Before we start, let’s confirm something really important! The type of “perfect pizza dough” we’re talking about here is ONE of a couple different styles of “perfect pizza dough” that we’ll have available on our site. The type we’re talking about today is a type that you’ll make from scratch today, AND make pizza from that dough immediately after you make it. We’re not talking about freezing this dough or chucking it in the fridge for a few days. That changes some of the characteristics, and we’re big on perfecting those “characteristics” in this dough. So eat it within an hour or 2 of making it please!
Also, note that these tips or secrets are valuable only when you’ve reached the level of making decent dough like most of the rest of the baking world, and you want to step up your game a tiny notch by finessing your approach. If you apply all these techniques, you’ll bring up the quality of your dough about 5% – 10%, rather than 90% (unless you’re in the habit of killing your yeast, but don’t know that you are. In that case, you’ll improve your dough quality by about 100% if you follow these tips).
The perfect pizza dough has to start with the BEST FLOUR for the job. Without it, all the other tips have less of an impact on the final product, so let’s start off well! Unlike many other products available out there, the “best” pizza flour is relatively easy to identify. It’s not something that is based largely on different people’s opinions. This one’s fairly straightforward. The short answer is “Caputo 00 flour”. It’s an Italian product which is ground to a very fine consistency, and it’s the world standard for the best pizza dough. You can read more detail on this topic at our longer article that attempts to cover the topic in a bit more detail.
Here’s a tip that, while people are generally aware of it, most don’t realize the degree to which it is important. The issue is WATER TEMPERATURE! This one is pretty important, because without it, your success will be in jeopardy, and your results will be random. If you don’t have a great thermometer, you can grab a very inexpensive one online. If the temperature of the water when mixing the ingredients is a few degrees too hot, you’ll murder the yeast and your project is done! If the water is too cold, you’ll fail to activate or “wake up” the yeast, and you’ll get the same result. However, there are a few things to make your life a bit more complicated. There’s a difference between various types of yeast (fresh, active dry, instant) and there’s a difference between the best temperature to activate the yeast, and the best temperature to multiply the yeast. We’ll make this quick;
Active Dry Yeast – stick to water temps around 110˚F with a variable of about 5˚F maximum
Fresh Yeast – a water temp closer to 100˚F is best (give or take a few degrees)
Instant Yeast – This yeast is typically mixed with the flour, so the overall temperature for activating the yeast (combined with a lot of flour) is around 125˚F since the flour will absorb not only water but temperature as well.
IMPORTANT NOTE: There is a bit of wiggle room for water/yeast temperatures that will work, but if in doubt, err on the side of cooler water. That’s not typically fatal to yeast, but high temps (130˚F) definitely can be!
USE FRESH YEAST! This should go without saying, but it’s all too easy to get lazy about this since everyone has some old yeast laying around somewhere right? Well, even if your dry yeast in little, sealed packages, is passed the “best before” date, your dough likely won’t rise at all. It’s been our experience that even with dry yeast that is not expired, we’ve had some batches that hardly rise, or sometimes not at all.
Yeast is a micro-organism that eventually dies. Viability goes down fairly quickly month by month after the yeast has been packaged. By six months, viability is less than half of when it started. To keep yeast fresh, store it in the fridge or freezer. If you’re not sure whether your yeast is still active, proof it in some warm water (see #2) with a pinch of sugar dissolved in the water. Usually, I start off with water that is about 120 degrees and I dissolve the sugar in this…by the time it’s done dissolving the temp has dropped to 110 to 115 degrees. Once you’ve stirred in the yeast, let it sit for 10 minutes. If it’s nice and frothy/foamy at the end of 10 minutes, go ahead and use it. If it’s flat, and you’ve seen no action, it’s dead.
LET THE DOUGH RISE. Yes, I know that runs against the grain of pop culture and our “hurry up” society, but certain natural laws can’t be messed with, and this is one of them! The yeast needs time to work in the dough… let the dough rise for 10 minutes (if you’re in a hurry) or closer to an hour (for a bit more “airy-ness” ) once it’s mixed.
STRETCH THE DOUGH BY HAND. This is a great finesse technique that everyone should use if possible. Using a rolling pin squishes out any air in the dough (and later, the crust) so your crust won’t be as airy, crispy and light.
Be sure to make the dough the correct THICKNESS or DEPTH. If your dough is too thin, it’ll probably tear, and if it’s too thick, it’ll probably give you a very different pizza experience than what you were hoping for. We’ve found that a thickness of 1/8″ – 1/4″ is best for most people’s taste and style. As a side note, be sure to keep in mind that minimal toppings (sauce and cheese, etc.) are better than going crazy with ingredients. The more stuff you use, the more likely your pie will be soggy, messy and potentially unbaked in the center.
No matter what oven you’re using, make it as HOT as possible. Ideally, you want 800˚F -ish. If you’re stuck with a conventional indoor oven only, then, we’d suggest getting a gas top cooker. If your range is electric, then please consider a product that will help increase the temperature to its maximum ability, like the Pizza Dome to increase heat.
Having the perfect pizza dough is only one link in the chain to making the perfect pizza!
To Get You Started, Here’s a Great Recipe
You’ve come this far, so hey, why not take it the rest of the way. Here’s a great recipe for the perfect pizza dough, which we’ve spent hours researching and then tweaking to perfection!
(For a step by step picture tutorial of this recipe, click here.)
Quick Perfect Pizza Dough
- 1/2 teaspoon white sugar
- 1 cup warm water (110 – 115 degrees˚F/45 – 46 degrees C)
- 1 (.25 ounce) package active dry yeast or 2 1/4 teaspoon of yeast from a jar
- 2-1/2 cups “00” flour (or all-purpose if you don’t have “00”)
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 teaspoon salt
- In a small bowl, mix water and sugar until sugar has dissolved (start with hot water then by the time the sugar has dissolved, the water should be the perfect temperature of 110 to 115˚F). Stir in the yeast. Let stand until frothy/foamy, which is about 10 minutes.
- 2. Meanwhile, in a large bowl or BOSCH MIXER with the dough hook attached, mix the flour and salt together. Add yeast mixture and the oil to the flour and mix well by hand until dough is smooth and elastic (adding a small amount of flour if the dough is sticky) or run the Bosch mixer for about 5 minutes. Let the dough rest for 10 minutes.
- 3. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and cut in half. This recipe will make 2 – 12″ pizzas. Stretch the dough to about 12″ round.
- 4. Transfer crust to a lightly greased pizza pan or pizza peel dusted with cornmeal. Spread with desired toppings and bake in a preheated oven.
WHEW! Okay, that’s one method to making a REALLY good dough (dare we say “perfect pizza dough”)? There are a few “other methods” for perfect pizza dough we’ll discuss in other posts, but for now, please do let us know if we’ve missed something, and we’d be happy to add your idea if it works!