Yesterdish’s Pizza Dough

This might be my best recipe.

It is certainly the recipe that has evolved the most over the years. (The pizza in the picture is a potato pizza with fried rosemary, fried sage, sea salt and black pepper.)

The recipe is simple. Elegant, even. But there’s a slight learning curve: you must develop the tactile memory to know what the dough is supposed to feel like. The only alchemy here, really, is adjusting the amount of water and flour so that the dough works, even as the humidity (both in the dough and the flour itself) changes.

Half of cooking is knowing what to do.
The other half is knowing when you’re done.

For years, I preferred a much more wet, almost focaccia-like dough, which had to be wrestled and coaxed into the pan, as if the yeast was highly organized and motivated not to be baked. From a better-living-through-chemistry perspective, this made some sense, because evaporation leads to crisper crusts and can give that fantastic “shatter” a really good, thin pizza ought to have. Delicious for what it was, yes, but the pizza could be a little one-note at times, and stretching it was a miserable experience.

Not so with this iteration, which is easy to stretch, even to extremely thin crusts (the pizza in the photo, by the way, is a ‘standard’ crust; stretching it another two inches would make a thin crust). To adjust the thickness of the pizza (or stromboli, or rolls, or whatever you’re making), just make the second rise longer or shorter. Speaking of rising, this recipe uses a much higher ratio of yeast to flour than most recipes. I’ve tried cutting it down, but I find the end product loses a great deal of its flavor. Besides, yeast is cheap. Delicious pizza is priceless.

I’ve made variations on this recipe, both with simple ingredients (e.g., rosemary salt, beer) and exotic (e.g., powdered citric acid, chickpea flour). But I never lose sight of the essential culinary lesson the basic pizza dough recipe teaches. It’s the advice I repeat most frequently to people learning how to cook: Half of cooking is knowing what to do. The other half is knowing when you’re done.

Sadly, my sister, who takes beautiful photographs and has legible handwriting, is sick with the flu. So instead, you have these awful point-and-shoot photos and a card with my borderline illiterate scribbles on it. Sorry about that.

From Yesterdish’s recipe box.

Yesterdish’s Pizza Dough

1.5 c. bread or 00 flour
1.5 Tbsp. cornmeal
2.5 tsp. dry yeast
1.5 tsp. kosher salt
1 Tbsp. honey
1/2 to 3/4 c. warm water, depending on humidity and flour

Mix all but water together in stand mixer, or bowl if kneading by hand. Add 1/2 c. of the water; mix on medium speed. If dough is too dry, add 1/2 tsp. at a time till dough comes together.

Knead 8 minutes. The dough should be smooth and just barely tacky. The sides of the bowl should be clean.

Divide into two portions. If desired, can be refrigerated or frozen here; allow to reach room temperature before continuing.

1st rise: 30 to 45 minutes in warm place.

Stretch into 12″ pizzas. Top as desired. Heat oven to 500 deg. F.

2nd rise: 30 minutes.

Bake for 4:30 on tray; slide off, bake for 2:30 to 3:00 directly on rack or stone.

Remove to wire rack. cool 1:30 before eating.

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