Basics: pizza dough

I have to admit, that a lot of the baking I do is quite time consuming - such as the desem bread. For me, baking bread is sort of a hobby, not something I just do for the sake of making bread, but it's not practical to bake things that require long kneading and hours of rising time frequently. But not all bread doughs like that. This dough, which can be used for pizza, foccaciaa, calzone, and the like, is very simple to make, especially if you have a food processor. You do need to give it time to rise, but you can do this overnight in the refrigerator. Just make the dough the night before you intend to use it. The slower rising at the cool temperature seems to produce a smoother dough too.

The recipe is based on the one for Basic Pizza Dough in Julia Child's The Way To Cook, with added instructions for making the dough by hand and for refrigerator rising.

Basic pizza dough

  • 1 package dry yeast
  • 1/2 cup of lukewarm water
  • Pinch of sugar
  • 1/2 - 3/4 cup of milk
  • 2 Tbs of good olive oil
  • 3 cups of high-gluten flour, such as bread flour or Zopfmehl
  • 1 tsp. salt

You can start the dough several hours before you intend to make the pizza, or just make it the day before and let it rise in the refrigerator.

Mix the yeast, water and sugar in a cup, and let proof (become foamy) in a warm place. Mix this yeast mixture with the milk.

Food processor method: put the flour and salt into the bowl. Turn the machine on and add about half of the yeast-milk mixture, then the oil. Add the rest of the yeast-milk mixture a bit at a time until the dough forms a ball around the blade. If necessary add a bit more milk, but this shouldn't be necessary. Turn the machine off, let rest for 5 minutes, then process for a few seconds more.

Hand mixing method: In a large bowl, put the flour and salt mixed together. Make a well in the middle of the flour and add half the yeast-milk mixture, and the oil. Mix with a wooden spoon. Add more of the yeast-milk mixture until the dough forms a shaggy, soft mass.

Turn the dough out onto a floured surface. Knead for a few minutes until the dough is amalgamated, adjusting with more milk or flour if necessary. The dough will be sticky at first but will soon become quite smooth. Let rest for a few minutes, then knead again until smooth and soft and pliant.

If you're going to be using the dough later the same day, put the dough in a clean bowl, cover with a plate or plastic, and let rise for about 90 minutes, until more than doubled in bulk. If you intend to use this dough the next day, put it in a plastic bag, flatten the bag to get the air out, and close tightly. Put the dough in the refrigerator. The next day, the dough bag will look like a balloon. Bring it out, and let come to room temperature.

The dough is now ready to use.

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