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Apr 3, 2008 01:21 PM

Super Wet Pizza dough by Jim Lahey

After making a nice potato pizza with a sourdough crust, I decided to try the recipe from Jim Lahey's Sullivan Street Bakery given in Maggie Glezer's "Artisan Baking Across America." The recipe makes a super wet dough (over 100% hydration) that is processed in a stand mixer to develop the gluten. The resulting gluteny batter is left to rise, then poured on an oiled sheet pan and gradually coaxed to cover the pan entirely (with resting periods to allow the gluten to relax as needed). The recipe is supposed to make enough crust for a half sheet pan. The topping is made from four pounds of finely sliced Yukon gold potatoes, one large onion (which would another pound), salt, olive oil, and rosemary.
I couldn't get the batter to cover a half sheet pan (and I spread it very thin). I had about two inches of uncovered pan around the edges. The topping seemed to be far too much. I cooked half in a skillet like Potatoes Anna. The pizza baked nicely, but the crust stuck to the sheet pan.
Has anyone else tried that recipe? How did it turn out? It looks like a great way to make a crust and I want to try it again, but haven't the nerve, unless it worked well for someone else.

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  1. Father Kitchen -- I haven't made the Jim Lahey dough but I had some problems that may be related making the 5-minute a day flatbread. I had it in a class the author gave locally -- and it was great. When I made it myself -- it was another story. The dough is a very wet one, although maybe less wet than the Lahey. The recipe says to roll the dough out to 1/8 inch using minimal flour. And advises letting the dough rest a bit if it wants to spring back, as you say. She did say that would happen less with a whole wheat flour, compared to a white flour which I was using. I had no problems rolling my dough out, which I did on a large silpat. But then it really stuck to the mat. When I tried to transfer it to my hot skillet, the dough stretched and also got globbed up. (Not sure what a better word would be.) So that some parts were thick and some were thin. And when it cooked in the hot ghee, parts burned and parts didn't cook because they were elevated above the pan by thicker globs of dough. So it was kind of a mess. We did eat much of it, but like I said, some was burned. And it didn't look all that appetizing.

    After trying to roll out and then transfer my very wet dough, I see the advantage of the approach your recipe uses -- of just spreading it into a half sheet. Although then you can't put it into an already hot oven, like my hot skillet.

    Anyway, I thought I would just commisserate. There must be a good way of doing this. In my case, I may pose my question on the author's web site.

    3 Replies
    1. re: karykat

      I found a blog from Dec 29th on by one bshuval who made it. The blog included photos. I notice that the dough did not quite extend to the edge of the pan and the author complained of sticking around the edges. Seems you need to use lots of oil. So I will try it again. Thanks for your reply. It's good to know we are all learners.

      1. re: Father Kitchen

        I love that cookbooks, and have made almost every recipe in it. My pizza dough has stuck a couple of times, and my husband suggested greasing the pan with shortening, and I used a fairly heavy layer of crisco on the pan, which helped a lot. I agree there's way too much filling - I'm not sure if they just mis-estimated the amount when they scaled the recipe down or what.

        I love the wedding zwieback, and taratelli (ok, I think I have the name wrong, maybe) and the bialy recipe. Gosh, it's all so good - I may have to get a starter going tonight....

        1. re: jeanmarieok

          Would that be taralli? I've been looking for a recipe for those--I've used the one in Nancy Harmon Jenkins' book on Puglia, and one on the Mario Battali website, and I'm not completely satisfied with either.

    2. this sounds lovely, Father Kitchen; did the sourdough flavour come through nicely? I wonder whether other toppings, such as the typical tomato sauce, would overwhelm the flavour of the crust.

      Why not try greasing the tray with butter, like you would a cake tin? I find butter prevents sticking better than oil in cake tins because the butter will usually stay solid at room temp, but melt in the oven and keep the crust from sticking. Although oil is less likely to interfere flavour or authenticity-wise with a pizza...

      9 Replies
      1. re: Gooseberry

        I'll try it with more olive oil and a slightly larger batch of dough/batter. If it still sticks, I'll try ghee.

        1. re: Father Kitchen

          intrigued by this post, i searched out the potato bread recipe and decided to try it today for a meeting i have tonight.
          i put it in my mixer this morning and mixed for 20 minutes and....the dough turned grey!!!
          I have an old standing mixer that I found at a yard sale and i think the bowl might be aluminum or some alloy (it can rust if water is left in it) but i have never had it react before. i tasted the dough and it did have a bitter metallic edge, so clearly it is a reactive thing, but what could have been acid enough to cause this? flour? water? yeast?

          anyway, since now my mixer is out of the question, was wondering if you guys thought i could do it in the food processor on the dough setting. my guess is that it would have to go for a lot less time, like perhaps 5-10 minutes.

          any suggestions or tips? and anyone know why my dough turned grey?

          1. re: missmasala

            was hoping father kitchen would weigh in about the gray dough. father kitchen, where are you?
            after i posted i realized that i had made bread with this mixer before and it never turned gray, so not sure what happened.

            desperate to make this pizza, i tried the food processor, which didn't work too well as the motor overheated after about 2 minutes. however, i let the dough rest and then stretched and baked. burned part of it, but what wasn't burned was delicious.

            as for the stretching, i read on one blog that it can take up to 40 minutes (stretching and then letting it rest for 10 minute intervals) to get the dough all the way to the pan edges. this is what i found. i had to stretch 4 times but it made it to the edges.
            also, i oiled my pan very very liberally with olive oil and had no sticking problems.

            now, another Q : given that my mixer and food processor both appear to not be options for making this dough--do you think it would work to use the no-knead method--ie. make the wet dough and leave for 12 hours to rise instead of 4?
            Anyone have ideas? Father Kitchen?

            also wanted to add--tried slicing the potatoes on the mandoline (thin) and in the food processor (thicker). surprisingly, i preferred the slightly thicker potatoes, as the really thin ones became too potato chip like.

