Basic Pizza Dough
Makes two 12-inch pizza crusts
There is no question that the right flour makes the best pizza. Caputo flour—the very same flour used in Naples to make their famous pizzas is a high-gluten flour—has between 11 percent and 12 percent protein. This is a perfect ratio for making a dough that is not too heavy or too chewy. The characteristic look of pizza Napoletana has a thinner, soft middle and a crust rim that balloons up in the oven. You can find this flour on line or substitute 00 flour, which is Italian all-purpose flour and readily available from King Arthur Flour. Unbleached, all-purpose flour also gives good results.
This dough is made very quickly in a food processor. Note that only 1 teaspoon of dried active yeast is used; that results in a slow rise, giving a much better flavor to the dough. Use this dough to make Pizza Margherita and any pizza of your choosing.
11/2 cups warm (110°F) water, preferably filtered
1 teaspoon active dry yeast
3 to 31/4 cups Caputo or King Arthur unbleached, all-purpose flour or 00 flour, divided
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
1. Pour the water into the bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade. Add the yeast and whirl to blend. Let stand 10 minutes until chalky and bubbles begin to appear. Add 21/2 cups of the flour and the salt; whirl to combine until a ball of dough forms that moves away from the sides of the bowl and is not tacky to the touch. Add additional flour if the dough is very wet, but adding too much flour results in a dry, hard texture. The dough should be soft but not gooey.
2. Lightly grease a large bowl with olive oil and coat the dough in the oil. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and allow the dough to rise until doubled in size. (The dough can be made a day ahead, and after the rising step, punched down and placed in a plastic bag in the refrigerator until needed. If you do this, place the dough in a large bowl and allow it to stand several hours at room temperature before forming the pizza.)
3. When ready to form the pizza, preheat the oven to 500°F. Punch down the dough, divide it in half and stretch each half out with your hands to a 10-inch diameter. Place each piece on a lightly oiled sheet of parchment paper. Bake until the edges and bottom are nicely browned, about 30 minutes depending on the thickness of the dough.
Topping for Pizza Margherita
1 cup tomato sauce or 12 thin slices of fresh plum tomatoes
2 cups fresh mozzarella cheese, chopped
8 fresh basil leaves
Extra-virgin olive oil to drizzle over baked pizza (optional)
1. Divide the toppings in half. Spread half of the tomato sauce or tomatoes over each crust. Scatter the mozzarella over the sauce.
2. Preheat oven to 450°F at least 30 minutes before baking. Heating a baking stone in the oven is ideal for a great crust, but lacking that, place the pizza on parchment paper on a rimless baking sheet.
3. Bake the pizza until the edges are slightly charred; remove from oven and scatter the basil leaves over both pizzas. Drizzle with oil if desired.