Friday, November 2, 2012

A Pizza Primer

If you've never made pizza dough from water, flour, yeast, and salt--grab a cup of tea, coffee, or hey we all need to drink more water so grab some and read on.  If you make pizza already, you know what you're doing so just enjoy the photos or move along to your next blog if you're busy.

The other week I showed you how I turn a ball of pizza dough into a crust, ready for topping.  Today, thanks to the miracle of it's-still-football-marching-band-season-so-I'm-really-doing-this-on-Sunday-afternoon, I will show you how I make that ball of pizza dough.  It is so simple, you've got to try this at home!

I tend to float between crust recipes, getting stuck on one for a while before switching it up.  I think my current recipe came from Pioneer Woman.  I got sick of looking it up each time and just emailed myself the particulars in February of 2011.  Though looking up the email date referred me to a pizza dough email from King Arthur flour from Feb 2002 . . . good grief I've been making pizza for a long time.
Still love this white spinach pizza the most.

Pizza Dough

What do you need?  Turns out, not much!

I love my stand mixer--it's a refurb and I got it at midnight at an outlet mall Black Friday sale in Delaware while my spouse was deployed.  If you don't know the particular brand of crazy your mind is at in that situation, trust me.  It was well worth staying awake fighting the post-turkey coma.  I have also made pizza dough in my blender, following the Vitamix recipe book.  Fast and easy though a pain to clean.  If you don't have a stand mixer or an amazing blender, the Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes or Healthy Bread in 5 Minutes key recipe dough can also be mixed up and used as pizza dough.  That only requires a spoon and a bucket--and gives you enough dough for 4 to 5 pizzas!

I'm going to detail the mixer method because that's what I'm doing (and therefore, photographing) these days.  Ok, ready?  Dump warm water into a bowl.  Throw yeast on top.  Dump all purpose and whole wheat flour on top.  Add salt.  Start to mix, using the paddle attachment.  Pour in oil.  Mixing a bit more.  Stop and scrape the bowl.  Mix a little bit more. That's it.  Put the dough into an oiled bowl and flip it over so the top of the dough is oiled.  Not too hard, right?


Cold water is your friend when dealing with dough.  Don't try and wash your stuff in hot soapy water until after you've used cold water to get all the dough off.  I also appreciate the little brown plastic scraper that I got with some Pampered Chef stoneware--it's great for scraping dough off the inside of the bowl.


If I'm feeling super-organized, I will toss 1 pound portions of dough into oiled gallon-size zip top bags in the freezer.  The night before (ok, Thursday night since Friday Night is Pizza Night!), I move the bag to the fridge.  When your kids get home from school they can move the dough to the counter, or, 2 hours before you're ready to eat, move the bag to the counter to let it come to room temperature.

However you've mixed your dough, it's better if the dough is at least a day old.  I love this kind of cooking.  While dinner is baking, or simmering, or otherwise not-hands-on, I can throw together a batch of dough and stick it in the refrigerator.  It's easier to work with when I plan to make the pizza, and Pizza Night takes less time.  Though if you use the Fleischmann's pizza yeast packets, like I do on occasion, they do fine mixed and baked the same evening.

Ok, I've got the dough--now what?

The next part's easy too. Sauce, toppings, cheese.
The variations of pizza sauce are probably endless.  I have made pizzas with homemade or store bought tomato sauce.  Ditto pesto. I also like artichoke antipasto, alfredo, garlic oil, and fig jam as my sauce base.  Um, not all together though.
I keep some of the meat toppings (pepperoni, leftover breakfast sausage) and pesto in my freezer.  In the fridge I frequently have sliced ham for lunchmeat, a jar of olives, a jar of artichoke hearts (or artichoke antipasto), and one of pizza sauce. Besides leftover breakfast sausage, other leftovers make their way onto my pizzas.  Fried potatoes made a tasty pizza topping.  A bit of leftover scrambled egg got tucked under a cheddar cheese mini pizza.  Leftover cooked greens or other vegetables work well on a pizza.
I keep bags of shredded cheese for pizza in my freezer.  My favorite is fontina, but shredded Italian blends or even straight mozzarella are all good.  In addition to shredded cheese, I like goat cheese, gorgonzola, and feta cheese.
With these staples on hand, plus whatever fresh veggies come from the CSA farm share, it's easy to throw together a pizza.  

