Hearing some people talk about pizza dough, you would think that a regular cook can't whip up one at home. In truth, it's not that complicated. A recipe for good pizza dough is simple: right ingredients, plus right ratio, sprinkled with a few techniques and tips.
This time I'll give you some of the best pizza dough recipes. We'll also talk about ingredients and the best ways to fire up that pie. Hopefully, it will show you that you don't have to be a certified pizzaiolo to make some delicious grub at home.
What Is The Best Flour for Making Homemade Pizza Dough?
Run-of-the-mill all-purpose will do the trick. It would be even better if you could get your hands on some 00 flour (which is the flour of choice for making pizza in Italy).
These types of flour have a lower gluten content than bread flour (and more than cake flour which is entirely useless here). You don't want to have too much gluten because it may lead to more shoe leather consistency than a crispy crust.
All-purpose will give you a slightly chewier texture because it's not as finely milled as 00, but other than that, it will work just fine.
How to Flavor The Dough?
I prefer time (as in the 4th dimension, not thyme the herb). Leaving the dough to ferment will develop a lot of unique flavors. This goes double for a dough that's made with a sourdough starter (more on it later). But here are three other things you can try.
- Infused oils - Some pizza dough recipes include at least a little bit of olive oil. You can infuse said oil with herbs (hey, like thyme) or garlic for a bit more flavor.
- Crushed garlic and garlic powder - If garlic-infused oil is not enough for you, add garlic directly to the dough. Garlic powder is a bit more practical since you can pre-mix it with flour and/or salt. About a 1/4 of a teaspoon per pie will do.
- Sugar and other sweeteners - Plain sugar will sweetness the dough and make the yeast more active. But, you can add even more flavor by switching to another sweetener like maple or malt syrup.
How to Make The Best Homemade Pizza Dough?
There is no one best pizza dough recipe because one method will work for every pizza lover. But, here are 3 top recipes to choose from, based on the technique that works best for you.
Classic Pizza Dough
When something's not broken, no point in fixing it. This is how they make pizza dough in Naples, and the recipe will make 4 pizzas. It includes quite a lot of waiting, but (to steal a catchphrase from Alton Brown) your patience will be rewarded.
Keep in mind that this recipe will behave a lot like your favorite bread or pastry recipe. The humidity in your area and your kitchen will have quite a bit of an impact on exact ratios. Nevertheless, don't be afraid and play with it until it comes out perfect - it's more than worth it.
Also, feel free to personalize this recipe by adding sweeteners, garlic powder, herbs, etc.
20oz all-purpose or (preferably) 00 flour.
4 teaspoons kosher salt.
2 teaspoons active dry yeast.
13oz lukewarm water.
In a bowl, combine flour, salt, and yeast. Make sure to keep the yeast and salt separate at first because salt can kill the yeast. Whisk to combine.
Add half of the water and mix through. Keep adding water a little at a time until you can't see any more dry flour at the bottom of the bowl. Cover with plastic wrap or tea towel, and leave to rise at room temperature for 8-12 hours.
Once the dough doubles in size, turn it over onto a lightly floured surface. Divide into 4 portions and place each into a ziplock bag or covered plastic container. Place in the fridge to rise and ferment for 2 days (can leave up to 4).
Remove from the fridge. Either leave for 2 hours to come to room temperature before rolling and baking, or wrap in plastic wrap and freeze for up to 3 months.
No-Knead Pizza Dough
No stand mixer or patience? Try this no-knead dough. It's perfect for those who come up with excuses of being too busy to cook things from scratch.
This recipe makes 4 small or 2 large thin-crust pizzas.
17.5oz all-purpose or 00 flour.
1/4 teaspoon of active dry yeast.
2 teaspoons kosher salt.
2 tablespoon olive or infused oil, optional.
Optional, sweetener and other flavor enhancers.
Measure out the flour in a bowl, and add salt, yeast and dry flavor enhancers if using. Make sure to keep the salt away from the yeast so as not to kill it. Whisk to combine.
Add sweetener if using to the water. Pour the water into the bowl with the flour mixture and mix to combine. You can use a spoon or your hands if you wish.
Cover the bowl with a kitchen towel or plastic wrap. Leave it at room temperature for about 18 hours to ferment and rise.
Once the dough is doubled in size, flour the work surface and divide the dough into desired portions. Add a bit of oil to each portion if using.
Shape each portion into a ball, keeping the seam down as you work. The dough should not be sticky, but if it is, add more flour as you shape it.
If not using the dough straight away, wrap in plastic and store in the fridge for up to 3 days, or freeze for 3 months. If ready to make a pizza, stretch/roll out the dough and spread desired toppings.
Sourdough Pizza Dough
Hey, sourdough is still fashionable. Even if it isn't, it packs a lot of flavors, so you have to try this recipe at least once.
This recipe makes enough dough for 2 12" thin-crust pizzas.
8oz sourdough starter (unfed, discarded).
5-6oz lukewarm water.
10.5oz 00 or all-purpose flour.
1 teaspoon kosher salt.
1/2 teaspoon dry active yeast.
1-2 teaspoons sugar or another sweetener.
Optional, other flavor enhancers.
Check your starter. If there is any liquid, stir it through before you measure out your discard. Feed the starter as usual. Measure out 8oz from the discard.
