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Pizza: the Homemade Kind

Having a real wood burning pizza oven in your home is fantastic. The oven can reach temperatures that a regular oven just can't. And that's one of the secrets to having great homemade pizza. Oh - okay, well, that's not me in the picture and no, that's not my pizza oven. But wouldn't it be great to have one? For all of us who don't, and that's just about everyone I know, you can still do great homemade pizza. At the McCardel household, every Tuesday night is pizza night. We've made an awful lot of pizzas and learned a thing or two.

There's not much to making pizza dough. If you've got a couple of hours to let it rise and some flour, yeast, olive oil and salt, that's really all you need for the dough. I do use a combination of regular unbleached all purpose flour and Italian 00 flour. It makes a superior crust. Italian 00 flour is a very finely milled flour that is still high in gluten (don't substitute cake flour or White Lilly soft flour! It's not the same thing.)  But you can certainly use just regular all purpose flour.

Now, I know you probably want a recipe for dough. And I'm not going to give you one!

Don't be scared. This is the way I make all of my doughs - pasta dough, focaccia dough and pizza dough. I measure the wet ingredients and then the flour added is as much as the wet ingredients will take. This is because when working with doughs, there are a lot of variables.  Even how humid the room is can affect the dough.   In the case of pizza dough, I allow about 1/3 cup of water for each person. We roll our pizzas very thin, so if you want a thicker crust, you might want to allow 1/2 cup water per person.

For pizza for three people, I put a cup of warm water in the bowl of my mixer and attach the dough hook. I then pour what looks like about a couple of teaspoons of Rapid Rise yeast in the water. I add a couple of good glugs of olive oil (aren't my measurements easy to follow!) and turn the mixer on. I start adding flour, usually 2 parts flour to one part 00 flour. I probably add about 1/2 cup at a time or so. After I've added a little flour, but my dough is still wet, is the time I throw in about a teaspoon of kosher salt (Martha Stewart said once that salt directly contacting yeast can kill it, so now I'm afraid for them to "touch" right away!) Keep mixing on low and adding flour until the dough comes together in a nice ball and is the right texture - not too dry, not too sticky. This just comes with practice.

Now I'm going to give you a very important piece of advice right here - add the flour towards the end just a little at a time. If you let the dough get too dry, you cannot add more water at this point. The dough is ruined. Yes, ruined. You have to start over. So when I know the dough is almost right but is still too sticky, I just add a scant spoonful at a time and keep mixing. You can always add flour to a too sticky dough, but not the other way around. After you've made it a while and have the hang of it, you really get a feel for the dough and you will know.

Take the dough out - I knead it by hand just a little bit because I like the feel of it - and then put it in an oiled bowl and cover it with a towel and stick it in a nice warm place. And it must be warm, or your dough won't rise well at all. In the summer, I stick it out in the sun. In February in Michigan, I stick it in my oven (my oven has a nifty "Proof" setting just for rising doughs). I let the dough rise for about an hour, but there's no exact set time. You can let it rise longer. Then I punch it down, break it into three pieces and roll those pieces into balls and set them on a floured jelly roll pan. I cover those with a towel and let those rise for another hour. They come out looking like this:

In the meantime, I have cranked up my oven to 450 degrees and put a pizza stone on the lower rack. You have to give this time to preheat - I usually give it a good half hour. And yes, you have to have a pizza stone. If you don't have one, go out and get one right away. They sell them everywhere - Williams Sonoma, Target, etc. They make a hugh difference in the crust. And do not wash your pizza stone! Not ever! The stone is absorbent. All you want to do after it is cooled is scrape it off. That's it. If you don't believe me, this is what our looks like:

This is what your pizza will cook on if you come over to our house.

Sprinkle some cornmeal on the pizza peel. Roll out one piece of dough on the counter, using flour so it doesn't stick. Transfer to the pizza peel. Put tomato sauce on the pizza, the cheese, and then your toppings. Slide the pizza off the peel onto the pizza stone in the oven with a jerk. It should just slide off, because of the corn meal. Bake for about 8 minutes. Your oven may vary, so just check on it.

I like to top my pizza with arugula, so I add that after it's out of the oven.

Questions? Feel free to e-mail me.

Tip: You can make the dough and stick it in your fridge the night before you need it. Then, when you want it, just bring it to room temperature and let it do its first rise from there.

UPDATE: For a more complete discussion on what kinds of flour to use when making pizza, click here.

00 flour: Caputo Tipo 00 flour

Equipment Needed:
Pizza Stone: Williams Sonoma baking stone
Pizza Peel:
Williams Sonoma pizza peel

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Reader Comments (24)

Ah mom you're making me want to come home every tuesday! You should've warned me you were posting this so I wouldn't read it...

February 28, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterBMac

Ahh, poor Barry. We Kentucky Schurrs are sad too since we can't drive over and join you on Tuesday evenings for pizza! Guess I'll just have to learn to do it myself.

March 4, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterAuleta

That seems like a lot of work, but may be worth it, it looks yummy. We just use Jiffy pizza dough mix. :)

(Found your blog because you posted asking about line spacing, I'm having the same problem...)