Buy parchment paper.

I cannot stress enough how much simpler my pizza nights are when I use an oiled piece of parchment paper to stretch out and cook my pie on.  Before I discovered parchment paper, I would routinely top a lovely pizza crust, slide it onto my cornmeal-covered pizza peel, open the oven, attempt to slide the crust off the peel, and watch my beautiful pizza crumple down the back wall of my oven while I screamed in frustration.  Ask my neighbors in Hawaii if you don't believe me! I don't think the neighbors in the other places I've lived since I started using parchment paper ever heard that particular sound.  Every fall in the US you can find many coupons for parchment paper in the Sunday paper.  I stock up then because it's always nice to have a coupon for something I'm going to buy anyway.

Have a hot oven

Preheat your oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit.  I think mine could go hotter and I've seen recipes calling for 500 degrees but I'm chicken.  You want the oven to hang out at this temperature for at least 30 minutes (longer if the dog gets loose).  An hour is great.  Except in summer.  I have a baking stone that lives in my oven that I use for pizza.  
Stretch out the dough until it's as thin as you want it.  I usually go too thin and get a bunch of holes, but dough is forgiving (especially if it's a day old!).  Just pinch it together and continue.  If you let it sit a while (30 minutes or so) after stretching, your dough will rise a bit more giving you a slightly thicker crust.

Less is more

Top with sauce, starting at the smaller amount of the range and adding more until it looks good to you.  Unless you are my child, then scrape off 50% of what you think is enough and put it on another pizza because you put too much sauce on.  Remember what happened last time you used that much sauce?  

Add your toppings, letting your OCD personal sense of balance and symmetry be your guide.  If I have cooked multiple veggies (such as chard and mushrooms) I'll distribute them each separately across the crust so they are each balanced.  I'm weird like that.

I put my cheese last because it's easier for me to tell if the cheese is bubbly if it's not covered up with the all the toppings.

Time to bake

When your oven is good and hot, transfer the pizza into it.  If you're using a stone, slide the parchment and pizza onto it using a peel or a cookie sheet to make the transfer SFK easier.  If you have no stone, keep the parchment on the cookie sheet and pop the whole thing in the oven.

After 5-8 minutes (the time it takes me to get the second pizza topped), the crust should be baked enough that you can shake it off the parchment.  Save the parchment!  I move the pizza back onto it when I'm ready to slice it.  Saves on clean up.

Bake the pizza another 5 minutes directly on the stone or cookie sheet, until the cheese is browned and bubbly.  Cool on a wire rack a few minutes then slice and serve.


Dough for 2 crusts
1 1/2 cups (360 ml) warm water
1 teaspoon active dry yeast
2 cups unbleached all purpose flour
2 cups whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon salt (I use kosher)
1/3 cup (80 ml) olive oil or oil blend

Toppings per pizza
1/4 to 2/3 cup sauce (see above)
1/2 to 1 1/2 cup (total) toppings (see above)
3/4 to 1 1/2 cups cheese (see above)

Preheat oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit. Mix up dough as above.  Stretch onto oiled parchment.  Top with sauce, toppings, and cheese.  Bake for 5-8 minutes.  Remove parchment paper. Continue to bake until cheese is bubbly.  Cool a few minutes before slicing.  Serve hot.  Enjoy the next morning cold for breakfast.


  1. Great post...we still don't have a crust we love so will give this a try. thx!

    1. I hope you find one you love! My tastes keep changing (ADD of the palate?) so now I'm eyeing a spinach crust with the next bag of farm share spinach.
      Thanks for stopping by!

