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Do’s and Dont’s for Homemade Pizza Dough

I want you to enjoy delicious homemade pizza that doesn’t look like a meteor landed in the middle of it, so I’ve assembled a list of dos and don’ts based on our experience.

A long, long time ago when this was just an itty bitty baby blog, I posted about my first experience with homemade pizza dough. It was nothing short of a disaster. I ended up practically throwing the crust off my cutting board onto the blazing hot pizza stone ending up with a misshapen, suuuuper puffy mess that looked something like this:

I may have given up on homemade pizza dough right then and there if it hadn’t been for the fact that despite it’s crater like appearance, the stuff still tasted amazing.

Over the past year I’ve tried this recipe at least a dozen times. I’ve learned things each time and each time our pizza looks a little more normal and a little less like it has a goiter. This has become a staple recipe in our house. I always try to have a crust or two waiting in the freezer for a pizza night. I want you to enjoy delicious homemade pizza that doesn’t look like a meteor landed in the middle of it, so I’ve assembled a list of dos and don’ts based on our experience. Here’s hoping your first try will look better than mine!

For the preparation:

Do: Take the temp of your water before adding yeast. This isn’t a totally necessary step, but the last thing you want is to go through the whole recipe only to realize your yeast didn’t work. I like to play it safe and just pop a thermometer in the water before adding yeast. I get it as close to 110 degrees as possible.

Don’t: Take your chances with yeast. If it’s old or doesn’t froth in the water, don’t bother. Start fresh and guarantee yourself a nice puffy crust.

Do: Enjoy how crazy huge the dough gets! Yeast is totally awesome.

Don’t: Rush it. Let the dough double in size. It may take an hour. It may take two. Patience is a virtue, friends.

Now for the rolling and patting!

Do: Take off all your rings. A good pizza dough should be sticky and elastick-y. Like this:

But a good dough is also super messy! Exhibit A:

So take off those rings, people!

Do: Flour everything. Your hands, the counter, everything. I used to be afraid I would compromise the dough from adding too much flour, but I’ve never had a problem. Use enough to shape the dough without it sticking to the rolling pin or tugging on the paper.

Don’t: Misplace your wedding ring. This does not tend to make husbands happy.

Do: Use parchment paper. For the love of all that is holy, use it. The last thing you want is to be scraping your beautifully dressed pizza off a countertop onto a blazing pizza stone. I’ve done it before. It doesn’t end well. Place the parchment on a lare cutting board and then simply slide the parchment onto the hot pizza stone. This is MUCH easier than trying to scrape the pizza off a bare cutting board onto the pizza stone.

Don’t: Skip the parchment paper. Honestly, can I put any more stress on the importance of the paper?

Time to make your pizza!

Do: Use a pizza stone and preheat it in a crazy hot oven for 30 minutes before baking. This gives you a great crispy crust and chewy, doughy center. Just the way I like it.

Don’t: Underbake your crust. I’ve done this a lot. The outside looks nice and brown, so I pull it out, but the inside is still gummy. Check to make sure the crust is nice and puffy the whole way through before pulling it out of the oven. If the top is getting too browned, cover with foil.

Do: Turbo your crust. It’s a homemade crust for pete’s sake! You can do whatever you want with it so make it awesome! Our favorite pizza chain, Jet’s Pizza, has a crust called the “turbo.” It’s sprinkled with garlic salt, Parmesan, and some sort of buttery goodness and it’s amazing. But you do whatever turbo means to you! If I were you, it would mean cheese. And lots of it.

Don’t: Stress about the shape or look of your crust. Fact: I have never made a perfect pizza crust. It’s part of the joy of homemade! Let it be a little lumpy, bumpy, and circularectangulish. It will be delicious in whatever crazy shape it ends up. And best of all? Everyone will know it didn’t come from a box.

Do: Make the full batch and freeze the extras. After the dough has finished rising you can divide it in half then wrap each half in saran wrap and then put them each in a separate zip lock bag. Bam. Dinner is so waiting for you.

Don’t: Wrap your freezer dough in wax paper. Unless you like wax paper in your pizza. Then by all means go for it. (Did I mention I’ve made A LOT of mistakes with homemade pizza dough?)

