The Very Best Pizza Dough

This post is another (yey!) guest post. Today’s recipe and detailed tutorial is from my amazing brother-in-law Ryan Rojas. The same one who got us in the gingerbread house fiasco. He has been making our pizza dough for months and has absolutely perfected the homemade pizza. Enjoy.

When the moon hits your eye, like a big pizza pie, that’s amore!
There are few things I love more than a good pizza, and the key to a great pizza is its base: the crust.

The perfect pizza dough tutorial

I started making my own pizza dough a while back in order to carry on a long standing tradition for us.  Tuesday night was always Pizza & Beer night, but when our favorite bartender at our local pizza place moved away, we decided to carry on the tradition at home.  We started with pre-made store bought doughs, but at $4 a pop, I thought “I can do that!”  And so can you… its as easy as, well, pie.

A quick warning, however: once you make your own pizza dough, you will never be able to go back to store bought dough.  It just won’t have the same amount of flavor.  So if you’re ready to commit to making the best tasting pizza crust you’ve ever had, here you go…

The perfect pizza dough tutorial

The very best pizza dough (makes two 8-10 inch pizza crusts)
Hardware:
Pizza Stone
Pizza Peel
Kitchen Aide Mixer with Dough Hook (sure you can do it by hand, but it will take forever)
Mixing Bowl for resting (2 for dividing the dough)
Candy Thermometer (if you are using Active Dry Yeast)
1 cup glass measuring cup
Cornmeal (for dusting the peel)

Software:
2 ½ cups flour
½ tbsp kosher salt
⅝ tsp Active Dry Yeast (or ½ tsp instant or 1 tsp fresh)
⅞ cup cold water
¼ cup semolina flour (optional: this makes for a crispier crust which holds up better to wet toppings)

First we start with the yeast:
I use Active Dry Yeast.  Apparently, instant yeast is the best for this, but I’ve only managed to find it in the little packets… and once you’re hooked on this dough, that is simply just not good enough.  I buy a bag of Bob’s Red Mill Active Dry Yeast (in the refrigerator section) and keep in an airtight container in the refrigerator.

Active Dry Yeast is basically sleeping yeast, so it needs to be woken up to work.  To do this, add the yeast to a small amount of 110 degree water in the glass measuring cup.  This is where the thermometer comes in… make sure the water is 110 degrees… too cold and it will stay dormant, too hot and its toast.

While the yeast is waking up, add the flour and salt to the mixer.  Once the yeast is awake, add enough cold water to make ⅞ cup.  Pour the yeast/water mixture into the mixer and turn it on medium low (about 3 on a regular kitchenaide, 2 on the professional model).  Let it mix for 4 minutes.  Then let it rest for 5 minutes.  And I’ll tell you why in the next paragraph, which you’ll enjoy if you’re a nerdy type like me.  If not, feel free to skip the next paragraph, but I can’t promise I won’t mock you for skipping it… just warning you.

Why we let it rest: We let the dough rest to allow time for the gluten to form.  Gluten is what gives the dough its elasticity, so without it the dough won’t stretch and won’t form the right texture.  By letting the dough rest, the flour and water start to form the gluten chains, which we’ll be helping to develop by kneading the dough.

Now kick the mixer on to medium (about 4-5, still a 2 on the professional) and let the mixer do the kneading for you!  After 3-4 minutes I start checking the dough to see if the gluten is ready.  We do this with the “windowpane” test.  Turn off the mixer and pull off a small piece of dough.  Start gently stretching the dough piece into a flat disk, slowly turning it as you stretch. The dough is done when you can stretch it so that a thin translucent ‘windowpane’ forms in the center without the dough tearing.  If the dough tears, toss it back in the mixer for a couple more minutes and repeat the test.

The perfect pizza dough tutorial- what they mean when they say windowpane

Once the dough is finished kneading, remove it from the mixer and form it into a ball shape.  I do this while holding it in my hands, but you can set it down on a lightly floured counter and fold over each corner to make a ball.  Place the ball of dough into a lightly oiled bowl (I use olive oil), then cover with plastic wrap and let rest on the counter for 30 minutes.  Then put the dough in the refrigerator overnight.

Why do we put it in the refrigerator overnight?  Glad you asked!  (Ok, if you didn’t ask, skip to the next paragraph… but again, mockery might ensue!)

The perfect pizza dough tutorial

Why we refrigerate overnight: The yeast fermentation is what turns the blah tasting flour into the yummy tasting pizza crust.  The trick to the best tasting crust is to let the yeast work at the dough slowly.  By refrigerating the dough, it slows down those eager yeasties, and the result will be a very complex flavored crust that is worth the wait!

Remove the dough from the refrigerator in the morning and divide in half.  Reform each half into a ball and place each in its own oiled bowl and cover with plastic wrap.  Return the doughs to the refrigerator.

Remove the dough from the refrigerator about 3 hours prior to use.  Let it sit on the counter and warm up to room temperature, which will allow the dough to be more pliable.

Place the pizza stones in the oven and pre-heat the oven to 500.

The perfect pizza dough tutorial

Lightly dust the pizza peel with cornmeal.  And now for the fun part… tossing the dough!  I learned my technique from 8 time world pizza-tossing champion Tony Gemignani.  Ok, I learned it from watching his instructional video, which can be found here and here.

If tossing the pizza is too intimidating for you right now, or your ceiling is just to low, you can also form the pizza by using the pull and rotate method.  Once you have your dough formed into a disk pick it up by the edge grasping it with both hands next to each other, then gently stregth the dough by pulling your hands apart a few inches, then rotate the dough and repeat.  Keep pulling and rotating until you get the pizza to the size that fits your peel.

Place the formed crust on the peel and move it around to make sure it won’t stick to the peel.  You can continue to stretch the dough on the peel, if necessary… just make sure it slides freely on the peel before you add the toppings.

Top as desired… (One of our favorites is mozzarella and prosciutto then sprinkled with fresh arugula the second it comes out of the oven)

The perfect pizza dough tutorial- topped simply with mozarella, prosciutto and arugula.

Use the peel to gently slide the pizza onto the stone.  A few gentle shakes might be required to help the pizza slide off the peel, but don’t over do it, or you will have a misshapen pizza… or worse!

The perfect pizza dough tutorial

Bake at 500 for 12 minutes, then check for doneness.  The crust should be crisp but not burnt.

The perfect pizza dough tutorial

One thought on “The Very Best Pizza Dough”

  1. I’m making the dough right now in preparation for pizza tomorrow and, of course, I have questions. Since I’ve already started, I will just guess at the answers, but maybe for the next person or my next time through, it would be good to have a couple of details…
    – The semolina flour: Use in addition to the regular flour, or replace 1/4 reg with the 1/4 semolina? If adding (not replacing), do I also need to add any more water? I assume that I mix in the semolina before adding the water/yeast…?
    – Attachments: Use the dough hook for the whole recipe? Or use the paddle to mix, then switch to the dough hook….?

    I might have more questions tomorrow. That’s all for now. 🙂

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