Basic Pizza Dough

Dressed up as a Mushroom, Sage, Fontina, and Parmesan Pizza.

The search for a great pizza dough recipe is very similar to the one I just discussed regarding the ultimate chocolate chip cookie recipe. There always seem to be new recipes making the Internet circuit before fading out when another one comes along. Last year I tried a recipe that was all the rage; it was from Allrecipes.com, and I had blogged about it, but that post has mysteriously gone missing. No matter, I wasn’t much of a fan – I found it to be much too doughy. I then moved on to Cooking Light’s Thin and Crispy Pizza Crust, which, while not doughy, seemed to err too much in the other direction. Likely because it is a “light” recipe, the crust was paper thin. Tonight, I think I hit the jackpot. Yet another winner from my Baking Illustrated cookbook from Cook’s Illustrated magazine. This crust is the perfect combination of a wonderfully crisp outer crust and chewy interior.

What’s behind the perfect pizza crust and recipes after the break…

As I was saying, this pizza dough combines the perfect crisp outer crust and chewy interior that makes for a superb pizza crust. The key to this is using bread flour instead of all-purpose flour, which produces a crispier exterior crust. Additionally, the use of a significant amount of water makes the dough softer, which creates a dough that is easier to shape. I have to admit that I was more than skeptical about baking this pizza with all of the toppings and not pre-baking the crust, as I have found this typically makes for a soggy bottom crust. Wow, was I proven wrong. This crust couldn’t be more perfect, due to preheating the stone in a 500° oven for 30 minutes, thereby pretty much cooking the bottom crust as soon as it hits the stone. Check out that crust:

This recipe states that it makes three medium-size pizzas, but I just divided the dough into two and froze one half and made the other into a large pizza (8 generous slices). I have also included my own pizza sauce recipe at the end of this post, because I think it’s great :)

Basic Pizza Dough

Yield: 2 large pizzas

Prep Time: 3 hours 30 minutes

Cook Time: 10 minutes

Total Time: 4 hours

Ingredients:

1/2 cup warm water (about 110 degrees)
1 envelope (about 2 1/4 teaspoons) instant yeast
1 1/4 cups water, at room temperature
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
4 cups (22 ounces) bread flour, plus more for dusting work surface and hands
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
Olive oil or nonstick cooking spray for oiling the bowl

Directions:

1. Measure the warm water into a 2-cup liquid measuring cup. Sprinkle in the yeast and let stand until the yeast dissolves and swells, about 5 minutes. Add the room-temperature water and oil and stir to combine.

2. Process the flour and salt in a large food processor, pulsing to combine. Continue pulsing while pouring the liquid ingredients (holding back a few tablespoons) through the feed tube. If the dough does not readily form into a ball, add the remaining liquid and continue to pulse until a ball forms. Process until the dough is smooth and elastic, about 30 seconds longer.

3. The dough will be a bit tacky, so use a rubber spatula to turn it out onto a lightly floured work surface. Knead by hand for a few strokes to form a smooth, round ball. Put the dough into a deep oiled bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Let rise until doubled in size, 1 1/2 to 2 hours. Press the dough to deflate it.

4. Place a pizza stone on a rack in the lower third of the oven. Heat the oven to 500° for at least 30 minutes. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface. Use a chef's knife or dough scraper to divide the dough into two pieces. Form each piece of dough into a smooth, round ball and cover it with a damp cloth. Let the dough relax for at least 10 minutes but no more than 30 minutes.

5. While preparing the dough, make your sauce and get your toppings ready.

6. Working with one piece of dough at a time and keeping the other covered, shape the dough, then transfer it to a pizza peel that has been lightly dusted with semolina.

7. Top your pizza as desired and slide the dough onto the heated stone. Bake until the crust edges brown and the cheese is golden brown in spots, 8 to 12 minutes. Remove the pizza from the oven, cut into wedges, and serve immediately. Repeat with the remaining piece of dough (or you can freeze the second ball of dough for another time).

(Recipe adapted from Baking Illustrated)