Homemade Pizza

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Photography Credit: Elise Bauer

What to do when your 8-year old nephew comes to visit? Make pizza, of course! Well, not of course, actually. I didn’t think of it until we exhausted Sorry, Monopoly, and gin rummy. But it did turn out to be a brilliant idea as dad had just received a baking stone for Christmas, and my nephew Austin loves pizza.

I told him if he helped me make it and didn’t make too many faces I would put him on my website and he would be famous. That seemed to get his attention. He thought the dough was “slimy and gross” but he loved picking his own toppings, and the finished product was “awesome”.

The following method I patched together from recipes in both Joy of Cooking and Cook’s Illustrated’s The Best Recipe. I made two batches of dough, four pizzas in all, with varied toppings.

Next time I’ll be a bit more patient with stretching out the dough so I can get it even thinner. Look to the end of this post for some excellent links about pizza from other food bloggers.

Homemade Pizza Recipe

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  • Prep time: 2 hours
  • Cook time: 30 minutes
  • Yield: Makes 2 10-12-inch pizzas

Pizza dough is a yeasted dough which requires active dry yeast. Make sure the check the expiration date on the yeast package.

You can use all purpose flour instead of the bread flour that is called for in the recipe, but bread flour is higher in gluten than all-purpose flour and will make a crispier crust for your pizza.

Ingredients

Pizza Dough: Makes enough dough for two 10-12 inch pizzas

  • 1 1/2 cups warm water (105°F-115°F)
  • 1 package (2 1/4 teaspoons) of active dry yeast
  • 3 1/2 cups bread flour
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon sugar

Pizza Ingredients

  • Olive oil
  • Cornmeal (to help slide the pizza onto the pizza stone)
  • Tomato sauce (smooth, or puréed)
  • Mozzarella cheese, grated
  • Parmesan cheese, grated
  • Feta cheese, crumbled
  • Mushrooms, thinly sliced
  • Bell peppers, stems and seeds removed, thinly sliced
  • Italian sausage, cooked ahead and crumbled
  • Chopped fresh basil
  • Pesto
  • Pepperoni, thinly sliced
  • Onions, thinly sliced
  • Ham, thinly sliced

Special equipment needed

  • A pizza stone, highly recommended if you want crispy pizza crust
  • A pizza peel or a flat baking sheet
  • A pizza wheel for cutting the pizza, not required, but easier to deal with than a knife

Method

Making the Pizza Dough

1 Proof the yeast: Place the warm water in the large bowl of a heavy duty stand mixer. Sprinkle the yeast over the warm water and let it sit for 5 minutes until the yeast is dissolved.

After 5 minutes stir if the yeast hasn't dissolved completely. The yeast should begin to foam, which indicates that it is still active and alive.

2 Make and knead the pizza dough: Using the mixing paddle attachment, mix in the flour, salt, sugar, and olive oil on low speed for a minute. Then replace the mixing paddle with the dough hook attachment.

Knead the pizza dough on low to medium speed using the dough hook until the dough is smooth and elastic, about 10 minutes.

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If you don't have a mixer, you can mix the ingredients together and knead them by hand.

If the dough seems a little too wet, sprinkle it with a little more flour.

3 Put dough in warm place to rise: Spread a thin layer of olive oil over the inside of a large bowl. Place the pizza dough in the bowl and turn it around so that it gets coated with the oil.

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Cover the dough with plastic wrap and let sit in a warm place (75-85°F) until it doubles in size, at least 1 to 1 1/2 hours.

You can let it sit for several hours if you want. The longer rise will improve the flavor of the pizza crust.

If you don't have a warm spot in the house you can heat the oven to 150 degrees, and then turn off the oven. Let the oven cool till it is just a little warm, then place the bowl of dough in this warmed oven to rise.

At this point, if you want to make ahead, you can freeze the dough in an airtight container for up to two weeks.