Do: Defrost your dough correctly. There’s no getting around it folks. You have to plan ahead a little bit on this one. Remove it from the freezer the night before you want to make it and stick it in the fridge. When ready to bake, remove from the fridge and let rest for about 20 minutes before shaping.

Don’t: Attempt to defrost the dough quickly by placing it under very warm lamps. This does not end well. See first picture of post for proof.

And one last big DO before you go off to conquer your own pizza crust!

Do: Enjoy it! The possibilities for your own homemade pizza are truly endless. Make it your own. Make it delicious. I’ve included the recipe here below with some of the tips. Now go forth and make dough! Oh, and be sure to stop by later this week and get the recipe for my new favorite way to dress this crust.

Homemade Pizza Dough
Yield: 2 crusts
Recipe adapted from Annie’s Eats

1/2 cup warm water, around 110 degrees
2 1/4 teaspoon instant yeast
4 cups bread flour
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 1/4 cups water, at room temperature
2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1. Measure the warm water into a 2-cup liquid measuring cup.  Sprinkle the yeast over the top and let sit until frothy and mostly dissolved, about five minutes. If the mixture does not froth at all, your yeast may be too old or the water may be too hot or too cold.

2. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the bread flour and salt, mixing briefly with the beater attachment to blend.

3. Add the room temperature water into the measuring cup with the yeast-water mixture.  With the mixer on low speed, pour the yeast-water mixture and olive oil into the flour mixture.  Mix until a cohesive dough is formed.  Switch to the dough hook.  Knead on low speed until smooth, shiny, and elastic, about 5 minutes.

4. Transfer to a lightly oiled bowl, turning once to coat.  Cover with plastic wrap and let rise until doubled in size, 1½-2 hours.

5. Press down the dough to deflate it.  Flour your hands and a workspace. Transfer the dough to your workspace and divide the dough into two equal pieces.  Form each piece of dough into a smooth, round ball.  (If freezing the dough, wrap in plastic wrap, place in a zip lock bag, and freeze at this point.)  Cover with a damp cloth.  Let the dough relax for at least 10 minutes but no longer than 30 minutes.

6. To bake, preheat the oven and pizza stone to 500˚ F for at least 30 minutes. Place a large cutting board on your workspace. Spread a square the size of your pizza stone onto the cutting board and sprinkle with semolina or cornmeal. Transfer the dough to the parchment paper. Shape the dough with lightly floured hands or a rolling pin. If the dough springs back, let it rest for a few more minutes before trying to roll out again. Brush the outer edge lightly with olive oil and sprinkle with parmesan and garlic salt if desired.  Top with your favorite toppings. Use the cutting board to help slide the parchment paper onto the hot pizza stone. Bake until the crust is golden brown, and cheese is bubbling, 8-12 minutes.

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  • Anna @ Crunchy Creamy Sweet September 6, 2012, 10:30 PM

    OMG! I am going to pin this and spread the word ( if you don’t mind )!! People need to read this! So informative and helpful! You are amazing, Courtney! Thank you so much for sharing this. xoxo

    • Courtney @ Bake. Eat. Repeat. September 7, 2012, 11:58 AM

      Thanks Anna! Please spread the word! If I can save one person from the frustration of ruining a perfectly good pizza crust, it will be worth it!

  • Pegasuslegend September 7, 2012, 4:38 PM

    nice job! I love you honesty… here from Dailybuzz…

  • Jayden Eden July 3, 2014, 4:20 PM

    Looking at all of this pizza is really starting to make me hungry. I just ate not too long ago, but I always have room for dessert. I will make sure to try out your recipe next time I make pizza.
    Jayden Eden |

  • JAS February 24, 2015, 12:33 AM

    When you say “Use the cutting board to help slide the parchment paper onto the pizza stone” does that mean that you leave the parchment paper on the stone to bake the pizza? Since I have never tried any baking before, I am probably asking a dumb question.

    • Courtney @ Neighborfood February 24, 2015, 9:09 AM

      Not a dumb question at all! You want to slide the parchment paper with the crust on it directly onto the stone. Don’t try to remove the crust from the parchment paper. It’s so much easier to slide when it stays on the parchment and it’ll bake just fine that way!

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