10 paths to painless pizza-making

10 paths to painless pizza-making
As you may have noticed, we’re kind of into pizza in the smitten kitchen. I mean, just a little. I can’t help it–in my mind, it combines the best things on earth: homemade bread, charred-edged ingredients, pairing well with a green salad and wine, and–the way I make it, at least–it never feels like a heavy meal.

Every time I post about pizza, I answer at least five or seven of the same ten questions in the comments, so I thought that it was time to create a FAQ on the topic that will hopefully answer all of your questions (feel free to ask additional ones in the comments) in one tidy URL. Consider this a primer for the new pizza recipe I will tell you about next.
Like the bread-making tips I shared way back in the newborn days of this site, my point of these are not to fill your head with reminders and cautionary tales that will cause you more worry when you get into the kitchen–there are enough sites that do that, I know that for many people, anything yeast-based is scary enough. Instead, I want to impart to you how easy it can be, and how strongly I feel that anyone on earth can succeed in making impressive pizza at home. I hope this helps.
pizza dough, man on moon
1. You don’t need a bread machine, a dough hook or a food processor to get it right.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: people having been making bread a lot longer than these fancy machines have been around. Sure, they can knock a few minutes off your prep time (and that dough hook sure creates a smooth and supple dough), but a simple pizza dough takes so little time to make by hand, in our dishwasher-free kitchen at least, it’s rarely worth the extra dishes it will create to bust out the machines. I mix my dough ingredients with a wooden spoon in a large bowl, knead it for a few minutes on a counter, then oil that bowl and use it to let the dough rise. Dish- and drama-minimizing, it’s my favorite way to cook.
2. It needn’t take all day.
That process I described above–stir then knead–takes no more than ten minutes. If your kitchen is on the warm side, the dough takes just an hour to double. It’s certainly not the fastest weekday night meal out there, but it might just be the simplest. Nevertheless, if you’re in a hurry, you can speed up the dough rising time with a stellar tip I borrowed from Simply Recipes: heat your oven to 150 degrees, then turn it off. Place your dough in an oiled bowl in this warmed oven to rise.
how you know it has doubled enough
3. It can be ready for you when you get home.
I’ve been promising you this refrigerator tip for ages, but, sadly, that’s how long it took me to test it out. If you’d like, you can mix and knead your dough ingredients in the morning, plop them in an oiled bowl, cover it with oiled plastic wrap and leave it in your refrigerator while you go to work. The dough will slowly rise–truly developing the best flavor–while you’re away. By the time you come home, it should be doubled. Take it out, let it get back to room temperature, deflate it on a floured counter and you’re on your way.
4. You don’t need a pizza paddle.
This is another one of those tools that are fun if you have them, but are in no way a prerequisite for making pizza at home. A tiny kitchen demands that I don’t even consider such extras. Instead, I slide the pizza dough, prepped with toppings, onto a piece of cornmeal-dusted parchment paper that’s been placed on the back of a baking sheet. With a little shove-and-yank, I slide the parchment paper with the pizza right onto the pizza stone in the oven. It bakes right on the parchment paper, which I use to yank the pizza out to the oven when it’s done.
n'th picture of pizza dough
5. You don’t need a pizza stone.
Pizza stones improve the crust of pizza and breads, no question about it. But it doesn’t mean you can’t make delicious pizza without them. I have more than once baked pizza on the back of a baking sheet, lined with parchment paper and sprinkled with cornmeal, just as I described above, and been thrilled with the results.
6. You don’t need a professional pizza oven, but high heat is your friend.
One of the most salient differences between the brick-oven beast at your favorite pizza shop and, say, the smitten kitchen’s diminutive, apartment-standard white-painted oven is that the former gets much hotter than the latter–by even 500 degrees. Your best bet to get the brick-oven effect at home is to turn your oven all the way up to broil for a good ten minutes before you pop your pizza in, and step back from the inferno as you open its mighty jaws, lest you want a high-heat facial!
7. Pizza cooked under the broiler is amazing.
Speaking of broilers, there are a few in-the-know pizza types out there that swear by the broiler for making perfect, Patsys-like pizza (say that three times fast!). The technique, described in full, with a colorful story on SeriousEats.com, involves getting a cast iron skillet hotter than the fires of Babylon and cooking a pizza on the back of it for about 1.62 minutes, and is totally worth checking out.
rolling out dough
8. You can cook it on the grill, but only if you invite me over.
I absolutely love grilled pizza, and it’s a fun way to use the grill at the point in the summer when you’re so sick of steaks-n-burgers-n-skewers. Here’s my highly-refined (ha) method: Brush your heated grill with oil. Have your pizza dough rolled out, and your toppings at arm’s length. Throw the dough over the grill for a minute or two, until you get a bit of coloring underneath (shouldn’t take long). With tongs and a deep breath, flip it out onto a platter, uncooked side down. Top it as you wish, slide it back onto the grill and cover the lid. It should be ready in about five minutes.
9. You can cook it on the stove.
At Mario Batali’s Otto Pizzaria in the Village, the astoundingly good pizza is cooked on the stove, not in an oven. His product line’s stove-top (or oven-friendly) pizza pan mentions this only casually in the description, but I’ve been captivated ever since. Sadly, I haven’t tried it out [See above: Tiny kitchen, filled to capacity, etc.] but I hope to, soon.
10. You can buy pizza dough from your local pizza shop.
Yes, I know I have spent a terrific amount of time preaching the virtues of homemade, dead-easy pizza dough but you know what? Sometimes, even I get tired of eating dinner at 10:30 p.m. in the name of purist cooking pursuits. [I hope you were sitting down for that one.] Go to your local pizza shop and ask to buy a dough. In NYC, this is a cinch, of course, and the doughs run about $3 each. Once you get it home, it’s ready to go. Heck, that’s even faster than ordering one from that Shmomino’s racket!

