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pizza dough questions

first off, i want to say i've never made pizza before. only ate it 1,000,000 times. ;)
i am going to visit someone in a far away country and thought it would be a nice gift to make pizza for them. i think the only pizza they have in his country is pizza hut or their own version which tastes almost nothing like italian or american pizza.
can someone give me an easy, thin to regular crusted pizza dough recipe? i read here that someone made a dough the day before and let it sit in the fridge. is this a requirement or can i make it within a few hours of eating?

OR do you think if i bought some dough from my favorite pizza shop....could it last about 10 hours on the plane without being refridgerated? then put in the fridge and made the NEXT day? can i freeze it first, then bring it on the plane? or is this idea not even possible?

thanks for your help.

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  1. It's so easy to make, I wouldn't bother trying to pack it all that way. Here's the one I've used for many years, from Evelyne Slomon's "The Pizza Book":

    1 cup warm tap water
    1 tablespoon (or 1 package) dry yeast
    3 to 3 1/2 cups flour
    1/2 teaspoon salt

    Sprinkle the yeast over the warm water and mix with a fork to dissolve. Add 1 cup of the flour and the salt, and stir with a wooden spoon, then add the second cup of flour and continue stirring until the dough starts to come away from the sides of the bowl. Add another 1/2 cup of flour, then turn out onto a board where you've spread another cup of flour. Flour your hands and then knead the dough, which will pick up more flour a little at a time. You want it to be smooth and pliable, not too stiff. Put the dough into an oiled bowl to rise for half an hour to an hour. (You could do all this hours ahead and refrigerate it until time to make the pizza. When you're ready, you can pat it or roll it out. After adding your toppings, bake it in a really hot oven (500 degrees if possible) for around 10 to 15 minutes, or until the crust is golden and the toppings are bubbly.

    You can vary the types of flour you use for this, but always start with about 2 cups of all purpose flour or bread flour, and then use whole wheat, semolina, or other flours for the rest. I like to sprinkle a little semolina or fine cornmeal on the greased pan before I put the dough down to bake. You can also add finely chopped herbs to the dough.

    1 Reply
    1. re: kittyfood

      not so sure i can find bread flour there...
      is it okay if i use ALL all purpose? does all purpose/bread flour combo come out with a better final product? if so, i have no problem bringing a few cups of bread flour in my suitcase.

      i guess i could bring other flours because i am already going to bring mozzarella and parmesan. ;)

    2. That's a really nice thing to do -- the gift of pizza! I think trying to travel with the dough sounds way too complex. The above recipe sounds good -- I'm a big believer in letting the dough rest overnight in the fridge, I think it improves on both taste and texture, but if it's inconvenient I'd skip it. If you DO make the dough and leave it overnight, use less yeast, maybe half the amount. And the one thing that will improve any dough recipe is to allow the dough to rest for 10-15 minutes, covered, right after you've incorporated all the flour. This allows the flour to fully absorb the liquid and will make kneading easier and improve the final product.

      Enjoy! Pizza is very forgiving as far as making bread goes -- even if it's not perfect, it will be really good, and much better than anything from a Pizza Hut.

      1. Good pizza is all about the oven. Unless you can carry a pretty heavy/thick pizza stone with you or your friend has access to a wood burning (or coal burning) oven... you're looking at a vastly inferior product.

        Also, forming pizza dough can take some practice. I'm not talking about tossing it in the air, just your basic hand stretching technique. If you're a quick learner, I think you could probably get the basics down over the period of a month, making pizza maybe a half dozen times, but that would be quick! And the dough recipe would have to be perfect/would have to use the right flour. I spent about a year and a half trying to stretch inferior King Arthur bread flour based doughs, only to have to completely relearn the technique once I changed to a decent flour.

        I hate to say it, but if you cut these two corners by rolling out the pizza with a rolling pin and baking it on a cookie sheet in a regular oven, the quality of the end result will probably be comparable to pizza hut.

        I think your intentions are noble, but unless you plan on putting in some time working out the logistics and practicing... your quest might be a bit too optimistic.

        1 Reply
        1. re: scott123

          i understand what you're saying...i prefer wood oven pizza too! but i'm not looking for di fara's here. just a basic, quality pizza dough to make as a gift to friends in a third world country. these people have never had anything above pizza hut so whatever i make, they will love.
          i guess the deciding factor here is to let it rest over night no matter what. and i'm sure i can shape a pie pretty nicely.

        2. Great pizza does take a little practice, but really good pizza isn't all that hard. I think scott is being a bit too pesimistic on your behalf, but I do agree with the notion of trying it out yourself before you travel.

