[Recipe via Fine Cooking; photo by Steve Hunter]
Easy Pizza Dough Recipe
1 package (2-1/4 tsp.) active-dry yeast
1-1/2 cups very warm water (110°F)
18 oz. (4 cups) all-purpose flour; more for dusting
1-1/2 tsp. salt
2 Tbs. olive oil
Making and dividing the dough
Dissolve the yeast in the warm water and set aside (a Pyrex 2-cup measure makes for easy pouring; be sure the cup isn’t cold). Meanwhile, put the flour and salt in a food processor fitted with the steel blade; process briefly to mix. With the machine running, add the water-yeast mixture in a steady stream. Turn the processor off and add the oil. Pulse a few times to mix in the oil.
Scrape the soft dough out of the processor and onto a lightly floured surface. With lightly floured hands, quickly knead the dough into a mass, incorporating any bits of flour or dough from the processor bowl that weren’t mixed in. Cut the dough into four equal pieces with a knife or a dough scraper. Roll each piece into a tight, smooth ball, kneading to push the air out.
Rising and storing the dough
Storing Pizza Dough
What you do next depends on whether you want to make pizza right way or at a later date.
If you want to bake the pizzas as soon as possible, put the dough balls on a lightly floured surface, cover them with a clean dishtowel, and let them rise until they almost double in size, about 45 minutes. Meanwhile, turn your oven on, with the baking stone in it, to let the stone fully heat. In just 45 minutes, the dough is proofed. These dough balls are ready to be shaped.
If you want to bake the pizzas tomorrow, line a baking sheet with a floured dishtowel, put the dough balls on it, and cover them with plastic wrap, giving them room to expand (they’ll almost double in size), and let them rise in the refrigerator overnight.
To use dough that has been refrigerated overnight, simply pull it out of the refrigerator about 15 minutes before shaping the dough into a pizza.
To freeze the dough balls, dust each one generously with flour as soon as you’ve made it, and put each one in a separate zip-top bag. Freeze for up to a month.
It’s best to transfer frozen dough from the freezer to the refrigerator the night before (or 10 to 12 hours before) you want to use it. But I’ve found that dough balls pulled straight from the freezer and left to warm up on the counter will be completely defrosted in about 1-1/2 hours. The dough is practically indestructible.
Shaping your pizza
Put the proofed or thawed ball of dough on a lightly floured wooden board. Sprinkle a little more flour on top of the ball. Using your fingertips, press the ball down into a flat cake about 1/2 inch thick. Flatten the ball into a cake. Flour your fingers and the board for easier handling. Stretch the dough to a thickness of about 1/4 inch by using the backs of your hands or a rolling pin.
Lift the dough and lay it over the back of the fist of one hand. Put your other fist under the dough, right next to your first fist. Now gently stretch the dough by moving your fists away from each other (see Video). Each time you do this stretch, rotate the dough. Continue stretching and rotating until the dough is thin, about 1/4 inch, and measures about 9 inches across. Unless your dough is still cold from the freezer, it will be so soft that its own weight will stretch it out.
Alternatively, use a rolling pin to roll out the dough thinly on a floured board. If you like a very thin pizza, roll the dough out to a 10-inch round. Be careful not to make it too thin, and remember that the thinner the pizza, the less topping it can handle.
Rub a bit of flour onto a wooden pizza peel (or the back of a baking sheet). Gently lift the stretched dough onto the floured peel. Top the pizza, scattering the ingredients around to within 1/2 inch of the border.
Baking your pizza
Once you are done with the shaping, top it with your favorite sauce, cheese and your choice of toppings. Then put a pizza stone or unglazed terra-cotta tiles on the lowest rack of the oven and heat the oven to 500°F. Ideally, let the stone heat in the oven for an hour.
Shake the peel (or baking sheet) gently back and forth to make sure the pizza isn’t stuck. If it seems stuck, lift the edges up with a spatula and toss a bit of flour under the dough. Quickly slide the pizza onto the hot baking stone. Bake until the edges are golden, about 8-10 min, or as needed to cook your toppings.