Cilantro Chili Pizza

Weary and tired, Sweets and I dragged our jet-lagged bodies into our rental car, and headed up the coast line to Hilo to eat up time before we could collapse in the vacation house we had rented. The ten hour flight did not lend itself to a full night’s sleep, which only contributed to us feeling a bit more out of our element than usual.
My job as navigator proved to be challenging as well,
“Umm… take a left at this next K-street”.
“K- street? Can you sound it out?”
“No…” I whined not sure what to make my mouth do with all the vowels., “Kam-ah…” in my head whirled the bad Hawaiian joke seen on t-shirts in high school: Kam-on-a-wana-lai-u?
Magically our car was pulled in the direction of good food and we found ourselves at Cafe Pesto. In an unexpected fit of nostalgia we giggled at the appearance of Oregon Chai on the menu and ordered iced sweet chai and a Southwestern pizza. What came to us from that kitchen is one of the best pizzas I have ever tasted…tangy chipotle chicken on a bed of garlicy cilantro pesto, and topped with red onion rings, smooth creamy goat cheese crumbles and sweet chili sauce. We swooned, finishing off every slice, licking the sweet vinegar sauce off of our fingers.
This flavor combination of cilantro pesto and sweet chili sauce has become a cult favorite in our house ever since…

Cilantro Chili Pizza, ala Cafe Pesto
Preheat the oven to 500F, preferable with a pizza stone on the middle shelf. Allow the oven to heat 30 minutes or more.
Meanwhile, prep your favorite pizza dough. If using refrigerated pizza dough, allow it to come to room temperature before shaping. Preparation of the pesto and chili sauces can be accomplished in the time it takes for the pizza dough to rest:

Cilantro Pesto
   This recipe makes more pesto than needed for pizza. Use the leftovers as a marinade for grilling, or go crazy making this pizza for all of your friends.
 In a food processor or blender combine:
  • 1/2 cup peeled garlic cloves
  • 1 cup of cilantro leaves, stems and roots
  • 1 Tbs of ground pepper
  • 1 tsp of salt
  • with enough canola or olive oil to help grind the ingredients into a paste
 Store in the refrigerator or freezer with a slight film of oil on the pesto surface to help maintain the bright green color.

