Among the growing list of foods I can no longer bring myself to purchase because I’d much rather just make them myself (chief among which are both cake and pie), none have brought me as much satisfaction as homemade pizza. I could credit this satisfaction to my slightly Pollyanna-ish tendency to get all excited about the fact that I can make a pizza at home for roughly one sixth the cost of buying one, but, truthfully, there is simply more to it than that. More than anything, being excited about making really good homemade pizza is a direct result of spending many, many years making totally subpar and underwhelming pizza at home.
To cut directly to the problem, I am going to go ahead and blame the crust. Preferring a thin crust on pizza, I was always convinced that making a really complexly flavored, bubbly pizza crust meant that I had to use superfine Italian 00 flour and fresh, not dried, yeast. I also thought that it meant I was going to have to spend an ordinate amount of time kneading my dough, since most pizza dough recipes that promise fantastic results are really into chaining people to the kitchen with instructions that require you to knead the dough, set it aside, knead it again, shape it, rest it, shape it again, and oh, lord, it just goes on forever.
I should clarify here that, for certain foods, I have no problem being tethered to my kitchen. I will tackle layered pastry dough and I will baby-sit a dish that requires four hours of braising, but, in my mind, making pizza should be a laid back and casual affair. It’s pizza, not puff pastry.
So, over the years, I tried out many, many recipes for pizza dough. I made very complicated pizza dough that required two separate kneading and resting periods. I made pizza dough that was kneaded once and then simply set aside. I made pizza dough from semolina flour. I made pizza dough with cornmeal. I cooked everything on a pizza stone, and then my pizza stone cracked, so I bought another one and then it cracked too. Every time, after every pizza, I had the same basic result. The pizza was all right (it’s bread and cheese, for goodness sake, so how bad can it really be?), but certainly nothing special.
Then, while mixing a sponge for a loaf of bread, I started to wonder if I could apply a similar procedure to the making of pizza dough. Meaning, if I made a simple pizza dough and then left it in the fridge to proof overnight, would I achieve a similarly deep flavor and chewy texture that I get from making a bread with a sponge that is left to sit overnight? Intrigued, I mixed up a batch of the simplest pizza dough imaginable, put it in the refrigerator, then went to bed.
The verdict? I will never, ever make pizza dough another way. This method is simple, the work is done while you sleep (then head off to work the next day), and the finished product is unparalleled. Are you looking for crisp, yet with a sight chew? Are you looking for an incredible artisan flavor? Are you into pizza that is light, with a bubbly crust? It’s right here, and it’s dead simple.
Today I’ll post the specific pizza dough we love to use, and throughout the rest of the week I’ll post a few examples of things you can do with this wonderful dough. Warning: I have been known to use this dough in both savory and sweet applications. Because if there’s one thing I like to do, it’s turn non-dessert items into desserts.
Best Pizza Dough
Adapted mightily from The America’s Test Kitchen Family Baking Book
The flavor and texture of this dough only grows better the longer it rests in the refrigerator. Since this recipes makes enough dough for three large pizzas, we frequently make one or two pizzas at a time, then put the remaining dough in a very lightly oiled, tightly sealed Ziploc bag and leave it in the refrigerator for a few days until we are ready to use it up. We’ve never had leftover dough in the refrigerator for longer than five days, but I’ll bet it will last at least a week and still remain fresh.
4 to 4 1/2 cups bread flour
1 envelope (2 1/4 teaspoons) instant or rapid-rise yeast
1 teaspoon sea salt
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon honey
1 1/2 cups very warm water
Pulse 4 cups of flour and the yeast together in a food processor (though ATK recommends you use the dough blade, I’ve always used the regular blade and my results have been just fine) until combined. Add the salt, then pulse again (adding the yeast separately from the salt will reduce the possibility that the salt will come in direct contact with the yeast and kill it).
Combine the warm water with the oil and honey, and mix to combine. With the food processor running, pour the water mixture through the feed tube and and process until a rough ball forms, about 30 seconds. Let the dough rest for 2 minutes, then process the dough for another 30 seconds. If the dough appears to be too sticky and is clinging to the blade, add the remaining 1/4 cup of flour, 1 tablespoon at a time, and process until the dough clears the blade.
Lightly oil a large bowl. Remove the dough from the food processor, shape into a rough ball shape with your hands, then place in the oiled bowl. Cover tightly with greased plastic wrap and place in refrigerator to rest overnight, or until ready to use.
When ready to use the pizza dough, remove from refrigerator while you are preheating your oven and preparing your topping ingredients. Allow dough to warm from refrigerated temperature for at least 30 minutes before you shape and cook the dough.
Makes enough dough for three large pizzas.