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Basic Pizza Dough

As you may have already noticed, I’m kind of in love with pizza. Pizza was a memorable dish I grew up eating at my grandmother’s house during the summers, and I am a firm believer that one of the greatest characteristics of Southern comfort food is familiarity. Pizza has remained to be one of my most beloved and treasured meals.

Here are a few tips I have found helpful throughout my dough-making days, and I hope they encourage you to make your own!

  • You don’t need a food processor, Kitchen Aid or bread machine to make pizza dough. Although I love the texture and ease from a Kitchen Aid fitted with a dough hook attachment, I have made dough by hand in a large bowl with a wooden spoon, kneaded it out on the counter with a little flour, and it turns out just fine (it just required a little more elbow grease!)
  • Pizza stones and paddles are completely fine to use when making pizza, but they are not necessary. I’ve used heavy duty rimmed baking sheets to make pizzas, and the crust still gets crunchy and charred (no preheating required for the baking sheet.) But if you do have a pizza stone, which I do and love, preheat the stone in a 500-degree oven for at least 45 minutes. Lay your dough onto a piece of foil or parchment paper, roll it out to your desired thickness and top it with the ingredients. Once the oven is preheated and the stone is hot, slide the pizza (parchment paper/foil and all) into the oven onto the stone. After 10-15 minutes, just slide it out of the oven and onto a cookie sheet for easy transport back to the counter.
  • Dough is sometimes temperamental when rising. So, to make sure I get consistent results, I preheat the oven to 200 degrees for 10 minutes, turn off the oven and let the dough rise, covered with a tea towel for 1 hour in the oven. This way, no matter if its chilly or scorching outside, my dough will always rise, worry-free.
  • Yes, you can freeze pizza dough. I usually make pizza dough one day a week and save it for quick dinners and lunches for the rest of the week. Whenever the dough has finished rising, cut the dough into 8 equal pieces (each piece is 1 serving), wrap each piece in cling wrap and stack the covered pieces of dough into a gallon-sized Ziploc bag. The dough will stay good for 3 months. When ready to use just take out however many individual balls of dough that you may need and let them come to room temperature for 2-3 hours on the counter.
  • For all you visual learners, below is a collage of photos on how to make the basic pizza dough using a Kitchen Aid fitted with a dough hook attachment, but the full recipe for both this method and making dough by hand are also listed below.

Basic Pizza Dough Recipe: Adapted from Tyler Florence

Makes 8 Individual Pizza Rounds (Serves 8)

Note: If you aren’t one for breaking out the thermometer to check the water temperature for the dough, just put the very tip of your finger in the warm water, if it begins to burn after a few seconds, it’s too hot, but if it’s not warm to the touch, it’s not quite warm enough. You want to make sure you start off with the correct water temperature, or else the yeast will not bloom, and you will have to start over. No bueno.

2 cups of warm water (100-110oF)

2 packages of yeast

2 tablespoons of sugar

4 tablespoons of olive oil, plus more for greasing bowl

2 tablespoons of salt

6 cups of all-purpose, plus more for dusting

If mixing with an electric mixer fitted with a dough hook: Combine water, yeast and sugar in the mixing bowl. Gently stir to dissolve the yeast. Let the yeast sit for 5-10 minutes (once the top of the mixture begins to get foamy from one side of the bowl to the other, I know it’s done.) On the lowest speed, turn on the mixer and add olive oil and salt. Slowly add in the flour (I usually add half the flour, let it incorporate slightly, then pour in the other half.)

Increase to medium speed and mix the dough until it begins to form a ball and wrap itself around the hook, this step should take about 2 minutes. With your thumb and index finger, squeeze the dough. If it’s too crumbly, add more warm water, and if it’s too wet, add more flour, 1 tablespoon at a time. Make sure the dough is smooth and elastic.

If making the dough by hand: Combine water, yeast and sugar in a large bowl. Gently stir to dissolve yeast. Let the yeast sit for 5-10 minutes (once the top of the mixture begins to get foamy from one side of the bowl to the other, I know it’s done.) With a wooden spoon, stir in olive oil and salt. Then, begin stirring in the flour. Once the dough is too stiff to stir with a spoon, knead the rest of the flour into the dough by hand. As you knead, squeeze the dough between your thumb and index finger. If the dough is too crumbly, add more warm water, and if it’s too wet, add more flour, 1 tablespoon at a time. Knead the dough until it’s smooth and elastic, this should take about 10 minutes.