Sweet Hot Garlic Sauce
   This is my number one favorite ingredient, to always be found in my refrigerator. It is excellent paired with fried crispy foods, grilled meats, drizzled on curries, and on top of this pizza. Fortunately this tasty sauce is becoming increasingly common in grocery stores, often called Nahm Jeem Gratiem, or Tuong Ot Ngot.
 In a sauce pan combine
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/2 cup vinegar
  • 2 Tbs minced garlic
  • 1 tsp salt
 Bring to a boil and reduce the heat to low, simmering to reduce and thicken to a syrupy sauce approximately 20 minutes or more. When thickened, stir in 1 Tbs of chili garlic sauce and allow to cool to room temperture. Store in the refrigerator.

Cilantro Chili Pizza

Shape your pizza dough in the size you want, stretching it out thin with your fingers and hands. Place it on a piece of waxed paper, trimmed to match the foot print of the pizza dough shape and transfer the dough to a pizza peel for easy sliding onto the pizza stone.
Spread several tablespoons of the cilantro pesto on the surface of the dough. Sprinkle with a slight pinch of salt. Continue to top the pizza with chopped sundried tomatoes,red onion slices and chopped red bell pepper.
Slide the pizza onto your hot pizza stone and cook until the bottom is crusty brown, approximately 5-8 minutes.
Immediately top the pizza with crumbled goat cheese upon removing it from the oven. And lastly, the most important step, drizzle the pizza with Sweet Hot Garlic Sauce.
This pizza is also excellent topped with any grilled meat or seafood. If the goat cheese is omited this is a very tasty vegan meal.

