Natural Food

Greatest Straightforward Pizza Dough

I can make a mean pizza, but it took me a while to learn how. Exceptional pizza starts with great dough and for the better part of the past decade my pizza dough approach stuck close to Peter Reinhart’s Napoletana pizza dough recipe. It makes a beautiful, flavorful crust using a delayed fermentation method. But, in recent years I wanted to ditch the stand mixer and simplify wherever possible. So, things have evolved in a good way!

Today, I’m going to share my go-to pizza dough recipe. It’s the simplest recipe I know and delivers beautiful, reliable results whether I’m baking in my kitchen oven, the little Airstream oven(!), or an outdoor pizza oven. No mixer is needed and you don’t need to proof any yeast. It’s such an easy pizza dough recipe and completely delivers.

Pizza Dough Inspiration

Let’s talk about this recipe. In addition to Peter’s Napoletana pizza dough recipe I’ve tried a lot of approaches to pizza dough over the years. One of the recipes I liked (for a lot of reasons) is the Roberta’s recipe that ran in the New York Times. You mix it by hand for a few minutes, rest, mix again, divide, and refrigerate. It’s dead simple. That said, I like the flavor development in Peter Reinhart’s overnight, cold, slow-fermentation. So I now use a bit of a hybrid of the two recipes as my starting point for pizza making. I’m going share where I’ve landed related to making dough, and then talk you through a lot of the details, because a great pizza dough is just the start. Beyond that, pizza making is almost entirely about approach, technique, and adaptability.

Close-up photo of Pizza with Mozzarella and Red Sauce

Pizza Dough Ingredients

There are only a handful of ingredients in pizza dough and I’m going to talk through them. There are some easy mistakes to make on the flour and yeast front, and to avoid making them my main advice is to start by carefully checking your labels.

Let’s Talk about Yeast

What kind of yeast should you use in your pizza dough? The Roberta’s + NYT recipe calls for active dry yeast. I’ve come to prefer using instant yeast for a dough like this one. Anthony Falco’s quote in his book Pizza Czar left an impression. He says, “active dry yeast is subjected to high temperatures, so most cells are dead. It’s a ghost ship of yeast cells. Hard pass on active dry.” You can see why proofing active dry yeast is so important. Ghost ship! Not so with instant yeast. I call for instant yeast in the recipe below.

Margherita Pizza with Chives Instead of Basil on Pizza Peel

What is the Best Flour for Making Homemade Pizza Dough?

The best flour to make pizza dough with is the flour you have in your kitchen right now. Just go for it. Ideally it would be bread flour, but don’t be detoured if all-purpose flour is what you’ve got. If you think you want to go down a serious pizza-making rabbit hole, grab a bag of bread flour, make a few pies. And then compare those to ones made with some “00” pizza flour. Experimenting is half the fun.

  • Bread Flour: With a higher percentage of protein compared to all-purpose flour, this is the flour I’d recommend starting with for a great crust. Bread flour is widely available, and you’ll get fantastic results.
  • “00” Pizza Flour – A lot of people swear by a pizza dough made with a percentage of “00” flour. I sometimes go the extra mile and source this flour, but more times than not I’m out of it. I’m here to tell you, it’s okay, bread flour works really well on its own. Also, here’s the deal, there are multiple types of “00” flour. So you need to be extra careful. You’re looking for “00” pizza flour. Not the “00” for pasta. All the “00” flours are ground powder-fine, but you want one specifically for pizza. I include instructions below if you want to experiment in “00” world.
  • Unbleached All-Purpose Flour: You can make really good pizza dough with all-purpose flour. In fact, the pizza dough recipe in my 1984 edition of Chez Panisse: Pasta, Pizza, and Calzone calls for unbleached all-purpose flour. You’ll likely prefer results when using a flour with higher protein content – bread flour, and/or “00” pizza flour – but there are still a lot of APF fans out there.

How To Make Homemade Pizza Dough

There are a lot of variables, and a lot of questions related to the details of making dough at home. I’m going to talk through a bunch of them here. The main objective with this recipe was to create an easy-going pizza dough that is simple to make and easy to shape and handle. I wanted the resulting pizza crust to be a bit rustic, with some bubbles and topography and good texture when baking – even when pulled quite thin. I’ll give you the ingredients as weight, so a basic kitchen scale is needed. I’m not requiring it to be difficult, it dials in your dough in accurately. You can really feel the difference if your flour or water are off.

