I've tried a number of recipes, including some quick no-rise versions, but the one I'm going to give you today is the best. Simple, elegant, versatile. It has never failed me. I'm sure it won't fail you either!
The ingredient list is small.
- Sugar - 1/2 teaspoon
- Water, lukewam (105-115F) - 1 cup
- Active Dry Yeast - 1/4 ounce package (2 1/4 teaspoon)
- Olive Oil - 1 tablespoon
- Flour - 2 to 2 1/2 cups (approximately)
- Coarse Salt - 1/2 teaspoon
- Olive Oil - 1/2 teaspoon for coating bowl/dough
TOOLS: Glass Measuring Cup (2 cup size), Large bowl, wooden spoon or spatula for stirring, tools to measure (1/2 cup, 1 tablespoon, 1 teaspoon, 1/2 teaspoon, 1/4 teaspoon), towel to cover bowl, rolling pin, cookie sheet or pizza pan.
Preping the Yeast: Pizza needs yeast to make it come alive. Without yeast you'd have a piece of cardboard for your efforts. Beyond that - there's no surer method to a failed pizza dough than having old yeast so make sure yours isn't past it's prime. Run the hot water from your kitchen tap until the water feels warm, but not burning hot. It should feel warmer than your body, like water in a hot tub. Fill your measuring cup with 1 cup of water. Stir in the sugar to dissolve and add your yeast. Set it aside for a few minutes. The yeast will feed on the sugar in the warmth of the water and will grow. When the top becomes foamy you've done right.
While the yeast is growing, measure out 1 1/2 cups flour into your large bowl and add your coarse salt. Stir to combine. When your yeast is foamy, add 1 tablespoon of olive oil to the liquid and pour immediately into your flour. Stir with your wooden spoon or spatula until the flour is completely wet. It will be quite sticky at this point. Make room on your counter and take a handful of dry flour and sprinkle it about. Dump your wet dough into this.
Now comes the part that scares most people - you've got to knead the dough. It takes a bit of practice to get the feel for it, but once you've mastered it you'll realize how simple it is. At first the dough will be quite sticky. You'll likely need to rub it off your hands and combine it back into the dough several times as you add more flour and using the heel of your hands push into the dough, lift with your fingers, turn/flip, and again push with the heel of your hands. This step will take anywhere from 6 - 12 minutes. The time of year, the weather - both play a factor in this. Rainy cold days in winter, hot humid days in summer - each causes dough to behalf differently. This will also affect how much flour you'll end up adding as you knead. You are looking for the classic babies skin feel - soft, somewhat pliant, smooth to the touch. Remember not to add too much flour - dry, coarse dough won't make an edible pizza.
Once you've reached this point it's time to set the dough aside. I take a few minutes at this point to clean out my large bowl, dry it, and add a little olive oil to the bottom. Then I drop my dough into this bowl and roll it around so that the dough is glossy with oil. This step prevents dry, cracking dough skin from forming while the dough rests and rises. Cover with a lint-free tea towel and place out of drafts for around 70 minutes. I put mine in the microwave (just make sure that if you use the microwave timer - that you hit the timer and don't accidentally start the cooking cycle of the microwave ... yes, I've nearly ruined dough this way!).
After 70 minutes (or so), your dough should have doubled in size. [Take a moment to turn your oven to 400F at this point.] Flour your counter lightly and pull your dough out of the bowl and knead it a few times (yes, it will deflat - that's OK). Using your rolling pin, roll your dough out to the size of your cookie sheet or pizza pan. Place the rolled out dough on your pan - likely you'll have to stretch and push it a bit to conform. Let it rest a few minutes while you gather your toppings.
Spread your sauce out first - white, red, lot's or just a little - it's your choice. Next any toppings you want - veggies, meats - anything that takes your fancy. Finally, pick your cheese. Most often we use Gouda here. Yes ... Gouda. We buy it by the wheel - it's eaten every day in this house. With so much around, it's a natural for our pizza. But, be a purist if you want and use mozarella.
Now. It's time. Place it in the oven. Set your timer for 15 minutes to begin with. Nobody wants burnt pizza. Especially when you've gone to the trouble of making the dough. After 15 minutes check your pizza. Are the toppings bubbly? Is the crust golden? If so, it's ready. If not, give it a few more minutes. When it's ready, give it a few minutes rest on a cutting board before slicing it up and devoring.