Making The Case For Beets

Big, beautiful beets
Two years ago, cilantro haters were vindicated. The New York Times ran a story, Cilantro Haters, It's Not Your Fault, in which Harold McGee, respected food scientist and author, explained why cilantro really does taste like soap to many people. Turns out, some folks "may be genetically predisposed to dislike cilantro."
Now, I'd like to see Harold tackle beets. This vegetable suffers all sorts of indignities. People say they taste like metal, mud, wood, even dirty socks. (Dirty socks? Really? That's hard-core beet hate.)
What's behind all this beet antipathy? Is it chemistry? Genetics? Canned beets? President Obama? (He famously banned them from the White House garden.)
Unlike the president, I adore fresh beets, which are at their sweetest from May through September. Some beets, especially dark red ones, have a sweetness close to sugar, while others admittedly taste a little like dirt, or as beet lovers prefer, "earthy."
I've given some thought to this beet bashing, and here's what I've come up with: canned beets. Other than canned string beans, it's hard to find a more repugnant vegetable — freakishly iridescent and disturbingly mushy. Nothing good comes from canned beets.
Many people claim beets taste metallic. This could be because of the metal can, which studies have shown tastes like metal. But that doesn't explain why many people say fresh beets taste like metal. Perhaps it's iron. Beets are high in iron, which is why they're recommended for people with anemia.
Then there's dirt. Maybe they taste like dirt because they have not been properly cleaned and still have dirt clinging to them. Dirt tastes like dirt. Or it could be geosmin, a compound that gives beets their distinctive, dirtlike flavor.
Irwin Goldman, a beet breeder and professor of horticulture at the University of Wisconsin, is trying to help with the beet-dirt issue. He's working to breed beets higher in geosmin for people who like that distinctive dirty flavor, as well as beets lower in geosmin for those who prefer more sweetness.
In spite of their detractors, beets are experiencing a culinary heyday. Innovative food bloggers, writers and chefs are sharing recipes for raw beet salads, beet carpaccio and beet tarts. Beet confections have blossomed as well, especially mysteriously dark chocolate-beet cake, cupcakes and brownies. There's even beet ice cream, on which the jury is still out.
Chefs are smitten with diminutive, jewel-colored baby beets as well as full-sized gold beets with their sun-soaked yellow flesh. Is there a hip eatery that does not serve a roasted beet and goat cheese salad?
Nothing has elevated beets' status as powerfully as Chioggia beets, also known as candy-stripe or candy-cane beets due to their festive red and white striations. When they appear at my local farmers market, they cause traffic jams. (Keep in mind that cooking diminishes their color, so for the most dramatic presentation, serve Chioggia beets raw.)
When selecting beets, look for deeply colored, smooth, firm-skinned globes with the leaves attached. Avoid beets that are soft, shriveled, pitted or spotted. If storing, cut off the leaves, and trim the stems to about 1 inch. Wrap in paper towel, place inside a plastic bag, and refrigerate for seven to 10 days.
When you're ready to eat them, wash beets thoroughly, scrubbing the skin to dislodge any dirt, then cut off the stem. You can boil, steam, microwave and even grill beets, yet roasting is the kindest cooking method, as the heat gently caramelizes the vegetable's natural sugars. Plus, the skins practically slide off after roasting. Of course, you can also enjoy beets in all their raw glory. Grated, shaved or sliced paper-thin, they're bursting with color and crunch.
The red and white striations of the Chioggia, or candy cane, beet. i
The red and white striations of the Chioggia, or candy cane, beet.
Susan Russo for NPR
As for the beet greens, whatever you do, don't throw them away unless they're mildewed, browned or full of holes. Fresh beet greens should be unwilted and richly colored. They're similar in taste to Swiss chard and are a delicious alternative to more prosaic spinach.
To prepare them, cut off any thick stalks. Submerge in a large bowl of water to loosen the dirt. Drain, rinse and repeat as necessary, then pat dry. Par-boil them by dropping in boiling water for one minute. Remove and plunge into a bowl of ice water. "Shocking" the greens will keep them bright and beautiful. Drain, and store in an air-tight container in the refrigerator for up to three days. Beet greens are wonderful simply sauteed in olive oil and garlic, tossed into scrambled eggs and pasta or added to soups and stews. They're also delicious raw, thinly sliced and added to salads and sandwiches.
As for flavor pairings, beets have an affinity for tangy, pungent foods such as goat, blue and feta cheeses, sour cream, yogurt, horseradish and onions; acidic foods such as oranges, lemons and vinegars; and smoky foods such as bacon, smoked fish and smoked meats. They also pair well with legumes, especially lentils; whole grains such as barley, bulgur and quinoa; and most nuts, particularly pistachios and walnuts.
If you have a tenuous relationship with beets, consider starting simply. Roasted beets sprinkled with good olive oil, salt, black pepper and fresh herbs such as rosemary or thyme are one of the tastiest ways to enjoy beets. So, too, is crostini topped with goat cheese, sliced roasted beets, lemon juice, sea salt and olive oil. Crunchy raw beet salads are an attractive option as well, especially when tossed with shredded carrots, apples, raisins and walnuts and coated with a creamy tahini or yogurt dressing.
I hope folks like Irwin Goldman and Harold McGee shed some light on this dirty issue soon because clearly it's not on President Obama's agenda. While I wait, I'll be slurping my beet smoothies, spooning my beet soup and crunching my beet chips with abandon.

Raw Chioggia Beet Salad With Honey-Lime Vinaigrette

This stunning salad is ideal for summertime alfresco dining and dinner parties. Enjoy it on its own as a light meal, or serve alongside grilled fish or meat.
Raw Chioggia Beet Salad With Honey-Lime Vinaigrette i
Susan Russo for NPR
Makes 4 to 6 servings
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
2 tablespoons lime juice
2 teaspoons honey
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
4 medium Chioggia beets, washed, peeled and cut into matchsticks (about 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 pounds), or another beet variety if Chioggia isn't available
2 scallions, thinly sliced (about 1/4 cup)
2/3 cup chopped fresh cilantro
2 tablespoons roasted unsalted or salted pepitas*
Whisk all vinaigrette ingredients in a small bowl and set aside.
Wash and peel beets. (You may want to wear gloves, as the beets may stain your hands.) Using a sharp knife, cut into matchsticks. Place beets in small bowl. Add scallions, cilantro and pepitas, and toss. Add vinaigrette and toss until well coated. Serve at room temperature.
Variation: Add diced avocado or crumbled queso fresco, a soft, mild, lightly salted Mexican cheese available in Mexican specialty markets and most major supermarkets.
* Available at most major supermarkets and Mexican specialty markets

