Best Pizza Dough Ever

Best Pizza Dough Ever Recipe


I can make a mean pizza, but it took me a while to learn how. Maybe I should rephrase that - I can make a mean pizza, but it took me a while to find the right teacher. For a long time I didn't really know where to look for guidance - I just knew I wanted pizza the way I'd enjoyed it in Rome and Naples.

I was smart enough to know early on, if you've got bad dough you are destined to have bad pizza. Figuring out the dough factor was not as easy as you might think. As I got going, my oven gobbled up the fruits of many deflated attempts - a little yeast here, a lot of yeast there, this flour, that flour, knead by hand, knead by mixer, high baking temps, lower baking temps, and on and on.

Then I was given a hint. A gift, really. My friends and I would visit a favorite tiny pizza place in San Francisco quite often. We would go to eat, but also to try to absorb some of the good pizza karma flowing from their single-shelf, Baker's Pride oven. We spent a lot of time there, not because we wanted to know their secrets really - but primarily because the food was so good. We would end up chatting for hours over thin-crusts and more thin-crusts. One could see the flour shipments come in, the cheese deliveries transpire, and the wine selections rotate through the seasons. All the while, my homespun pizzas weren't improving much. Its not that they were bad, it was more that the dough was tempermental and tasted so-so. I wanted a dough that was on the thin side, crunched a bit as you bit into it, with minimal cardboard factor. And I knew I was not interested in a chewy, bready, or deep-dish type crust.

One day in the aforementioned pizza shop, I noticed a copy of Peter Reinhart's Bread Baker's Apprentice on a bookshelf near the prep area. It must have been quite new at the time, and my curiosity was piqued. Sure enough, the book contained an interesting (and meticulous) description of how to make just the sort of pizza I was after. The dough Peter uses for his Napoletana pizza in this book is rooted in a delayed-fermentation method - different from the other techniques I had tried up to that point.

If you like to wait until the last minute to make pizza dough, you are out of luck here. The key is the overnight fermentation. You end up with a golden, beautiful crust with the perfect amount of crunch and subtle yeasty undertones. If you try this recipe and like it, Peter also went on to write an entire book about the quest for the perfect pizza, fittingly titled, American Pie. It's an great reference for those of you who really want to geek out on pizza.

Give Peter's dough a try, and if you are interested in baking world exceptional breads, be sure to spend time with his book. He is also working on a new book and I hope I'll get to hear more about him if I see him in March.

I'm just going to leave you with the dough recipe. It's up to you to play around with the toppings. The best advice I can give you is to take it easy with the toppings - a little goes a long way here. My favorite is a simple pizza margherita with the bright red sauce from my book, a few torn up bocconcini cow's milk mozzarella balls, and a few pinches of salt on the front end before placing the pizza in the oven. When the pizza comes out of the oven, I give it a quick dusting of grated Parmesan, a tiny drizzle of artisan-quality virgin olive oil, and a bit of basil cut into a chiffonade.

As far as oven temperatures go - I have great results at 450F degrees WITH a pizza stone. Go buy a pizza stone immediately if you are serious about making great pizza at home. They are cheap and make a huge difference in your crust. Why not 500 or 550 degrees? I've tried higher temperature in the past, but my oven begins to quake and quiver at those temps, and the cornmeal that inevitable gets left on the pizza stone ends up smoking pretty badly.

This is the stripped-down, adapted version of Peter's Napoletana pizza dough recipe, if you want all his great side notes, tips, and back-history on the recipe, you are going to want to pick up the book - this (for example) is the meat of a recipe that spans six pages.

 
 
 
 

Peter Reinhart's Napoletana Pizza Dough Recipe

Heidi notes: Peter's recipe says the olive (or vegetable oil) is optional. I use it every time - always olive oil, not vegetable oil. I love the moisture and suppleness it adds to the dough, and it makes your hands soft too.