Preparing the Pizzas

1 Preheat pizza stone: Place a pizza stone on a rack in the lower third of your oven. Preheat the oven to 450°F for at least 30 minutes, preferably an hour.

2 Punch down dough, divide into two balls: Remove the plastic cover from the dough and punch the dough down so it deflates a bit. Divide the dough in half. Form two round balls of dough. Place each in its own bowl, cover with plastic and let sit for 10 minutes.

3 Prep toppings: Prepare your desired toppings. Note that you are not going to want to load up each pizza with a lot of toppings as the crust will end up not crisp that way.

About a third a cup each of tomato sauce and cheese would be sufficient for one pizza. One to two mushrooms thinly sliced will cover a pizza.

4 Flatten dough ball, and stretch out into a round: Working one ball of dough at a time, take one ball of dough and flatten it with your hands on a slightly floured work surface.

Starting at the center and working outwards, use your fingertips to press the dough to 1/2-inch thick. Turn and stretch the dough until it will not stretch further.

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Let the dough relax 5 minutes and then continue to stretch it until it reaches the desired diameter - 10 to 12 inches.

Use your palm to flatten the edge of the dough where it is thicker. You can pinch the very edges if you want to form a lip.

5 Brush dough top with olive oil: Brush the top of the dough with olive oil (to prevent it from getting soggy from the toppings). Use your finger tips to press down and make dents along the surface of the dough to prevent bubbling. Let rest another 5 minutes.

Repeat with the second ball of dough.

6 Sprinkle pizza peel with corn meal, put flattened dough on top: Lightly sprinkle your pizza peel (or flat baking sheet) with corn meal. (The corn meal will act as little ball bearings to help move the pizza from the pizza peel into the oven.)

Transfer one prepared flattened dough to the pizza peel.

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If the dough has lost its shape in the transfer, lightly shape it to the desired dimensions.

7 Spread with tomato sauce and sprinkle with toppings: Spoon on the tomato sauce, sprinkle with cheese, and place your desired toppings on the pizza.

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8 Sprinkle cornmeal on pizza stone, slide pizza onto pizza stone in oven: Sprinkle some cornmeal on the baking stone in the oven (watch your hands, the oven is hot!). Gently shake the peel to see if the dough will easily slide, if not, gently lift up the edges of the pizza and add a bit more cornmeal.

Slide the pizza off of the peel and on to the baking stone in the oven.

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9 Bake pizza: Bake pizza one at a time until the crust is browned and the cheese is golden, about 10-15 minutes. If you want, toward the end of the cooking time you can sprinkle on a little more cheese.

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If you make this recipe, snap a pic and hashtag it #simplyrecipes — We love to see your creations on Instagram, Facebook, & Twitter!

Links:

The Ultimate Guide to Making Homemade Pizza from Macheesmo

Skillet Tortilla Pizza here on Simply Recipes

Best Pizza Dough Ever from Heidi of 101 Cookbooks

10 steps to painless pizza making - useful tips from Deb of Smitten Kitchen

Simple Deep Dish Pizza from Minimalist Baker

Homemade Pizza

Showing 4 of 135 Comments

  • Mark

    P.S.P.S. Never, never, never roll your dough with a rolling pin. Yeast farts are highly desirable.

  • Mark

    P.S. If you do decide to “pile it on” don’t do a thin crust. Secondly, stretch your dough out on a pizza tin and pop just the dough and the tin into the oven. When it starts to bubble, before it starts browning, pull it out and let it cool a bit. That will help the dough hold the weight. The down side of doing that is the toppings can slide off sideways more easily. And oh yes, when you pull the hot pizza out of the oven, keep it perfectly flat and horizontal.

    Have at it.

  • Mark

    It seems like a lot of people are reporting sticky dough. The water looks a bit high for the amount of flour but it’s easy to add flour and not so easy to add water.

