Saturday, October 15, 2011

Homemade Pizza Dough from a Bread Machine

Would you say that fancy toppings make a great pizza? I believe a great pizza starts with the pizza crust. The dough should be the most important part and if you get that right, then it will only take a few toppings to get you to that perfect pizza pie. You are aiming for both a crunchy and chewy crust, like a French baguette. It needs to be plastic enough to expand with the increase of gas and elastic enough to hold the expanding gas.

I love homemade pizza dough, but I don’t want to mess with all the fuss of the many steps. My solution is to use my bread machine. Here is the recipe I use for Traditional Pizza Dough (for 2-lb. bread maker):

1-1/4 cups water
1-1/2 Tbsp. olive oil
3-3/4 cups bread flour

The best flour to use is bread flour made specifically for bread machines because it is high in protein which can accommodate more gluten.
1-1/2 Tbsp. sugar
1-1/2 tsp. salt
1-1/2 tsp. active dry yeast

Pizza dough gets its rise from the yeast. Active dry yeast is regular yeast that has been dehydrated and broken into granules. When adding it to your bread machine, add it last and don’t let it touch any liquid. I make a small well in the center of the flour (making sure not to punch through to the liquid below).

Set the bread maker to the “dough” setting and walk away. I loved having the machine do the work for me. The dough setting of my Zojirushi bread machine takes the ingredients through 22 minutes of preheating, 21 minutes of kneading, 45 minutes through the first rise, a stir down followed by the second rising that last 22 minutes. After an hour and 50 minutes, the machine beeps to let me know the dough is finished.

I removed the dough from the baking pan onto a lightly floured surface and cut the dough into quarters. You can freeze the portions you are not using. Wrap it tightly in plastic wrap, I even double wrap mine and put in the deep freeze.

With the remaining portion of dough, form a smooth ball and place in lightly oiled bowl and cover with plastic wrap to let rest in for 20 minutes before stretching out and baking the pizza. You could also put this in the fridge overnight, in fact the dough is supposed to taste better if you let it rest in the refrigerator for 18 hours.

Let the dough come to room temperature before working with it to stretch into shape.


I prefer a very thin crust so I stretch it as thin as possible and use a rolling pin to get it paper thin. What you lose when you use a rolling pin is the puff of a rimmed crust.

When it comes to toppings, the most important element for me is a spicy sauce. Here are the bones of my recipe, make it your own:

2 carrots, 2 ribs celery, ½ onion, 4 garlic cloves – give them a rough chop and put in a cuisinart and mince until small. Then gently sweat these with a tablespoon of olive oil in a dutch oven. Stir often so it doesn’t get too brown or burn.
Add a cup of good red wine, dried bay leaves, dried or fresh oregano, dried or fresh basil, and a tablespoon of red pepper flakes and let it simmer until reduced by half. Add a 28 ounce can of crushed tomatoes (or whole tomatoes, crushed by hand), a couple tablespoons of tomato paste and a splash of milk or cream. Season with salt, pepper and sugar. Let this simmer for about 30 minutes so all the flavors fall in love and get married. 
A trio of cheese ensures lots of flavors, and a homemade mozzarella will guarantee that lovely elastic stretch of cheese. Bake on a hot pizza stone in a 400 degree oven for about 10 minutes.


Sometimes I top homemade pizza with roasted garlic, sun dried tomatoes (or thinly sliced fresh tomatoes) and fresh herbs like basil are just perfect. This time, I topped my cheese pizza with thinly shaved prosciutto (dry-cured Italian ham) and baby spinach.


Tips for THE BEST pizza dough:

  • Use instant yeast for better success
  • Use bread flour because of higher protein, resulting in chewier crust
  • Let the dough rise long and slow in the refrigerator
  • Stretch the dough, don’t use a rolling pin
  • Dress the pizza simply, don’t weigh it down with lots of sauce and toppings
  • Bake the pizza hot and fast on a pizza stone that was preheated in a hot oven
  • Let the pizza rest for 3 minutes after it cooks so that it cuts clean. Normally not a problem here since I like to take photos of the finished pie before I serve it.
Take a bite while you are still taking pictures because the smell is heavenly and the afternoon breeze keeps blowing the baby spinach on to the patio.

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