Sunday, September 23, 2012

The Pizza, Part One: The Dough

The times when I'm most proud of my achievements in the kitchen, are when I make successful bread and dough of every kind. That's when I feel that I have really accomplished something spectacular.

Sourdough bread, puff pastry, phyllo dough, kourou dough, pie and pizza dough. I get the most satisfaction when I achieve to make a delicious, crusty bread and a buttery, flaky puff. Nothing compares to how they smell, feel, taste. No, they don't and cannot compare to a salad, however detailed and extravagant it may be, or even a chocolate creation, and we all know how I feel about chocolate.

Upside down dough after proofing. Doesn't it remind you of the moon?

There's nothing more satisfying than feeding your family and friends homemade pizza and having them crave for more. And even though I love to cook for my friends and family, I think the time has come for them to learn how to make it for themselves. It is like that old Chinese proverb, "Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime". The same thing applies here. Learn how to make your own pizza and you'll never be hungry again. You'll never have to eat ready-made, super market freezer isle pizza or those awful ones your neighborhood pizzeria makes,—unless you live in Naples, then you can go ahead and skip this post,—and surely, you don't have to nag your friends to make pizza for you.

As it is obvious by the title, this is part one of the pizza posts, the dough, which will be followed by the tomato sauce and then by a post about a couple of different topping selections which comprise two of my favorite pizzas.

Reshaped dough after proofing

I have been meaning to share with you my recipe for pizza dough for a long time. I've tried a lot of different recipes over the years before I ended up with this one and it is everything I want my pizza dough to be. Puffy, bubbly and crunchy yet soft in the middle and crusty around the edges.

Cut into four pieces

What I absolutely hate, is when pizza dough turns out like bread. It's not supposed to be bread, but pizza. If I wanted bread, I would have made bread. You need those big and smaller holes, the crusty outside and the soft inside, you need the bottom to be crisp and the top to be charred. And here's how to do it.

Four round dough balls

There are certain tips and tricks for making a good pizza dough and one of them is the type of flour you use. The best flour for pizza is the Italian type 00 (zero-zero) flour which is the one I use. Thankfully I can find it easily in Holland. There are some misunderstandings about 00 flour though. So let's get things straight. Type 00 means that the flour has been milled to a fine consistency and it has nothing to do with the strength of the flour. You can find 00 strong flour with high gluten content (12%) to 00 pastry flour with very low gluten content (5%). For making pizza, you need a finely milled flour, Type 00, but with a high amount of gluten, and all Italian brands usually indicate on the package for what purpose the flour is to be used. If you can't find Italian flour, that doesn't' mean you can't make an amazing dough. Choose good quality strong bread flour and you're set.

One of the things that make pizza really a pizza, is a baking stone; a preheated, flaming hot baking stone. If you're thinking, "oh they're too expensive" or, "I don't need it", let me tell you this, if you like baking and eating bread and pizza regularly, then you need it. I bought mine for about 16 euros (cheap!) and I bake on it weekly, either bread or pizza, and the result is spectacular. You can certainly bake your pizza on the back of a well preheated baking pan but it'll not be the same.

As I told you earlier, I like my pizza with a crunchy crust and a rich texture. Surely, that can be achieved with the use of the proper flour and the correct kneading technique but there's also another little something that, for me, is the secret to my scrumptious pizza. The addition of a small amount of milk in the dough. It makes it a little softer and fluffier yet still retaining those all important crusty edges a pizza must have.

So, get ready, and let's make some mean pizza dough.

Homemade Pizza Dough

Some more tips:

On kneading: I usually let the kneading part to my trusty KitchenAid mixer. It does all the hard stuff, but I have made this dough by hand multiple times. You just need to be a bit more patient until you achieve a pliable, soft and stretchy dough that's not sticking to your hands but is slightly moist. It shouldn't by any means be dry.

On proofing: If you want to test whether your dough has proofed correctly or not, do the finger-poking test, which I learned from a wonderful bread baking site, Weekend Bakery. Gently poke the dough with your finger and a) if the dough springs back immediately, it is under-proofed, b) if the dough springs back halfway, it's perfectly proofed and c) if the dent remains in the dough, then it is over-proofed.

On rolling out: The thinner you roll out your dough, the crustier it will get. When I want something lighter, I go for a super thin crust and when I want something fluffier with lots of holes, I roll the dough out a little thicker. This dough is perfect for both kinds of crusts.

Yield: enough dough for 4 large-ish pizzas

350 ml plus 30 ml (2 Tbsp) lukewarm water
11 g (3 tsp) dried instant yeast
15 g (1 ½ tsp) caster sugar
700 g "00" flour for pizza or strong white bread flour, plus extra for dusting
12 g (1 ½ tsp) sea salt
60 ml extra virgin olive oil, plus a little extra for oiling the bowl
50 ml fresh, whole milk, at room temperature

Special equipment: mixer with dough hook attachment (optional), rolling pin (optional)

In the bowl of your stand mixer (or in a large bowl if you're kneading by hand), add the yeast and the 2 Tbsp (30 ml) of lukewarm water. Massage the yeast with your fingertips into a paste and then add the sugar, the rest of the water, the flour and the salt, in that order.
Note: Be careful not to add the salt on top of the yeast but on top of the flour. If the salt comes in direct contact with the yeast, it will kill it and your dough will not rise.

