There are hundreds (thousands?) of ways to make pizza dough, but this recipe is a favorite of mine. It has just 4 ingredients, and maybe 5 minutes of hands on time. It needs only 1 minute of kneading and can accommodate a relatively flexible schedule. The only real downside to making this recipe (and your own pizza dough in general) is that it’s not great for instant gratification. If you want to make last minute pizza, you can get dough from grocery stores or some pizza shops. But if you want the reward of making your own pizza dough, and you want it to taste as good as the crust from a nice pizza place, you should really try this recipe! It’s a perfect all purpose type pizza dough. It can be stretched thin and bakes up with a pillowy edge (technical term cornicione).
The method is quite simple, and you’ll see some similarities in the technique to my overnight artisan walnut bread (there’s a video over there where you can watch some of the techniques I describe in the recipe if you’d like. Specifically the pinching, folding, and shaping techniques). The recipe is adapted from The Elements of Pizza by Ken Forkish, who, if you’ve been following me for awhile, you might have noticed I’m a big fan of. I love the more science-y approach he has to baking. There’s certainly an art to making your own bread and pizza, and a lot of it is done by feel and experience, but I find it helpful to understand the whys behind it.
Professional pizza ovens typically bake pizzas in just 1-3 minutes at 700 to over 1000 ºF, while in my home oven it takes a minimum of 6 minutes for a smaller pizza on the hottest setting my oven goes to. A typical 10-12″ pizza takes closer to 8-10 minutes in a well pre-heated oven at 550ºF. Because of this, the best doughs in a professional kitchen are not going to be the best dough in a home kitchen. More water will evaporate while baking at home due to the longer bake time. That’s why when you bake your pizzas at 425 ºF (which is what I see in a lot of recipes) for like 20 minutes, you’ll get a much stiffer and drier result.
To imitate a professional oven you want your home oven to get as hot as possible. That’s usually somewhere between 500 and 550 ºF. You also want to preheat your oven for an hour. Your oven may say that it’s preheated well before an hour is up, but, you need the heat to absorb into the walls of the oven. That way, when you open your oven door to slip in your pizza, you won’t lose as much heat. It doesn’t matter if you have a fancy Wolf or Viking oven or if you have a cheap one, this is just a matter of heat transfer and it takes time. Luckily, an hour happens to be the time it takes for the pizza dough to come up to room temperature and for the gluten to relax before you shape and top your dough.
As far as the dough itself is concerned, we use a slightly higher hydration (or a wetter) dough than most professional recipes to account for this additional evaporation. This recipe has a 70% hydration, which allows for a softer and doughier crust. The dough also uses a high percentage of salt. Salt not only provides flavor in the final product, but it also acts to retard the growth of the yeast. And, as I’ve said before and I’m sure will say again, a slow and cold fermentation leads to a tastier result, as it gives the yeast time to create those delicious flavor molecules as it processes the carbohydrates in the flour. Speaking of yeast, only a small amount is used to allow for the long and slow fermentation. I tend to use all purpose flour (and the recipe is written as such), but make sure to use a high quality (and higher protein one), like King Arthur Flour or Bob’s Red Mill. I find my bread and pizzas are a lot better when I use these high quality flours. You can use Italian 00 flour instead in this recipe, but I am pretty happy with the way my all purpose flour doughs come out, so don’t usually bother to source the more expensive imported flour.
Lastly, I want to talk about how to bake your pizza. We’ve already talked temperature, but what you bake on is equally important. For years I used a pizza stone, and that makes pizza way better than using a thin metal pizza baking sheet. But my pizza stone broke after 7 years and I switched over to a baking steel about 1 year ago and that took my pizza to the next level. Steel is a better conductor of heat than a ceramic pizza stone, so it is able to absorb more heat for a faster bake as well as more evenly for a more evenly baked result. It’s a bit of a pricey investment though, and a stone does work very well. Just make sure if you are using a ceramic pizza stone that it is safe to use at least to 550 ºF.
The other tool that’s useful for making pizzas is a pizza peel. To successfully use a peel, I’ve found a few helpful tips (out of a lot of trial and error).
- Dust the peel with flour, then brush the flour around to create a super thin layer over the entire peel. You’ll lose a lot of flour but that’s ok. The flour works as miniature ball bearings, so for a nice smooth roll you want a single layer of balls, not uneven layering.
- Top your pizza dough while it’s on the peel (unless you have great skills to transfer a topped dough, but I don’t recommend it unless it’s something you already do) BUT don’t prepare your pizza until you’re just a minute or two away from sticking it in the oven. If you leave the pizza dough on the peel it will absorb that thin layer of flour you just coated the peel with and then stick to the peel.
- Gently shake the peel and watch the pizza slide around the peel before opening the oven.
- If you end up leaving the pizza on the peel too long and it’s not able to slide around on the peel, lift the dough up in sections and add a little extra flour underneath, then blow air underneath the dough, essentially resettling the flour into a thin layer. Work in a round until you’ve loosened the dough from the peel.
- To transfer the pizza to the oven make sure the dough is loose and able to slide from your gentle shaking of the peel. Then open your oven and place the peel towards the back of your pizza steel or stone. Using short back-and-forth jerky movements slide the pizza towards the end of the peel and off of it, moving the peel out of the oven slowly as the pizza comes off of it and onto the steel/stone. Once the pizza is fully off the peel close the oven door and let it bake!
So, that’s pretty much how you make pizza dough and bake pizzas. I hope you guys try this dough, and then one of my many pizza recipes! If you have any questions please feel free to ask, or if you try it, let me know how it turns out for you! Leave a comment and/or rate the recipe below, tag me on Instagram (or #thecuriouschickpea), or share with me on Facebook! Happy pizza eating everyone!