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 my father had just received a baking stone for Christmas, and my nephew loves pizza.
I told him if he helped me make it I would talk about 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".
My Favorite Pizza Dough Recipe
Next time I'll be a bit more patient with stretching out the dough so I can get it even thinner.
The Best Flour for Homemade Pizza Dough
Bread flour is the best flour for homemade pizza dough. You can use all-purpose flour instead of the bread flour 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.
How to Make Sure Your Yeast Is Active
Pizza dough is a yeasted dough that requires active dry yeast. Make sure the check the expiration date on the yeast package! Yeast that is too old may be dead and won't work.
Also, if the yeast does not begin to foam or bloom within 10 minutes of being added to the water in Step 1 of Making the Pizza Dough, it is probably dead. You'll need to start over with new, active yeast.
How to Measure Flour for This Pizza Dough Recipe
Cup measurements can vary depending on how you are scooping the flour (we fluff the flour, lightly scoop it, and level with a knife). So I recommend using a kitchen scale to measure out the flour amounts by weight. This is the only way you'll get a consistently accurate measurement.
Watch How to Make This Homemade Pizza Recipe
Is It Better to Let the Dough Rise Overnight?
You don’t have to let your pizza dough rise overnight – or up to 48 hours – in the refrigerator, but if you do, it will develop more flavor and air bubbles that will puff up when the pizza is cooked. (Some people fight over the slices with air bubbles.) Make sure to take the dough out of the refrigerator an hour before using it to bring it to room temperature.
Tips for Shaping the Pizza Dough Into Rounds
Pizza parlors make it look easy to shape dough into rounds, but it can take some practice in your kitchen to get it right at home. Try these tips.
- Working with pizza dough is easiest if it’s at room temperature. If the dough is frozen, defrost it in the refrigerator before bringing it to room temperature.
- Prepare a large floured surface for the dough but start shaping the dough with your hands. Moving around in a circle, pull from the center out until the dough gets too large to manage by hand.
- Place the dough on the floured surface and – using the palm of your hand – continue to widen the circle until you can't stretch it any further.
- Let the dough rest for five minutes.
- Continue to stretch with your hand. If you can't get the dough to the diameter you want with just the palm of your hand, use a well-floured rolling pin to continue to flatten it, working from the center out.
- If your dough doesn’t end up perfectly pizza parlor round, the pizza will be just as good. Keep making homemade pizzas, and you’ll get better at it.
Best Cheeses for Homemade Pizza
Mozzarella cheese is the most commonly used cheese on pizza, but it’s certainly not the only one you can use. You can use any cheese that melts well. For better meltability, use freshly grated cheese. Store-bought, pre-shredded cheese is coated with a substance that keeps it from clumping, but it also makes it harder to melt.
Try These Other Cheeses to Switch Up the Flavor of Your Pie
These cheeses have good meltability, but feel free to switch it up with whatever cheese you want.
- Parmesan – Parmesan is best mixed with other cheeses and not used as the only cheese on a pizza
Pizzas with Raw Ingredients
There are some toppings that should be cooked first before topping a pizza because they won’t cook fully in the oven during the pizza's cooking time. Any raw meat should be fully cooked before adding it as a topping. Also, any vegetables that you don’t want to be raw on the cooked pizza such as onions, peppers, broccoli, or mushrooms should be sautéed first.
The Best Order for Topping Your Pizza
Traditionally, the pizza sauce goes on top of the dough. If you’re using shredded cheese, put the cheese on next and then the toppings. If you’re using fresh chunks of mozzarella, they should go on after the toppings. If you’re using some Parmesan cheese along with other shredded cheese, the Parmesan can be sprinkled on top of the toppings. But, don’t be afraid to mix up the order of the cheese and toppings to see what happens.
