated grana

1 Neapolitan-style pizza base

1 clove garlic

1⁄2 teaspoon dried chile flakes

5 fresh basil leaves

Core the tomato, cut into 1⁄4-inch chunks, and place in a small bowl. Sprinkle with salt to taste, toss gently, and set aside at room temperature for at least 30 minutes or up to 2 hours. Place the ricotta in a separate small bowl, add 1⁄2 teaspoon salt, or to taste, and mix well.

Evenly scatter the grana over the surface of the pizza base. With a sharp paring knife or a mandoline, slice the garlic into paper-thin slices and distribute them evenly over the pizza. Sprinkle with the chile flakes and basil leaves, and judiciously distribute the tomato and ricotta over the top. Bake as directed.

Recipes from “A16: Food + Wine” by Nate Appleman, Shelly Lindgren and Kate Leahy