          The recipe above will be just fine for the pizza dough and all purpose flour will be fine - that's what I use most of the time. Use good olive oil in the rising bowl and that will help as well. Letting it rest overnight as suggested above will make the shaping easier and develop some nice flavor

          As for baking - just make sure you use a really hi temp and a short time (like 500 degrees or more) and a mesh baking sheet if possible. If not, preheat whatever surface you use and that will help.

          Good luck

          7 Replies
          1. re: GDSinPA

            so the above recipe is good but cut half the yeast out for letting it rest over night???

            1. re: junglekitte

              I use Lydia's pizza dough recipe - it's pretty standard and I eventhough I amost always fridge it over-night, I never change anything. Actually, it never occurred to me to reduce the yeast. The fridge will slow down the yeast action.

              1. re: GDSinPA

                can you post this recipe or link me to it?

                1. re: junglekitte

                  It's in Lydia's cookbook - I could not find it online.

                  The proportions are exactly as that other recipe. 1 cup water, 1 tbs of yeast, 1 tsp salt, 3-3.5 cups flour.

                  I'll look up the exact recipe when I get home.

                  1. re: GDSinPA

                    thanks! i look forward to it if you can remember...

                    1. re: junglekitte

                      These are Lydia's ingedients:
                      1 tsp active dry yeast
                      1 cup warm H2O
                      3 cups all purpose flour - plus more as needed
                      1.5 tsp salt

                      Disolve the yeast in the water and combine the salt and flour.

                      Lydia actually uses a ceramic bowl and a wooden spoon to get started(mixing the wet and dry, then turns it out and kneeds it by hand.

                      Lately, I've been using a KitchenAid standmixer with the dough hook, and I've gotten the same results.
                      From this point, it's pretty standard dough making technique. Actually, you can see even the recipe above is standard.
                      Kneed or mix until it forms a nice smooth-ish ball. Then place it in a medium-large bowl, coat it with olive oil, cover with a towel and let it rise for 1-2 hours. Punch it down gently, divide it into smaller portions, and refridgerate for 12-24 hours.

                      Pull it out of the fridge and let it rest for 15 min before working with it. It will pull back some while you're shaping it. The idea is to stretch 2 inches and give 1 back. If it seems to pull back too much or even starts to break up, just let it rest for 15 minutes before working with it again. It doesn't need to be perfect, and it doesn't need to be round.

                      Good luck!

                      1. re: GDSinPA

                        thank you so much! ill report back when i come home :D

          2. I roll out my dough directly on a semolina-sprinkled sheet of parchment paper and place that directly on the rack in a hot oven. No problem. You get minor ridges on the bottom of the dough, but it still bakes up crispy and puffy.

            1. Alton Brown has a good recipe, which I have used with some variation. I think the important things are first to use bread flour. This is because bread flour has more protein in it which means more gluten, which means a more elastic dough. So if you can't find bread flour where you are going (I can't imagine a place where you can't get bread flour that's pretty basic stuff) just pick out the flour with the highest amount of protein.

              The next important thing is, as has been discussed, let the dough sit overnight in the refrigerator. This certainly developes more flavour. When you get ready to make the pie, pull the dough out, form it into a ball if you haven't already done so, brush with olive oil, cover with some plastic wrap and let it sit in a warm place for around 2 hours. This allows the gluten to develope even more and makes stretching the dough much easier. It gives you a nice elastic dough.

              With most doughs if you want a crisp thin crust, put the toppings on right after the dough is formed and bake it. If you want more thick and chewy, after the pie is formed, let it rest for about 1/2 hour before adding the toppings.

              The next important thing as already mentioned is a good hot oven and cook the thing for about 5 - 6 minutes.

              Lastly, let it sit for around 3 - 5 minutes before cutting it. If you don't and you've loaded it up with sauce, you'll get something that comes out too juicy and is way too hot to eat right away anyway.

              Good Luck

              1. You can make an unleavened (or relatively so) thin crust. Flour, touch of salt, baking powder or not, cooking oil--mix w/ fork to sand texture, knead, rest a bit, roll out thin. I've done exactly what you want--make pizza in far away places where there was no readily available usual stuff, including yeast.

                1. Given that you're going to another country, then I'd take advantage of that and travel with the dough already made at home and frozen in small 6 oz. balls. I have found that the best tsating pizzas results from allowing for plenty of time for the yeast to do it's work. By freezing the dough you are just temporarily putting the yeasts on pause, and as it slowly dethaws during the flight, it will slowly begin its work of fermentation.