Try These Other Delicious Pizzas
Homemade Pizza & Pizza Dough
- Pizza Dough: Makes enough dough for two 10-12 inch pizzas
- 1 1/2 cups (355 ml) warm water (105°F-115°F)
- 1 package (2 1/4 teaspoons) active dry yeast
- 3 3/4 cups (490 g) bread flour
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil (omit if cooking pizza in a wood-fired pizza oven)
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- Pizza Ingredients and Topping Options
- Extra virgin olive oil
- Cornmeal (to help slide the pizza onto the pizza stone)
- Tomato sauce (smooth, or puréed)
- Firm mozzarella cheese, grated
- Fresh soft mozzarella cheese, separated into small clumps
- Fontina cheese, grated
- Parmesan cheese, grated
- Feta cheese, crumbled
- Mushrooms, very thinly sliced if raw, otherwise first sautéed
- Bell peppers, stems and seeds removed, very thinly sliced
- Italian pepperoncini, thinly sliced
- Italian sausage, cooked ahead and crumbled
- Sliced black olives
- Chopped fresh basil
- Baby arugula, tossed in a little olive oil, added as pizza comes out of the oven
- Pepperoni, thinly sliced
- Onions, thinly sliced raw or caramelized
- Ham, thinly sliced
Making the Pizza Dough
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 or bloom, indicating that the yeast is still active and alive.
(Note that if you are using "instant yeast" instead of "active yeast", no proofing is required. Just add to the flour in the next step.)
Make and knead the pizza dough:
Add the flour, salt, sugar, and olive oil, and using the mixing paddle attachment, mix 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 about 7-10 minutes.
If you don't have a mixer, you can mix the ingredients together and knead them by hand.
The dough should be a little sticky, or tacky to the touch. If it's too wet, sprinkle in a little more flour.
Let the dough 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.
At this point you can choose how long you want the dough to ferment and rise. A slow fermentation (24 hours in the fridge) will result in more complex flavors in the dough. A quick fermentation (1 1/2 hours in a warm place) will allow the dough to rise sufficiently to work with.
Cover the dough with plastic wrap.
For a quick rise, place the dough in a warm place (75°F to 85°F) for 1 1/2 hours.
For a medium rise, place the dough in a regular room temperature place (your kitchen counter will do fine) for 8 hours. For a longer rise, chill the dough in the refrigerator for 24 hours (no more than 48 hours).
The longer the rise (to a point) the better the flavor the crust will have.
Make-Ahead and Freezing Instructions
After the pizza dough has risen, you can freeze it to use later. Divide the dough in half (or the portion sizes you will be using to make your pizzas). Place on parchment paper or a lightly floured dish and place, uncovered, in the freezer for 15 to 20 minutes. Then remove from the freezer, and place in individual freezer bags, removing as much air as you can from the bags. Return to the freezer and store for up to 3 months.
Thaw the pizza dough in the refrigerator overnight or for 5 to 6 hours. Then let the dough sit at room temperature for 30 minutes before stretching it out in the next steps.
Preparing the Pizzas
Preheat pizza stone (or pizza pan or baking sheet):
Place a pizza stone on a rack in the lower third of your oven. Preheat the oven to 475°F for at least 30 minutes, preferably an hour. If you don't have a pizza stone, you can use a pizza pan or a thick baking sheet; you need something that will not warp at high temperatures.
Divide the dough into two balls:
Remove the plastic cover from the dough. Dust your hands with flour and push 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 15 minutes (or up to 2 hours).
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.
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 lightly 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.
Let the dough relax 5 minutes and then continue to stretch it until it reaches the desired diameter - 10 to 12 inches.
Treat the dough gently!
You can also hold up the edges of the dough with your fingers, letting the dough hang and stretch, while working around the edges of the dough.
If a hole appears in your dough, place the dough on a floured surface and push the dough back together to seal the hole.
Use your palm to flatten the edge of the dough where it is thicker. Pinch the edges if you want to form a lip.
Brush dough top with olive oil:
Use your fingertips to press down and make dents along the surface of the dough to prevent bubbling. Brush the top of the dough with olive oil (to prevent it from getting soggy from the toppings). Let rest another 10-15 minutes.
Repeat with the second ball of dough.
Sprinkle pizza peel with corn meal, put flattened dough on top:
Lightly sprinkle your pizza peel (or flat baking sheet) with cornmeal. (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.
If the dough has lost its shape in the transfer, lightly shape it to the desired dimensions.
Spread with tomato sauce and sprinkle with toppings:
Spoon on the tomato sauce, sprinkle with cheese, and place your desired toppings on the pizza. Be careful not to overload the pizza with too many toppings, or your pizza will be soggy.
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 onto the baking stone in the oven.
Bake pizza in the 475°F oven, 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.