4 1/2 cups (20.25 ounces) unbleached high-gluten, bread, or all-purpose flour, chilled
1 3/4 (.44 ounce) teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon (.11 ounce) instant yeast
1/4 cup (2 ounces) olive oil (optional)
1 3/4 cups (14 ounces) water, ice cold (40°F)
Semolina flour OR cornmeal for dusting

1. Stir together the flour, salt, and instant yeast in a 4-quart bowl (or in the bowl of an electric mixer). With a large metal spoon, stir in the oil and the cold water until the flour is all absorbed (or mix on low speed with the paddle attachment), If you are mixing by hand, repeatedly dip one of your hands or the metal spoon into cold water and use it, much like a dough hook, to work the dough vigorously into a smooth mass while rotating the bowl in a circular motion with the other hand. Reverse the circular motion a few times to develop the gluten further. Do this for 5 to 7 minutes, or until the dough is smooth and the ingredients are evenly distributed. If you are using an electric mixer, switch to the dough hook and mix on medium speed for 5 to 7 minutes, or as long as it takes to create a smooth, sticky dough. The dough should clear the sides of the bowl but stick to the bottom of the bowl. If the dough is too wet and doesn't come off the sides of the bowl, sprinkle in some more flour just until it clears the sides. If it clears the bottom of the bowl, dribble in a tea- spoon or two of cold water. The finished dough will be springy, elastic, and sticky, not just tacky, and register 50 to 55F.

2. Sprinkle flour on the counter and transfer the dough to the counter. Prepare a sheet pan by lining it with baking parchment and misting the parchment with spray oil (or lightly oil the parchment). Using a metal dough scraper, cut the dough into 6 equal pieces (or larger if you are comfortable shaping large pizzas), You can dip the scraper into the water between cuts to keep the dough from sticking to it, Sprinkle flour over the dough. Make sure your hands are dry and then flour them. Lift each piece and gently round it into a ball. If the dough sticks to your hands, dip your hands into the flour again. Transfer the dough balls to the sheet pan, Mist the dough generously with spray oil and slip the pan into a food-grade plastic bag.

3. Put the pan into the refrigerator overnight to rest the dough, or keep for up to 3 days. (Note: If you want to save some of the dough for future baking, you can store the dough balls in a zippered freezer bag. Dip each dough ball into a bowl that has a few tablespoons of oil in it, rolling the dough in the oil, and then put each ball into a separate bag. You can place the bags into the freezer for up to 3 months. Transfer them to the refrigerator the day before you plan to make pizza.)

4. On the day you plan to make the pizza, remove the desired number of dough balls from the refrigerator 2 hours before making the pizza. Before letting the dough rest at room temperature for 2 hours, dust the counter with flour, and then mist the counter with spray oil. Place the dough balls on top of the floured counter and sprinkle them with flour; dust your hands with flour. Gently press the dough into flat disks about 1/2 inch thick and 5 inches in diameter. Sprinkle the dough with flour, mist it again with spray oil, and cover the dough loosely with plastic wrap or a food-grade plastic bag. Now let rest for 2 hours.

5. At least 45 minutes before making the pizza, place a baking stone either on the floor of the oven (for gas ovens), or on a rack in the lower third of the oven. Heat the oven as hot as possible, up to 800F (most home ovens will go only to 500 to 550F, but some will go higher). If you do not have a baking stone, you can use the back of a sheet pan, but do not preheat the pan.

6. Generously dust a peel or the back of a sheet pan with semolina flour or cornmeal. Make the pizzas one at a time. Dip your hands, including the backs of your hands and knuckles, in flour and lift I piece of dough by getting under it with a pastry scraper. Very gently lay the dough across your fists and carefully stretch it by bouncing the dough in a circular motion on your hands, carefully giving it a little stretch with each bounce. If it begins to stick to your hands, lay it down on the floured counter and reflour your hands, then continue shaping it. Once the dough has expanded outward, move to a full toss as shown on page 208. If you have trouble tossing the dough, or if the dough keeps springing back, let it rest for 5 to 20 minutes so the gluten can relax, and try again. You can also resort to using a rolling pin, though this isn't as effective as the toss method.

7. When the dough is stretched out to your satisfaction (about 9 to 12 inches in diameter for a 6-ounce piece of dough), lay it on the peel or pan, making sure there is enough semolina flour or cornmeal to allow it to slide. Lightly top it with sauce and then with your other top- pings, remembering that the best pizzas are topped with a less-is-more philosophy. The American "kitchen sink" approach is counterproductive, as it makes the crust more difficult to bake. A few, usually no more than 3 or 4 toppings, including sauce and cheese is sufficient.