                  As some have mentioned above, use a good, high protein flour like King Arthur Bread Flour. Sometimes I would make a large batch and divide up the dough into separate balls, wrap the excess dough in food storage bags and freeze it. You could do the same, only you can freeze them all - or set aside one to practice on before you leave.

                  When you arrive you could refreeze the dough until the day before you are ready to make the pizza. Simply place a frozen ball of dough in the refrigerator overnight to both slowly thaw out the dough and to start a retarded (slow) fermentation. This is how the flavor is developed.

                  A few hours before you are ready to make your pizza, take the dough out and punch it down and knead it back into a little ball, moisten with oil and let it rest covered with a towel in a warm place. This will start another fermentation, further developing the flavor. You can roll out the pizza when the dough has doubled, or like I do when I have the time punch it down again and start a third fermentation.

                  (Depending on the salt content and if there is added sugar in your recipe, the number of these fermentations will be limited to only a certain number. When it stops to rise, you've gone too far - the yeast has been exhausted!)

                  Get the oven as hot as possible. Certainly a pizza stone will be nice. Anything to add thermal mass to the oven will help, such as lining it with clay bricks or tile. In fact, what about laying clay tiles edge to edge to from a surface for the pizza? Should work... Most home ovens will go only as high as 500-600 degrees - I get mine to go as high as 550 and I seem to get great results. Even better if you can get it to go even higher.

                  The actual baking should take around 5-6 minutes, perhaps even less in a very hot oven. Make sure you preheat whatever surface the pizza will be baked upon, best if you can leave it in the oven and move the formed pizza onto the surface quickly before you close the oven again.

                  But this would require a pizza peel, something which would probably not make sense in your case to provide. Perhaps you might improvise something. But don't make it too finicky, as you don't want your hands in the oven at all if you could avoid it.

                  Regardss of what you are finally able to do, chances are it will be much better than most pizzas you can easily obtain. Just try and do as much of the following:

                  * use a high protein bread flour
                  * one retarded rise overnight in the refrigerator for the best flavor if you can, followed by one or two more rises as time allows
                  * use as hot an oven as possible
                  * preheat the oven and all surfaces well
                  * increase the thermal mass of the oven as much as possible (tiles, pizza stone, etc...
                  * place the pizaa directly on something that's preheated and has a high thermal mass if possible (again, a pizza stone...)

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: cgfan

                    You may be right about making the dough in advance and freezing it, but as a frequent world traveler who's spent many a day stuck in airports due to weather, strikes, etc, I can't help picturing a stranded suitcase full of slowly rising yeast dough, oozing, expanding, exploding...

                    But then maybe I watch too many sci-fi movies for my own good.

                  2. I swear by Wolfgang Puck's dough recipe. I've been making it for years and it's convenient because it makes four crusts, paper thin, just the way we like it.

                    You can find the recipe on Food TV.

                    1. Here's Wolfgangs recipe - I use the food processer method.


                      1 Reply
                      1. re: hummingbird

                        That's the recipe I've used in the past as well- I like the addition of the honey.

                      2. Well, pizza is a lot about the oven but not ALL. I've used pizza stones w/success but generally use pavers--maybe because I discovered them myself.

                        Pavers, as they are known in the building trade, are thin bricks, about 3/8-1/2 inch thick and otherwise 4x6 inches or so. They look exactly like thin slices of ordinary coarse-textured red bricks. They're made to be set into fresh wet cement, giving the appearance of a brick walkway. One advantage is that you can pretty much pave the whole floor of your oven wih them. They won't lie perfectly flat--the edges won't match perfectly smoothly--but once the pie is baked you'll have no trouble getting the peel under the pie to take it out.
                        Also they're cheap.

                        Use highest heat you can get. For pavers or stones you have to heat the oven longer. I've been tempted to try finishing the pie with the broiler but never tried it. I don't care for quarry tiles.

                        As for the dough: the standard 3-3.5 C all-purpose flour has always made, for me, dough too hard to stretch out. I've not tried bread flour but might. A notable brand is King Arthur, beloved of many home bakers. Said to be avbl in the NYC area at Whole Foods, King Cullen, A&P, Shoprite & Pathmark. Haven't looked yet but I doubt it'll be easy to find because supermarkets don't make much on staples, so all-purpose is a godsend to them, and usually the only flour stocked.

                        A friend has made vg dough with a mix that is about 1/3 cake flour, which is softer than bread or all-prupose. I've had some success w/that; stretches nicely. Not easy to find--again, home baking is disappearing and people prefer mixes. Swanson is one brand. Comes in a box not a bag but is flour only--not a MIX. Red box, big cake pic on it.

