When I was a teenager, my mom bought a pizza shop. Initially this was a dream come true — 24/7 access to fresh, hot pizza — until the reality sank in that this was also a full-time job, bringing with it the necessity to learn to new, pizza-specific skills. The most challenging, yet pivotal skill that I was required to master was the ability to make great pizza dough. And for the sake and success of the business, each batch I made needed to mirror the one before it. The dough had to be uniform in its consistency, texture, and fluffiness, and for a rookie dough-maker, this proved daunting.
The Pizza Dough Process
The recipe for the dough contained six ingredients: flour, sugar, salt, yeast, oil, and water, all of which were blended together in an automatic mixer. My mom demonstrated the process to me. First, the flour went into the mixing bowl. Then the sugar, salt, and yeast were combined with the water. That mixture was then added to the flour and topped off with the oil. Next, you blended. The mixer worked the ingredients until a large dough ball began to form. If the dough became overly sticky, you added flour to it as necessary. After about five minutes of blending, the dough was done. Cover and allow it to rise for at least one hour.
When it was my turn to produce a batch on my own, I remember thinking to myself the classic, famous last words, “piece of cake.” Turns out, however, that the same amount of patience, time, and focus that a baker puts into baking a flawless, made-from-scratch cake is also required for something as simple as a six-ingredient dough recipe. My first batch was an unsalvageable disaster, but one from which I learned a lot. After four or five trial runs, I worked through most of my kinks and began creating perfect dough ball masterpieces!
Lessons I learned along the way:
- 1. Don’t use cold water, use HOT (but not boiling) water with the yeast, sugar, and salt mixture.
- 2. Don’t be scared to add flour to the dough as it blends.
- 3. Sticky dough = terrible pizza dough.
- 4. Give the dough plenty of time to rise before making a pizza crust (this is imperative).
- 5. Make sure the salt and sugar are clearly labeled. Double-salt, sugar-free pizza dough is atrocious.