8. Slide the topped pizza onto the stone (or bake directly on the sheet pan) and close the door. Wait 2 minutes, then take a peek. If it needs to be rotated 180 degrees for even baking, do so. The pizza should take about 5 to 8 minutes to bake. If the top gets done before the bottom, you will need to move the stone to a lower self before the next round. if the bottom crisps before the cheese caramelizes, then you will need to raise the stone for subsequent bakes.

9. Remove the pizza from the oven and transfer to a cutting board. Wait 3 to 5 minutes before slicing and serving, to allow the cheese to set slightly.

Makes six 6-ounce pizza crusts.

from The Bread Baker's Apprentice by Peter Reinhart (Ten Speed Press) - reprinted with permission.

Prep time: 20 min - Cook time: 5 min

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Your Comments


Terry
January 31, 2006

This sounds a lot like the way Alton Brown says to make good pizza on his show Good Eats. on the Food Network. Am saving this recipe.

 

Cindy
January 31, 2006

I'm saving this recipe too. Sounds lovely. Besides who wouldn't want to eat a great pizza ?

 

ronniesling
January 31, 2006

Any ideas for gluten-free, egg-free, milk and soy free pizza crusts?

 

Anne
January 31, 2006

How about whole wheat? Have you tried substituting whole wheat flour for some of the flour? I guess you couldn't get it quite as light and crispy that way, which is a shame.

 

Mike
January 31, 2006

"Any ideas for gluten-free, egg-free, milk and soy free pizza crusts?"

Yeah, eat a bowl of tomato sauce.

 

Kailie
January 31, 2006

It's neat to see Peter receiving praise. He's a teacher at my school, Johnson + Wales University, in Charlotte, NC. Though I'm not in the culinary dept., all of my friends that are constantly talk about how great of a teacher he is. Oddly enough though, he doesn't teach bread class. Bizarre huh?

 

Emily
January 31, 2006

""Any ideas for gluten-free, egg-free, milk and soy free pizza crusts?"

Yeah, eat a bowl of tomato sauce."

Or you could try Shauna's site- her January 19th entry seems to fit your criteria. Her site is the "gluten free girl" link in the list of favorite food sites here.

 

vici
January 31, 2006

Yum. How gorgeous that looks.
After years of smelling burning cornmeal, I've switched to dusting my peel with flour; works great.
Here's a topping idea that won me 1st place in a local pizza contest:
a little bit of purchased alfredo sauce,
sliced mushrooms sauteed with fresh thyme,
caramelized sliced onions,
spinach sauteed with garlic
and top off with some crispy cooked, crumbled bacon (cook the mushrooms in some of the bacon fat).... and mozarella of course...v
p.s. B-4 it goes in the oven, I like to brush the rim of pizza dough with garlic-flavored olive oil and sprinkle with flakey salt.

 

Sarah
January 31, 2006

I'm a big fan of this recipe already! His recipe and your version both say that it can be left in the fridge for up to three days, but I find that I actually like it best if it's been in cold fermentation that long. Overnight is great, but that's become my "quick" version. (sad, isn't it? :) Two or three days in the fridge in the same way you say to prep them for the freezer, and this is EVEN MORE heavenly.

I've never made it without the oil either, and I don't think I'll bother trying!

And last, I had to give up on peels and flour/cornmeal. I have good luck with parchment paper, and I just have to make sure there's not a lot of extra paper around the pizza so it doesn't catch on fire. (I guess it's all the same problem with fiery things. :)

 

merkin4
January 31, 2006

I worked for a while in a nice Italian place - got to be very good at using the rolling pin to roll out dough. My wife still can't figure out how I do it and has stopped trying.

I've also figured out that my pizza stone fits on my outdoor gas grill. I toss a chunk of mesquite on the side of the grill and turn out some of the best pizza I've ever produced. The best part is that during the summer, I can make pizza without heating the entire house.

 

Dito74
January 31, 2006

You can't make pizza like in Italy without the flour. Italy have 2 type of flour Type "0" and type "00".
When you are able to use "00" then you can make Pizza like Italians do!

