Making pizza is fun for the whole family and you can have fun putting together so many different flavor combinations. But, in actuality, a perfect pizza comes down to only a few things: a great crust, good sauce, and good cheese. Today, I am focusing on the base of your pizza pyramid, your crust.
Making pizza dough sounds like something that is pretty simple, right? That is what I though when I first started this mission about a year ago. My efforts led me to a lot of failed attempts. Chewy crust, hard crust, not enough flavor, too sweet, oven temperature too high or too low, and the list goes on. You would think that if you found a good recipe, you would be able to duplicate it and that would be that. I enacted “Friday Night Pizza Night” at my house and I went through many trials of pizza dough. Armed with my husband as my taste tester (which I am sure he did not mind), I tried and tried to make a good pizza dough. I was going to master this for sure.
When making pizza, I like to use a hand mixer with a dough hook attachment. This helps mix it more uniformly and quicker. If you don’t have one available, a wooden spoon will do just fine. When all ingredients are thoroughly mixed (about 5 minutes), the dough should be smooth, elastic and slightly sticky and pull from the sides of the bowl. If it is too sticky (sticks to your fingers) add more flour one tablespoon at a time. Try not to go overboard though because it is easier to add flour to sticky dough than adding water to a dry dough.
Remove the dough to a lightly floured surface – with your hands also floured, knead a few more minutes and roll into a ball. Rub with olive oil and let it sit under the bowl in a warm place. You will see many, many, many different opinions on how long to let it sit for. I usually let it sit for an hour, separate it into two balls, let it sit 30 more minutes, form it into the pizza round(s) and let it sit another 30 minutes before I add toppings. Whew! But, in my opinion, if you lose track of time and let it sit too long, you won’t ruin your dough.
After the initial 1 hour rise process, you can either leave it in one ball to make 1 large pizza – but make sure you have a pan or pizza stone big enough to handle it – or you can separate it into two balls to make 2 medium pizzas. Word of advice: if you do not own a pizza stone, stop what you are doing and run out and get one now…or at least before you make your next pizza. It will make all the difference in the crispy base of your crust.
As far as toppings go, less is more. Do not weigh down your pizza! I know some of you guys out there will be tempted to make a meat lovers supreme like your favorite pizzeria, but I promise that your oven is not hot enough to cook the crust and the toppings the way they should be.
I usually brush my crust with olive oil, garlic and parmesan cheese. Place in a 450 degree oven for 8 minutes. As for the temperature, I have had the most success at 450 because it has time to cook the dough before the crust gets too, well…crusty. Since ovens are finicky, you can feel free to test out your oven temperatures up to 500. Check it after 8 minutes and cheese should be melted and crust golden brown. Most pizzas will cook in 15 minutes or less.
The end result is a pizza with a crisp bottom and a springy, fluffy crust. If you can fight off the clan for a few minutes, let it cool before you cut into it or your cutting board might end up with a runny mess of sauce. It may seem like a bit of work, but I guarantee you will not need to order out anymore once you hone in on your pizza making craft. As I sit here, biting into my slice of pizza, the pepperoni with a slight crisp and the cheese bouncing back at me, I realize I have finally created the perfect crust…for me anyways.
- 1 cup warm water
- 2 1/4 tsp instant yeast or 1 instant yeast packet
- 1 1/2 tsp kosher salt
- 1 Tbsp brown sugar
- 1 Tbsp oil
- 2 Tbsp malted milk powder
- 3 cups bread flour
- Sprinkle the yeast into a medium bowl containing 1 cup warm water and stir until yeast dissolves. Let sit 5 minutes. Stir in the salt, brown sugar and oil.
- Using the dough hook attachment, add the milk powder and 2 cups sifted flour and mix until blended. Slowly add another 1 cup flour until dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl.
- Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and knead it for 10 to 15 minutes until dough is smooth and elastic. Place the dough in another bowl greased with a small amount of olive oil. Turn the dough once so that the top is oiled. Cover the dough with the bowl and put it in a warm place for about 1 hour --until the dough rises to about double its original size.
- Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F and put your pizza stone in the oven. Dump the dough back onto the floured surface and punch it down, getting rid of any bubbles. Divide the dough in half and let it rest another 30 minutes.
- Roll each half into a 12-inch circle, depending on your personal preference for how thick pizza crust should be and remember, it will rise in the oven. Top with sauce and let sit for 30 more minutes. Add cheese and toppings as desired. If you like, brush exposed edges of the crust with an olive oil, minced garlic and parmesan cheese mixture.
- Bake each pizza for 10-15 minutes (oven temperatures vary), or until crust is nicely browned and cheese is melted.