Red Rice, Roasted Beets And Greens

In this recipe, the beets stain the rice red, hence the name. It's perfect for picnics and summer cookouts and also makes a satisfying vegetarian entree.
Red Rice, Roasted Beets And Greens i
Susan Russo for NPR
Makes 4 servings
1 cup wild rice or brown rice
1 tablespoon olive oil, divided
1 bunch fresh beet greens, washed and sliced
3 medium red beets (about 1 to 1 1/4 pounds), stems removed
2 tablespoons crumbled feta cheese
2 tablespoons unsalted toasted pistachios
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon lemon zest
4 teaspoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint, plus extra for garnish
In a medium pot, bring rice and 2 1/2 cups of water to a boil. Reduce, partially cover and simmer for 25 to 30 minutes, or until the water is absorbed and the rice is firm yet cooked through.
Place a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add 1 teaspoon olive oil. Add sliced beet greens and saute for 3 to 5 minutes or until softened. Remove from heat.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Wash beets. Place on a large piece of aluminum foil, drizzle with olive oil and wrap tightly. Place on a rimmed baking sheet and cook for 50 to 60 minutes, or until tender when pierced with a knife. Remove from oven and cool. Rub off the skins and cut into small pieces.
To make the dressing, whisk all ingredients in a small bowl and set aside.
To assemble the salad, transfer the rice to a serving bowl. Add the cooked beets, greens and dressing. Toss lightly. Sprinkle with crumbed feta cheese and pistachios and garnish with thinly sliced fresh mint.

Gingery Roasted Beet And Sweet Potato Soup

Borscht and I have never gotten along, but I've become good friends with this cheerful soup. The fresh ginger adds brightness, while the cayenne pepper packs some heat. Though delicious right away, this soup tastes even better the next day. You could serve it cold or at room temperature, but its flavors are fullest when heated through.
Gingery Roasted Beet And Sweet Potato Soup i
Susan Russo for NPR
Makes 4 servings
3 red beets (about 1 to 1 1/4 pound)
1 large sweet potato, peeled and cut into chunks (about 1 pound)
1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil, plus 1 tablespoon, divided
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
1 medium yellow onion, diced
2 stalks celery, diced
2 cups low-sodium vegetable broth
Juice of 1 lime
1 tablespoon fresh minced ginger
1/3 cup fresh chopped cilantro
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 (15-ounce) can light coconut milk
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Wash and peel the beets and sweet potato, and cut into 1-inch pieces. (You may want to wear gloves, as the beets may stain your hands.) Place beets and sweet potato on a large rimmed baking sheet. Drizzle with 1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil, salt and black pepper. Roast for 25 to 30 minutes or until lightly browned and tender when pierced with a knife. Remove from oven and set aside.
In a large pot over medium-high heat, add remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil. Add onions and celery and saute 5 to 7 minutes, until softened and lightly browned. Transfer the cooked beets and potato to the pot. Add the broth, lime juice, ginger, cilantro and cayenne pepper and stir well. Cook for 10 minutes. Cool for 10 minutes before pureeing. Working in batches, add soup and coconut milk to a blender and puree until smooth. For a velvety smooth consistency, you can strain the soup through a sieve. I like a few tiny bumps, so I leave it as is. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Beet Smoothie

This ruby red breakfast smoothie is as healthy as it is eye-catching. You may even get your kids to drink it.
Beet Smoothie i
Susan Russo for NPR
Makes 1 serving
1 small roasted beet, chopped
1/2 frozen banana
1 to 1 1/4 cup milk of your choice, such as almond, soy or low-fat milk, depending on how thick you prefer it
1 teaspoon honey
Mix all ingredients in a blender and puree until smooth. Pour and enjoy.

