The Best Basic Pizza Crust

I recently found the best pizza crust recipe ever. It instantly replaced my prior attempts, because of it’s ease, it’s crispiness, lightness, and doughiness. In my (humble, inexperienced pizza maker’s) opinion, it’s the full package. The photo below is from my first attempt, which turned out perfectly in spite of my minor deviations from the recipe. It’s a pretty forgiving dough, I’ve found. Enjoy!

Pesto-Asparagus White Pizza

Todd English’s Pizza Dough Recipe

(Recipe from The Figs Table. For the original recipe, see here. I’ve made some adjustments to the instructions, based on what I’ve found to be easiest for the inexperienced pizza maker, ie. me.)

Ingredients:

– ¼ cup whole wheat flour
– 3½ cups all-purpose flour, plus additional for rolling
– 2 teaspoons kosher salt
– 1 2/3 cups lukewarm water
– 2 teaspoons sugar
– 2 teaspoons active-dry yeast
– 2 teaspoons olive oil

Instructions:

  1. Mixing: Stir the flours and salt together in a large bowl. In a small bowl, combine the water, sugar and yeast in and let sit for five minutes, until the mixture bubbles slightly. Add the olive oil and stir. Gradually (in 3-4 parts) add the oil-water mixture into the bowl, and knead until the dough is firm and smooth. (*1)
  2. Rising: Divide the dough into two to four balls, depending on how large of a pizza you’d like to make (*2).  Place dough balls on lightly-oiled parchment paper (*3), with enough room for dough to roughly double in size. Lightly rub the dough with olive oil, then cover loosely with plastic wrap. Let the dough rise in a warm spot for about two hours. (If you want to freeze all or some of the dough, do this now. See below, *4.)
  3. Rolling: Dab your fingers in flour and then place one ball on a plain sheet of parchment paper (NOT floured or oiled). Press down in the center with the tips of your fingers, spreading the dough with your hand. Gradually work your way out, until you have flattened the dough out from the center to the edge, roughly the thickness of a flatbread. The outer edge should be a little thicker than the inner portion.
  4. Topping: top as desired. (Read on for the toppings for the pizza pictured above.)
  5. Baking: Preheat oven to 500 degrees. If you are using a baking stone, preheat with the stone in the oven. Transfer the pizza-on-parchment paper to the stone by holding the edges of the parchment paper. If you are not using a baking stone, simply slide the pizza-on-parchment paper onto a baking sheet and transfer to the oven. Bake for 10 minutes, until crust is lightly browned and cheese is melted.
  6. Eating: Forks and knives, hands, sandwich method. All’s fair in love, war, and pizza.

Notes from Erin:

(1) The dough will be very wet and sort of difficult to work with. Fact of life, it will stick all over your hands. This is how it’s supposed to be. No worries.

(2) The pizza shown below used half of a recipe of dough, and fed 3 people. A quarter recipe makes more of an individual-size pizza, enough to feed 1-2 people, depending on how hungry the people are and/or how delicious the topping is.

(3) A quick once-over with cooking spray easily does the trick.

(4) To freeze: This is a freezer-friendly recipe. After the initial 2-hour rise, punch down the dough and wrap in plastic, then place in a zip-lock in the freezer. When ready to use, let sit at room temperature for at least 2 hours, then proceed with rolling and baking.

(5) Rolling the dough on parchment paper makes rolling and transferring so much easier. The dough will stick to the paper, making it easier to roll because it won’t keep shrinking down on you. To transfer to the oven, move the pizza simply by picking up the parchment paper. And don’t worry about sticking; after baking the pizza will pop cleanly off the parchment paper.

And now for one delicious option for toppings:

Erin’s Pesto-Asparagus White Pizza

  1. Cut one chicken breast into bite-sized pieces, and fry in olive oil with salt and pepper to taste. (Optional; omit for vegetarian pizza.)
  2. Remove chicken from pan, and in remaining oil fry 1/4 of an onion, thinly sliced.
  3. Trim the ends off 8 stalks of asparagus, and cut stalks in thirds. Blanch in salted boiling water for 2 minutes, then drain and rinse in cold water. Pat dry with a clean towel.
  4. Roll dough from 1/2 recipe of pizza dough. Spread 6 heaping tablespoonfuls of pesto sauce over pizza, or more as desired, so that pizza is covered with a thin layer of pesto sauce.
  5. Evenly spread asparagus, chicken, and onions over the top.
  6. Top with 1/2 of a ball of fresh mozzarella cheese, sliced into thin rounds.
  7. Bake per instructions above.
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Boule (Basic Bread Recipe)

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This recipe is my basic bread dough recipe, and comes from a fantastic and beautiful book called Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day by Jeff Hertzberg and Zoe Francis. It really is what it claims to be – a book of quick and easy bread recipes. All the recipes require prior planning – you mix on one day, bake on another – but if you do plan ahead, the time spent is as little as it seems.

Also, most of the bread recipes in the book are merely variations of this basic recipe – meaning that once you master this, you can easily make any number of other, more exotic-sounding loaves.

.           .           .

Ingredients:                                                                     *makes 4 one-pound loaves.

   3 cups lukewarm water
   1 1/2 T (2 packets) granulated yeast
   1 1/2 T kosher or coarse salt
   6 1/2 cups unsifed, unbleached all-purpose flour
   additional cornmeal or whole wheat flour to dust
   additional white flour to dust loaf – OR – olive oil to brush loaf

Directions:

1. In lukewarm water (just above body temperature), stir together yeast and salt.

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2. Add the flour and mix in with a spoon, no kneading necessary. If mixing with a spoon becomes to difficult, you may have to use your hands to mix at the end. I really like this part – there is something very enjoyable about such a tactile relationship with food. Make sure you get your hands nice and wet before diving in there, but even so, it’s going to stick all over you. The dough should be fairly wet.

3. Allow to rise, covered but not airtight, for about 2 hours. Once dough has risen, refrigerate before baking so that shaping is easier.

4. On baking day, cut a grapefruit-sized piece and…
a. for a thicker, crunchier crust: coat dough with flour and shape into a ball. Place on a pizza peel covered in whole wheat flour or cornmeal, and dust liberally with flour.
b. for a thinner, crispier crust: coat hands with olive oil and shape dough into a ball. Place on a pizza peel covered in whole wheat flour or cornmeal, and
Allow dough to rise for 40 minutes on a pizza peel (or if you don’t have one, a cutting board) covered in whole wheat flour or cornmeal. For option (a), dust the dough with more flour if necessary, or for option (b), brush more olive oil over the dough – so that the dough is lightly covered by either flour or oil on all exposed surfaces.

5. While the dough is rising, preheat the oven to 450 degrees F with the baking stone in the oven, as well as a broiler tray in a place that will not be in the way of the rising dough. (The broiler tray can be anything oven-safe: a large, high-lipped cookie sheet, a baking pan, etc.)

6. When dough has risen, move from pizza peel onto the pre-heated baking stone, pour 1 cup of water into the broiler tray, and close the oven. Bake for 30 minutes, until crust is browned and crispy. (Don’t be nosy while it’s baking – don’t open the oven during those 30 minutes. You want to keep the steam trapped inside the oven, it is what gives the crust that satisfying crunch.)

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7) Eat!