2 envelopes dry yeast
2 C warm water
5 C bread flour, plus more for kneading
1 1/2 t salt
1 t sugar
4 T olive oil
Spoon Mage™ Notes:
When measuring flour by volume, spoon the flour lightly into the cup. Never pack and never use the measuring cup as a scoop. The flour packs down and whatever you are baking will be too dense. Spoon it in and you’ll be fine.
Kneading is an important part of making yeast breads. Once you have stirred it together, turn the still sticky dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Sprinkle on more flour. Then fold the dough in half and push it down firmly with the heels of your hands to press it together. Give the dough a quarter turn, fold, and push. Repeat this, going round and round with the dough, sprinkling on tiny bits of flour whenever the dough feels sticky. Depending upon how you measured, you may just need half a cup of extra flour, or you may use quite a bit more.
Don’t worry about measuring the added flour. The goal is to have a lovely smooth round of dough that springs back when poked with a finger. Another test for well kneaded yeast dough is to give the dough a pinch. Does it have the consistency of your ear lobe? Then the dough is ready to rise. Kneading is hard work. It builds up the strength in your hands, arms, and shoulders. It also gets everything activated so the dough rises well.
Stir the yeast into warm water until all the yeast dissolves. Set aside.
Put the flour into a mixing bowl and stir in the salt and sugar.
Make a well in the flour and add the yeast mixture and oil.
Mix well until the dough is soft but not sticky – if it is sticky, add a little more flour in the next step.
Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured board (more flour here if dough is sticky). Knead for about 10 minutes or until the dough is smooth and elastic – it will pop back if you stick a finger into it.
If you use a stand mixer, don’t go by the time the mixer directions give you for the kneading – let it go until the beater is cleaning the sides of the bowl as it spins the dough. There’s some good whacking going on there. It’s fun to watch.
Place the dough inside a lightly oiled bowl and brush a bit of oil on top of the dough. Cover with a towel and place in a warm place such as in an oven that is not turned on. Allow to rise for 1 1/2 to 2 hours or until the dough is doubled in size and a hole remains if you poke your finger into the dough.
Remove the dough from the bowl and punch it down on a floured board.
Divide the dough into 2 equal balls for two large pizzas or 4 balls for four smaller dinner plate sized pizzas, cover and let rest for 10 minutes. The gluten won’t fight you as you stretch if you let it sit a bit. Want to be fancy? Sprinkle the oiled pan with a little corn meal before spreading out the dough.
Taking 1 ball at a time, roll it out or pat and stretch it into a circle about 14 inches in diameter with the dough a little thicker and pinched up a bit at the edges. Do not crush the dough with a rolling pin.
If you are using a pan, spread the dough right on the lightly oiled surface.
If you will use a pizza stone, form the pizza on a peel and don’t move it to the preheated stone until it’s all loaded with pizza goodness.
If the dough fights the spreading, let it sit another 10 minutes. Sometimes gluten gets a bit fussy when you tell it what to do.
Once the crust is formed, take a fork and poke the crust lightly with pokes about one inch apart not all the way through to the pan. This is called “docking” and prevents steam from building up and blowing air bubbles.
Add about five tablespoons of your favorite sauce and/or toppings. Choose your favorites sliced up in the way you wish. I always precook meat and pan sear the mushrooms. Use your favorite cheese – pre-shredded or fresh mozzarella. They give different results. Try making one pizza with shredded and another by pulling blobs of cheese off the ball and tossing them about in a lovely painterly way. Then you will know which you prefer.
After the dough is topped with deliciousness, bake it in a 400 degree oven until the crust is done -about 20 – 30 minutes. The bones should be a lovely brown and the bottom of the crust should be reasonably firm and lightly browned – use a spatula to lift one side and check to see that it is not saggy in the middle.
Very thin pizzas can be baked at higher temperature – 450-500. Don’t cook a bread style pizza that way.