                        When I'm in Italy I find that even the supermarkets are heavy with staples--usually 4 or 5 brands of flour, each in several grades. I bring home the 0 and 00 grade flour for pizzas.

                        I'm going to try--when I get some time!--using the overnight-rise method, which typically calls for only a little yeast. I've also heard that it's a good idea to let the finished dough rest 24 hrs in the ice box before use.

                        Now--who'll recommend good commercially avbl mozzarella?

                        And in closing I'll say, bless all of us. This is a sacred quest we are on, and even if, as Robt Louis Stevenson said, 'the globe be granite underfoot and strewn with cutting flints,' we must endure and shall be rewarded. Avvanti!

                        5 Replies
                        1. re: billmarsano

                          Bill, I applaud your desire to be innovative and experiment with different baking materials, but I can say, with absolute certainty, you're playing with fire by using pavers to bake with. Pavers are NOT made to handle the thermal shock of baking. At least not the intense thermal shock of cooking pizza. All ceramics expand/contract as they heat/cool. When the change in temp is drastic and fast, the expansion/contraction is too much for the pottery to take and it will break, sometimes violently. Pavers have about the least resistance to thermal shock of any ceramic material.

                          Now, I'm not talking about the danger of a paver exploding in your face, I'm talking about the very real possibility of the paver fracturing and sending a sliver into the crust of the bread/pizza. When that sliver meets teeth, who do think will win? The sliver will.

                          There's a reason why baking stones/cordierite/fire bricks where invented. They're specifically engineered to withstand the extreme temperature changes involved in baking. Pavers are not.

                          1. re: scott123

                            Maybe our pavers differ or nomenclature differs, but I have used them repeatedly for 20 years--the same ones, too. Yes, the temp diff is drastic, but heating oven to 550 is hardly fast (the pavers are in the over from get-go).

                            1. re: billmarsano

                              Bill, it's not the gradual pre-heat that's stressing out the pavers, it's the rush of room temp air as you open the oven door AND it's the drastic drop in temp when the moist dough meets the hot stone. The water in the dough takes a second or two to boil/turn to steam. During that brief period, the surface of the stone is less than 250 degrees. That's about a 300 degree drop in a matter of seconds.

                              So you haven't had a problem in 20 years... okay... that's great that you're luck has been good. It isn't to say that pavers are safe, though. 99 people out of 100 probably can get away with using them. But you wouldn't want to be number 100.

                              It's just not worth taking the chance, imo. Especially since fire bricks are just as cheap and can be used the same way.

                          2. re: billmarsano

                            Bill - so you almost never use domestic flour for pizza? Do I understand that correctly?

                            Like I said, I seem to do fine with all-purpose (only King Arthur and Cressota ever make it into my house). But, given the comments here, I'm certainly open to other types- bread, cake, or a mixture.

                            You said you use 0 to 00 grade - would something like that be availible domestically? There are some stores in my area where I could find some specialty ingredients, if there's an equivelent they can get. I guess it never occurred to me to go beyond the basic flour types. This is why I love chow-hound - I always learn something!

                            1. re: GDSinPA

                              Well, I use it when I can, which is often because I travel a few times a year to Italy and always take a spare suitcase to fill w/food. I've found I can get 0/00 in NYC at Buonitalia (swell store) in Chelsea Market, so it is imported. Will try to remember to get a brand name for you. But ask your stores to check Buonitalia--I think that is the importer's name as well as the store's. Otherwise, I was told American cake flour can be blended in w/success.

                          3. Forgot something: I agree with the post warning of dough thawing during unexpected delay and making a hell of a mess.

                            Actually, you don't need a peel, really, although I love mine. You can prepare the pie on a cookie sheet or such-like--just be sure to slide it off the sheet and onto the hot pavers or stone. Do not bake on the sheet. So when the pie is ready, open the over door wide, pull out the wire rack on which the pavers are laid. Then use a fork to tug the pie forward onto a platter. It'll be fine but you be fast--it's hot in there. A couple of times, in a pinch, I've done it barehanded.

                            1. You HAVE checked that they have a working oven that can get past 350? Nothing to take for granted, even here.

                              1. thanks to everyone for your advice! i brought fresh mozarella and parm, made it with simple fresh tomatoes, and made the dough there... their oven didn't have a temperature setting so i just put it on the highest setting and it came out great. :)

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: junglekitte

                                  How was the dough? which one did you use?

                                2. i used the recipe of lydia's ingredients. thanks again! my moroccan friends loved it.