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Homemade pizza - some ideas and tips

I thought I'd share some of my ideas and tips for making home made pizza, which is something I've been doing every few weeks for the past two years.

Full-write up with pictures:

Quick summary:
-Use a good quality bread flour. I'm currently using King Arthur bread flour and it's wonderful.

-You really should use a good quality pizza stone to get that desired crisp crust and soft center. I got mine at a restaurant supply store for $50. The cheaper ones at Bed Bath and Beyond will shatter. I've broken two of those already.

-Preheat the oven at the highest setting for at least 45 mins. Don't assume the oven is ready when that light turns off, as the heat will continue to build up in the stone.

-About that dough -- if you're pressed for time, you can pick up prepared dough at Trader Joe's, but nothing beats the flavor and texture of home made. I'm using a dough recipe from Tyler Florence: http://tinyurl.com/mtvlcx (towards the bottom


-I use a two-rise process, where I let the dough rise in a warm place for two house, then punch and reshape it, and place in the fridge for another 1-2 days. This isn't necessary and the first rise will suffice (but that second rise yields a nicer final texture).

-Dough stretching and tossing. This is toughest part and I still screw up. Take the dough out of the fridge and let it come to room temperature. Then, place on a flour surface, form into a thick circle about 1" thick. Now pick up and hang vertically using both hands; rotate the pizza on its vertical axis using hand-over-hand action. Gravity will stretch the dough for you. Do this quickly and you'll have a near-perfect circle. Tossing isn't really necessary unless the dough is large.

-Don't sauce and top the pizza too far in advance of placing it in the oven, otherwise, the sauce and water from the ingredients will make the dough soggy, leading to soggy crust. It's best to prepare the pizza right before it goes into the oven

-Don't pile on too many ingredients. You want everything to cook, right?

-Cooking times vary, maybe 10 mins, and turn the pizza 180-degrees about half-way through.

-Let the pizza rest for a few minutes before slicing. Don't bother with a fancy roller cutter -- just use your largest chef or Santoku knife.

-The best part -- enjoy!

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  1. Thanks for the tips. I'll save this post in case I get ambitious. I usually just buy the dough from Trader Joe's refridgerator section.

    1 Reply
    1. re: LA Buckeye Fan

      Me too...and then I throw it on the grill.

    2. Try making your own starter or reducing the yeast in the TF recipe to just a pinch. You have got the rest of the details nailed. Long proofs make awesome flavors in your dough.

      1 Reply
      1. re: Brandon Nelson

        Brandon -- you're absolutely correct. I forgot to note that I cut back on the yeast, about .20oz on my scale versus the .25oz in most packets (I'm using dry instant from a jar). Thanks!

      2. I like to cook the crust for a minute or two before putting on the sauce, to prevent sogginess.

        17 Replies
        1. re: coll

          In college I bartended at one of Todd English's Figs restaurant. The pizza cook always told me to make sure that my dough was room temperature. And to make sure not to put too many toppings towards the middle. Because as it cooks, everything slides to the center of the pie.

          1. re: Stellar D

            That's a great idea, Stellar. I never thought of the room temperature factor applying to pizza dough, or everything moving to the center when it cooks.

            And I have a question, too. Back many years ago, I received as a gift a pizza stone with a polished surface. Most pizza stones have a singularly unpolished surface so that they can absorb moisture from the pizza and make the crust crisp. However, they also absorb tomato sauce, cheese, and grease. I loved my polished pizza stone, which seemed to make the crust plenty crisp but was one heck of a lot easier to clean.

            Alas, I dropped it about ten years ago and it shattered into a million pieces. Since then, I have been unable to find one. Does anyone know where I can find one?

            1. re: gfr1111

              unglazed quarry tiles aren't terribly porous, and might suit your needs.

              i would add that i've never had a problem with cleaning a pizza stone because they don't really need to be cleaned.

              1. re: gfr1111

                Check with a restaurant supply store in your area. You can also check out http://www.kingarthurflour.com as they have the same stone I'm using.

                And when cleaning the stone, don't use use soap because it can be absorbed by the stone. Not good. A simple scraping/brushing of the surface is all I ever do.