 

Harry
January 31, 2006

American Pie is a very good guide. I'm half way through it. All the recipes are tasty... His other books are worth it too!

 

chockylit
January 31, 2006

Thanks for this. I haven't made pizza in a long while and your post is inspiring me to give it a whirl this weekend. Perfect excuse to buy some cheese over at Cowgirl Creamery.

 

Jaclyn
January 31, 2006

I just wanted to say "Thank You" for all the GREAT recipes you post on here! I have tried out a few, and my family has decided that from now on, I am in charge of making Peppermint Semifreddo EVERY Christmas for dessert ;)

Thanks to your inspiration, I've been trying my hand at delights of the cuisine art more and more these days. I'm SO glad I stumbled upon your site!

 

Nori
January 31, 2006

Hey Heidi,

Why do I need a pizza stone? What difference does it make?

Excited to try the pizza dough! Need to unpack my new kitchen, first ...

 

Three Layer Cake
January 31, 2006

For some reason, everyone says it's the water that makes the difference... I don't know. But for a thin crust in an electric oven (that will never get like a wood oven crust) just one rise is good. For a higher crust, punching the dough down and letting it rise again for an hour gives a thicker crust.

An Italian housewife taught me (1) to put the oven at the max, whatever that is, and never open in the first five minutes (myth?). (2) To get a raised crust on the pizza you should leave it untopped around the edges, and that's where the raised crust will form (wherever there is no sauce). (3) Using a rolling pin compacts the dough and it will "contract" in the oven, rather it should be gently enlarged with the hands and finger tips (or spun around over your fists and thrown up in the air for fun if you can swing it! I can't!!!)... I've found with her advice, my pizzas always come out wonderfully...In Italy. In the U.S. I just can't seem to make them work!!!!!

The son of a very successful baker in the DC area gave me Carol Field's The Italian Baker as a gift because his father learned to bake from her. It is a very good book for pizza, also (and her book Focaccia for focacce). I have had great success with her recipes.

3LC

 

Luisa
January 31, 2006

I'm just getting started with my pizza obsession after a weekend with friends who make truly spectacular pizza.... I can't wait to try this recipe. So thank you for posting! It looks fantastic.

 

I am curious about this recipe now. So far I had been using one from a Bread''s book or Wolfang Puck's, which was nice, but not the crispiness I like. It looks like the temperature of the water has a strong effect here, as well as chilling?

 

L
January 31, 2006

very cool. I happened to take a pizza making class last night, given by George Di Pasquale of the Essential Bakery up here in Seattle, and one tip he gave was if you are going to add oil, at it as late as possible. Oil (or any fat) gets between the strands of gluten, and doesn't allow them to stretch and elongate (hence why fat is called "shortening"). It's harder to get the dough the perfect combination of crisp and chewy when you add the oil early.

Another random note: he recommended never using bread flour - always organic all-purpose unbleached. And the pizzas we made turned out amazing!

 

Abby
January 31, 2006

I LIVED on marinara pizzas when I was in Italy. I couldn't get enough of them. It's a good thing I did - because it is impossible to find the same thing in the states.

Pizza dough scares me. My big thing right now is breads because they're a huge challenge. I guess I should pick up this book and try it out. It sounds like you're on the same page as me with taste!

 

SJS
January 31, 2006

Heidi, please share what this tiny pizza place in SF is that you're referring to! I'm racking my brain trying to figure out where you mean... options include Viccolo, Escape from NY, and Arizmendi, but none of them have the definite "it" factor. So, if you would be so kind as to share please, I'd love to hear what place sparked the inspiration for your great pizza oeuvre!

 

keiko
January 31, 2006

Hi Heidi - you've given me an excellent reason to read Peter's book again, your pizza looks 'best ever' indeed!

 

tangaloor
January 31, 2006

I'm going to guess it's pizetta 211. ah, how i long to be in san francisco again. san franciscans are truly blessed with good food everywhere.

 

Ivonne
January 31, 2006

Beautiful pizza, Heidi!

Bellissima e deliziosa!

 

Alejandra
January 31, 2006

The pizza dough explanation is EXCELLENT you got to think like a scientist or something because I had a hard time and I tried using my imagination but I don't know cooking. Erema, a close friend taught me the beauty of cooking and now she wants a business or something and I want to help her and if you want to write a cooking book continue because as a child I was influence like ice cream understanding science :).

