All Purpose Pizza Dough
Ingredients1 pack active dry yeast
1 ½ C warm water (105 to 115 degrees F.)
1 T honey
2 T extra-virgin olive oil, plus additional for brushing the pizza crusts
3 C all-purpose flour
1 T salt
Instructions1. In the bowl of a stand mixer, or a large bread bowl, dissolve the yeast in the water. Add the honey and stir together. Let sit 2 or 3 minutes or until the water is cloudy. Stir in the olive oil.
2. Using a stand mixer: Combine the flour and salt and add it to the yeast mixture all at once. Mix it together using the paddle attachment, then change to the dough hook. Knead at low speed for 2 minutes, then turn up to medium speed and knead until the dough comes cleanly away from the sides of the bowl and clusters around the dough hook, about 5 minutes. Hold on to the machine if it bounces around. Turn out onto a clean work surface and knead by hand for 2 or 3 minutes longer. The dough should be smooth and elastic. When you press it with your finger it should slowly spring back, and it should not feel tacky. Kneading the dough by hand: Mix together the yeast, honey, water and olive oil as directed in a medium-size or large bowl. Combine the flour and salt. Fold in the flour a cup at a time using a large wooden spoon. As soon as you can scrape the dough out in one piece, scrape it onto a lightly floured work surface and knead it for 10 minutes, adding flour as necessary until the dough is smooth and elastic. Using a food processor: Mix together the yeast, honey, water and olive oil in a small bowl or measuring cup. Place the flour and salt in a food processor fitted with the steel blade. Pulse once or twice. Then, with the machine running, pour in the yeast mixture. Process until the dough forms a ball on the blades. Remove the dough from the processor and knead it on a lightly floured surface for a couple of minutes, adding flour as necessary, until it is smooth and elastic.
3. Transfer the dough to a clean, lightly oiled bowl, rounded side down first, then rounded side up. Cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap, and leave it in a warm spot to rise for 30 minutes (you can leave it for up to an hour). When it is ready the dough will stretch as it is gently pulled.
4. Divide the dough into 2 to 4 equal balls, depending on how large you want your pizzas to be. Shape each ball by gently pulling down the sides of the dough and tucking each pull under the bottom of the ball, working round and round the ball 4 or 5 times. Then, on a smooth, unfloured surface, roll the ball around under your palm until the ball feels smooth and firm, about 1 minute. Put the balls on a tray or platter, cover with pan-sprayed plastic wrap or a damp towel, and leave them to rest for at least 30 minutes. At this point, the dough balls can be covered with plastic wrap and refrigerated for 1 to 2 days. You will need to punch them down again when you are ready to roll out the pizzas.
5. Preheat the oven to 500 degrees F. Place a pizza stone in the oven to heat. In the meantime, press out the dough. Place a ball of dough on a lightly floured surface. While turning the dough, press down on its center with the heel of your hand, gradually spreading it out to a circle 7 to 8 inches in diameter for small pizzas, 12 to 14 for larger pizzas. Alternatively, use a rolling pin to get an even circle. With your fingers, form a slightly thicker raised rim around edge of the circle. Brush everything but the rim with a little olive oil, then top the pizza as you like. You can transfer the pizza to a lightly oiled pizza pan if you like, or bake it directly on the stone.
6. Depending on your taste, spread the dough with marinara sauce or pesto sauce (about 2 tablespoons for small pizzas, 1/4 to 1/3 cup for larger ones). If you don’t have sauce, a can of tomatoes, drained, chopped, and seasoned with salt and chopped sautéed garlic, will do. Top with the shredded or grated cheeses of your choice (I like a mixture of mozzarella and fontina). Add thinly sliced vegetables such as Roma tomatoes, pitted olives, red peppers, or red onions; sautéed sliced vegetables such as mushrooms, eggplant, zucchini, or artichoke hearts; thinly sliced cured meats such as pepperoni or prosciutto; or small pieces of lightly cooked chicken or shrimp. Add a lightly sprinkling of grated Parmesan or crumbled goat cheese or blue cheese and some minced or julienned fresh herbs such as basil or oregano or dried herbs such as thyme, oregano, or herbes de Provence.
7. Dust a pizza paddle (also called a baker’s peel) with semolina and slip it under the pizza. Slide the pizza onto the baking stone or into the pizza pan (or place the pizza pan on the stone – the heat from the stone will help it achieve a crisp crust). Bake until the cheese topping is bubbling and the rim of the crust is deep golden brown, about 10 minutes.
8. Use the pizza paddle to slide the pizza out of the oven and onto a cutting board. Use a pizza cutter or a sharp knife to cut the pizza into slices and serve immediately.