Before you get to that stage, you’ll need to make the pizza dough.
For anyone new to making pizzas from scratch, it’s easy to get carried away with thoughts of myriad combinations of toppings, but the crust is the cornerstone of any decent pizza.
The good news is, when you strip everything away, making pizza dough at home is pretty straightforward. Like with any new skill in the kitchen, there’s a slight learning curve involved, but it’s not too taxing.
Indeed, the recipe for a classic Neapolitan pizza base includes only the following ingredients:
- Olive oil
You’ll encounter many different flours, all with different properties.
Pizza dough gets its flavor from the yeast, though. This flavor is imparted through the fermentation that occurs as the dough is rising.
I. Overview of Making Pizza Dough
Whether you like your pie crust thin and crispy or thicker and softer, you should find today’s pizza dough recipe is a real taste sensation.
This recipe yields a pizza crust that’s deliciously soft and chewy while delivering a great crisp and a lip-smacking flavor.
As outlined above, the ingredients you’ll be working with are very simple. A few words about these ingredients.
- Water: Using 1 and 1/3 cups up warm water will help to slash rise time. Water from 100F to 110F is ideal. If the water is heated to 130F, this will kill the yeast
- Yeast: Instant yeast like Red Star Platinum will strengthen your dough, and it will also make it easier to work with yeast. All you’ll need is a standard packet of yeast which is just over tablespoons to get your pizza dough in place
- Salt: Don’t underestimate the role of salt when you’re making pizza dough. Use good quality salt as this will impart flavor to your dough
- Flour: Unbleached all-purpose white flour works well for this recipe. Bleached flour has less protein, affecting the amount of water absorbed. If you want a crust that’s chewier, use bread flour instead. If you do this, add a little more water to compensate for the extra protein content
- Extra-virgin olive oil: Using just a couple of tablespoons of good quality olive oil will improve the flavor of your pizza dough. You should brush the dough with your oil before you add the toppings. This stops the crust from tasty soggy, something that is obviously to be avoided
- Sugar: By using a tablespoon of sugar, you’ll increase the activity of the yeast, and at the same time tenderize the dough. This works especially well when you also use some olive oil
- Cornmeal: Use some cornmeal to dust your pizza pan. This will help crisp the crust further and will also add some extra subtle flavor. Cornmeal is what you see on the bottom of most delivery pizzas
II. Remember: You’re Making a Lean Bread Dough
Pizza crust calls for a lean bread dough. Others baked goods that also demand lean doughs include:
- Artisan bread
- Homemade bagels
With a lean dough, you don’t need to use any butter or eggs. Since there is no surplus fat to soften the dough, you’ll get the crusty pie crust of your dreams. Using a lug of olive oil compensates by adding flavor while keeping the inside of the pizza soft.
Rich doughs, the opposite of lean doughs, are ideal for dishes like dinner rolls or cinnamon rolls that need some extra fat for a softer texture and a bread with dessert-like qualities.
So, lean doughs have very little fat, and this is perfect for Neapolitan pizzas. You need to decide for yourself whether or not to use olive oil. If you do, you’ll definitely benefit in terms of flavor and moisture, but oil also disrupts the development of gluten molecules while the dough is mixing and resting.
With a lean dough, you’ll get plenty of elasticity, leading to a chewy crust to die for. If you used a richer dough, on the other hand, you would achieve a brittle and almost crumbly crust. Skip the oil for a strong and chewy pie crust.
III. How to Make Pizza Dough The Easy Way
- Mix together the dough ingredients listed above by hand or with a mixer (either handheld or stand mixer)
- Knead the dough by hand, or alternatively beat it with a mixer
- Pop your dough into a mixing bowl that you pre-greased. Cover tightly. Set the bowl aside and allow the dough to rise for 90 minutes. Alternatively, leave it overnight in the fridge. See below for more information about bringing the dough up to room temperature if refrigerated
- Punch down on your dough so you release any air bubbles from the dough. Divide the dough in two
- Roll out the dough into a circle measuring 12 inches across
- Cover the dough and allow it to rest. Start preparing your toppings
- Add toppings of your choice
- Bake your pizza at 450F to 500F for 7 to 15 minutes
IV. Don’t Forget to Bring Your Dough Up to Room Temperature
If you opt to let your pizza dough rest in the fridge overnight, it’s worth taking the time to bring it back up to room temperature before proceeding with the recipe.
If you use cold dough, it will be tough to stretch, and it will also be more prone to tearing.
Also, if you allow your dough to rest, as it comes back up to room temperature it will undergo further fermentation, leading to an even better flavor than ever.
It’s also worth noting that you should never use a rolling pin when you’re making pizza dough. When you’re looking to shape dough into the flat crust you need for pizza, you don’t want to flatten it, but rather to stretch it. Beyond this, though, you want to do more than simply increase the diameter. When you stretch the pizza dough, this works the glutens inside in a way that rolling can never achieve. It is the development of the glutens that’s responsible for the crunchiness and chewiness.
So, use the backs of your hands instead of a rolling pin and gently tease your pizza dough.
As you can see by now, making pizza dough at home is not remotely intimidating once you develop an understanding of the ingredients used and their role in creating pizza dough you’ll have friends begging for.
One of the most important things to bear in mind is that you need a lean dough for pizza, and you should also closely consider the part oil plays before deciding whether or not to include this in the mix. Don’t skip the salt, though, or you’ll be losing out on the flavor front.
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