Homemade pizza with homebrew beer and home grown salad.

The perfect suburban homestead meal: homemade pizza with home brew beer and home grown salad.

If you want to learn to bake breads, but don’t know where to start, I suggest beginning with making homemade pizza dough. Pizza dough is easy, cheap and forgiving-if you mess it up a little, you’ll still get a decent pizza. When you get it perfect, you’ll have the best pizza of your life.

I have been dabbling in pizza dough for a few years now, but once my favorite Tuscan pizza shop closed up, I really set my mind on finding and making the ideal pizza at home. Thin crust, crispy, and full of flavor. No yeasty taste, and no cardboard texture. It was quite a challenge to get it perfect.

I’ve tried many dough recipes, and they all delivered a decent crust. One stands out in particular: Gemelli Pizza Margherita, from Maggie Glezer’s Artisan Baking. This is the best recipe I have found by far. I divide it to make 8 thin crust servings. The book is a great bread book-I highly recommend if you want to try your hand at some more interesting breads. The upside of this dough is that is produces the best dough I’ve ever made, and makes enough to two meals at one go. The downside of this dough is that it needs hours to rise-I prepare it at lunchtime for that night’s dinner. The long rise time allows for some wonderful flavors to develop, but this won’t work for everyone’s schedule.

Other sources of good recipes:

  • Alton Brown will never lead you astray.
  • Recipepizza.com has basic instructions and recipes for many types of dough.
  • Cooks.com has a number of doughs. I go here when I am looking for a dough that will rise quicker than the hours needed for my favorite dough.

Whatever recipe you use, here are some tips to help your pizza turn out exceptional:

  1. Use bread flour for the best doughs. Regular flour does not have enough gluten (wheat protein) to make a good firm crust. We’re going for bread texture, not pancakes!
  2. Use lots of extra flour when shaping the pie. Pizza dough is sticky, and you need the extra flour to keep it from becoming a wreck.
  3. It looks really neat when the guys at the pizza parlor twirl the dough around in the air. Feel free to give that a try, but know that you are very likely to put your hand right through the pie and/or drop it on the floor. I speak from experience. PIzza tastes just fine if you shape the dough gently with your fingers. You can use a rolling pin, though that produces a slightly tougher texture to the final pie.
  4. If you mess up shaping the pie (see #2 above), let the dough rest a few minutes before trying again. The dough will be a bit tougher, but you can still use it just fine.
  5. Don’t over do it on the sauce. You need just enough to spread around and add flavor. Too much and the dough will stay soggy, never developing a good crispy texture.
  6. Pizza stones are fine, but it’s really hard to move a topped thin crust pizza from the peel to the stone without smooshing it to heck. I use a round screen for my big pies, and cook the individual ones on cookie sheets.
  7. Kids like to help put the toppings on. This is why we usually do individual pizzas: my kids can then create artistic masterpieces on their individual dough canvass, and everyone gets just the right amount of toppings for their taste.