    There are a few variables here. The first is the type of flour you are using. Secondly the moisture content can change depending on whether it’s summer or winter. Assuming your flour came in a paper bag I suggest moving it to a storage container or put the flour bag into a 1 gallon Zip-Loc freezer bag. Put that into the fridge. Better yet, put it in the freezer. Unmilled wheat has a very long shelf life. Flour…not so much. As soon as you mill it the clock starts ticking. You can keep your flour fresher, longer by keeping it in the fridge or freezer.

    If your flour is too dry and you still have some dry flour in the bowl, it’s easy to add more water. Try 1 tablespoon at a time. If you already have a homogenous doughball you can still add water. At first, the outside will feel very slimy. Don’t panic. Just keeping working the dough and eventually the water will be absorbed.

    If your dough won’t stretch, try leaving it alone for a few minutes. Don’t feel like you need to toss the dough in the air. You’ll likely just tear a big hole in it and have to start over.

    Somebody mentioned 80% pizza, or maybe he said dough. What he was referring to was the amount of hydration or water in the dough. Some doughs are supposed to be very wet, almost goopy. Pizza dough is just one of many different bread doughs. You typically need to do some extra kneading or “stretch and fold” for those wet doughs. That’s done several times over a long period. You really shouldn’t have to think about that much for this pizza dough. If you want to take it to the next level, you can always do that when you’re ready. I do highly suggest you do a cold rise. It adds more flavor to the dough. Put your finished dough in the fridge for at least 1 but not more than 3 days. Bring the dough to room temperature before you make your pizza.

    Last piece of advice: Don’t overdo it on the sauce and toppings. You’ll have a big mess and no dinner. Even if you manage to get the pie in and out, the center will likely be uncooked and soggy.Unbrowned sausage or pepperoni will make your pie even wetter but I know, I know, you’re going to pile them on anyway : )

  • Mark

    I previously mentioned using the broiler to cook the pizza. I have heard about that in other places on the net but admittedly I have not done much with that myself. I find baking @10 minutes on a hot stone in a 500 degree oven gives excellent results. I mentioned the broiler method to somebody else, somebody who KNOWS pizza and has written multiple books and he told me not to do that. He said use the broiler to heat up the stone but then go back to baking, not broiling, when you slide in the pie. I could see how that could get the stone really hot. Now I guess I need to buy an IR thermometer to see how hot the stone gets.

  • Mark

    If you want a lot of traffic on a blog, just start a topic on pizza!

    I put the sugar in the warm water and dissolve it then I add the yeast. It will take less than 30 seconds for clumps of yeast to float to the surface if the yeast is good. That sugar is the only sugar I use. I don’t put any in the sauce.

    Some ovens have a bread proofing mode, 100 degrees. You may need to get the manual out as it may not be obvious how to set it.

    Don’t fret if you don’t have a mixer.
    You don’t need it. I own 4 mixers and I always make, bread, pasta and pizza dough by hand.
    You want the dough to be dessert, not a piece of cardboard. Put the raw dough in the fridge for 1 to 3 days. It will make the dough so much better. Yeah sure, you can make dough in a half hour but it won’t be as good as it could be.
    Don’t add too much sauce, too many toppings or cheese. You’ll have a big mess in the oven and the pizza will likely end up soggy. You could also end up with burnt crust and uncooked toppings.
    If your oven will go to 500, use that, not 450. It would be even better if it went to 800.
    If you have a pizza stone, put it high up in the oven but give your self some space to work and see what’s going on while you’re cooking.

    Another way to get around these “cold” ovens is to switch to the broiler after you slide in the pie but that will throw your timing way off so skip that for now.

    You may want to rotate your pizza 180 degrees halfway so it cooks evenly, front and back, but that can be a little dangerous unless you know how to do it with the peel.

    3 1/2 cups of flour will give pretty rugged crusts. That will probably make things a little easier though than a thin crust.

    If you’re using pepperoni or Italian sausage, you can sauté them in a separate pan and drain off the grease. You’ll have a healthier pie and you won’t risk having the grease running down inside your hot oven.

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