                1. re: gfr1111

                  How would you get the final rise if it wasn't at room temp?

                  1. re: coll

                    Coll, the dough will still rise in the fridge but it will take longer. Sometimes I make the dough late at night, place in the fridge, then have my wife take out the dough next day around 2pm (if/when she works from home). Place the dough on a floured surface and cover with a dishtowel. It will be perfectly ready to stretch and toss in a few hours, as it will have come to room temp and softened up a bit. Hope that helps.

                    1. re: havepixel

                      That's what I do too, and if you don't take the dough out a couple of hours ahead you're not going to get a good final rise with the cool temp in the fridge. It's like a wet noodle. I'm just wondering why people didn't know about room temp, I can't imagine just taking it out and baking immediately.

              2. re: coll

                coll, I just started using a pre-bake method for pizza dough myself. Prefer it now.

                I rub the dough down with light olive oil, toss some dried basil & oregano and 2 crushed fresh garlic cloves and prebake for about 8 mins in a 500 degree oven. Then I add the sauce and cheese, toppings and bake til bubbly! This method does a wonderful job of crisping the crust top to bottom!

                1. re: HillJ

                  The dough definitely needs to sit out for a few hours--usually at least 2 hours so that you can easily stretch it without tearing. Putting toppings in the middle also helps keep them on the pizza when you slide and "snap" it into the oven.

                  1. re: havepixel

                    What kind of cheese do you use and sauce. I used to make pizza dough in my bread maker and then add random jar sauce with shredded mozza from the grocery store. Clearly, I need higher end productsbecause the effort was not worth the result. Can anyone give me brand names of good cheese and sauce or recipes that aren't too labor intensive bec ow Id rather just buy it, YKWIM?

                    1. re: lilmomma

                      Hi, I use Muir Glen organic tomato sauce which can be found at Whole Foods. Hunt's sauce is also good. The thicker consistency of these two sauces hold up well when applied to the dough; Muir Glen has a better taste IMO. I also add chopped rosemary and thyme and then pile on the cheese. As for the mozzarella, I've been using Sargento shredded mozzarella, or sometimes I'll buy a block of mozzarella from Whole Foods and shred it myself.

                      1. re: havepixel

                        Is the Muir Glen sauce a pizza sauce or just reg old tomato sauce?

                        1. re: lilmomma

                          Sorry I should have specified that. I use the regular tomato sauce. The pizza sauce is absolutely fine, but I prefer the taste of the tomato sauce with freshly-chopped herbs.

                          This is one:

                          This small can is enough for the three pizzas I posted in my blog. Hope that helps!

                      2. re: lilmomma

                        I don't use a spaghetti sauce, don't feel it needs it. I spoon about 3 ladelfuls of Pastene Kitchen Ready Sauce over my crust. And the cheese I use, is the fresh buffalo mozzarela that you find in the barrels at the grocer's. Just be sure to slice the cheese and let it drain on paper towels to get the moisture out. I liberally salt and pepper my whole pizza and drizzle with olive oil right before I place it in the oven also.

                        1. re: mcel215

                          What is Pastene Kitchen ready sauce?

                          1. re: lilmomma

                            It's a "crushed tomato" in a can. It really could be any good brand.

                            Instead of a cooked sauce, it's an easy topping that tastes really good on pizza right from the can.

                            But, Pastene "kitchen ready" may be just sold in New England.

                    2. re: HillJ

                      That's how I do my pizza also. The pre-baking also bakes in a great flavor to the crust.

                  2. Couple of comments.

                    1. Try adding some other flour, perhaps a higher protein one or a harder one. Makes a more interesting overall texture. You can also try a little whole wheat or rye.
                    2. The method for shaping pizzas taught me at the pizzeria is room temperature dough, then dimple it rapidly with your finger tips - all of them if you can - to flatten and then simply pick it up and turn over the backs of your hands. The dimpling has an effect. Key point is to cover with enough flour that you can move it around. Just shake off any excess.
                    3. A more weird trick is to bake one side lightly - until it firms but isn't browned - then pull out or flip and dress that firmed side. Then you can crank up the oven or fire and get the crust crispy without needing to cook the dough for so long that it burns.