  2. I have to say I float between crusts. But each one is good in its own way.

    Thanks for stopping by!

    1. Kirsten, you already replied to the above comment, but thanks for stopping by your own blog!

  3. " I have made pizzas with homemade or store bought tomato sauce. Ditto pesto. I also like artichoke antipasto, alfredo, garlic oil, and fig jam as my sauce base. Um, not all together though."
    I laughed out loud at this. Great instructions.

    1. Meghan, I have learned I need to drink your beet and orange smoothies away from my laptop for this exact reason. Luckily I did not learn the hard way, and no computers have been harmed by my smoothies. Thanks for stopping by!

  4. Excellent! Thanks for sharing your dough recipe.

    1. Glad to finally get it all down in one place. Of course I'll change it up again soon . . .
      Thanks for stopping by!

  5. absolutely smitten with this post kirsten :)

    i toats (totally) learned so much! i had no idea about the cold water clean up and parchment is friggin brilliant.

    thank you for sharing with us at the Wednesday Fresh Foods Link Up! I hope to see you again this week with more seasonal and fresh/real food posts. xo, kristy

    1. Kristy,
      Thank you so much! I've been so inspired by your link up and really appreciate all that you do to bring so many great ideas together.

  6. This was a fun post, even as someone who regularly makes pizza dough. You give great instructions! My favorite crust is the sourdough one from King Arthur, since I'm addicted to baking with that jar of fermented mush these days. And I totally agree that the cheese goes on top.

    1. Brigid (yes, I stalked your blog to find out your name and bookmark a few recipes!),
      Thank you! I had a sourdough thing going on a few moves ago, but had to give up the culture I think when we moved to Hawaii. I'd love to figure out how to re-start. Did you get the powdered culture from King Arthur? They used to sell it eons ago. I'll check, thanks for the idea--and for stopping by!

  7. Great post! I am totally going to be a pizza pro now :) Thanks for sharing your secrets.

    1. Heather, just don't let your family start to *expect* the pizza, or else you'll be in the Friday Night Pizza routine. Though it does make meal planning easy, since I always know I'm making pizza then. Thanks for stopping by!

  8. OK. This question will make so many of you feel sad that I have to ask this after 20 years of keeping house (and I use that term extremely loosely!). When you dump all that into the stand mixer, which ATTACHMENT do you use to mix? Dough hook? Paddle? Not the whisk, right??!!!

    1. Felicia this is an EXCELLENT question and makes me sad only because I wasn't clear enough to have anticipated and answered it for you. I use my paddle attachment thingie with scrapers on the edge (though the plain paddle is just fine too--Santa brought me the scraper paddle last year and I still find it novel). You can see it in the 'dough being mixed' collage. I used to switch to the dough hook after I added all the flour, but then decided it was silly to clean both attachments and just do it with the paddle. Then I scrape the dough into the oiled bowl, turn it over to coat with oil, and it looks like the dough in the picture. Magic, I guess. Not kneading by a dough hook that's for sure.

    2. And now, my dear friend, the post is amended to correct my oversight! Paddle all the way, baby. I'm talking about canoeing?

  9. Wow Kirsten, this is an post! I LOVE tutorials like this--they make things look so much easier than they are.

    Thanks so much for sharing this at the Farm Girl Blog Fest!

    @Let This Mind Be in You

    1. Kristi,
      I sure like reading your bread tutorials, which reminded me to share this one in your blog fest. Thanks for hosting!

  10. After watching your delicious pizza night! blog posts over the months I finally thought I'd give this a try. I made the perfect pizza with your help:
    Wonderful crust. It comes out perfectly crispy. Thank you!

    1. I'm so delighted that your Super Bowl pizza worked for you!

      You've made my day, my week, my month! Thanks!

  11. I have both of these books and love them. Apparently I don't use them enough. Love your post and all the pizza tips.