We love pizza so much that we rarely order out and I make it myself. It saves so much money (my husband and I conservatively estimated that one meal costs less than $6 total — that’s better than DiGiorno, and don’t even talk about taste), I know what my kids are eating, and my family actually prefers the homemade version to the greasy delivery pizza.
A lot of friends I talk with are afraid to bake with yeast, but there is nothing to fear. I remember as a kid learning that yeasts are living creatures. It freaked me out a little back then, but keeping that in mind now, it helps you remember that yeast just needs a warm, moist environment. Warm — not boiling hot, not cold — warm! I’ve read recommendations from recipes that the temperature of the water used should be about 110 degrees. Measuring the water temperature with a thermometer (where is that dang thing anyway?) is just a wee bit too complicated for my style when all you really need is your finger to test the temperature. You can’t go wrong (unless you have no feeling in your fingers). I run the hot water from my tap and just feel it until the water is warm. If it is too hot for my finger, it is too hot for my yeasty friends. It’s that simple.
Another trick that helps keep those little guys comfortable is to ever so slightly preheat your oven and let your dough rise in there. While you prep your dough, set your oven to preheat to 250 degrees for two minutes. Once your timer for two minutes goes off, turn the oven off. You should have a nice sauna for your dough by the time it is ready — not too hot, just warm. Hopefully this will help you when you venture into the land of bringing yeast back to life. It works for me every time!
Okay, back to the dough. I make this dough so often that I have the recipe memorized. By heart. No joke.
Here is what you knead (get it?):
1 packet of active dry yeast or 2 1/4 tsps of the stuff
1 1/3 Cups warm water
1 Tbs of sugar
1 tsp of salt
2 Tbs of olive oil, plus more when dough is kneaded and set to rise
3 to 4 cups of all purpose flour
A mixer or some really strong forearms
Take your mixer bowl or whatever bowl you are going to use and swirl some warm water around in it, then dump it out. This just preheats your bowl for your yeast. Add your 2 1/4 tsps of yeast to the bowl and measure out your warm water, using the method I described above (i.e. the finger temp test). Add this water to the yeast and walk away for about five to ten minutes to let the yeast bloom. When you are blooming yeast, you are just giving it time to come to life before you stress it out by giving it ginormous amounts of food to eat (sugar and flour). The yeast/water mixture will start to puff up and become foamy. If it doesn’t, you did something wrong or your yeast is old and not very active.
Once your yeast has bloomed, add your sugar, salt and olive oil and get the mixer going at a stir with a bread hook. If you don’t have a mixer, #1 I can empathize because I didn’t get one until a year ago (it changed my culinary life), and #2 you just need to stir this stuff in with a wooden spoon.
Start to incorporate 3 cups of your flour. Once three cups are incorporated, add flour to the mixer slowly, about 1 Tbs at a time, until the dough starts to pull cleanly away from the bowl. If you are kneading by hand, incorporate flour to your dough first with your spoon until it gets too difficult, and then with your hands until it is no longer so sticky you can handle it easily.
Once your dough has enough flour, knead by hand for about 7-10 minutes or in your mixer for about 2 minutes.
Drizzle your dough with olive oil and make sure the entire ball of dough is coated. Then cover your bowl with plastic wrap, then a tea towel, and set it in the oven for an hour and a half.
This dough is enough to make two decent sized pizzas. I will post some of my family’s favorite recipes from time to time, but as a general rule, to bake, preheat your oven to 425 degrees and grease a cookie sheet with olive oil. Using half the dough, stretch out a pizza as thin as you’d like it to be. It will start to shrink back up on you the minute you work on stretching the other side. Kind of like dealing with kids and messes — one step forward, two steps back — but eventually, it will hold its shape. Pop it in the oven, no toppings yet, for about 7-10 minutes to pre-bake it.
Once you pre-bake it, take it out and add your sauce, toppings and cheese (don’t make the mistake of touching the cookie sheet like I have done many times — I’m a slow learner) and bake for another 7-10 minutes until bubbly.