March 5, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterLar

Looks great! I like the flour. Thanks

January 27, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterChef Chuck

We were given a used pizza stone from my sister. It had an unpleasant chemical smell that lingered in the kitchen after its use. We finally gave up and threw it away. Is that typical? I'm sure my sister didn't do anything exotic to the stone. In fact she gave it to us because they never used it.

April 22, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterarty eater

From The Italian Dish:

Arty Eater: The pizza stone should not give off any funny smell at all. I have two and neither one does that. That's kind of weird. Don't be afraid to buy one - I use mine to bake pizzas and bread all the time. I couldn't do without it.

April 22, 2010 | Registered Commenter[Elaine]

I love Italian food. I also used to bake bread myself, but never knew you need a baking stone for that. Definitely will buy one. Is Farina the same as 00 flour? I didn't know it can be used in dough.

July 29, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterLana

Hi Mrs. McCardel!

I'm making my pizza dough for the first time tonight (so far my dough seems to be rising quite nicely)... I'll let you know how it turns out... (hopefully edible). Oh btw, I think my ma mentioned I was making the pasta the other weekend - my linguine somehow was a success, on my first try!

Regards and thanks for the great pointers!
Kevin D.

August 28, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterKevin!

From The Italian Dish:

Way to go, Kevin! I'm impressed!

August 29, 2010 | Registered Commenter[Elaine]

I have tried this "method" several times over the last two weeks, and with great success. By adding the flour a little at a time it forces me to be patient and allows the flour to absorb the liquid and the gluten to form, which is critical in a good bread dough. The dough has come out smoother and silkier than any other time I have tried making pizza dough. Thanks for teaching your method. My next step is to look for and try it with the Italian 00 flour, which I have heard about but have never used.

January 23, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterKevin Vincent

I have found kneeding it wet for 15 minutes makes it very rustic, like the pizzerias in Italy. That and broiling your pizza stone and broiling the top!

December 8, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterCharlie

Hello from Germany.

So I get why you don't give a fixed recipe, but what's the consistency of the dough like when it's "right"? And when I let it rise or keep it in the fridge, it usually develops some sort of a crust, because the surface simply dries out - is that a problem, so should I cover it with a wet cloth?


August 9, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterChristian

From The Italian Dish:

Christian: The dough, when it's right, should feel not too sticky and not too dry. When you press a finger against it, it should not leave dough on your finger. It should feel moist, however. A too dry dough will produce a tough crust. Check out one of my later posts, which gives a bit more of a recipe:

Also, always put plastic wrap over your dough as it rises, so that the top doesn't dry out and form that crust that you are talking about.

Hope this helps!

August 9, 2012 | Registered Commenter[Elaine]

pizza is sexy

September 3, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterhaha

Curiously, we recently found that 00 Manitoba flour (mostly known as "American flour" here in Italy) is better for homemade pizza. A slightly better taste, digestibility and crust.

March 1, 2013 | Unregistered Commenterflapane

Since there is only two in my household, this makes more than I need for a meal. Can the remainder be frozen? What is the best way to store for later?

April 28, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJoe_G

From The Italian Dish:

From The Italian Dish:

Joe: Absolutely you can freeze dough. After the dough has risen, shape unused dough into a ball and flour it well. Wrap in plastic wrap and freeze. Use within a month. Take it out , unwrap it and let it rise in a warm place for a couple of hours, lightly covered with plastic wrap or a towel.

Also, I make dough for two people all the time. You can cut the recipe in half. Here is an updated pizza dough recipe you might like:

Hope this helps!

April 28, 2013 | Registered Commenter[Elaine]

Great pizza stone info. I need one for my grill. I make venison pizza when I am camping and always seem to burn the crust. I know I need a stone but the pizza is still good even with the burnt crust but my wife and kids prefer golden brown and I would too but I have just been putting it off til now. Thanks for the info.


May 18, 2014 | Unregistered Commenterken mcbroom

That's a great way to make pizza at home, I really like it, if you would like to have a look at different popular pizza in Italy, you can have a look here:

May 28, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterCrinz!

I don't have this kind of dough hook or stand up mixer. Can I just make by hand or use a food processor?

October 13, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterClaudia

From The Italian Dish:

Claudia: You can certainly do it by hand with a bowl and a big wooden spoon. The dough hook on the mixer simply mimics the action of someone stirring the dough themselves with something like a spoon. It just takes a little arm muscle, but it works out fine! In fact, when I have a very small batch, I just do it by hand. Hope this helps.

October 13, 2014 | Registered Commenter[Elaine]

I love pizza and it's one of the my favorite recipe. You made it very well and looks so yummy. I am working in Prince Pizzeria, We provide catering in Beverly MA.

December 3, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterRob Cling

Very nice!!! I think your advice was more than useful! I am Italian and I really like to see how our "national treasure" is made abroad.
Have you ever tried "piadina"? It's the alternative to pizza we have in my hometown in northern Italy. You can check it out here. I'll be delighted to hear what you think!

February 1, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterMichelaDoc


August 28, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterEddie Barroso

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