                    And use less cheese than your instincts tell you.

                    1. I strongly recommend two homemade doughs:

                      The dough for pizza from Roberto Donna in "In Julia's Kitchen with Master Chefs". I make enough for eight pizzas and freeze what i don't use.

                      Most especially, a dough for pizza from Lynne Rosetto Kasper's "The Italian Country Table". I double it and again freeze what I don't use. The good thing about this one is that if you're pressed for time it need not have a long rise; a rest, then form and bake is just fine.

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: jmckee

                        Can you share the Roberto Donna's recipe; no luck finding it online except his video with Julia Child. His pizzas look amazing! Thanks :)

                        1. re: naokoshin

                          It's in "In Julia's Kitchen With Master Chefs". I don't think its available online.

                      2. I've had great luck w/the recipe from Peter Reinhart's book, American Pie. He currently teaches baking at the Charlotte campus of Johnson & Wales. The recipe is listed on the website 101 Cookbooks:


                        1. I've had tremendous success with this dough from Cooks Illustrated. It is blended with low protein cake flour and every time the results are a yeasty and beautifully elastic dough that crisps up on my king arthur stone into a beautiful deep golden crispy bottomed crust, with a nice tug and chew.

                          Pizza Dough
                          1 1/4 teaspoons instant yeast
                          1 cup water (8 ounces), room temperature
                          1 3/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour (8 3/4 ounces), plus extra for dusting work surface and peel
                          1 cup cake flour (4 ounces)
                          1 1/2 teaspoons table salt
                          2 teaspoons sugar

                          Adjust oven rack to lowest position, set pizza stone on oven rack, and heat oven to 500 degrees. In liquid measuring cup, whisk yeast into water to dissolve. In food processor fitted with metal blade, process flours, salt, and sugar until combined, about 5 seconds. With machine running, slowly add liquid through feed tube; continue to process until dough forms satiny, sticky ball that clears sides of workbowl, 1 1/2 to 2 minutes. (If after 1 minute dough is sticky and clings to blade, add 1 to 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour and continue processing. If dough appears dry and crumbly, add 1 to 2 tablespoons water and process until dough forms ball.) Divide dough in half and shape into smooth, tight balls. Place on floured counter or baking sheet, spacing them at least 3 inches apart; cover loosely with plastic wrap coated with nonstick cooking spray and let rise until doubled in volume, about 1 hour.

                          When dough balls have doubled in size, dust dough liberally with flour and transfer balls to well-floured work surface. Press one ball into 8-inch disk. Using flattened palms, gently stretch disk into 12-inch circle, working along outer edge and giving disk quarter turns. Lightly flour pizza peel; lift edges of dough round to brush off any excess flour, then transfer dough to peel. Spread thin layer of tomato sauce (about 1/2 cup) over dough with rubber spatula, leaving 1/2-inch border around edge. Slide onto stone and bake until crust begins to brown, about 5 minutes. Remove pizza from oven with peel, close oven door, and top pizza with 4 oz of mozzarella cheese. Return pizza to stone and continue cooking until cheese is just melted, 4 to 5 minutes more. Transfer to cutting board. Slice and serve immediately. Repeat steps to shape, top, and bake second pizza.

                          Mr Taster

                          4 Replies
                          1. re: Mr Taster

                            That's interesting, mixing cake flour and AP. I'll have to try that. Thanks!

                            1. re: havepixel

                              I'm still a novice baker, so I'm not sure of the science as to why it works-- it just does. Cooks says this method is based on the fact that pizza crust is all about tenderness and crispness rather than crumb structure, so adding a high protein flour and spending a lot of time kneading it into gluten is a lot of extra work for nothing.... adding low protein cake flour makes the dough more tender.

                              Also, you can proof it right out of the food processor-- there is no initial rise period. Also, in the margherita topping they use, they train the tomatoes to avoid imparting sogginess to the crust. This would be much more difficult to do if you were using a jarred sauce.

                              Mr Taster

                              1. re: Mr Taster

                                Whoa! Those are some smart tomatoes. All kidding aside, I got a new pizza stone and have been researching pizza dough, thank you for the information.