 

Bev
January 31, 2006

This recipe reminds me of the Pizza Places
in New York and watching at the windows of the guys tossing dough,to the aroma of it
baking in those brick ovens yummy.........
To those who try this you will enjoy.

 

hera
February 1, 2006

heidi,

no sugar to activate the dough?
you are sure right?

 

Sam
February 1, 2006

Wow, it's recipies like this that take so much of the fun out of baking...

I like the core of the recipe but the detailed directions are over the top. Pizza and bread making doesn't need to feel like a science project.

 

Bethany
February 1, 2006

Damn, that's a fine-lookin' pizza!

 

Simon
February 1, 2006

wow that looks so nice, im going to go and get the ingredients this weekend and have a go myself, I will make sure I let you know how my attempt turn out (im not the best cooks but I love it anyway), if i forget I shall have blogged about it :)

 

peter j prideaux
February 1, 2006

"Vito 74" summed it up...Pizza is all about the flour,and the only flour is "00" Italian flour.Forget the rest.Also,try using granulated sea salt milled from a grinder instead of regular table salt.Bon Appetite!

 

Jenny
February 1, 2006

Now I'm inspired to make this pizza dough. It looks easy and fantastic. Yum. I've always had problems with pizza dough, so I'll have to give this one a try. Thanks for the recipe!

 

Manuchao
February 2, 2006

Yum, this looks delicious!

 

gm
February 2, 2006

The Best EVER? That's quite a claim...

 

Heidi
February 2, 2006

Ronnie, I would check with Shauna re: gluten-free crusts.
http://glutenfreegirl.blogspot.com/

Kailie, your friends are certainly lucky to have Peter as a teacher! I look forward to taking one of his classes when he comes through SF, I missed him the last time around.

Sarah, you've got to stick with the cornmeal...it gives the crust such a nice texture. Just make sure the dough is patted down with enough flour so that it isn't tacky, and throw down a generous layer of cornmeal onto your baking sheet - the dough should roll around on the cornmeal like it is on a bed of tiny ball-bearings.

Experimenting with different types of flour, is fantastic - but I don't want to discourage people if they aren't up for tracking down 00 flours. I'm still able to get delicious results using readily available flours - the flour I had on-hand for the dough in the picture was a King Arthur Organic Select Artisan all-purpose flour - I worried it would be too soft as I poured it from the bag (didn't know the profile of it, and they were out of the flour I normally use). I've also had great results with the standard King Arthur Unbleached APF.

Nori, see the discussion board tied to Peter's book, linked above - good explanation there.

Which pizza place? It has an art installation in the bathroom. I'll leave it at that.

Hera, no sugar. If you are interested in the science behind it - certainly pick up the book.

Glad you all liked this post. It really is a fantastic recipe, let me know if you give it a try.

 

Davo
February 2, 2006

Do you leave it out of the fridge for two hours total or four hours. I'm wondering if you leave it for two hours after you take it out and then flaten it and leave it for another two hours...?

 

Alder
February 5, 2006

YAY!! I've been wanting a Heidi endorsed pizza dough recipe for a long time!

 

domokun
February 5, 2006

I've been going crazy trying to figure out which pizza place Heidi was referring to, and why she wouldn't give us its name! Going on a previous poster's suggestion, I'll second his guess that the pizza place is Pizzetta 211. It is really tiny, has a Baker's Pride oven, and this site confirms the "art installation" in the bathroom. http://eggbeater.typepad.com/shuna/2005/03/pizzetta_211.html

I can't wait to try it out!

 

Doug
February 6, 2006

Use the baker's weight formula to make this:

High gluten flour -- 100%
Salt 2.2%
Instant yeast .54 %
Oil 9.9%
Water 69.1%

Total 181.7%

(These weights of salt & yeast are too small for my scale, so I just used the measurements from the original recipe.
I've made 2 full batches (12 pizzas total) using the hottest oven, on a preheated stone at the middle rack level. Each doughball is about 6 oz., and I make a 9 -10 inch round (small) Big hint: Put lots of flour and cornmeal on the peel, to keep it from sticking. I use lots of cheese (almost 6 oz) each. My baking time is only 6 1/2 minutes. Dough is very thin but not dried out.

