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Basic Pizza Dough Preparation Techniques

The Passionate About Pizza System

You will make great homemade pizza every time you try if you ignite your passion and follow a systematic approach to making pizza. Plan your pizza-making activities, use the same equipment and high-quality ingredients each time, use proven PREPARATION TECHNIQUES, rely on your recipes, and work to make continual improvements.

Preparation Techniques

Working with yeast dough can be a little intimidating. You have seen a pizza chef stretching out pizza dough and throwing it around as if it is no big deal, but you may have thought, “I could never do that!” Well, I am here to tell you that you can make a great pizza. It is not difficult and I am going to describe just how to do it.

Basic Pizza Dough

Basic Pizza Dough is the most common type of dough used in pizza. This dough is not too fancy or too bland. It is easy to make and shape and you can use it for almost any type of pizza. Basic Pizza Dough produces a crust that tastes good and crunches nicely when baked on a pizza stone, on a pizza screen, or in a pizza pan.

Pizzerias make their dough in large batches hours ahead of time. They use machines to mix it, knead it, let it rise, and prepare it for extended storage. They use less yeast and dough conditioners to compensate for this longer resting time; as a result, you cannot just use their recipe when making homemade pizza. Basic Pizza Dough performs at home similarly to the dough used by most pizzerias.

Makes one fourteen to sixteen inch thin-style pizza.

1 cup lukewarm tap water (105 – 115 degrees F)
1 teaspoon sugar

1 package (about 3/4 Tablespoon) active dry yeast (regular or quick-rise)

2 Tablespoons olive oil
1 1/4 to 1 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

1 1/4 to 1 1/2 cups unbleached bread flour

1 teaspoon salt (I do not recommend omitting the salt)

unbleached all-purpose flour (for kneading and shaping)

Flour – You can vary the amount of flour in the dough within the range given in the recipe. Using two and a half cups will result in softer dough that is easier to stretch and has a bubblier crust. Using two and three quarters to three cups will result in stiffer dough that is better for tossing around. I mix a bag of all-purpose flour with a bag of bread flour to make it easier to measure out the flour mixture; you might also find this useful.

Water Temperature – High temperatures kill yeast. When in doubt, use cooler rather than hotter water. Cool (even cold) water will not hurt the yeast; it will just slow down the rising process slightly.

Sugar – The sugar in the dough is food for the yeast. This allows the yeast to multiply robustly and produces a slightly faster and higher rising dough. You can use a similar amount of almost any sweetener. You will want to experiment so you know that the sweetener you use does not kill yeast. I have used sugar, honey, malt powder, and molasses with success.

Now, on to the preparation techniques!”

Mixing Dough

The goal is to mix the right amount of the proper ingredients together to create uniform dough. Good dough has all the ingredients evenly distributed throughout the dough. There are two basic methods – the dry mix and wet mix methods. Both work well, so use the method that suits your fancy. I generally use the wet mix method because it gives me a chance to see that the yeast is active.

There is one important thing to keep in mind. Whatever you do, do not kill the yeast.Yeast is an organism and it must live to do its work; you can kill it with too much heat. Do not use liquid that is too hot. You will be safe if you keep the temperature of the liquid lukewarm or cooler, below 105 to 115 degrees Fahrenheit. Some brands of yeast call for higher temperatures than that, especially when using the dry mix method. You should be safe if you follow the yeast manufacturer’s recommendations.

Dry Mix Method

Put one third or so of the total amount of flour and all of the other dry ingredients in a mixing bowl. Mix the dry ingredients together with a whisk or a spoon. Food scientists designed instant yeast specifically to work best with the dry-mix method. If you prefer this method, you might want to use instant dry yeast when you make dough.

Stir in the warm liquid and oil. Mix well to combine. Stir until you reach a smooth consistency with no lumps. Add the remaining flour (to the smaller end of the range of flour listed in the recipe) and mix well until the dough comes together. You may need to add up to an additional half-cup or so of flour if the dough is very wet or sticky.

You will notice that I recommend mixing a small portion of the flour with the liquid and all the remaining ingredients before adding all the flour. This ensures that the ingredients will incorporate uniformly into the dough. I prefer it but you do not need to do it this way.

“Another alternative is to mix all the dry ingredients together in the bowl at once and use a whisk to stir them together into a uniform mixture. Then add all the wet ingredients and mix well until the dough comes together. You may need to add up to an additional half-cup or so of flour if the dough is very wet or sticky.”

Kneading by Hand

You can knead on any flat work surface, such as a counter or pizza board. Put the dough on the lightly floured work surface. Place one hand on top of the other and use the heel of your bottom hand to push the dough across the work surface, squashing the dough between your hand and the work surface.

