Franny's Crust Revealed, Sort Of

Of Crust and Clams: These littleneck clams will find their way onto a pizza made at home by Andrew Feinberg, co-owner and chef at Franny's. Photograph by Mike Nagle for the New York Times

For those of you clammering for a good crust recipe, maybe you should try this one, which is adapted from Andrew Feinberg's. Mr. Feinberg is co-owner and chef at Franny's, the Prospect Heights pizzeria that rocketed to popularity after opening little more than a year ago.

In an article today in the New York Times's Dining section, Mr. Feinberg recounts his struggles with the dough before getting it right. And how right it is, we at Slice say.

"When we first opened Andrew didn't know what he was doing," she said, stirring her coffee. "He'd roll out the dough with a rolling pin before he figured out how to stretch it. I'm surprised anyone came back after that first week."

For Mr. Feinberg, the steepest part of the curve was learning how to make the dough consistent. Sometimes it stretched into perfectly thin disks that erupted with charred puffy bubbles when baked in the searing brick oven. And sometimes it didn't, tearing and bouncing back when he tried to pull it out into a circle. After much trial and error and help from Harold McGee's food science tome, "On Food and Cooking," Mr. Feinberg learned how to navigate myriad pitfalls....

... The short version: over-knead it, and the gluten breaks down, meaning that the dough won't stretch out nicely. Under-knead, and the gluten doesn't develop, so the dough won't stretch out nicely. Start pulling the dough when it's too cold, and it won't stretch out nicely. Start when it's too warm, and it will stick to your hands and the counter and won't stretch out nicely.

At Franny's he overcame the pitfalls and developed a recipe that calls for a minimum of yeast and a slow overnight rise to develop a savory, deep flavor.

For those of you interested, the recipe follows after the jump. But as with many works of art—and good food certainly is a work of art—you might have all the ingredients and the method laid out before you, but good luck duplicating the original.

PIZZA DOUGH (adapted from Andrew Feinberg)
Yields: Enough dough for 4 twelve-inch pies
Time: 45 minutes, plus overnight rising

Ingredients 1 1⁄2 teaspoons active dry yeast 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, more for coating dough 1 1⁄2 tablespoons salt 1 tablespoon sugar 5 cups bread flour.

1. Put 1 3/4 cups warm water in a mixing bowl, add yeast and stir until it dissolves. Add oil, salt and sugar, and mix well. Stir in flour. Knead either in mixer using dough hook or by hand on a floured surface, until dough comes together. Cover, and let rest 20 minutes. Advertisement

2. Knead dough until it is springy, about 5 minutes in mixer or 10 minutes by hand. Form into a ball, coat with oil and place in a large bowl. Cover with plastic, and refrigerate overnight.

3. Remove dough from refrigerator, and let it come to room temperature (about 4 hours) before proceeding. Press dough down, and knead briefly. Divide into 4 pieces, flatten into disks and cover with cloth towels until ready to use.

FRANNY'S CLAM PIZZA (adapted from Andrew Feinberg)
Yields: Four 12-inch pizzas, altogether serving 4 to 6.
Time: 1 hour 45 minutes

Ingredients 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil, more for drizzling 1/2 Spanish onion, cut into chunks 4 garlic cloves, smashed and peeled 1 bay leaf Crushed red pepper flakes 1 1/4 cups white wine 4 1/2 dozen littleneck clams (about 6 pounds), scrubbed well in cold water 1 1/2 cups heavy cream Flour for dusting pan Franny's Pizza Dough (see above) Chopped parsley, for garnish.

1. Place a pizza stone (or 4 quarry tiles in a square) on top rack of oven. Heat oven to 550 degrees for 45 minutes to 1 hour.

2. While oven heats, place oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add onion, and sauté until it is limp, about 5 minutes. Add garlic, bay leaf and a pinch of red pepper flakes, and sauté 7 minutes longer. Add wine, and bring to a simmer. Add clams, cover pot and cook till they start to open, about 10 minutes. As they open, use tongs to transfer them to a large bowl. When all clams are cooked (about 25 minutes) and cooled, pluck out meat, and discard shells.

3. Simmer liquid left in pot until it reduces to a thick, syrupy glaze, about 20 minutes. Add cream, and continue simmering until mixture is reduced by a quarter, about 30 minutes longer. Strain through a fine-mesh sieve, and set aside.

4. Flour a cool pizza peel or rimless cookie sheet. Stretch one dough ball into a 12-inch round and lay it on peel. Paint entire surface with 1/4 cup clam glaze, and scatter a dozen or so clams over pizza. Add a sprinkle of crushed red pepper flakes.

5. Slide assembled pie onto heated stone, and bake until crust is browned on bottom (use tongs to check), about 4 minutes. If broiler is part of oven turn it to high, and broil pizza until top is nicely browned, 30 seconds to 1 minute. If broiler unit is separate, use tongs to transfer pizza to a cookie sheet, and slide it under broiler. Continue with remaining pizzas. Drizzle pies with olive oil, and sprinkle with parsley before serving.

A Student of the Pizza Does a Little Homework, New York Times
Recipe: Pizza Dough, New York Times
Recipe: Franny's Clam Pizza