This basic bread and pizza dough can be used for any empanada, pizzette , pizza, bread, and calzone recipes. For recipes calling for bread dough, just leave out the olive oil. For recipes calling for pizza dough, make sure to include the olive oil. To make dough in a mixer, see the Basic Bread and Pizza Dough in an Electric Mixer. The range of salt given is to your taste. This amount of dough will make five very thin 14-inch-diameter pizzas, the kind of pizza you are most likely to find in Italy.
1. In a large metal mixing bowl, previously warmed under hot running water, then dried, dissolve the yeast in the warm water. Let it rest for 5 minutes, then add the salt and shake gently.
2. Add the flour and olive oil (only if you are making pizza) and mix until you can knead it with your hands. The dough should stick a little bit for the first few minutes but will then form itself into a ball with more kneading and folding. Once it is formed into a ball, dump it onto a lightly floured wooden surface and knead for exactly 12 minutes. If making bread, do not add flour or water, if needed, until at least the eighth minute of kneading.
3. Once the ball of dough is smooth, place it in a lightly floured or oiled bowl, cover with a clean dish towel, and let rise in a warm (80 degrees F) place, such as inside a turned-off oven, for 2 hours.
4. Punch down the dough after 1 hour, cover, and let rise another hour. For more flavor, let the rising process go on longer: cover the dough with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator overnight (this is called a cold rise), but let the dough return to room temperature before working it again. Now it is ready for making into a pizza. If you are making bread, go on to step 5, otherwise, use this dough for any recipe calling for Basic Bread and Pizza Dough.
5. Preheat the oven to 475 degrees F. Transfer the dough to a baking stone, form into the shape you wish, and score with a razor blade or very sharp knife. Place a pan of water in the bottom of the oven, then the loaf on the baking stone on the center rack. If you have another baking stone or baking tiles, you can line some in the oven for better tasting and textured bread. Reduce the oven temperature to 425 degrees F and bake until golden brown on top, about 40 minutes, spraying it with water at first. Let cool on a wire rack before slicing.
Variation : Use 6 tablespoons milk and 3/4 cup water instead of 1 cup water for a richer flavor.
Makes 2 thin-crust 16-inch pizzas, 5 very thin 14-inch pizzas, or 4 slightly thick 12-inch pizzas, 10 pizzette , ten 4-inch empanada or calzone disks, or 1 large round loaf bread
2. Add 2 1/2 cups of the flour and the olive oil (only if you are making pizza dough) and attach to the mixer affixed with the dough hook. Run according to the directions of the manufacturer, about 2 minutes, adding the remaining flour in 1/2-cup increments. Let the mixer run until the dough is pulled off the walls of the bowl and is being pushed by the dough hook.
3. Once the ball of dough is smooth, remove the mixer bowl and remove the dough from the bowl. Place it in a lightly floured or oiled bowl, cover with a clean dish towel, and let rise in a warm (80 degrees F) place, such as inside a turned-off oven, for 2 hours. Proceed as the recipe instructs.
Secrets of Baking Pizza
There are many different ways you can make pizzas, beyond the topping. They can be cooked at temperatures ranging from 350 degrees F in a home oven to 900 degrees F in a commercial wood-burning brick pizza oven. High heat gives the best results. I tend to make pizzas in three different ways. Sometimes I make pizza on a large 16-inch pizza pan, either solid or perforated, or directly on a baking stone. The dough is about a third of an inch thick, and I bake it at either 555 degrees F for just a few minutes or at 450 degrees F for a little longer. Or I make a thinner pizza, about 1/8 inch thick, which I cook for about 10 minutes at 400 degrees F. Best thing is to experiment, but without a doubt your pizza will taste better if you are using baking stones, preferably 2, one on the rack above the pizza and one either directly under the pizza dough or on the rack under the pizza.