Patriots' Potato Pizza

Like most Italian families, my mom did the cooking, my dad did the eating. There were however certain culinary “events” that my dad performed with gusto such as pickling, canning, and making homemade pasta. For a period in the mid-90’s, he started making pizzas, really good pizzas. One Sunday, most likely during a Patriots game, he came up with the idea for potato pizza. It was a hit then and continues to score touchdowns with everyone who eats it.

By the way, the Patriots beat San Diego today. I have mixed emotions. Growing up in Rhode Island, it was mandatory to root for the Patriots. Plus my Dad would’ve grounded me if I didn’t. Yet, Jeff and I have become Chargers’ fans and would have liked to see them win today. Actually, we’re already over it. This seems to be the way things are here in Southern California; when a professional sports team loses, it’s like, “So, you wanna go to the beach now?” Not so in New England. Take when the Red Sox lost to the Mets in ’86 for example. Jeff's family barely spoke for a week; there were no words for their grief. So, it’s probably a good thing that the Patriots won.

Having gotten completely frustrated with San Diego’s abysmal performance today, Jeff and I took a walk after the game. When we returned home, the answering machine was flashing “1 new message.” We hit play and heard my dad's voice: “What’s the matter Doc, you taking some aspirin for your headache after that great New England win over your unbeatable Chargers?” Did I also mention that New England fans rarely gloat?

Since Dad was on my mind today, I thought I’d make his potato pizza (the next best thing to watching the game with him). I used blue and white potatoes because I think it makes the pizza more visually appealing. Of course, I just realized that blue and white are the Patriots’ colors. Hmmm, maybe I subconsciously wanted them to win after all.

DAD’S POTATO PIZZA1 pound pizza dough
2 teaspoons olive oil, divided
1 shallot, sliced
¼ cup shredded part-skim milk mozzarella cheese
2 small potatoes of your choice, preferably a firmer variety
¼ cup crumbled gorgonzola or blue cheese
1 teaspoon fresh rosemary, chopped
Salt and pepper, to taste

Wash potatoes and pat dry. Microwave the whole potatoes for 2-3 minutes until soft enough to handle but firm enough to cut so they won’t crumble. Cut into ¼ inch-thick slices.

Heat half the olive oil in a skillet over medium heat; add shallots; cook 4-5 minutes until slightly browned.

Preheat oven (see temps below). Roll out dough on a lightly floured surface. Transfer to a sheet of parchment paper (if using a stone) or to a parchment lined baking sheet. Brush dough lightly with remaining olive oil. Place a thin layer of shredded mozzarella on the dough, then arrange potato slices on top. Season well with salt and pepper. Add crumbled gorgonzola or blue cheese, and lightly press it down with your hands.

For a pizza stone, bake at 500 degree for about 10 minutes, or until both the top and bottom of the crust is brown and the cheese is melted.

For a baking sheet, bake at 450 for about 20 minutes, or until both the top and bottom of the crust is brown and the cheese is melted. Let it cool for a couple of minutes before slicing.

Before serving, sprinkle pizza slices with chopped fresh rosemary and a bit more fresh ground black pepper.

TIP: Boiling the potatoes makes them too moist which leads to a soggy crust. Ugh. Microwaving or baking them are better bets. Also, adding the fresh rosemary after removing the pizza from the oven helps to maintain its color and flavor.

Homemade Pizza Recipe

Pizza dough is a yeasted dough which requires active dry yeast. Make sure the check the expiration date on the yeast package.
You can use all purpose flour instead of the bread flour that is called for in the recipe, but bread flour is higher in gluten than all-purpose flour and will make a crispier crust for your pizza.


Pizza Dough: Makes enough dough for two 10-12 inch pizzas
  • 1 1/2 cups warm water (105°F-115°F)
  • 1 package (2 1/4 teaspoons) of active dry yeast
  • 3 1/2 cups bread flour
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
Pizza Ingredients
  • Olive oil
  • Cornmeal (to help slide the pizza onto the pizza stone)
  • Tomato sauce (smooth, or puréed)
  • Mozzarella cheese, grated
  • Parmesan cheese, grated
  • Feta cheese, crumbled
  • Mushrooms, thinly sliced
  • Bell peppers, stems and seeds removed, thinly sliced
  • Italian sausage, cooked ahead and crumbled
  • Chopped fresh basil
  • Pesto
  • Pepperoni, thinly sliced
  • Onions, thinly sliced
  • Ham, thinly sliced
Special equipment needed
  • A pizza stone, highly recommended if you want crispy pizza crust
  • A pizza peel or a flat baking sheet
  • A pizza wheel for cutting the pizza, not required, but easier to deal with than a knife


