Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Perfect Pizza Dough

I’ve eaten pizza in many places, including in Italy. But anyone who has eaten pizza in São Paulo, Brazil, would agree with me that my hometown is at the top of the list for pizza lovers. Sunday evenings are traditionally pizza night for Paulistanos (people from the city of São Paulo) who will gather at one of the more than 6,000 local pizzerias sometimes having to wait for an hour to get a table. Even those who prefer to gather at their grandma’s house or simply have a quiet evening watching “Fantastico”  usually have the “rounded” (as it is lovingly called by Paulistanos) delivered to their homes.

Being the paulistana that I am, I really miss the pizza I used to easily find in the pizzerias in São Paulo. There are a couple here in Chicago that I like, one of them being Pizza D.O.C at 2251 W. Lawrence Ave. But I must confess that I haven’t been there in a couple of years since I moved to the suburbs. One of these days if I get back there I will let you know if it is still as good as I remember. When we were living in the city, we used to get take out from D.O.C or from Pete’s Pizza (good for takeout or delivery only) near our old home. But after moving to the burbs, I haven't found any truly worthy pizza, so I started to make it at home and quite surprisingly realized it's totally worth it. You can control the quality of your ingredients from beginning to end, play around until you perfect the taste of your dough, and it's fun putting the pizza together as a family.

Not only that, but making your own pizza dough is much easier and less time-consuming than you would believe. I ask you to try this recipe and send me pictures and comments here, or by e-mail.

Thursdays have become pizza day in my house because I am in and out all day, without much time to devote for dinner. It also happens to be the day my house gets really really clean so I hardly feel like messing up the kitchen with dirty pots and pans. I either make the dough the night before and keep it in the fridge, or I will make it in the morning while fixing breakfast for my troops. I try to be very practical because I've learned that as a mother of four everything in life simply needs to be as such. I usually make two pizzas - a kid-friendly version and a more adult-oriented one. I like to keep it simple but you can be creative and combine your own toppings. It can be fun to play around and get the kids involved. The dough I am sharing today makes a really good pizza and is the one I’ve been using the most lately. It is a no-knead recipe therefore there is no excuse for anyone not to try. In time I will share other recipes. If you have a bit more extra time, making your own sauce makes a total difference as well. Next time I will share a super-simple and delicious tomato sauce that will go great with your pizza.

I like to keep pizza simple without a party of toppings. My favorite is Margherita pizza, so here goes the suggestion. Last Thursday I served an eggplant antipasto while the pizza was in the oven but a nice green salad is also a great starter for a light weeknight dinner.

Side note: If you are planning a trip to São Paulo, Brazil, and want to try the local pizza, here is my recommendation:

Margherita Pizzeria – Alameda Tietê, 255 – Jardins
Pizzaria Braz – Rua Graúna, 125 – Moema

Perfect Pizza Dough
Slightly adapted from The Bread Bible by Rose Levy Beranbaum

This dough is better when refrigerated. Depending on my schedule, I will do the dough the day before and stick in the fridge. More often, I make in the morning right after the kids leave for school. I let it rest for about 30 minutes while making the tomato sauce and doing the dishes, and then put in the fridge, taking out only about 1 hour before I am going to bake.

Makes 2 12-inch pizza

2 1/4 cup plus 3 tablespoon unbleached all-purpose flour
1 ½ tsp. instant yeast
1 ½ tsp. sugar
1 ½ tsp. salt
1 liquid cup water at room temperature (70 to 90 degrees)
6 scant tablespoon olive oil

1. In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, instant yeast, and sugar. Whisk in the salt after to avoid yeast coming into direct contact with the salt.

2. Make a well in the center and pour in the water. Using a rubber spatula or wooden spoon, gradually stir the flour into the water until all the flour is moistened and a dough just begins to form, about 20 seconds. It should come away from the bowl but still stick to it a little, and be a little rough-looking, not silky smooth. Do not overmix, as this will cause the dough to become stickier.