For both methods: Form the dough into a ball and place into a large bowl coated with olive oil. Cover the dough with a tea towel to discourage a skin forming on the dough. Place in an oven that has been preheated to 200 degrees and shut the oven off. Let the dough rise for 1 hour in the warm oven.

Once the dough has risen, punch down and cut into 8 equal-sized pieces (or cut the dough in half for 2 large pizzas, which serves 6-8 people total.) Use the dough immediately or freeze up to 3 months.

Bread Entrees

Southern Love+ Italian Cuisine= Pure Heaven

This dish combines my love for both Southern and Italian cuisine, and, not to mention, it was made by complete happenstance. I was making fried okra as a snack one day (don’t judge me) and I was prepping pizza dough for dinner as well. I glanced at my working station and saw fresh dough, heirloom tomatoes and fried okra. Could this really work? Allowing my curiosity to wonder, I rolled out the dough, laid fresh tomatoes on the surface and dotted handmade mozzarella underneath the orbs. I let the ingredients bubble for a few minutes in the oven and then threw the fried okra on the pizza. What a sensation! The creamy cheese contrasted with the crunchy okra while the tomatoes added a level of lightness and freshness that the dish craved. This pizza combines seasonal Southern ingredients with Italian tradition. Boun appetito, ya’ll!

Recipe: Makes 4 Individual Pizzas

4 Portions of Basic Pizza Dough

Pizza sauce (recipe below)

2 tomatoes, sliced into rounds

8 ounces of fresh mozzarella

1 serving of fried okra, cut at an angle (recipe below)

Fresh chopped basil and parsley, for garnish

Salt and pepper

Parmesan cheese, for serving

To make the pizza:

Preheat oven to 5000 with a pizza stone in the oven (Make sure that your oven is clean or else the fire department might be inviting themselves over for dinner). Let the stone preheat for at least 45 minutes in the oven.

On a piece of aluminum foil dusted with flour, roll out 1 portion of dough. Create a thin layer of sauce, place tomato rounds on the pizza and place small, marble-sized pieces of mozzarella underneath the tomatoes. Place in oven for 10 minutes. Scatter the fried okra pieces on top of the pizza and season with herbs, salt and pepper. Repeat with the rest of the dough.

Pizza Sauce:

2 Tbs. of olive oil

2 garlic cloves, sliced

1 pinch of red pepper flakes

1 28 oz. can of whole San Marzano tomatoes, hand crushed

1 pinch of sugar

1 sprig of basil, leaves only

Salt and pepper to taste

In a sauté pan on medium temperature, heat olive oil. Add sliced garlic and red pepper flakes and cook for 30 seconds or just until golden. Add the tomatoes and season with salt and pepper. Add sugar. Bring to slight boil and let simmer for 30 minutes. Take off heat and add basil leaves. Set aside.

Fried Okra:

2 cups of okra, washed

2 cups of buttermilk

1 cup of cornmeal

¼ cup of all-purpose flour

1 pinch of cayenne

Vegetable oil (for frying)

Salt and pepper to taste

Place at least 2 inches of vegetable oil in a large skillet and allow the oil to reach 350o.

Pick through the okra, any okra smaller than the size of your pinky, leave whole. Cut any larger than the size of your pinky in half and at an angle. In a bowl, combine the buttermilk and okra. Let sit for at least 5 minutes. Meanwhile, prepare the cornmeal mixture. Combine cornmeal, flour, cayenne, salt and pepper in a shallow dish. Stir ingredients together with a fork. Make sure that you put a good amount of seasoning in at this point, don’t be stingy. Drain the okra from the buttermilk and gently roll the okra in the cornmeal mixture. Shake off any excess breading. Carefully place the okra in the hot oil. Let the okra brown on both sides and place on a plate lined with a paper towel to drain. Sprinkle with more salt. Use immediately.