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Author Notes: Behold, the ubiquitous pizza crust dough. In our house, at least, it is ever-present, because I am ever making it. Over time, I've been slowly adjusting the way I make my pizza crusts, trying to simplify the process as much as possible and still have a great crust. Pizza by pizza, I've refined my routine, and have arrived at reliable formula that's had a bit of input from everything I've read up to this point. I hope these tips enrich your dough-making experience, too.
For starters, I've switched from using active dry yeast to instant dry yeast which eliminates the step of having to mix the yeast separately with warm water. I used to add oil to the dough, but I found when I left it out it wasn't missed. Instead of measuring by volume, I measure by weight, which means I can measure everything in one container by using the zero or tare feature on my digital scale as I add each ingredient. The same container the dough has been mixed in also serves as the proofing container. To develop the gluten a little more quickly during the proofing stage, I use a stretch and fold technique that helps give the dough an airier structure, also done right in the container without needing to remove the dough. For easier pizza topping assembly, I like to pre-bake the crust for a few minutes, too. Pre-baking keeps the finished pizza crust from getting soggy, and also lets me store it for later use if I want. I've also discovered I can re-use parchment paper several times before it begins to crumble, helping cut down on waste and saving money. Lastly, letting the dough rest before shaping allows the gluten to relax so it stretches easily and quickly.
—the musician who cooks
Makes: one 13 to 14-inch pizza crust
ounces white whole wheat flour
teaspoon sea salt
teaspoon instant yeast
ounces lukewarm water
container or bowl with lid
15-inch by 15-inch piece of parchment paper
- Place digital scale on a flat surface. Turn power on. Select grams or ounces. Place container or bowl you will be using on the scale. Press the zero or tare button to bring the scale back to zero. Add the flour until it reaches 225 grams or 8 ounces. Add the yeast and salt, and mix into the flour. Press the zero or tare button to bring the scale back to zero again. Add the water until it reaches 185 grams or 6.5 ounces. Remove the container from the scale and stir in the water until all the flour is moistened and the ingredients are combined. The dough consistency will be like a very thick batter.
- Cover the container and set the timer for 20 minutes. After 20 minutes, uncover the container and lift the edges of the dough mixture with wet fingers, stretching upwards and folding into the center, going around the entire mixture until all the edges are folded over towards the center. Turn the dough over so the folded edges are now on the bottom. This is a basic stretch and fold technique you will repeat two more times, every 20 minutes, for a total of three times. You don't need to remove the dough from the container for the stretch and fold-just do it right in the container. As you do this, you will notice the gluten beginning to develop and the dough developing more structure and elasticity. Be sure to keep the container covered in between each stretch and fold.
- During the time you are doing the stretch and fold with the dough, place the pizza stone in on the middle rack in the oven. Preheat the oven to 500ºF. Be sure to preheat the oven about an hour before the dough is ready to bake.
- After the third stretch and fold, flour the surface you will be working on. Remove the dough from the container and place on the floured surface. Sprinkle a little flour on top of the dough and roll into a loose ball in between your hands. Place a little extra flour underneath the ball of dough, and cover with the container placed upside down over the dough. Let rest for at least 15 minutes and up to 30 minutes.
- After the dough has rested, remove the container. Sprinkle flour over the dough and lift from underneath, gently flipping the dough so the top is resting on the palm of your hand. With your free hand sprinkle a generous amount of flour on your work surface. Place the dough on the floured surface, and gently turn and stretch evenly from the center until it's about a ten-inch round. Transfer dough to a lightly floured 15 X 15-inch piece of parchment paper. Continue to stretch the dough by pushing and pulling the edges until it is 13 to 14 inches in diameter. Slide a pizza peel underneath the parchment paper and dough, and slide both onto the pizza stone in the oven. Bake for 3 minutes. Slide pizza peel underneath the parchment paper to remove and place on a large cooling rack. Slide parchment paper from underneath the crust. Let cool and store well-wrapped in refrigerator or freezer for future use, or use immediately for pizza.