Basic Pizza Dough

By now, most people know that I have a food blog and LOVE to cook!  A parent at my school knew this, and bought me a gift card to a Central Market cooking class of my choice (If you are reading this, thank you so much AGAIN for the cooking class!)  While on the Central Market website, I browsed through the vast array of classes offered including Tex Mex grilling, Baked Pasta Dishes, Retro Paris Bistro, Steakhouse Favorites, and more.

I finally decided on “Pizza: American Regional.”  I must say, I thoroughly enjoyed the class, the instructors, and the hands-on learning offered to us.  The menu for the night including a sampling of Chicago Deep Dish Pizza, Mystic New England Clam Pizza, California Smoked Salmon Pizza, and New York Thin Crust pizza.  The instructors at Central Market even let us make our own pizza!  They had balls of dough ready to go for all 22 class attendees.  All we had to do was roll out the dough, and pick the Central Market ingredients to top our pizzas.  I choose my favorite toppings including grilled chicken, tomatoes, onions, mushrooms, Mozzarella, Parmesan, and smoked Gouda cheese (a new discovery that I now love.)

For dessert, we made chocolate Nutella (chocolate hazelnut spread) or Dulce de Leche (thick caramel-like spread) pizzas with fresh berries.   For the dessert pizzas, we used the same “Basic Pizza Dough” recipe as shown below.  It is so simple to make… roll out the dough, bake it for about 10 minutes in a 500 degree F oven, and then top it with Nutella or Dulce de Leche (your choice), and then top with fresh, sliced strawberries, blueberries, and blackberries.  Powdered sugar sifted on top would be a nice addition as well!

Below, I made the pizzas using the Central Market “Basic Pizza Dough” recipe and added whatever toppings I wanted.  My husband loves pepperoni, so I made that for him, while I cooked up a Margherita Pizza for me.  The made two, 8-inch pizzas, and froze the rest of the dough for another time.  This is a very simple recipe.  Don’t let the detailed steps scare you away from making this.  As our instructor at Central Market said, “This dough is extremely fast and easy to make.  The only time-consuming part is the clean-up.”  Enjoy and tell me what your favorite type of pizza is!

I’ll have to show you the dessert pizza soon with the extra dough I saved!  Stayed tuned….

Dissolve sugar in warm water.  Sprinkle with yeast.  Stir and let sit for 5 minutes, or until foam forms on top.

Combine flour and salt.

Add yeast mixture and oil.  Beat for 1 minute with a flat beater on medium speed. Switch to the dough hook, and beat for another 5 minutes.

Shape the dough into a ball, and place into a large, well-oiled bowl.

Let rise in a warm place for about 45 minutes (if using rapid rise yeast), or 1 to 1 1/2 hours (if using regular yeast).  The dough should have doubled in size.

Punch dough down, to stop the rising.  Using a rolling pin,  place a ball of dough on a lightly floured surface and dust the top of the dough lightly with flour.  Using the heels of your hands, press the dough into a circle, then roll it out with a lightly floured rolling pin until it is about 1/4 inch thick, keeping the edges a little thicker than the center.

Top dough with your favorite pizza ingredients.  I made Margherita Pizza and used olive oil, marinara sauce, mozzarella cheese, sliced tomatoes, and Italian seasoning.

Bake for 10 minutes in a 500 degree F oven.

For my husband’s Pepperoni Pizza, I used olive oil, marinara sauce, Mozzarella cheese, sliced pepperoni, and grated Parmesan cheese.

Again, bake for 10 minutes in a 500 degree F oven.

Basic Pizza Dough
1 Tbsp granulated sugar or honey (I used sugar)
1 cup warm water (110 to 115 degrees F)
1 envelope (1/4 ounce) active dry yeast
3 1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 tsp salt
1/4 cups olive oil, preferably extra-virgin

1.  In a small bowl, dissolve the sugar or honey (which “feeds” the yeast) in warm tap water.  Sprinkle the yeast over the water and stir gently until it dissolves, about 1 minute.  When yeast is mixed with the water at the proper temperature, a smooth, beige-colored mixture results.  Let stand in a warm spot until a thin layer of foam covers the surface, about 5 minutes, indicating that the yeast is effective.
2.  To mix and knead the dough in a heavy-duty standing electric mixer, combine 3 cups of the flour, the salt, yeast mixture, and oil, if using, in a large mixer bowl.  Attach the flat beater, gradually turn on the machine to medium speed, and beat until well mixed, about 1 minute.  Replace the flat beater with the dough hook and knead at medium speed until the dough is smooth and elastic, about 5 minutes.
3.  Pinch off a piece of the dough and feel it.  If it is sticky, continue kneading while gradually adding just enough of the remaining 1/4 cup flour for the dough to lose its stickiness.  If the dough is dry and crumbly, add warm water, a tablespoon at a time, until the dough is smooth and elastic.
4.  After mixing and kneading the dough, shape it into a ball and place it in a well-oiled bowl, turning to coat completely on all sides with oil.  (This oiling of the dough prevents a hard surface from forming that would inhibit rising.)  Cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap to prevent moisture loss, and set to rise in a draft-free warm place (75 to 85 degrees F) until doubled in bulk, about 45 minutes for quick-rising yeast or 1 to 1 1/2 hours for regular yeast.
5.  With your fist, punch down the dough as soon as it has doubled in bulk to prevent over rising.  Shape it into a ball, pressing out all the air bubbles.
6.  If you cannot bake pizza within 2 hours after rising, punch the dough down again, turn it in an oiled bowl to coat once more, cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap, and refrigerate.  (The dough can be punched down a total of 4 times and kept refrigerated up to 36 hours before the yeast is exhausted and the dough unusable.)  Let the chilled dough come to room temperature before proceeding.
7.  To make a 15- to 16-inch pizza, keep the dough in a single ball.  To make two 12-inch round flat pizzas, divide the dough into 2 equal-sized balls.  To make individual 8-inch flat pizzas, divide the dough into 4 to 6 equal-sized portions.  To make 3-inch appetizer-sized pizzette, divide the dough into 18 equal-sized portions.
8.  To shape flat pizzas with a rolling pin, place a ball of dough on a lightly floured surface and dust the top of the dough lightly with flour.  Using the heels of your hands, press the dough into a circle, then roll it out with a lightly floured rolling pin until it is about 1/4 inch thick, keeping the edges a little thicker than the center.  While rolling the dough, pick it up and turn it over several times to stretch it.  Continue to keep the outer edges thicker than the rest of the pizza and add a little flour to the surface of the dough whenever needed to keep it from sticking.
9.  Preheat the oven to 500 degrees F for 1 hour before assembling pizza.  Lay the dough round on a cornmeal-dusted pizza peel or a lightly oiled pizza screen.  Fill and bake as quickly as possible.  Place the peel in the oven, holding the pizza over the stone or baking sheet, then quickly jerk back 2 to 3 times, hopefully leaving the pizza centered on the cooking surface.  (It takes practice… I didn’t use a pizza peel.  Instead, I placed the pizza on a cornmeal dusted, inverted cookie sheet.)  Bake for about 10 minutes, or until crust is golden.  Slide the peel underneath the crust and remove pizza from the oven.  Use a metal spatula to lift a portion of the crust, if necessary, in order to slip the peel underneath. (I did not use a peel.  Instead, I slid the pizza off the inverted cookie sheet with a spatula onto my plate.)

Yield:  one 15- to 16-inch pizza, two 12-inch pizzas, or four to six 8-inch pizzas.
Recipe adapted from Pizza, by James McNair (I got this recipe from a Central Market pizza cooking class.)

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