Yeast-Risen Pizza Dough

Another recipe from college friends and master bakers, Bob and Davie Lindquist. Davie was a wonderful potter, as well as a fabulous cook. Her pizzas were the best I've ever eaten. Anyone who's been to college knows how much pizza is ingested between the ages of 18-graduation(s).

The trick with pizza dough is taming what Julia Child charmingly calls the "gluten cloak." If the dough is worked too much before forming, the gluten "tightens up" and won't let you roll it out. Work the risen dough as little as possible so you don't re-activate the gluten.

I have streamlined the directions below. I have a file about bread-making basics if you'd like more detail about individual steps.

1 pkg yeast
1/2 c lukewarm water
1/2 t salt
1 T olive oil
2 c flour
1/2 c more water

Put yeast and warm water in bowl and stir a couple of times. Set aside until foamy; this will take about 10 minutes. (Don't put salt in yeast "sponge," as salt inhibits yeast.)

Throw in oil, flour, salt. Mix and knead. Let rise 'til double in oiled bowl (or Pam) and cover with piece of oiled (or Pam-ed) Saran Wrap. The top of the water heater (which was in a closet) in my apartment during college was a good place to set my bread to rise; the oven with the light bulb on also works, but is less efficient.

Grease cookie sheet (or round pizza pan).

Punch down. Turn out on floured board and work just a little more flour in if it feels sticky. If not sticky, roll out.

If the dough "springs back on you," the gluten is wanting to return to its previous size/shape. Solution is to let it relax a little while; try 5 minutes. This usually is enough so the dough is workable again but doesn't start rising again. If you prefer, shape dough in the pan, pushing to the edges with your hands, but you'll still have to deal with the gluten problem.

If you use a plain cookie sheet, make little edges on the dough so the sauce won't spill out. I like a jellyroll pan (it has sides on it) to corral the sauce. Let rise just a tad, like about 10 minutes.

Note: Doing a pizza on a cookie sheet yields a somewhat uneven shape, which magazines call "rustic."

Put on homemade spaghetti sauce, commercial sauce, slices of tomato and bell pepper, or whatever you want. Bake at 400 degrees. Yield: one pizza.

If you don't have time for yeast dough, try the recipe for a pour-on crust, which is a real life-saver in case your yeast dough has slopped! It produces a thin, crisp crust. This recipe is from my sister, Ellen ("Miss Ellen," as she is known, since she and her family live in the South).

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