            1. re: missmasala

              I'm not sure where Father Kitchen is, but I'd suggest using a no-knead method (back in the day before mixers were invented, this is what everyone did!). I cannot comment on the time it would take, as I think you're refering to the bittman no knead dough which I'm not to familiar with. You could try the bowl folding technique I described in the no knead dough discussion a week or so ago, since that works well with wet doughs. I'd just bowl fold it four times with twenty minute breaks in between, then leave it to rise for the recommended time.

              1. re: Gooseberry

                thanks. that is what i did when my food processor overheated. i folded a few times every half hour or so. i do that with the lahey bread sometimes, too.
                I am going to make the recipe, fold a little and then leave to rise for about 12 hours instead of 4. i will let you know how it turns out.

                any ideas on why my mixer dough turned gray?

                1. re: missmasala

                  Could it have dropped a little oil from the mixer into the dough? Check around the head for signs of lubricant. Wouldn't take much to turn dough gray. Could there have been some rye in your flour mix? Did the raw dough have any off tastes?

                  1. re: Leucadian

                    I would tend to think this is probably what happened. I think I may have detected some oil sometimes around some of the components. Not sure what would cause it to drop in or what you could do to prevent that. Does Kitchenaide (or whoever the manufacturer is) had an 800 number you could call?

                    Now I am curious.

              2. re: missmasala

                Missmasala: You first say you were intrigued by "potato bread" and the next post talks about the potato pizza. Did you make 2 recipes or was the "bread" really the pizza?

            2. re: Father Kitchen

              I was thinking about this problem. If you have access to silicone paper, why not let the dough spread on a big sheet of silicone paper put on your baking peel. Then slide the silicone paper directly onto your preheated baking tile? That way the dough is in direct contact with the tile and will cook quicker and crisper than I imagine it will in a cold baking sheet.

              I do this sometimes with croissants or bread rolls.

          2. why not put it on some parchment paper sprayed with Pam, I do this all the time with pizza and when it sets up you can slide it out or just leave it there. When I make a pizza I will put the parchment directly on the pizza stone then after about 2 minutes slide it out from under the crust, sounds like with this dough you might just want to leave it there.

            1. I haven’t tried the Glezer/Lahey recipe, but in “The Bread Bible” by Rose Levy Beranbaum there’s a recipe for Rosemary Focaccia that is an attempt to emulate the Lahey pizza and I’ve made that with great success. In fact, although the dough is tricky because it’s so hydrated, it’s one of the best focaccia’s I’ve ever made. The proportions in Beranbaum are similar to Glezer/Lahey, but the amounts might work better for you if you’re using a 12 X 17 sheet pan as I did.

              Here’s a link to a blog that recounts one person’s experience with the Beranbaum recipe. She, too, had sticking problems. I’m not sure why, but my sticking problems were minor. I think the idea of lining the pan with parchment is a good one. I’ve done that with other focaccia recipes and it works like a charm.


              You might want to try the Beranbaum dough with the potato topping and see whether or not that works for you.

              1. Thanks, everyone. I unexpectedly had to go away for a week for a family funeral and I am leaving in a few hours for another trip. So I'll be off line until next Thursday. Missmasala's experience does sound like lubricant contamination to me. The only time I think dough would react with an aluminum mixing bowl is if it is a sourdough. As for the rest of the suggestions regarding that pizza dough, I'll look at Rosy's take on it. Suzanne Dunnaway has a no knead pizza crust in her book "No Need to Knead," but it is not super hydrated. The procedure otherwise is similar. And Reinhart's "American Pie" contains a recipe for potato rosemary focaccia which contains olive oil in the dough. He doesn't seem to know that pizza con patate is a common pizza rustica in Rome. There it is a thin crust pizza with lots of potatoes. THey also do a wonderful pizza which is simply covered with onions. (My next project. I imagine you sweat them first before putting them on the crust.)
                While away, I cooked supper for the extended family. Our meal included potato pizza. I made a standard crust at 62% hydration but retarded it for 24 hours in the fridge. It developed nice flavor. I baked it on pizza stones, transferring it with a peel.
                I used 1 1/2 lbs of Yukon Gold spuds for each 12" pizza. (I think the Lahey recipe calls for too much.) I also pretreated them with kosher salt to draw out the moisture, as in the Lahey recipe. The first time I baked a potato pizza (out of my own head), I didn't use the salt, and it turned out fine. Maybe the quantity of potatoes makes a difference. In this batch we put three layers of thinly sliced potatoes (2 mm thick) on the crust. Since the crust was a little thicker than I wanted (I still haven't quite got the knack of shaping it), we baked at 475 instead of 500. There was no need to turn them or reduce the oven temperature.

                1 Reply
                1. re: Father Kitchen

                  I made a potato pizza again today, but I used a rather standard dough, retarded overnight, for the crust. It was like a French bread yeasted dough with the addition of 4% rye flour and about 5% olive oil, by baker's percentages. (2.2% salt and 67% water, with Harvest King flour). It turned out well. I liked the way flour responded and got a dough that was easy to shape and did not tear. The flavor was good. But when I used the same flour for sourdough yesterday, I was a bit disappointed in the flavor. I like the Gold Medal AP flour better for sourdough loaves. I still haven't got up the nerve to try Lahey's super hydrated crust again. However, after making this pizza without salting the potatoes to draw out some of the moisture and also the with salting the potatoes, I recommmend salting them as in the Lahey recipe. The topping bakes up faster and the flavor is better.