- 1 1/2 cups warm water (105°F-115°F)
- 1 package (2 1/4 teaspoons) of active dry yeast
- 3 1/2 cups bread flour
- 2 Tbsp olive oil
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- Olive oil
- Cornmeal (to help slide the pizza onto the pizza stone)
- Tomato sauce (smooth, or puréed)
- Mozzarella cheese, grated
- Parmesan cheese, grated
- Feta cheese, crumbled
- Mushrooms, thinly sliced
- Bell peppers, stems and seeds removed, thinly sliced
- Italian sausage, cooked ahead and crumbled
- Chopped fresh basil
- Pepperoni, thinly sliced
- Onions, thinly sliced
- Ham, thinly sliced
Proof the yeast: Place the warm water in the large bowl of a heavy duty stand mixer. Sprinkle the yeast over the warm water and let it sit for 5 minutes until the yeast is dissolved. After 5 minutes stir if the yeast hasn’t dissolved completely. The yeast should begin to foam, which indicates that it is still active and alive. Make and knead the pizza dough: Using the mixing paddle attachment, mix in the flour, salt, sugar, and olive oil on low speed for a minute. Then replace the mixing paddle with the dough hook attachment. Knead the pizza dough on low to medium speed using the dough hook until the dough is smooth and elastic, about 10 minutes. If you don’t have a mixer, you can mix the ingredients together and knead them by hand. If the dough seems a little too wet, sprinkle it with a little more flour.
Put dough in warm place to rise: Spread a thin layer of olive oil over the inside of a large bowl. Place the pizza dough in the bowl and turn it around so that it gets coated with the oil. Cover the dough with plastic wrap and let sit in a warm place (75-85°F) until it doubles in size, at least 1 to 1 1/2 hours. You can let it sit for several hours if you want. The longer rise will improve the flavor of the pizza crust. If you don’t have a warm spot in the house you can heat the oven to 150 degrees, and then turn off the oven. Let the oven cool till it is just a little warm, then place the bowl of dough in this warmed oven to rise. At this point, if you want to make ahead, you can freeze the dough in an airtight container for up to two weeks.
Preheat pizza stone: Place a pizza stone on a rack in the lower third of your oven. Preheat the oven to 450°F for at least 30 minutes, preferably an hour. Punch down dough, divide into two balls: Remove the plastic cover from the dough and punch the dough down so it deflates a bit. Divide the dough in half. Form two round balls of dough. Place each in its own bowl, cover with plastic and let sit for 10 minutes. Prep toppings: Prepare your desired toppings. Note that you are not going to want to load up each pizza with a lot of toppings as the crust will end up not crisp that way. About a third a cup each of tomato sauce and cheese would be sufficient for one pizza. One to two mushrooms thinly sliced will cover a pizza. Flatten dough ball, and stretch out into a round: Working one ball of dough at a time, take one ball of dough and flatten it with your hands on a slightly floured work surface. Starting at the center and working outwards, use your fingertips to press the dough to 1/2-inch thick. Turn and stretch the dough until it will not stretch further. Let the dough relax 5 minutes and then continue to stretch it until it reaches the desired diameter – 10 to 12 inches. Use your palm to flatten the edge of the dough where it is thicker. You can pinch the very edges if you want to form a lip.
Brush dough top with olive oil: Brush the top of the dough with olive oil (to prevent it from getting soggy from the toppings). Use your finger tips to press down and make dents along the surface of the dough to prevent bubbling. Let rest another 5 minutes. Repeat with the second ball of dough. Sprinkle pizza peel with corn meal, put flattened dough on top: Lightly sprinkle your pizza peel (or flat baking sheet) with corn meal. (The corn meal will act as little ball bearings to help move the pizza from the pizza peel into the oven.)
Transfer one prepared flattened dough to the pizza peel.
If the dough has lost its shape in the transfer, lightly shape it to the desired dimensions. Spread with tomato sauce and sprinkle with toppings: Spoon on the tomato sauce, sprinkle with cheese, and place your desired toppings on the pizza. Sprinkle cornmeal on pizza stone, slide pizza onto pizza stone in oven: Sprinkle some cornmeal on the baking stone in the oven (watch your hands, the oven is hot!). Gently shake the peel to see if the dough will easily slide, if not, gently lift up the edges of the pizza and add a bit more cornmeal. Slide the pizza off of the peel and on to the baking stone in the oven.
Bake pizza: Bake pizza one at a time until the crust is browned and the cheese is golden, about 10-15 minutes. If you want, toward the end of the cooking time you can sprinkle on a little more cheese.