Fold the dough over onto itself from one side to the other, turn it ninety degrees, draw it back towards yourself, and then push it across the work surface again. Sprinkle a little flour over the dough if it sticks to your hand or the work surface too much, remembering that it is okay for the dough to be a little sticky.

Repeat this action over and over, adding only as much flour as it takes to keep the dough from sticking to your hands too much. If you keep adding flour, you will have to knead longer and the dough will come out heavy and dense. You can use a dough scraper to facilitate the kneading process without continually adding flour. Just scrape up the dough, as you need to.

Work quickly and do not be delicate; squash and push the dough around to develop its gluten. To keep your arms from getting tired, use your weight by leaning onto your hands so that your weight does most of the work. Continue kneading only until the dough is smooth and elastic and no pieces of raw white flour show. Err on the side of too little kneading rather than too much. Over-kneading will result in tough dough.”

The hand kneading process should take five to ten minutes. You will notice a transformation in the dough as you knead it. The streaks of raw flour merge into the dough and are no longer visible. The dough becomes more resilient, holds together well, and turns a uniform color and texture; it should spring back when pressed. The dough turns from a mixture of flour and water into dough with a springy, consistent gluten-structure. The kneading is finished when the transformation is complete throughout the dough. The dough will then be somewhat stretchy, like Silly Putty®. Shape the dough into a ball for rising.

Letting Dough Rise

Rising allows the yeast to multiply; the yeast creates little bubbles of gas, which make the dough increase in volume. After the pizza is shaped, the gas bubbles expand further to give the dough its nice texture that is light, not dense.

Lightly oil a mixing bowl with olive oil. If you are using the same bowl in which you mixed the dough, do not worry about cleaning the bowl, and just wipe out the loose flour and bits of dough before oiling it. Place the dough in the bottom of the bowl, and then turn it over so that both sides are oiled. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap then place a towel over it; the yeast gives off a little heat while the dough rises and the towel keeps this heat in and the plastic wrap keeps the dough from sticking to the towel. Place the bowl in a warm, draft free place and let it rise until it has doubled in volume (about one hour for regular yeast, thirty minutes for quick-rise yeast). The dough has completed rising when it has about doubled in volume and two fingers poked into the dough leave an impression.

Gentle heat makes rising go faster but be careful not to let the dough get hotter than lukewarm or the yeast may die. Rising too long is okay, but not letting the dough rise enough will make it hard to stretch and dense. It is not an exact science so do not be too concerned.

It is very convenient to use zip-seal plastic bags to hold rising dough. First, spray the inside with non-stick cooking spray, then pop the dough ball into the bag, and seal it. You can wrap the bag in a towel to hold the heat. Be sure to use a bag that allows the dough to double in size. I use a gallon-size bag for a three to four cup dough recipe.

You really have a lot of flexibility in where you let the dough rise, what type of container you use, and how long you let the dough rise. This flexibility allows you to fit pizza making into your busy schedule. For instance, if you want to make the pizza dough in the morning, you can let the dough rise all day on the counter. If you want to make the dough the night before, you can let it rise in the refrigerator for most of the day, then let it come up to room temperature just before shaping the pizza.

If you let the dough rise for longer than a few hours, the dough may just fall down and start rising again. After such a  long rise, the dough will be a little more sticky and slack, but if you are just a little more careful when handling it, the dough will work just fine. This will not hurt the dough as long as it does not rise for more than twelve hours or so. If the dough rises for too long, the chemicals created by the yeast as it multiplies can soften the gluten. When this happens, the dough may no longer hold together and may tear very easily when shaped.

Slow, Cold Rising

A long, slow rise can improve the dough’s taste. However, you do not want the dough to over rise. How do you balance these seemingly opposite factors? You can achieve a long rise without the ill effects of overactive yeast by allowing the dough to rise in the refrigerator. The lower temperatures keep the yeast’s biological processes going slowly

so they will reproduce more slowly hence making the dough rise slowly. The longer rise time allows enzymes to work on the flour’s components, thereby developing the fullest flavor of the flour. Using this technique will result in the best-tasting pizza dough for any of the dough recipes in the book but it does mean that you have to plan for the extended rise time.

You can let the dough rise in the refrigerator overnight or up to thirty-six hours without adjusting the recipes. When you are ready to use the dough let it come to room temperature by sitting on the counter for an hour or two.


– For an even better pan pizza with a deeper crust, cover the dough and allow it to rise for another hour or two after spreading it      out in the pan.

– Lift an edge of the risen dough to release any air bubbles trapped underneath. Repeat this as you work your way around the        pan and then make sure the dough is spread evenly.To check if the pizza’s really done, gently lift the crust with a spatula and 

– peek underneath. You’re looking for a crisp, golden brown bottom.

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