Don't buy that dough. This great basic homemade pizza dough can easily be made with things you always have on hand. Just follow these simple step by step photo instructions.
Some people will do anything to avoid making dough, but it is so easy. They will buy dough from the local pizza place (just buy the pizza and get it over with.) They buy refrigerated roll out dough. They flatten biscuits. They buy precooked pieces of bread labeled pizza crust. I'm sure I'm missing some of the other dodges. DON"T DO THAT.
The easiest 5 I have even given. I suspect I have done this close to 1000 times. Once a week, when the kids were young. Twice a week when I was young (some high school, plus college, med school, and pediatric training.) And still occasionally now.
The Recipe and Technique
This is a recipe that I have used for 50 years. (Did I just let my age slip a little?) It was on the side of a Gold Medal Flour bag in the sixties. I'm sure I have modified it some over the years, but the principles are the same.
Start with warm water. Add some yeast, oil, salt, and sugar. Add about twice as much flour as water. Adjust at this point since some flour needs more or less fluid. You want light and a bit sticky.
Keep it warm and let it double in size. That will take about 40 minutes. If you want, it will be a bit better with a second rise as it develops more gluten.
Spread it out and let it set about 10 minutes if you want a thicker crust. But usually, I just proceed without the wait. If you want a thinner crust (like my four cheese pizza) make a smaller amount and spread it thin and don't let it set.
Keep it Warm!
You must "keep it warm". Here are a few tips.
- "Preheat" your bowl with hot water.
- Use water of 100-110 degrees in the dough.
- Do NOT put the bowl on a stone type countertop. Put a wooden cutting board between it and the counter if that is where you want it to let it rise.
- Cover with a heavy towel.
- Don't keep checking it. It will take at least 35-40 minutes to double in size.
- If it is really cold, then preheat your oven to it's lowest setting then turn it off and use it as your warm spot to raise the dough.
I'm a fan of a good old fashion all-purpose (AP) flour for this recipe. It gives it a little rougher, texture that I think yells pizza.
I have done bread flour, and it works fine. The crust is a little crispier and a bit "finer."
You can substitute in some whole wheat. I suggest 25%, and you will need a bit more fluid, or the dough will be too tough. And I would also add a touch of honey if you do. I have done 50% whole wheat, and it has worked well after some fluid adjustment.
Other, non-wheat flours may work, but I have never tried them, and like gluten-free bread baking, I think that is a special skill set and not just substituting an ingredient or two. Not recommended in this recipe.
Types of Yeast
All baker yeast is the same organism (Saccharomyces cerevisiae). Old fashion active dry yeast is processed differently and has less live yeast so will work slower.
Otherwise consider quick, cake, fast or any other adjective use approximately the same. Yes, even that "special" pizza yeast.
The amount of yeast in a packet is about 2 ¼ teaspoons. I use bulk yeast usually and use a light tablespoon (3 teaspoons minus a little) as the same thing.
I also like adding the yeast to the water first to be sure I have an even distribution of the little critters. Many will mix the yeast with the flour, and that works also.
I like to "proof" my yeast by letting is set a few minutes to form some bubbles to "prove" to me it is good. I have had new yeast that was dead. Total ruins pizza night. If you proof your yeast, I like to add the sugar but not the salt to the water when doing this.
When I make a smaller amount, I still will use a pack of yeast. I do increase the yeast if doubling.
Please, please, please DO NOT use a jar or canned pizza sauce. You can use a tablespoon of it on something like a tortilla pizza, but that is all it is good for.
My suggest sauce: One 6 oz can of tomato paste and 6 oz water. 1 teaspoon salt, ½ teaspoon pepper, 1 clove garlic, about half a small chopped onion, and 1 teaspoon oregano. A pinch (¼ teaspoon) crushed red pepper.
The tomato paste gives a touch of sweetness and deeper tomato taste than sauce.
This amount of dough makes a large 16-inch diameter pizza or a half sheet pan size. That will need a lot of topping.
I suggest about one pound of browned Italian sausage, a chopped full green pepper, 4 oz of pepperoni and then topped with 3-4 cups of mozzarella cheese. I like to toss a bit more pepperoni on top of the cheese to brown.
Can I make this ahead?
Yep, let it rise once the form into a ball and give it a light coat of oil and seal tight. Good refrigerated for 1-2 days or frozen for 3-4 months. To thaw the frozen dough, just overnight in the refrigerator.
Once thawed or just refrigerated, let the dough sit at room temperature for about 30-60 minutes then make the dough out on the pan. Spreading cold dough is almost impossible.
Pizza Dough for Large Groups or a Pizza Party
This is a great recipe for a large scale pizza party or group. The pizzas are large and dough is easy to make up or make ahead.
So just multiple the ingredients as a starting point. I usually start with 2 cups of flour per cup of liquid.
One last thing to know, a pound of flour is about 3 ⅓ cups of flour.
Ingredients most of us have on hand.
In a large mixing bowl combine 2 cups of warm water (about 100-110 degrees) with 1 tablespoon oil, 1 teaspoon sugar, and one packet ( 2 ¼ teaspoons) of a rapid/instant rising yeast. Mix well. Let sit a few minutes until foaming some then add ½ teaspoon salt.
Add 4 cups of AP flour.
Mix well with a spatula and then finish with a little of hand kneading to get all the flour incorporated for a few minutes in the bowl. Add a little more flour or water to make it relatively light and still a little sticky. Usually, you won't need to add anything. Dust with a little flour on all sides when done and give the bowl a teaspoon or two of oil coating.
Cover with a towel in a warm place until double in size — about 40-45 minutes.
That is the end of the pizza dough instructions. You can proceed to make your pizza with the following instructions. Or refrigerate or freeze the dough for later use. See the recipe card tips for storage instructions.
Oil a large pan with vegetable oil. A 16 inch round pan or a half size sheet pan will do. Flour your hands and spread the dough. A little flour on top of the dough helps some. Let sit for about 10 minutes if you want a thick crust. But for a standard crust, just proceed.
Prepare any sauce and other toppings you want. My suggested sauce: One 6 oz can of tomato paste and 6 oz water. 1 teaspoon salt, ½ teaspoon pepper, 1 clove garlic, about half a small chopped onion, and 1 teaspoon oregano. A pinch (¼ teaspoon) of crushed red pepper is optional.
Top as you wish.
Cook for about 20-25 minutes in a preheated 400° convection oven or 425° convection.
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Editor's Note: Originally published September 14, 2011. Now with instructions for completing your pizza and update photos.