(Later, after reading several pizza dough recipes, I determined that I accidentally killed the yeast with nearly-boiling water).
Fast forward six months later (yes, it took me that long to attempt pizza dough again), I’ve realized that the secret to making really good pizza indeed lies in the proper use of yeast. My in-laws came to visit a few weeks ago and I once again found myself toying with flour and yeast. I am happy to report that my mother-in-law raved about the pizza and even said that it was some of the best that she’s ever eaten. Can’t get a better complement than that from someone you love and admire!
And the best part is that this recipe does not need any fancy equipment. I didn’t have to pull out my KitchenAid mixer. Most of the mixing/kneading is done the good old-fashioned way – by hands!
What I also love about this recipe for pizza dough is the fact that it makes enough dough for 6-8 medium sized pizzas. So you can ball up whatever you don’t want to immediately use and freeze for later use. When you’re ready to use your frozen pizza dough, simply remove it from the freezer and place it in the refrigerator for a day or two.
Ingredients for Pizza Dough:
7 cups strong white flour
1 T fine sea salt
2 (1/4-ounce) packets active dried yeast
1 T raw sugar
4 T extra-virgin olive oil
2 1/2 cups lukewarm water
Sift the flour and salt into a bowl and make a large well in the middle. In another bowl, mix the yeast, sugar and olive oil into the water. Let it sit for a few minutes, then begin slowly pouring the liquid into the flour well. Using a fork, slowly mix the flour in and swirl the liquid into the flour. Keep mixing, drawing larger amounts of flour into the well. When it all starts to mix together, use your clean hands (make sure to dust them with flour first) to finish mixing the flour with the liquid. Knead the dough by hand until it is smooth and has a spring-like feel.
Place the ball of dough in a large flour-dusted bowl. Flour the top of the dough ball and cover the bowl with a warm, moist cloth. Place in a warm room for about 1 hour until the dough has doubled in size.
I had a hard time getting the dough to rise b/c my kitchen is not ‘warm.’ So I turned the oven on to 200 degrees (lowest setting), and placed the dough into an oven-safe bowl, and applied more flour to the top and made sure that the towel on top stayed moist. Within a few minutes, I shut the oven off and within 10 minutes, my dough doubled in size. Make sure to keep checking the dough every couple of minutes so that you don’t prematurely cook/bake it.
Place the dough on a flour-dusted surface and knead it. This process forces the air out of the dough.
At this point you can either use the dough immediately, or freeze it for later use. Either way, divide the dough up into smaller balls, 6-8 in total.
Roll the pizzas out 20 minutes before you want to bake them. (Avoid rolling them out and leaving them for hours – they will dry out). If the dough was previously frozen, leave them out on the counter until they become room temperature before rolling them out.
Roll the dough out into circles, about 1/4-inch thick. Wa-LA, they are now ready for pizza sauce and toppings!
Ingredients for Pizza Sauce:
1-2 cloves garlic, minced
1 t salt
1 can (6 ounces) tomato paste
1 can (8 ounces) tomato sauce
1/2 t sugar
1/8 t pepper
1/2 t oregano
1 T olive oil
Combine all ingredients in a bowl. This recipe makes about 1 1/2 cups of pizza sauce, enough for 2 pizzas. I have also frozen the sauce for later use, in glass containers.
Other Ingredients Needed:
Fresh basil, clipped and rinsed under water
Fresh mozzarella cheese, sliced
Spread 3/4 cup of pizza sauce onto your pizza. Arrange fresh mozzarella cheese slices.
Place pizza in a pre-heated oven at 400 degrees for 10-15 minutes, or until the cheese becomes bubbly and the dough has baked through. Spread fresh basil on top of the pizza after you remove it from the oven.
I usually use a pizza stone, which gives the bottom of the crust a nice, hard texture, and keeps the pizza toasty warm for your second…third…fourth slice of pizza!
If you don’t have a pizza stone, you can usually find them on sale from time to time. I have three (can you tell we like making pizza?!) and prefer to use the stoneware pizza stones best (as opposed to this type of pizza stone). I have bought several stoneware pizza stones for my kids’ teachers at school (as gifts) when they go on sale at Williams Sonoma Outlets for ~$10-15. You can also use stainless steel cookie sheets, as lots of pizzerias use those to cook their pizzas.
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