Pizza Dough

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I remember one of my favorite family traditions growing up was having pizza practically every Friday night. As long as I can remember, one of my parents made the pizza dough and, after letting it sit for a few minutes, formed it into the pizza pan. The pizza pans would go into the oven, and 15 minutes later we would eat. The pizza was warm, gooey, and delicious. Ever since I was old enough to learn not to burn my mouth on nearly molten cheese, pizza has been my favorite food.

This is not to say that my parent's pizza was the only pizza I had ever experienced: occasionally we would buy pizza, and I found that pizzeria pizza had an amazing crispy, chewy, yet thin and not at all hard crust. Actually, it reminds me more of a bagel crust than a bread crust. Anyway, this became probably my favorite crust, and what I imagine all pizza should aspire to have.

You all know the proverb about teaching a man to fish and he will eat for life, right? Well, eventually I became responsible in my family for making the pizza dough, and for years I was content to simply follow in the footsteps of my parents and use their recipe and method. But somewhere in the back of my mind I had made it my goal in life to make a pizza dough that fully emulates the pizzeria pizza I remembered eating as a child.

When I moved to Utah to attend college, this desire came more to the front of my mind, as I couldn't find acceptable pizza anywhere. Before long my pizza pangs were getting so bad that I succumbed to buying a pie from Pizza-Hut. But alas, it wasn't enough. I knew I had to teach myself to fish, so to speak. In my opinion, the secret to good pizza dough is near-excessive kneading of a wheat-flour based dough. Many bread recipes I have read only require you to knead the dough for a few minutes, generally less than 5. While this may produce tender sandwich bread, which is okay, it won't make the chewy yet supple pizza dough I desire.

By the way, because I learned the recipe for this bread in Europe, the majority of the measurements are in grams. I could convert everything to cups for you, but it would be far better for you to go out and buy a kitchen scale. They aren't terribly expensive and will make all your baking that much better.
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Okay, fine, I will put the US measurements in at the recipe at the end of the post.
Skip the tutorial and go straight to the recipe.

Step 1:
Weigh out 500 grams all-purpose or bread flour.
I am of two minds as far as the flour goes. The difference between all-purpose and bread flour is basically the protein content, which translates to chewiness in the finished dough. If you like super chewy pizza crust, use bread flour. If you prefer slightly less chewy, use all-purpose.

Step 2:
Weigh out 7 grams dry yeast and 10 grams salt.
I am using instant yeast, but you can use active dry as well. I prefer instant because you don't need to activate it first.

Step 3:
Measure out 300 milliliters of warm water.
Warm technically means between 105°F and 115°F. Honestly, as long as it isn't too hot, the temperature doesn't really matter that much. If you are going to be freezing your dough, use cold water.

Step 4:
Measure out 1 Tbsp honey (or sugar) and 1 1/2 Tbsp oil.
The type of oil doesn't matter too much here, just don't use something too strongly flavored, like sesame oil. I use either plain canola oil or olive oil, but not extra virgin because the flavor doesn't come through too strongly.

Step 5:
Pour everything except the water into the bowl of a stand mixer and attach the hook.
This is called the straight dough method, and is the easiest way to make dough. Pretty much you just put all the ingredients together and mix.

Step 6:
Turn the mixer on slow speed and slowly add enough water to achieve the correct consistency.
This part gets tricky; you have to add enough water to make the dough, but adding too much will make the dough turn into batter.
I suggest you reserve about a teaspoon of the water, and only add it if you really need it. You have enough water when the dough holds itself together and stops looking shaggy. Believe it or not, it will take less than you think. Let it mix for a few minutes to see if the dough will come together
This takes practice, and on many occasions I have had to add more flour to a batch of wet dough. The only advice I can offer is to not add more than 300 milliliters of water unless you absolutely need it, but you probably won't.

Step 7:
Boost the speed to medium and knead for 10 minutes.
This is the secret to good pizza dough. You really do need to knead the dough for this long: it is the only thing that will develop enough gluten to let you roll out a thin crust that won't tear when you try to toss it. Trust me, patience is a virtue that really pays off in this situation.

At this point you should divide your dough in half, roll half into a tight ball, stick in a zip-top bag, and toss in the freezer. Unless you are making two pizzas, then don't freeze any dough.

Step 8:
Cover remaining dough and let rise 3 hours, or until at least double.
I have sometimes skimped and only let the dough rise for an hour, but the pizza suffers both in texture and flavor. You could let the dough rise overnight in the refrigerator, but that takes at least 6 hours, and is a test of patience that I rarely can endure.

Step 9:
While the dough is rising, preheat the oven to 500°F.
I feel like I say this a lot, but trust me on this. You want the oven to get as hot as possible to cook the dough and the cheese and have them be done at the same time, which hopefully should be less than 10 minutes. Ideally, you would be preheating a pizza stone at the same time, but if not , set your oven rack to one of the two lowest positions and get your heaviest baking sheet ready.

Step 10:
Gather the dough to a ball, then let it rest for 10 minutes to relax the gluten. After the rest, stretch and roll it into a circle, and top your pizza.
I like to do a combination of rolling, stretching, and tossing my pizza crust to get it to the proper size and thickness. Be careful to not let the center get too thin though, or there will not be enough dough to support the wet toppings.
Personally, I top my pizza with a thin layer of pizza sauce, mozzarella cheese and two toppings max, maybe three if it is pepperoni, mushrooms, and olives. To make the crust get extra tasty, I brush the outer rim with olive oil before adding any other toppings.

Step 11:
Transfer the pizza to the oven and bake until done.
You know what pizza looks like when it is done, right.

After taking your pizza out of the oven, you really do need to let it cool for 5-10 minutes so that the crust can set slightly and the cheese won't be quite so molten.


Pizza Dough: Yields dough for 2 medium-large pizzas
500 grams all-purpose flour (appx 4 cups)
7 grams yeast (1 pkg, 2 1/4 tsp)
10 grams salt (1 3/4 tsp)
300 milliliters warm water (1 1/3 cups)
1 Tbsp honey or sugar
1 1/2 Tbsp oil

Combine all ingredients except the water in the bowl of a stand mixer. Turn the speed on low and slowly add the water until the proper dough consistency is achieved. Increase the speed to medium and knead the dough for 10 minutes. Form the dough into a ball, place in a bowl, cover and let rise 3 hours or until double. Roll out dough into a large circle, top, and bake at 450°F until done. Let cool 10 minutes before slicing.

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