Ultimate Pizza Dough
If you’re on the quest for the best-ever homemade pizza dough (and pizza!), your search is over. I use some savvy tips and tricks to make a pizza crust that’s as similar to your fav wood-fired oven pizza as your gonna get at home.
What’s the best flour for pizza dough?
Bread dough has higher protein content than all purpose. When you knead it with water, the flour’s proteins are what form gluten, the muscle of the dough. A higher-protein flour makes for a sturdier dough, one that can be stretched thinner and one with more chew.
For good measure, I tested the recipe with both bread and all-purpose flours. Both are totally good in the recipe. The all-purpose version was more soft and tender while the bread flour version was chewier. Pizzerias use bread dough. If you have it, use it. If you want pizza tonight and don’t have it, all purpose is just fine.
How do you make pizza dough?
When I was working in a test kitchen for a flour company, I learned a lot about bread. The best way to make a perfect dough every time is to start with your liquids in the bowl, and add the flour in stages until you get a ball of the right texture. It’s easy to add more flour if the dough is sticky. It’s not easy to add more moisture if the dough has become dry. For this pizza dough recipe, you’re aiming for a dough that is smooth and sticky to touch, but not sticking to the sides of the bowl.
If you have a scale, absolutely use it. (This is the one I have. It’s only $13 and I’ve had it for years.) There is so much variability in how much four is in a “cup” from person to person, depending on how densely packed it is in the bag. If you don’t have a scale, don’t stress, but do follow best practices for measuring flour. First, fluff it up in the bag or container. Then use a soup spoon and lightly spoon it into the measuring cup until over-filled. Finally, sweep across the top with a knife to level it off.
This pizza dough is a bit tackier than a typical bread dough because it has a generous glug of olive oil. This means that although it feels sticky to touch, it won’t actually stick much to the counter. Run with it and don’t be tempted to over-flour your dough in the mixer bowl (if you do, it’ll be denser and you won’t be able to roll it as thin). You can always work more in as you’re rolling out.
Can I substitute instant, rapid-rise, or bread machine yeast for active dry yeast in pizza dough?
Yes! The first three are actually the same product packaged with different names. Any form of instant yeast doesn’t have to be proofed in water, but it’s perfectly fine to dissolve it in liquid as indicated in the recipe. (Just skip the wait time and move on with the next step.) It’ll likely rise more quickly, too.
Personally, I prefer the more developed flavour of a slower ferment which is why I go with active dry yeast here. A quicker rise can lead to a more pronounced alcohol flavour and strong yeasty smell (rather than the more complex sourdough-y flavours).
For this reason also, I don’t recommend placing your dough in the oven on proof setting, or using any other tricks to make the air warmer than room temperature. You might be tempted to keep the dough warm to hasten the rising process, but you’re doing it at the expense of flavour.
How do I make thin, crispy pizza like wood-fired?
It comes down to two things. The pizza dough recipe should make a dough flexible enough to roll very thinly (like the recipe below), and then you need to cook the pizza using very high heat, with particular attention to the bottom crust.
Some people preheat a baking stone in the oven on 500ºF for an hour before baking, but my secret trick is done in just minutes, and yields infinitely better results.
At what temperature should I cook pizza?
This question is the sweet spot. The gold. This is where my tricks come in.
I wanted to emulate the crispy crust and slightly charred flavour of a wood-fired pizza, and baby, I’ve got this figured out.
We start by slapping the dough in a screaming hot cast iron skillet until bubbles form on the surface and the underside is browned and charred in spots. This crisps the bottom of the crust.
Next, we add the toppings. Then we use the broiler to finish cooking the pizzas, again, mimicking the fiery temps of your favourite pizza joint.
I use the convection setting on my oven while broiling. This ensures the dough is cooked through. If you don’t have the broil-plus-convection setting, you’ll want to flip the pizza dough in the cast iron pan for a hot second to make sure the crust isn’t doughy in the middle when served.
That’s the underside of the crust. I gave it a quick flip in the pan so you could see what it looks like. Never a flabby, pale homemade pizza crust again! Here are some yummy pizza ideas if you need topping inspiration – I especially love the Butter Chicken Pizza and the Lamb Donair Pizza.
- 1 3/4 cups warm about 110ºF water
- 1 package 2 1/4 tsp active dry yeast
- 1 tsp granulated sugar
- 1/4 cup olive oil plus more for bowl
- 1 1/2 tsp coarse salt
- 19.5 oz (4 1/3 cups lightly spooned into measuring cup and levelled off) bread flour or all-purpose flour
- Combine water, yeast and sugar in bowl of stand mixer and let stand 10 minutes to proof. Yeast should be dissolved and frothy. Add oil and salt.
- Attach dough hook to mixer and turn it on low speed. Slowly add about half of the flour, mixing until it forms a sticky dough. Add remainder of dough a bit at a time until it forms a smooth ball. It'll still be tacky to touch, but won't stick to the sides of the bowl. Let mixer knead the dough on low speed for five minutes.
- Lightly oil the bowl and the dough (I just splash a glug of oil and roll the dough all around and up the sides of the bowl to grease the whole thing). Cover and let rise for 1 1/2 hours, until doubled in size.
- Meanwhile, prepare all of your toppings.
- When dough has risen, preheat a large cast-iron pan on high heat for five minutes. Turn on your broiler (with convection turned on if you have it). Set out large baking sheets.
- Divide dough into 8 pieces and roll each into a ball. On a lightly floured counter, roll each ball into a circle of desired crust thinness. Transfer first pizza dough round to hot cast iron pan. When bubbles form and bottom is nicely browned, about 60 seconds, lift it out with a spatula and place on a baking sheet. (If your oven doesn't offer a convection setting on broil, flip the dough over and let it cook for 30 seconds on the other side, too to make sure it'll be cooked through.) Repeat with remaining crusts.
- Arrange toppings on pizza crusts and broil until toppings are bubbly and edge of crust is charred in spots (about 5 minutes, but watch carefully and don't walk away).