When making your own homemade pizza, you can keep it simple or make it as complicated as you want. Most grocery stores have fresh and frozen pizza dough that you can use to produce great results. Most people think that making dough and baking bread is way too difficult. I disagree! Pizza dough has only 4 ingredients: water, flour, salt, and yeast!
If you want to geek out and learn more than ever thought you wanted to know about pizza dough, I’d suggest reading through Jeff Varasano’s blog blog. He goes very in depth about his quest to make the perfect dough. I’ve experimented with his recipe and adopted some of his methods and techniques, and the dough I make these days is modified from his recipe.
First things first: if you’re going to be baking a lot, you really need to invest in a scale! They’re not that expensive, and they make baking a lot easier and help produce repeatable results. When measuring dry ingredients like flour, sugar, salt, yeast, etc, measuring by volume gives inconsistent results. Not all measuring cups are created equal! I measured the same amount of flour onto each of these plates and weighed them.
Same amount of flour according to my measuring cup, yet their weights are 10% different! It might only be a few grams here and there, but you’ll get better results if you correctly measure your ingredients by mass instead of volume.
Hopefully I haven’t scared you away from making your own dough yet, I swear it’s not complicated! I’m just going to talk about one more concept before continuing: baker’s percentage. This is simply a method of comparing the amount of flour relative to the other ingredients when baking. When making breads, I usually see it calculated by how much the dough is hydrated. If you have 100 pounds of flour and 60 pounds of water in the dough, then it is 60% hydrated. When baking breads, wetter doughs need higher baking temperatures. I usually make my pizza dough 60% hydration and bake the pizza as hot as my oven can go, which is about 525 degrees. I used to have an oven that, although very very unsafe, could get well in excess of 700 degrees. I’m not sure exactly how hot because it broke my thermometer when I tried measuring it once. Obviously, that’s not normal. I think there was a malfunction that let me use the oven on the cleaning cycle temperature. Totally safe! Pizzas were ready in less than 3 minutes and were cooked perfectly! A second over 3 minutes and they were burnt and inedible. The pizza dough that I made then was much wetter, probably closer to 70%. If i kept it at 60%, it would have burned. The wet dough was very tricky to work with but it made the best damn pizza I ever had.
If you have a stand mixer, it’s going to make the dough process much easier. But if you don’t, you’ll at least get a good workout by mixing everything by hand!
So even after I’ve talked about measuring out all the ingredients and baker’s percentages, you don’t have to follow the measurements exactly. I’ve made a lot of dough over the years, so I can tell my look and feel if the dough is ready. Until you feel comfortable venturing off the path, you can continue to follow the recipe listed below! I make a pizza dough that ends up measuring about 400-450g, and I usually make two or three at a time. So for two pizzas I use 300g of water, 500g of flour, 12g of salt, and about 4g of yeast (which is 60% hydration). Rough volumetric measurements can be found at the very bottom of this page. From there I’ll make adjustments depending on how the dough is coming together.
To start the dough, I add all the water, salt, and yeast to my stand mixer, and give it a quick stir. You don’t have to feed or proof the yeast. Completely unnecessary! I then add about 2/3 of the flour and mix it together and let it rest for 20 more minutes. The dough is now “autolyzing”; the water soaks into the dough and gluten structures begin to form. Or something. Science! Necessary step? I dunno, but it seems to work.
After the autolyze period, it’s time to knead the dough. Yes, the dough is still very wet but this allows for better kneading. The dough hook can work through the entire dough with ease. If we added all the flour at the beginning, then we would just end up moving a ball of dough around the bowl and not kneading it! We want to create gluten structures when we knead, it’s what helps to make the bread chewy and delicious. I begin with a 5 minute knead and then slowly begin to add the rest of the flour over the course of the next 3 or so minutes. By now, all the flour is added, or at least most of it. You want the dough to still be kind of wet, and the dough should be pulling away from the sides of the bowl. If you lower the bowl, the dough should slowly fall off the dough hook. We don’t really want a tight firm ball of dough. When we form the dough into balls, if you let it sit, it should spread out a little and look a little limp. Perfect!
From here we can dump the dough out onto the counter, then measure and cut the dough into two equal sizes. I keep my dough in tupperware that I’ve wiped with oil until I’m ready to use it. I usually make the dough a day before, but the day of works, too. The longer the dough has time to sit, the better the crust it’ll develop! Keep the dough in the fridge, covered and oiled, until you’re ready to use it
About an hour or two before you’re ready for some delicious homemade pizza, take the dough out of the fridge and place it on your counter and dust it lightly with flour. Now it’s time to make the sauce!