Add the flour, salt, and yeast into the mixing bowl. Make sure to keep the salt away from yeast not to kill it. If you're adding dry (powdered) flavors, add at this stage. Whisk to combine.
Dissolve sugar or chosen sweetener in water. Add half of the water and the sourdough starter to the flour mixture and mix to combine. Keep adding the rest of the water 1 tablespoon or so at a time until the dough stops looking dry.
Place the dough hook into the stand mixer, and knead the dough for 7-8 minutes (7 for all-purpose and 8 for 00 flour). Stop once the dough wraps around the hook and the sides of the bowl look clean.
Place the dough in a lightly greased bowl or container, cover, and leave it to rise. Depending on the vitality of your starter, it may take 2-4 hours for the dough to double in size. You can speed this process by placing the dough in a warm place or a fermenter.
When the dough doubles, divide it in two. Either roll/stretch out into 2 12" rounds or wrap and freeze for up to 3 months.
How to Bake a Pizza?
A standard home oven is not the best place to bake a great pizza. Sure, it will do in a pinch, but we can do better than that.
A classic wood pizza oven is perfect for the job. It gets so hot that it can cook a large pizza in under 2 minutes. And that heat and speed are the tricks to producing a perfect crust.
If you have enough backyard real estate and some basic DIY skills, you can build your own. If not, I have a few options for you.
If you're serious about pizza, you must have a pizza stone or steel. They are the only thing that can turn your plain oven into a pizza baking beast. Plus, you can use them in a toaster oven or on a barbeque as well, plus use them for more than baking pizzas.
Pizza stones are better because they transfer the heat more evenly, but they may crack if you don't prep them properly.
Using them is super simple - leave them to preheat in the oven or the BBQ. If you're using a classic oven, place it on the top rack and turn on the broiler as well. This will create almost the same environment as the traditional wood oven (minus the wood smoke).
Don't forget to have a pizza peel at hand unless you're looking forward to a trip to the burn unit of the ICU.
Indoor Pizza Oven
The last couple of decades saw many manufacturers come out with specialty pizza baking appliances with varying degrees of success and quality. The age of crowdfunding brought a whole sea of independent designers and numerous exciting innovations.
There's honestly so much to cover in this particular genre of cooking appliance, so I'll have to keep it short for now. What you need to know is that sometimes these guys are not worth the money at all. But when they are worth it, they can mimic the effects of a traditional pizza oven.
Always look at how hot they can get. And if the manufacturer's instructions say that the cooking time is only a couple of minutes, you probably made a good choice.
If one of these guys is already sitting on your kitchen counter, you probably have an excellent solution for baking pizzas.
Toaster ovens work because of their size. They get hot quickly and recover that heat easily when you open the unit. Also, the heating elements are very close to the racks, so the pizza is exposed to direct heat.
But, just like with the specialty home pizza ovens, not all toaster ovens are made equal. You'll get better results if your model has heating elements at the top as well as the bottom.
Want even crispier crust? Use a pizza stone with a toaster oven. The results will be pretty challenging to beat.
Rules for Baking a Perfect Pizza
No matter what appliance or gadget you use to bake a pizza, there are a handful of things that will ensure it comes out great. These rules apply no matter if you're going high or low tech and can also help you figure out if that special pizza gear is worth the money or not.
1 - The temps must be 400 degrees Fahrenheit or higher.
That number is the lowest possible that would result in decent pizza. More heat means a shorter cooking time. Shorter cooking time means perfect pizza.
2 - The 2-minute rule.
Best pizza ovens cook pizzas in about 2 minutes. Short cooking times ensure that your toppings are not overcooked. If you overcook your toppings, they may leech water and grease all over the pizza, which will turn it into a soggy and oily mess.
3 - Hold the toppings.
'Murican pizza lovers are used to a mountain of toppings (and cheese, hotdogs, and who knows what else in the crust). But the trick to perfect traditional Italian pizza is a bit stingy with those toppings. For example, a Pizza Margeuratia has only a modest layer of tomato sauce with some basil and mozzarella.
Too many toppings will make the crust soggy, so don't feel bad if you go a bit stingy with them. In the case of pizza, being frugal is a good thing.
4 - No rest for the wicked. Or delicious.
Pizza is the most delicious straight out of the oven. As long as it cools down enough not to burn your mouth, it's time to eat.
Unless you hate crispy crust, don't let the pizza cool down completely before eating. The crust will soften as the temperature drop, and there is no way to recover the crispiness without burning the whole thing.
You may think that all this is a lot of work for making a few slices of pizza. But what if I told you that you could freeze homemade pizza as well?
As mentioned in the recipes, the prepared dough freezes well quickly and will last up to 3 months in the freezer. There's nothing special you have to do with it - portion it and wrap it in plastic foil before placing it into freezer bags (to prevent freezer burns).
If you want to freeze a whole pizza, you'll have to leave the dough to dry out a bit before adding toppings, packing, and freezing. You see, the thing is that freezing breaks down cell walls in food - this is why things are floppy after you defrost them. This also means that some liquid will seep out and turn the whole pizza into a soggy mess.
So, this is why you should roll out the dough then leave it to dry out a bit. Just enough so it doesn't feel sticky. Then, put the sauce and toppings on it, and transfer into a ziplock bag. Try to suck out some of the air with a straw before closing the bag completely - this will prevent most ice crystals from forming and keep your homemade pizza crispy.