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Basic Pizza Dough

Makes one 12 to 14-inch crust

Like most everyone, I love pizza, but the delivery types are often salty, greasy and loaded with more cheese than I like so I prefer to make my own. I keep store-bought prebaked crusts in the freezer, as well as pita breads, for the busy times and they are quite good. However, the dough is easy to make when you have enough time to let it rise. And the dough can be made ahead and frozen until you need it, as indicated in the notes below. This recipe is for a basic white crust. If you prefer a more nutritious crust, try the multigrain or whole wheat dough recipes, both of which are in the similar and related recipes links. All of the dough recipes are delicious with any toppings and equally appropriate for making calzones.

Ingredients

Dissolve yeast in warm water. Add salt, oil, and 2-1/2 cups flour. Mix with hands or dough hook of heavy-duty mixer until well combined. Continue mixing and add remaining flour, 1/2 cup at a time until dough forms ball and sides of bowl are clean. Knead until elastic, about 10 minutes by hand or 2 minutes with a mixer. Place dough in greased bowl and turn to grease all sides. Cover with plastic wrap and a towel and set in a draft-free area until doubled, about 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 450° F. After dough has risen, punch down. Lightly grease a 14-inch pizza pan or cookie sheet with olive oil or spray. Dust lightly with cornmeal. Press dough into pan, shaping as you press until desired thickness. Form a slight collar around the edges to hold sauce. Top as desired. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, or until crust is lightly browned and topping is bubbly. Remove from oven; place on cutting surface and cool for about 5 minutes before slicing and serving.

Notes: Contrary to what you usually hear about brushing oil on top of the dough, I learned from Italian friends to drizzle it over the toppings. The theory is, instead of forming a barrier with the oil, to allow the flavors of the toppings to permeate the top of the crust (no, it will not get soggy) and let the oil bring together the flavors and moisten the top. However, if making a very thin crust, you will want to oil the dough slightly. To add extra flavor, mix some herbs and garlic into the dough before processing. This recipe can be easily doubled, adding more flour or water if needed. Crusts can be prepared, prebaked without toppings, and frozen for future use. Also, the dough can be prepared up to after rising, then placed in freezer bags, large enough to allow for possible expansion, and placed in the freezer. Thaw the dough before shaping. Depending on the toppings, some pizzas can be baked fully assembled and frozen for later use.

Serving suggestions: Under the right circumstances and with willing guests, it is fun to let everyone top their own pizza. Make the crusts into individual serving sizes, place the toppings in serving bowls on the kitchen table or counter and let each person top as desired. Place several into the oven at one time. Adjust baking time as needed.