Have you gone through cookbooks worth of recipes trying to find the perfect pizza recipe, only to have your dough to rip apart, stick to the pan or simply not stretch far enough? Did every online forum leave you making more mistakes and ripping more than just your dough?
I am here to tell you: Don't give up! Perfect pizza is within your reach. Below is a pizza dough recipe/FAQ that will help you solve those pesky problems. Try the recipe to make things simple. Or if you just cannot part with your own recipe, pick out the issues you are having and attempt to apply these simple fixes.
Making the dough
2 cups bread flour
3/4 cup water
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon sugar
1 package active dry yeast
First, measure out your water; then mix in the yeast and sugar. Let it set for about ten minutes. This step is pretty simple, but it can make all the difference in the world. The water and sugar are helping to activate the yeast, which means it will be ready to go when we start growing our big dough ball.
Next, put the flour and olive oil in a bowl, and mix in the yeast. Stir the ingredients around until you get a dough ball(feel free to use your hands if it is easier!). Add flour if it is too sticky or water if all the flour will mix in. Only add one tablespoon at a time.
Now comes the workout! Transfer the dough ball to a floured work surface and knead for ten minutes. Then transfer to a floured bowl with lid and let it rise in a cool, damp place for thirty minutes.
How do I knead the dough?
When kneading, drive your palm through the mass of dough, flattening it out. Then turn it 90°, fold it over itself so you have a lump of dough again, and repeat the stretching. It should become smooth to the touch when it is kneaded properly. Now, some websites warn you of overkneading. Frankly, though, unless you're using a machine, you're not going to manage to overknead your dough.
Stretching the dough
When you uncover your dough, it should have doubled in size. Go ahead and dump it out onto your work surface, but make sure not to squeeze the air out of it. All that pent up air ends up making a soft, thick breadcrust. Now flour your hands, and then poke your fingers softly into the middle of the dough, continuing to lift and poke until you're about half an inch from the edge. Do this all four directions, flattening the dough but leaving air-filled pockets of crust at the edge.
Now, grab softly onto the edge of the pizza (just in front of the crust) with your right hand. Place your left in the middle. Lightly pull the dough one time, then rotate the dough 30° and repeat. Do this until your pizza dough is the desired size (in this case, nine inches).
What if my pizza dough rips when I stretch it?
Oftentimes, this has more to do with how you made your dough than how you stretched out. Did you let the yeast activate before mixing it in with the flour? Did you give the dough sufficient time to rise? If your preparation checks out, what about your stretching method? Are you trying to hold the pizza up and stretch it, or even toss it up in the air?
These are classic moves inside any pizzeria, but are not ideal for the novice cook. If your method sounds something like this, why not try the procedure found in this recipe? Finally, make sure you are not trying to make the wrong size pizza. This recipe makes a nine-inch pizza. If you try to make an 11" inch pizza with it, the dough is bound to rip.
What if my dough is uneven?
It may be that your pizza dough seems see-through in certain spots and thick as honey in others. To see clearly, we need to hold it up. Now, when holding your pizza dough, make two soft fists and put both hands underneath it (spread apart). It is crucial not to overstretch the dough. When you do find a lump of dough, lightly place one fist under it and stretch it, very slowly and only to the desired thickness. This is a skill that goes slightly above "Pizza 101," so take your time when you first try.
Cooking the dough
Why did my dough stick to the pan?
There are a couple possibilities. Firstly, the dough may have been too sticky. It would have also clung onto your hands during kneading and stretching. The solution is to put more flour in before you move on to kneading. The second and more likely cause: you did not grease your pizza pan.
The toppings cooked, but my dough did not. What happened?
It sounds like you did not cook at the right temperature. If you are using a standard oven, the higher the better (quite seriously, don't get that 500° setting)! Remember, pizza ovens are very hot, and for good reason! Although most recipes call for no lower than 450°F, there are a few misguided cooks who call for lower temperatures. Very simply, ignore those directions.