Can this Pizza Dough be Used in a Pizza Oven?

Yes! It does great in dedicated pizza ovens, for example – when the weather is good- we use an Ooni 16. I’ve found the best results happen when we pre-heat the oven for 45 minutes on maximum heat. Launch your pizza onto the stone, and then dial back the heat to the lowest possible setting. Turn your pizza using a peel or tongs to avoid burning. It takes some practice, make extra dough when you’re starting out!

Can this Pizza Dough be Used in a Standard Oven?

Yes, flip the convection switch if you have one. If not, no big deal. As far as oven temperatures go – I have great results at 450F degrees (or higher) WITH a pizza stone. Go buy a pizza stone immediately if you are serious about making great pizza at home. They are cheap and make a huge difference in your crust.

How Do I Keep my Pizza Dough from Sticking

I’ve learned this the hard way. First thing, if you’re baking on (or in) a pizza pan, sheet pan or baking sheet (below), you don’t need to worry about starting with a floured surface. Rub a bit of olive oil across the pan, shape the dough in the pan and you’re ready for toppings. Things only get trickier if you’re attempting to prepare a pizza and then transfer it to a pizza oven or onto a pizza stone in your oven which is what we’ll talk about next.

Photo of Pizza Dough Topped with Tomato Sauce, Goat Cheese, Artichokes and Lemon Zest Before Baking

Be nice to your future self. One way to keep pizza dough from sticking to your pizza peel, is to prepare a floured surface. I’ve found that a bit of care and attention at this step pays dividends down the line. It’s a balance, you don’t want your pizza to stick to the pizza peel, because then you can’t get it into the oven. But you also want to keep extra flour or cornmeal to a minimum, because it burns up and can leave off flavors on your pizza. Here’s my approach:

Photo of Pizza Dough on Flour and Cornmeal Dusted Pizza Peel Ready for Toppings

Prepare your pizza peel: Use your fingertips to rub flour into your pizza peel. Like, really rub and work it in. Then tap off most of the extra. Add a small amount of cornmeal, just enough to help the dough a bit separate from the surface of the peel. See all that extra flour and cornmeal around the dough (up above)? Brush it off before attempting to launch your pizza into the oven. In fact, now that I’m looking more closely at that shot, I’d recommend using half the cornmeal you see there. Too much, my bad. I’m sure it burned right up.

Photo of Hand Dusting Pizza Dough with Flour to Prevent Sticking

Prepare Your Dough: When your dough is ready, and just before you want to bake the pizza here’s what you want to do: place some flour on a plate. Gently, and without over-handling, transfer the dough onto the plate. Flip it and coat the other side of the dough. You want to cover any sticky spots with a light coating of flour. Gently, but working quickly, pick the pizza dough up and begin to work it into a circular shape, dusting off any extra flour while you’re at it. Gingerly stretch and arrange on your prepared pizza peel. Give the peel a bit of a shimmy to make sure the dough isn’t sticking in any spots. Proceed with toppings and get the pizza in the oven sooner rather than later. The longer it stays on the peel, the more likely it is to stick.

What if I Don’t Have a Pizza Peel?

I didn’t use a pizza peel until I bought an outdoor pizza oven. You can grab anything thin and flat (not plastic), flour it and add a bit of cornmeal (see notes above), prepare the pizza, and then launch it onto the pizza stone. A thin bamboo cutting board always did the job well (still use it). The backside of a flat baking sheet can also work, but I go for the one with barely any lip – you want your pizza to sail off the “peel” not drop off a cliff.
Two Pizzas Prepared Side by Side Ready to Be Baked

Pizza Topping Strategy

I’m going to leave you with my favorite pizza dough recipe, it’s up to you to play around with the toppings. The best advice I can give you is to take it easy on that front – a little goes a long way. One of my favorites is a simple pizza margherita pizza made with this tomato sauce, a few torn up mozzarella balls, and a few pinches of salt before placing the pizza in the oven. And, don’t forget the magic touches. When the pizza is hot from the oven, give it a quick dusting of freshly grated Parmesan, a tiny drizzle of artisan-quality virgin olive oil, and a sprinkling of basil cut into a chiffonade. Serve pronto! Some other topping ideas to follow.

