Tuesday, August 7, 2012

The Best Homemade Pizza Crust

I have another recipe for homemade pizza crust on here that I've used for years, but it was just missing something... My husband gave me a pizza stone for my birthday a couple of weeks ago and I was determined to find a crust worthy of my new stone! Of course it didn't surprise me a bit when I tried the basic pizza dough recipe from the America's Test Kitchen and it turned out amazing. I have yet to try a recipe from them that I don't like, and I honestly can't say that about any other recipe book I own or website I follow. I've said it before, but if you have to choose one particular cookbook, choose one by America's Test Kitchen. I have their Family Baking Book and I can't say enough good things about it!

The America's Test Kitchen Family Baking Book

Their cookbooks have "secret" tips and tricks to make the best recipes, particularly when it comes to baking. For their basic pizza dough recipe, they recommend three things to make the crust perfect: 1) Use bread flour because it gives the dough enough strength to be stretched thin, but still provide a crust that's very crisp and chewy once baked. 2) Use a pizza stone. Pizza stones retain heat and lessen the effects of temperature fluctuations. And 3) Preheat your pizza stone in the oven for at least 30 minutes before topping and baking. If you don't allow the stone to have enough time in the oven prior to baking your pizza, the crust will absorb moisture from the sauce and cheese before it cooks and will be limp and soggy instead of crisp and sturdy enough to hold its' shape.

This particular pizza crust uses instant yeast and takes a little bit longer than my other quick go-to crust recipe, but it is worth every extra minute. The result is a soft, chewy crust with a slightly crisp bottom that holds the pizza together perfectly. Both Neal and I agreed that this crust was even better than most food-chain pizza crust, and you really can't get any better than a homemade meal!

  • 4 - 4 1/2 cups bread flour (all-purpose flour may be substituted but the crust will be less chewy)
  • 1 envelope (2 1/4 tsp.) instant or rapid-rise yeast
  • 1 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 1/2 cups warm water (110 degrees)
Combine 4 cups of the flour, yeast and salt together in a food processor or mixer (fitted with dough blade) to combine. With the processor/mixer running, pour the oil, then water in and process until a rough ball forms, 30 to 40 seconds.  Let the dough rest for 2 minutes, then process for 30 seconds longer. If after 30 seconds the dough is sticky and clings to the blade, add the remaining 1/4 cup flour 1 tablespoon at a time as needed.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured counter and form it into a smooth, round ball. Place the dough in a large, lightly oiled bowl and cover tightly with greased plastic wrap. Let rise in a warm place until doubled in size, about 1 to 1 1/2 hours, before using.

Divide dough into 2 equal pieces and press and roll each piece into a 14-inch round on a lightly floured counter. Transfer the dough to a parchment-lined baking sheet and reshape as needed. Lightly brush the other 1/2 inch edge of the dough with oil and top with desired toppings and cheese.

Slide the parchment paper and pizza onto the hot baking stone and bake at 500 degrees for 8 to 13 minutes, or until the edges are brown and the cheese is golden in spots.

This recipe will make enough dough for two 14-inch pizzas.

To make ahead: After the dough is mixed, do not let the dough rise but refrigerate it overnight or up to 16 hours. Let the dough sit at room temperature for 30 minutes before using. Alternatively, the pizza dough can be frozen for up to 1 month; let the dough rise as directed above, then wrap tightly in greased plastic wrap and freeze. Let the frozen dough thaw on the counter for 2 to 3 hours, or overnight in the refrigerator before using.

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