3. Pour the oil into a small bowl just big enough to give the dough room to double in size. With oiled fingers, place the dough in the oiled bowl and turn it over to coat on all sides with the oil. Cover it tightly.

4. If you want to use the dough soon, allow it to sit at room temperature for 1 hour or until doubled but I recommend that you make the dough at least 6 hours or up to 24 hours ahead, and allow it to sit at room temperature for about 30 minutes or until slightly puffy. Then set the dough, still in the bowl, in the refrigerator. Remove it 1 hour before you want to put it in the oven.

5. Preheat the oven to 475 degrees 1 hour before baking. Have an oven shelf at the lowest level and place a baking stone on it before preheating. If you don’t have a baking stone it is fine, it might turn less crispy but I’ve done many times and it still turns out pretty good.

6. With oiled fingers, lift the dough out of the bowl. Holding the dough in one hand, pour a little of the oil left in the bowl onto 2 pizza pans, and spread it all over the pans with your fingers. Divide dough in half. Set half dough on the pan and press it down with your fingers to deflate it gently. Shape it into a smooth round by tucking under the edges. If there are any holes, knead it very lightly until smooth. Allow the dough to sit for 15 minutes, covered, to relax it. Repeat using other half of the dough and pan.

7. Using your fingertips, press the dough from the center to the outer edge to stretch it into a 12-inch circle, leaving the outer ½ inch thicker than the rest to form a lip. If the dough resists stretching (as will happen if you have activated the gluten by overkneading it), cover it with plastic wrap and let it rest for a few minutes longer before proceeding.

8. Brush the surface of the dough with any remaining olive oil. Cover it with plastic wrap and allow it to sit for 30 to 45 minutes, until it becomes light and slightly puffy with air.

9. Set the pizza pan directly on the hot stone and bake for 5 minutes.

10. Remove the pan from the oven and spread toppings over the dough. Return the pan to the stone for 5 minutes or until the toppings have melted and the crust is golden. You can also slide the pizza directly onto the stone for a crispier bottom crust, I think mine turn out crispy enough. After 2 minutes, slip a small metal spatula under one edge of the pizza; if the bottom is golden, raise the pizza to a higher shelf. Myself, I don’t even bother, I keep an eye on the top and once it is cooked enough, I remove it.

11. Transfer the pizza to a cutting board and cut with a pizza wheel. Serve hot.

My Margherita

In a bowl combine fresh mozzarella medallions, basil leaves, extra virgin olive oil, salt and pepper.

After baking the dough for 5 minutes, remove pan from oven and spread the tomato sauce on the dough, leaving a narrow boarder. Sprinkle with mozzarella medallions and basil leaves, and pour the oil from the bowl. Return to the oven for slightly over 5 minutes, until the mozzarella has melted and the crust is gold.


  1. Kátia, nós temos forno de pizza em casa e adoramos fazer pizza... eu faço a massa hoje em dia na máquina de pão mesmo, é fácil :-) Sua margheritta tá do jeitinho que eu gosto - mussarela de búfala, manjericão inteiro, muito molho pedaçudo... hummmm!

  2. Kátia, nós aqui em casa somos adeptos da famosa pizza paulistana, assim como vc!! Não tem um domingo que passamos sem ir à uma das maravilhosas pizzarias, que como vc bem sabe, temos em profusão aqui no Brasil, especialmente em São Paulo. Fico feliz em saber que vc, amiga, está levando nossa tradição, herdada da cultura italiana, para Chicago. Já sei onde vou comer pizza quando estivermos em sua casa...rsrs. bjos e muitas saudades. Vi

  3. Wow!! I bet one could smell your pizza from the top of the Sears Tower! It looks amazing!! I bet the taste was even better than the looks! :)
    Great recipe, Ka!

  4. I'm definitely gonna give this recipe a whirl insha'allah! I've never tried pre-baking the crust before topping it..sounds like a good idea!

  5. Salam sister, give a try and let me know what you think. I keep trying different dough recipes but end up always falling back on this one. I just looked at your site and made me really hungry, great recipes!


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