Turn your mixer on and knead for about 2 minutes on low speed, until it comes together into a rough dough. If you're kneading by hand, it will take about 4 minutes. Then, add the olive oil and the milk and continue kneading either by hand (turning the dough out of the bowl and onto a clean surface) or in the mixer, on low speed, until the dough is smooth, elastic, is not sticking to your hands but is slightly moist.
Note: Not all flours are the same so if your dough is very wet, don't be afraid to add more flour. Add a little at a time though, testing the consistency of the dough. You don't want to end up with a stodgy, stiff dough.

If you're using a mixer for kneading the dough, turn out the dough onto a clean and lightly floured surface and shape it into a ball.
Lightly grease the bowl of your stand mixer (or your large bowl), with olive oil and place the ball of dough inside. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and place it in a warm place, allowing the dough to proof and double in size. (See also notes above for proofing). It will take about 45 minutes to proof, depending on how warm the room you leave it in is.

Once the dough has proofed, take it out of the bowl and knead it for a couple of seconds just to deflate it a bit. Divide the dough into 4 equal pieces and shape them into 4 balls. Place them on a floured surface such as a baking tray or wooden chopping board, spacing them apart, and cover them with plastic wrap. Leave them to proof for about 20 minutes, until they almost double in size.

At this point, you can continue with rolling out each ball and shaping it into a pizza but if you're in a hurry, you can skip the second proofing and roll out the dough balls into a pizza immediately after you shape them.

To roll out the dough, you can either do it by using a rolling pin, your hands or a combination of both.
Take a ball of dough and place it on a lightly floured surface. Knead it for a couple of seconds just to deflate it a bit and then flatten it with your hands into a disk. Using a rolling pin or your hands, roll it out. In my opinion, it's better to use your hands, starting from the center of the pizza and working towards the edges, using your fingertips to stretch it out, until it's almost the size you want it. Then, allow it to rest for a couple of minutes, because if worked too much, the dough becomes springy and it refuses to stretch more. Then, continue working it until it is as thin or as thick as you want it. I always allow a rim around the edge of the dough to create that puffy, crusty edge.

At this point, you're ready to add your sauce and toppings to your pizza.

Update 25.09.2012 on how to freeze and refrigerate the dough:
If you wish to freeze all or part of the dough, you should do it straight after the first rise. Divide the dough into four equal pieces, shape them into four balls, rub them with a little olive oil, cover them well with plastic wrap, put them in a Ziploc bag and in the freezer. Before you use them, defrost them in your refrigerator and then, allow them to come to room temperature and rest for a bit before you roll them out into pizzas.
You can keep the dough in the freezer no longer than a month.

If you want to keep the dough for a couple of days after making it, you can keep it in the refrigerator. You should refrigerate it immediately after the first rise. Put the whole piece of dough in a large bowl that fits in your fridge and cover it well with plastic wrap. You'll notice that the dough will rise while in the refrigerator. When you want to use it, take it out of the fridge, knead it for a bit, divide it into pieces and shape into balls. Leave them out of the fridge to come to room temperature and proof a bit. Then, roll them out into pizzas.

Next up: The best fresh tomato sauce for pizza. Stay tuned!
And then, 3 different types of pizza!


  1. That is a beautiful pizza! You make me want to make some soon; just ordered some from the local Pizza joint (US franchise) and it does taste like nothing special. A great pizza is so wonderful. Here too they use flour 00, imported from Italy and not imported and it is the favored flour to make bread, rolls and dumplings.

  2. What a beautiful pizza dough .... I've never made a pizza dough before. I'm sure it tastes very different than those store bought ones. I will try to make this and will let you know how it turns out. Thank you for the recipe.

  3. Magda, your pizza dough looks absolutely perfect. Great texture and I can see why you are proud.
    I have to say, that since I gave up gluten it seems impossible to imagine a great crust. Maybe someday you'll use your magic to create one. It can't hurt to dream, right?

  4. This is reminding me that I haven't made pizza in far too long. Look at that beautiful dough!

  5. I love pizza! And this looks delicious!

  6. I agree totally and acutally wrote something along the same lines (even if just mentioned) in may last post: making bread, doughs, gives you a particular satisfaction because it somehow connects to something primal. It is an ancient ritual, an acts of preparing food for survival in a way that sets us apart from other animals.

  7. I have not used zero zero flour,but will try to find it before trying your method for your most stunning pizza crust. Brava!

  8. That first image has really got my attention. I will be returning to this post and following your every word.

  9. You are the kind of friend I would dream of having Madga:) Sorry to sound like a user... pizza and brownies... yummy and lucky are your friends in Holland:) Your pizza looks divine.. well done.. will make sure I follow your notes when I make my own.

  10. gorgeous blistered bubbly crust. I know about using the 00 flour, but have never added milk to my pizza dough. you've gotten spectacular results that I look forward to trying. thanks for a great tutorial.

  11. How do you get your (raw) pizza off the counter and onto a hot oven stone?
    I agree 101% that pizza is pizza and bread should be bread! Thanks for making the point.

    1. Hi there. I always roll the dough out on my pizza peel, having floured the top of the peel well. It's very easy to transfer it to the pizza stone this way. It slides right off and onto the stone.

  12. Hi can i make bread using this recipe please.

    1. I've never tried it so can't really say. You can try. :)