Thursday, January 28, 2010

Pizza Dough

I have been on a bit of a pizza kick lately, and I think that you should join me. Mainly because I don’t want to be the only one who’s gorging themselves on pizza in January while those New Year’s Resolutions are still so fresh (thanks for the reminder Mary). But selfish reasons aside, there are many reasons you should make homemade pizza, one of them being that it’s damn tasty. It’s also one of those foods that may seem tricky to make at home, but is really not difficult at all, which means you can impress your friends with your awesome pizza making skills. And once you master a dough recipe that you really like, you will have the basis for endless variations of delicious pizzas.

Ok, so let’s get down to this dough making business. I’ve only been making pizza for about the past year or so, and in that time I’ve tried many different recipes. And I hadn’t found one that I could see myself using as my go-to dough recipe until now. The recipe comes from Bread-God Peter Reinhart’s American Pie: My Search for the Perfect Pizza, which will tell you just about everything you need to know about pizza. For example, the book contains eleven (11!) different recipes for just the dough alone. Needless to say, this book is for serious pizza devotees and can be a bit overwhelming at first. So I made it simple and just started with the first recipe in the book, and I may not end up going any farther than that.

This dough came together beautifully, rolled out like a dream and was thin yet chewy and full of flavor. Flavor in pizza dough is derived in a few different ways, but one of the most important ways is a slow fermentation cycle. I can’t really delve in to the logistics of the fermentation cycle, because it’s a lot smarter than I am, but basically what knowledge I have gathered, is that the longer you allow the fermentation cycle to go on, the more flavor you will develop.

Peter recommends refrigerating the dough at least overnight and up to three days, which he claims will only enhance the flavor of the dough. This may seem like a long time to wait for pizza, but just think about how nice it would be to make your pizza dough the night before and have it ready and waiting for you the next night for dinner. This doesn’t mean you can’t make tasty pizza on the same day though, and he also includes instructions for that as well.

Working with yeast may seem a little scary at first because of its temperamental nature, but the results are so worth it. So don't be afraid! Factors such as the temperature of your house, the rising time of the dough and the yeast itself, can all create variations in the way the dough reacts. But the more you practice the more you will get used to how the dough should look and feel for the results you are looking for. Besides, practicing is the best part – you get to eat the results.

Making the dough is simple. First, mix the ingredients together in the bowl of a stand mixer or a large mixing bowl for about four minutes or until it comes together in a shaggy ball, then let it rest for five minutes. Once that five minutes is up, mix the dough for about another 5 minutes. It should form into a nice smooth dough. It will look a little something like this:
Place the dough on a floured countertop and dust the top of the ball with flour.

Fold up all four corners of the dough and form it into a smooth ball.
Place your beautiful dough in a large bowl that has been sprayed or brushed with olive oil. Roll the ball in the oil so that it doesn't end up sticking.
Now it's time to cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let the dough rest for about 30 minutes if your putting the dough in the fridge overnight, and 1 ½ hours if your going to use the dough on the same day. Remember, resting is good! After it rested for 30 minutes my dough looked like this:
Now its time for it to chill out in the fridge. Either overnight, or at least two hours. Prepare ahead, this dough needs to sit at room temperature for at least two hours before you roll it out.

Once the dough is done with fridge time, bring it out and gently place it on a floured work surface. There's a lot of floured work surfaces used in making pizza, be aware you will be covered in flour by the end of this.
Gently remove the ball of dough from the bowl and place it on your floured counter. Using a pastry cutter or a sharp knife, cut the dough in to 6 equal pieces. Shape each of these pieces gently in to a ball and place on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper or a silicone baking sheet. Cover them lightly with plastic wrap. (I kept two of the doughs in the fridge, I just couldn’t justify six pizzas for two people in one night)
Now let them hang out at room temp for at least two hours. And your dough is ready to use!

Here’s one of the pizzas I made with the dough. Recipes and instructions on constructing pizzas coming soon!

Napoletana Pizza Dough
From Peter Reinhart

Makes six 6-ounce dough balls

5 cups (22 ½ ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour
1 ¾ teaspoons table salt or 3 ¼ teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon instant yeast
1 ¾ cups plus 2 tablespoons cool water (65 degrees Fahrenheit)

With a large spoon, stir together all the ingredients in a 4-quart bowl or the bowl of an electric stand mixer until combined.

Electric mixer instructions: Fit mixer with the dough hook and mix on low speed for about 4 minutes, or until all the flour gathers to form a coarse ball. Let the dough rest for 5 minutes, then mix again on medium-low speed for an additional 2 minutes, or until the dough clears the sides of the bowl and sticks just a little to the bottom. If the dough is too soft and sticky to hold its shape, mix in more flour by the tablespoonful; if it is too stiff or seems dry, mix in more water by the tablespoonful.

Mixing by hand instructions: Using a spoon or your hands work the dough in to a coarse ball, repeatedly dipping either your hands or the spoon in to room temperature water if necessary. Mix for about 4 minutes and then let the dough rest for 5 minutes. Resume mixing for an additional 2 to 3 minutes, or until the dough is slightly sticky soft, and supple. If the dough is too soft and sticky to hold its shape, mix in more flour by the tablespoonful; if it is too stiff or dry, mix in more water by the tablespoonful.

Transfer the dough to a floured counter, dust the top of the dough with flour and then, working from the 4 corners, fold the dough into a ball. Place the ball in a bowl brushed with olive oil, turn the dough to coat it with the oil, and cover the bowl with plastic wrap. Let the dough sit at room temperature for 30 minutes, then put the bowl in the refrigerator overnight. If you are making the pizzas on the same day, let the dough sit at room temperature for 1 ½ hours, punch it down, reshape it into a ball, return the ball to the bowl, and then cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours.

The next day (or later the same day if refrigerated for only 2 hours), remove the bowl of dough from the refrigerator 2 hours before you plan to make the pizzas. The dough will have expanded somewhat. Gently transfer the dough to a floured counter. Using a pastry blade dipped in water, divide the dough in to 6 equal pieces. Gently round each piece into a ball and brush or rub each ball with olive oil. Line a sheet pan with baking parchment or silicone baking sheet and brush with olive oil. Place each dough ball on the pan and loosely cover the pan with plastic wrap. Allow the dough balls to sit at room temperature for 2 hours before making the pizzas.

If you do not plan to use all the dough balls right away, place the extra ones in individual zippered freezer bags and refrigerate or freeze. Use the refrigerated balls within 2 days and the frozen balls within 3 months. Allow the dough balls to sit at room temperature for 2 hours before making the pizzas.


  1. Pizza is good - and homemade is actually easy. I do it with my boys a fair amount, and for Pete's b-day we had a slew of 6-yr olds making their own pizzas - I made the dough the night before. Thanks for the recipe.

  2. We're making pizza this week, can't wait to try this dough!


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