 

Doug again
February 6, 2006

A recipe of his that is very similar, but not exactly the same is at:
http://seattlepi.nwsource.com/food/176897_chou09.html

That one came out of his "American Pie: My Search for the Perfect Pizza" book.

 

Ash
February 7, 2006

This pizza dough recipe is fantastic! I used my magimix (which has a smaller bowl than American style mixers/processors) but it managed the four cups of flour fine. I had to add a little more water than the recipe called for, but the dough came out perfectly! Really thin, very crisp, springy, elastic and it didn't tear during shaping. I overloaded the tomato sauce a little - I will have to use less next time.

I made a whole batch, and froze half for next time. Three 6 oz balls of dough were enough for pizza for two adults (1 12 inch base each) and three little kids (1 12 inch shared).

As far as the directions - now that I've done it once I can do it again without needing to read them, but I think that the details are necessary.

I really liked that I could make the dough the night before and leave it to rest overnight. I did as required and took the dough out 2 hours before I wanted to make the pizzas, shaped it and left it on the counter and then did the final shaping just before baking. It worked great for me.

The kids pronounced it perfect and crunchy, the husband is a fan of American style thick crust so he wasn't as entranced, but I love it.

Thanks so much for sharing this. I am tempted to buy the book now.

 

anthony
February 11, 2006

can you tell me how to make this with 50 pounds of flour for my store...thanks

 

Alex Ravenel
February 11, 2006

Anthony, you should be able to adapt it like so:

http://www.artisanbakers.com/percentage.html

Takes a bit of math, but should work...

 

Shaaryn
February 21, 2006

I'm going to try to the pizza dough recipe, it sounds great...and hope I haven't left it too late for dinner tonight!!

 

Fabricio
March 10, 2006

Hi Heidi, hot recipe that of yours. I'm too just too curious about the stone x no stone issue. I'm sure there must be an interesting rocket-science like explanation to it and must have that precious bit of interesting information to show off when my also too curious pizza-eater-friends utter the questioning. and they will.

 

Dave M
March 14, 2006

This recipe looks great. I am a fan of grilling pizzas, BUT you may crack a typical pizza stone from the intense heat. I use a left over 13 inch floor tile from our kitchen. It works great and seems to hold enought heat to do the job.

 

Erma B.
May 7, 2006


looking for help or information on HIGH ALTITUDE BAKING= having moved to 7,000 ft. it's been a VERY BIG CHALENGE - & many
failed items, finally have altered a Choc. chip cookie & peanut butter cookie recipe. ~!! ! ! thanks mucho in N.M.

 

Chili Recipe
May 9, 2006

into the dough, italian used to put 1/2 /Kg of milk to make pizza springest ; )

 

RKS
May 9, 2006

Does American Pie contain any recipes or information regarding adding whole wheat flour to the recipes?

Also, what do the"0" and "00" designations mean for the Italian flour?

Thanks for posting this recipe and all the details. It look wonderful and I can't wait to make it!

 

doris
May 10, 2006

i love this pizza recipes and my favorite tiny pizza place is in San Francisco too.


find your free guide with this friendly ebook resource

 

Gabriella True
May 10, 2006

Very interesting. I will try this version out as I have had little success.
My Life As A Reluctant Housewife

 

Eric
October 19, 2006

The last few times I've tried to make pizza dough, including this recipe, the dough doesn't come together into a nice ball. I get lots of little pieces (like very large pebbles) that stick together.

I'm using a stand-up mixer, paddle then hook. It does come together a bit after using the hook for awhile, but definitely not a nice smooth ball. It doesn't stick to the sides or the bottom of the bowl, but I don't think it's too wet.

Do I need to add a little more water while using the paddle?

Help?

 

Dottea
October 20, 2006

Should I let it rest in the fridge for a day before putting it in the freezer, or omit fridge and just store in freezer then in fridge for 1 day or more? My ethnic (Polish) background and lack of science education prompt this question. Also I'm with the person who wants to know if it is two hours and then rest two more hours. Or just a total of two hours.