Why Do You Need a Basic Homemade Pizza Dough 101?
Pizza is perhaps the most sought after comfort food when ordering a take out or home delivery everywhere in the world. This easy availability somehow makes us forget how delicious an experience a freshly baked homemade pizza is. Since the COVID-19 lockdown days, everyone around the world has begun to realise the importance of homecooking – it’s not just a foodie passion or duty of housewives but a it’s a survival skill for everyone. The satisfaction of cooking your meal from the scratch, especially making the dough is only second to hunting for or growing your own food.
You have control over the quality and quantity of ingredients. And you can be sure about the hygiene level of the ready food – something that has become our top most priority these days.
We are so fond of pizza as a family that I have made many versions of it – like the quick fix breakfast pizza over pita bread or the pasta pizza and omelette pizza that doesn’t even require a crust or dough base. But we must admit that a there is nothing like biting into a light and crispy crust of traditional pizza.
You Can’t Have a Good Pizza Without a Good Dough!
Every pizza has three components – dough, sauce and toppings. While you can play around with sauce and toppings to suit your taste, you GOT TO HAVE A GOOD BASE to build your pizza upon. The crust can be thick or thin, deep pan or stuffed but the quality and texture of the crust matter a lot. And that’s where the need to master the dough comes in. Many people assume it would be hard to make the pizza base from scratch, but once you get the proportions right and understand the basic principles, it’s as easy as making any flatbread at home.
Things to Remember About Dough:
*Yeast plays a very important part in making your pizza base. For dry yeast, always check the expiry on the packet before buying. If you are not sure about how old is the yeast, dilute it in warm water with sugar (the quantities mentioned in the recipe) for 5-6 minutes. If bubbles appear on top after that time, your yeast is good to go.
*Always use warm liquids (neither hot, nor cold) to work with yeast. That’s the right temperature to activate it. Too cold and it won’t start working, too hot and it will die.
*Yogurt is my secret ingredient that I add to most of my leavened breads to improve the taste and make the texture of the crumb soft.
*For thin and crisp crust, use less water and make a more firm dough. For thick, light and fluffy crust, the dough should be somewhat sticky and unstable.
Sauce First or Cheese?!
In most cases, it’s the tomato sauce that comes before the cheese, and then toppings are spread on top of the cheese. This order melts the cheese nicely and makes the toppings crispy.
But it’s not written-in-stone kind of a rule. Some people like to spread a layer of cheese first to stop the sauce from seeping into the crust and making it soggy. You can brush the dough with olive oil which forms a layer to stop the sauce from making the crust soggy.
In the Sicilian style pizza, it’s always the cheese first and then sauce. Since pizza is baked in a very hot oven, you should decide according to your choice of toppings, whether they would be able to take the direct heat or are they too delicate and should be tucked under the cheese.
How to Store Pizza Dough:
If you have made surplus dough or you want to have the dough readily available, the good news is – you can refrigerate, even freeze pizza dough. Make the dough according to the instructions below, let it rise for an hour or so, knead again for a couple of minutes. Divide into individual balls ( the size you’ll need to make pizzas), lightly coat with oil. Cover and keep in the fridge until you need it (up to 2-3 days). To freeze, follow the same process as for refrigeration, but put dough balls in plastic ziplock bags individually. You can freeze pizza dough for upto three months this way.
To use refrigerated dough, bring it to room temperature for half an hour then bake. For frozen dough, thaw it in the fridge overnight then leave at room temperature for half an hour before baking.
Baking Your Pizza With and Without Oven:
As I mentioned before, you must preheat your oven at the highest setting that your oven can go to for atleast 20-30 minutes before you place your pizza in the oven. Baking time will vary for different thickness of crust but most pizzas get done from 12-18 minutes. In the last couple of minutes, you can turn on the grill at the top of the oven to give your pizza a nice golden colour and crispy crust.
To bake a pizza without oven, you can choose from 2 methods according to your convenience and available resources. Baking pizza without oven won’t give it that nice golden colour or crispy edges but the dough will still fluff up nicely and taste shall be good anyways.
Method 1: Bake in a deep pot or dutch oven. Fill the bottom of a deep, pan with a 2 inches thick layer of salt, sand or pebbles. Place a stand or invert a heat proof bowl over it. Cover with lid and preheat for 20-30 minutes just as you wouod for an oven. Since the pan would be very hot inside, wear oven mittens and place your pizza pan over the inverted bowl and cover the pan. Cook for the same time as you would in the oven.
Method 2: Cook on a skillet/tawa or frying pan. For this method, lightly grease your skillet or pan. Place on low heat. Poke your pizza dough with a fork. Place it on the skillet/frying pan. Cover and cook on low heat fod five minutes or till light golden on one side and set. Flip and cook the same way on the other side. Remove from pan. Spread your sauce, cheese and toppings. Return the pizza to the skillet/frying pan. Cover and cook till the cheese melts.
2 cups plain flour
1 +1/2 teaspoon active dry yeast
1+1/2 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup warm milk
4 tablespoon vegetable oil
2 tablespoons yogurt (room temperature)
1/4 cup warm water or as required
This Is What You Do:
Mix flour, yeast, sugar and salt in a big mixing bowl.
Make a well in the centre of dry ingredients.
Pour in milk, oil and yogurt. Mix thoroughly.
Now gradually add warm water, a couple of tablespoons at a time, and mix till the dough comes together.
Shift the dough to a lightly greased work surface and knead well for 5-6 minutes.
Put the dough back in the bowl. Cover and leave to rise in a warm place for 60 to 90 minutes.
Heat oven 200 – 220 degrees C. Lightly grease a pizza pan or oven proof dish.
Sprinkle the work surface with flour. Place dough over it. Rub some flour on your hands so that the dough doesn’t stick. Punch down the dough and roll in the flour to form a neat ball.
Roll out the pizza ball into a flat round of thickness of your choice with a rolling pin (usually 1/4 inch for thick crust and 1/8 inch for thin crust).
Or you can directly place the dough ball in the pizza pan or dish. Press it with your fingers to spread it out into a round, flat disc.
Now spread the sauce over it, load it with cheese and your favourite toppings.
Bake for 12 to 15 minutes or till the crust in golden and crispy on the edges.
Makes a 10 inch thick crust and 12 inches thin crust pizza.