- Skill Level: Easy
- Cost: Inexpensive
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Can be made ahead of time.
This dough is very easy to make and works well for either thin- or thick-crust pizza and focaccia. Letting the dough rise slowly, either all day on the counter or in the refrigerator overnight, will greatly improve both flavor and texture. (I like to mix the dough in the morning before work, to bake it that night.) If you are in a hurry, however, you can mix the dough and let it rise in a warm place; it will take about 1½ hours for it to double in bulk, so you can bake your pizzas within a couple of hours.
This recipe can easily be halved or doubled.
Combine the water and sugar in a small bowl. Sprinkle the yeast over it and set aside for 5 minutes, or until foamy. Stir to dissolve completely.
To make the dough by hand:
Combine the 3 cups flour and the salt in a large bowl. Gradually stir in the yeast mixture and 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon of the olive oil until a stiff dough has formed. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface. Adding only enough flour to keep the dough from sticking to the work surface, knead it until smooth and elastic, about 6 minutes. (When you press your finger in the dough, it will immediately spring back.)
To make the dough in a food processor:
Add the 3 cups flour and the salt to the work bowl. With the motor running, pour in the yeast mixture and 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon of the olive oil. Process until the dough is uniform: It will either have the texture of coarse meal or will gather into one or two balls near the blade.
Remove the dough and form into a ball, if necessary. (If bits of dough remaining in the processor cause the blade to stick, making it difficult to remove when cleaning the processor, pour some hot water into the work bowl and run the processor for a few minutes.)
To make the dough in an electric mixer:
Add the 3 cups flour and the salt to the mixer bowl. Using the balloon whisk or paddle attachment on medium speed, drizzle in the yeast mixture and 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon of the olive oil, mixing until the dough begins to pull away from the sides of the bowl. Change to the dough hook. Knead at medium speed, adding more flour as necessary to make a smooth dough, until the dough is very elastic, about 5 to 6 minutes. Turn the dough out onto a well-floured work surface and continue kneading a minute or two longer, until it is soft and velvety and does not stick at all to the work surface. (When you press your finger in the dough, it will spring back immediately.)
Place the dough in a lightly oiled bowl. Using a slightly dampened brush, brush the top of the dough lightly with oil. Cover with a damp tea towel and set aside in a warm place until doubled in bulk, 1 to 2 hours.
Punch down the dough. You can use it now or let it rise a second time, which will give it a finer texture and flavor: Cover the dough again with a damp tea towel and set in a warm place to rise for 40 minutes longer. Punch the dough down again.
The dough can be covered and refrigerated for up to 4 days (just punch it down if it rises too high) or frozen, well wrapped, for up to 2 months. To freeze rolled-out dough for pizza and focaccia, see Notes below.
Variation: Sponge Dough.
Pizza dough made with a sponge–allowing a short preliminary fermentation of the yeast with some flour and water–has a chewier texture and more fully developed flavor than regular dough. Mix the yeast with ½ cup of the water, the sugar, and ¼ cup of the flour, cover, and set aside for 1 hour, or until the sponge is thick and foamy and has increased in volume. Then proceed as directed, mixing the sponge, the remaining ½ cup water, and the oil into the remaining 2¾ cups flour and salt.
Because chlorine inhibits the action of yeast and can produce an off flavor, use filtered or, preferably, bottled spring water in bread doughs.
Three strategies for making quick pizza and focaccia
Plan the Rising Time of Homemade Pizza Dough to Fit Your Schedule: You can speed up rising time by putting the dough in a warm place, slow it down by putting it in a cool place. (Freezing it suspends activity altogether, until the dough warms up again.) Letting dough rise in the refrigerator is a great technique for busy people. The cold temperature makes the dough rise more slowly than it would at room temperature, so it can be left on its own while you do other things. A slow rise actually yields a better crust, with a much more developed flavor. So you could mix up the dough early one morning and leave it to rise in the refrigerator all day. Then you can make a pizza that night for dinner.
Use Commercial Pizza Dough: For times when I am just too busy to make my own pizza dough, I buy a few pounds of raw dough from a local pizza parlor to have on hand. Before you settle on a source, first taste pizza from several neighborhood pizza parlors to determine the quality of their crust. Look for a crust that is chewy and yeasty, not the soft insipid dough of chain pizza parlors. Commercial dough can be substituted for homemade dough in any of the recipes in this book. If not using the dough right away, freeze, well wrapped, in 1-pound balls; thaw in the refrigerator for about 4 hours before using.
Freeze Rolled-Out Dough: You can freeze rolled-out pizza and focaccia dough for up to 2 months to defrost and bake on the spur of the moment. On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough into the desired round or freeform shape. Place on a cookie sheet and freeze until the dough is frozen solid, at least 45 minutes. Carefully pry the dough off the baking sheet without cracking it, wrap it well in plastic wrap, and freeze it until ready to use. About 1½ hours before baking, unwrap the dough and place it on a piece of parchment on a baking sheet. Cover lightly with plastic wrap and let it thaw in the refrigerator. Top as desired and bake.
Nutritional information is based on 12 servings and includes 2 1/4 teaspoon of added salt.