Making the Pizza Dough

1 Place the warm water in the large bowl of a heavy duty stand mixer. Sprinkle the yeast over the warm water and let it sit for 5 minutes until the yeast is dissolved. After 5 minutes stir if the yeast hasn't dissolved completely. The yeast should begin to foam, which indicates that it is still active and alive.
2 Using the mixing paddle attachment, mix in the flour, salt, sugar, and olive oil on low speed for a minute. Then replace the mixing paddle with the dough hook attachment. Knead the pizza dough on low to medium speed using the dough hook until the dough is smooth and elastic, about 10 minutes.
If you don't have a mixer, you can mix the ingredients together and knead them by hand.
If the dough seems a little too wet, sprinkle it with a little more flour.
pizza-2.jpg pizza-3.jpg
3 Spread a thin layer of olive oil over the inside of a large bowl. Place the pizza dough in the bowl and turn it around so that it gets coated with the oil. Cover the dough with plastic wrap and let sit in a warm place (75-85°F) until it doubles in size, at least 1 to 1 1/2 hours. You can let it sit for several hours if you want. The longer rise will improve the flavor of the pizza crust. If you don't have a warm spot in the house you can heat the oven to 150 degrees, and then turn off the oven. Let the oven cool till it is just a little warm, then place the bowl of dough in this warmed oven to rise.
At this point, if you want to make ahead, you can freeze the dough in an airtight container for up to two weeks.

Preparing the Pizzas

1 Place a pizza stone on a rack in the lower third of your oven. Preheat the oven to 450°F for at least 30 minutes, preferably an hour.
2 Remove the plastic cover from the dough and punch the dough down so it deflates a bit. Divide the dough in half. Form two round balls of dough. Place each in its own bowl, cover with plastic and let sit for 10 minutes.
3 Prepare your desired toppings. Note that you are not going to want to load up each pizza with a lot of toppings as the crust will end up not crisp that way. About a third a cup each of tomato sauce and cheese would be sufficient for one pizza. One to two mushrooms thinly sliced will cover a pizza.
pizza-4.jpg pizza-5.jpg
4 Working one ball of dough at a time, take one ball of dough and flatten it with your hands on a slightly floured work surface. Starting at the center and working outwards, use your fingertips to press the dough to 1/2-inch thick. Turn and stretch the dough until it will not stretch further. Let the dough relax 5 minutes and then continue to stretch it until it reaches the desired diameter - 10 to 12 inches. Use your palm to flatten the edge of the dough where it is thicker. You can pinch the very edges if you want to form a lip.
5 Brush the top of the dough with olive oil (to prevent it from getting soggy from the toppings). Use your finger tips to press down and make dents along the surface of the dough to prevent bubbling. Let rest another 5 minutes.
Repeat with the second ball of dough.
pizza-6.jpg pizza-7.jpg
6 Lightly sprinkle your pizza peel (or flat baking sheet) with corn meal. Transfer one prepared flattened dough to the pizza peel. If the dough has lost its shape in the transfer, lightly shape it to the desired dimensions.
pizza-8.jpg pizza-9.jpg
7 Spoon on the tomato sauce, sprinkle with cheese, and place your desired toppings on the pizza.
8 Sprinkle some cornmeal on the baking stone in the oven (watch your hands, the oven is hot!). Gently shake the peel to see if the dough will easily slide, if not, gently lift up the edges of the pizza and add a bit more cornmeal. Slide the pizza off of the peel and on to the baking stone in the oven. Bake pizza one at a time until the crust is browned and the cheese is golden, about 10-15 minutes. If you want, toward the end of the cooking time you can sprinkle on a little more cheese.