Sunday, January 6, 2013

Basic Pizza Crust

Pizza is a much loved food in our household. Since my wife and I have been together we have lived in eight different places in five different states, and one of the first things we do when we move is find the best pizza in the local area. We have tried all different types, from crispy thin crust to thick Chicago style pizza. We've tried lots of different toppings, from traditional to exotic. I guess you could say we are pizza connoisseurs.

When I make pizza at home, this is the basic recipe I use for the crust. It can be adapted to fit whatever type of pizza you wish to make. For example, if you wish to make an herbed crust, stir two teaspoons dried basil into the flour with the salt. This recipe makes multiple pizzas depending on the type and style of pizza you want to make. For thin crust pizzas, this will make four 12-14 inch pizzas. For hand tossed, this will make three 12 inch pizzas or two 16 inch pizzas.

For those of you with a bread maker, I find the dough setting on mine kneads the dough too long, making the crust tough and chewy. If your bread maker has a short kneading cycle, go ahead and use it.  As for me, I will stick with the old-school method.

Top it any way you want, you won't be sorry.

Basic Pizza Crust

1 1/2 cups warm water (100-110 degrees F)
1 Tbsp sugar
2 packets (2 1/4 tsp each) active dry yeast
1 1/2 tsp salt
4 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
4 Tbsp olive oil, plus more to oil bowl

In small bowl or mixing cup, stir together water, sugar, and yeast. Let set 5-10 minutes or until foamy (if it does not foam up, pour it out and start over).

In large mixing bowl, stir together flour and salt. Make a well in the center and add yeast mixture and olive oil.

With wooden spoon, stir in as much of the flour as possible. When unable to stir in more, switch to hands to finish mixing (dough will be slightly sticky and very firm). Move dough to counter and knead 3-5 minutes. Pour about 1 teaspoon olive oil into bowl. Shape dough into ball and roll in oil to coat. Cover bowl with a towel and leave to rise in a warm place until double in size (about 1 hour).

Divide dough and roll out to desired shape and thickness. If making thin crust pizza, top and bake immediately. If a thicker crust is desired, stretch to desired shape and let rise 15 minutes before topping. Top and bake according to specific recipe instructions.

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