Pizza Topping Ideas

I keep a notebook of all the favorite pizza toppings we’ve done in the recent past. Some favorites include:

Close-up photo of Pizza with Mozzarella and Red Sauce

  • Chile Crisp Potato Pizza: I love a potato pizza. This one (above) was a chile crisp oil like the one by Fly By Jing or KariKari, thinly sliced balanced potatoes, ricotta, fava beans, and lemon zest. Finish with lemon olive oil drizzle and chives.
  • Artichoke Heart Red Pizza: Tomato sauce, thinly sliced blanched potatoes, sautéed artichoke hearts, goat cheese, lemon zest (picture above prepped on a sheet pan)

Close-up photo of Pizza with Artichokes and Fava Beans

  • Artichoke Heart Spring Pizza: Olive oil or pesto, sautéed artichoke hearts, mozzarella, shallots, fava beans, lemon drizzle, grated Parmesan. Pictured directly above.
  • Chana Masala & Chickpea Pizza: We make this one a lot. Tomato sauce made with lots of caramelized onions and heavily spiced with chana masala spice blend (or sometimes garam masala), chickpeas, dollops of low-fat yogurt (it works better than full-fat here for some reason), tons of crushed nutritional yeast kale chips on top after pizza comes out of oven, drizzle of lemon or basil olive oil when pizza comes out of the oven.
  • Cherry Tomato Kosho Pizza: Kosho or other citrus garlic paste, cherry tomatoes, chickpeas, chives, and slivered basil with a drizzle of tangerine oil after it comes out of the oven.
  • Meyer Lemon Pizza: Inspired by my favorite pizza ever, at Bettina in Santa Barbara, CA. Ricotta cheese dollops, pickled red onion, thinnest slivers of whole Meyer lemon, pistachios.
  • Paneer & Pea Pizza: Turmeric-marinated paneer, scallions, chickpeas, sautéed artichoke hearts, tomato sauce, peas, a bit of crumbled goat cheese, serrano chiles, and lots of chopped cilantro after the pizza comes out of the oven.

Same Day Pizza Dough

If you like to wait until the last minute to make pizza dough, here’s what I’d do. Use warm water (115℉) instead of the ice water called for in the recipe. Follow the recipe directions, divide and shape the pizza dough balls, and then allow the dough to rise at room temperature for 3-4 hours. You should be good to go. That said, I strongly prefer the overnight method. You end up with a golden, beautiful crust with the perfect amount of crunch and subtle yeasty undertones.

Favorite Tomato Sauce for Pizza

This is my favorite simple tomato sauce, and I use it on many of my red sauce pizzas. My one pro-tip is to make it ahead of time. Make sure it’s not hot. If the sauce is still warm when you’re topping your pizza, the dough is more likely to stick.

Wildcard: Consider Flavoring your Pizza Dough

Aside from swapping in a percentage of whole grain flour on occasion, I tend to limit my dough ingredients to flour, yeast, salt, water, and a bit of olive oil. That said, sometimes I’ll add ingredients to the dough to bring an added flavor component to the party. Playing around with dough add-ins is a lot of fun. My favorite thing to add is lemon zest. You can also add herbs like thyme or oregano – fresh or dried. You might add chopped olives, or chopped sun-dried tomatoes. Grated cheese is fair game, or even tiny cubes of Gruyere. The directions you can go in are endless.

How to Double your Pizza Dough Recipe

There is sometimes confusion related to scaling up baking recipes. This recipe is very straight-forward. Double all ingredients including the instant yeast.

Pizza Dough Time-saving Tip

If I know I want to make pizza dough, I try to remember to chill water in the refrigerator in preparation ahead of time. It gets the water down to about 40F, cold enough to make the dough, and then I don’t need to mess around with ice cubes.

Pizza Dough Resources

There are an abundance of amazing cookbook and baking books out there covering the topic of pizza dough and pizza making. There are also fantastic bread and sourdough books that delve into the topic of pizza dough. Here are a few of my favorites. Many of them use natural sourdough as a leavener, which we’re not covering today. I’ll do a separate post on sourdough pizzas at some point down the line. If you want to do a deeper dive on the how’s and why’s of pizza dough, here are some great resources:

Two Pizza Dough Balls

How To Freeze Homemade Pizza Dough

If, after mixing up your pizza dough and refrigerating it overnight, you don’t think you’ll be using it in the next couple of days, transfer the dough to the freezer (still in a plastic bag or wrapped tightly with plastic wrap) and use within a month.

How to Thaw Frozen Pizza Dough

To thaw frozen pizza dough transfer the dough to a countertop and allow to thaw completely and then come to room temperature before using.

Have fun, and let me know your favorite pizza toppings in the comments please!

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