The Definitive Guide to Homemade Pizza

The Definitive Guide to Homemade Pizza

Your First Steps to Making the Best Homemade Pizza

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    Introduction

    This comprehensive article will guide you on your pizza journey as you learn the secrets to creating the best homemade pizza.  Then, you can share your fantastic pizza with your friends and family; after all, life is about sharing. 

    But first, let’s get you started:

    The most challenging part of creating your masterpiece is knowing where to start. So, to streamline the pizza-making process, we’ve created this simple 9-step guide that will guide you on how to bake the best pizza.  These steps apply to any pizza style you want to make and will show you how to create the texture and taste of your pizza.  The results are unforgettable!

    Remember, there are no fast rules for making the perfect tasting pizza.  You will learn how to create a balance in flavor and textures for every bite. You will decide which ingredient is to stand out as a memorable taste for your palate.  Remember, you made it, so be very proud of it! Let there never be an end to your creativity!

    Steps to Make Homemade Pizza

    Press any of the images to go directly to each step.

    Step 1

    Get Started

    Step 2

    Make the Dough

    Step 3

    Make the Sauce

    Step 4

    Set the Oven

    Step 5

    Shape the Dough

    Step 6

    Top the Dough

    Step 7

    Transfer the Dough to the Oven

    Step 8

    Bake the Pizza

    Step 9

    Finish

    Step 1 to Make Homemade Pizza

    Get Started

    You have this idea that you want to make pizza at home as supposed to ordering it, but where do you start? Which kind of pizza would you make? 

    So first, you need to decide, of the many pizza methods, what kind of pizza you want to make. Each method requires different ingredients and mixing techniques so you need to plan accordingly. 

    There is a saying that goes “Plan your work, then work your plan”.  Following this principle, grab a piece of paper and start planning what pizza you are going to make.

    Pizza Plan

    Your pizza plan doesn’t have to be extensive nor sophisticated.  A simple list of items will do.  Just know what pizza you will make and what you need to make it.  We do, however, have a Pizza Plan sheet that you can use for your convenience.  You can download it here.

    Plan Ahead

    Decide What Kind of Pizza You Want to Make

    So, let’s start with the four most common ones. If you master these doughs, you can adapt them to any other style you want, as many different pizza styles are just adaptations of these basic four.  

    Fresh Homemade Neapolitan Pizza

    Neapolitan Pizza

    The original Neapolitan pizza is the most famous in the world. It is also known as Naples-style pizza, which is a style of pizza made with tomatoes and mozzarella cheese.

    Simple.

    According to the rules proposed by the Associazione Verace Pizza Napoletana, the genuine Neapolitan pizza dough consists of the following:

    Pizza Napoletana Ingredients:

    Associazione Verace Pizza Napoletana Rules

    Pizza Napoletana Rules:

    NY Pizza

    Neo-Neapolitan Pizza or NY Style Pizza

    The Neo-Neapolitan Pizza (aka NY Style Pizza) follows pretty much the same principle of the classic Neapolitan. 

    There are two fundamental differences between the original Neapolitan Pizza and the NY Style Pizza:

    Neo-Neapolitan pizza dough is docked, creating small holes on the crust, letting the air escape and not letting the dough rise, resulting in a thin crust.

    You can find the base recipes for Neapolitan Pizza in our Homemade Pizza Recipes Section.

    Chicago Deep Dish Pizza

    Chicago Deep-Dish Pizza

    Chicago-Deep Dish pizza is a pizza method initially developed in Chicago, the birthplace of the most famous deep-dish pizza. 

    You bake the pizza in a deep cast-iron pan that gives the pizza its characteristically high edge.  The large pan provides ample space for large amounts of cheese and a chunky tomato sauce along with your favorite toppings.

    You can find the base recipes for Chicago Deep-Dish Pizza in our Homemade Pizza Recipes section.

    Sicilian Pizza

    Sicilian Pizza

    Sicilian pizza is pizza prepared in a manner that originated in Sicily, Italy, where It is also known as focaccia with toppings. In the United States, Sicilian pizza is often synonymous with thick-crust pizza or pan pizza.

    Traditional Sicilian pizza has a thick crust, and it’s rectangular.  Still, it can also be round and similar to the Neapolitan pizza.

    You can find the base recipes for Sicilian Pizza in our Homemade Pizza Recipes section.

    Gather the Ingredients

    So, let’s start with the four most common ones. If you master these doughs, you can adapt them to any other style you want, as many different pizza styles are just adaptations of these basic four.  

    We believe that a good pizza starts with the right ingredients. It is astounding how, with so few ingredients, pizza is both simple and complex. It can be as simple as you desire or as fancy as you like without lacking on being stylish —there is no limit.  

    Pizza Best Ingredients

    Ingredients to Make the Dough

    image of caputo flour
    Flour

    High Protein or Bread Flour is highly recommended for baking pizza.

    Yeast

    Active Dry Yeast or Instant Yeast can be used to ferment the dough

    Salt

    Sea Salt is highly recommended for pizza.

    Water

    Depending on where you live you may want to use bottled water to mix your dough.

    If you are making NY Style Pizza you need to add the following ingredients.

    Sugar

    It preferred that you use baker's sugar to make pizza as it dissolves much faster than regular sugar

    Honey

    Honey can be used as a substitute for sugar. Honey improves the consistency of the dough and its flavor

    Olive Oil

    Good olive oil adds a ton of flavor to your dough. Vegetable oil can also be used

    If you are making (Chicago) Deep-Dish Pizza you need to add the following ingredients

    Corn Meal

    Coarse cornmeal adds a little texture to your crust.

    Butter

    Butter has a unique flavor that oil just lacks.

    diastatic malt
    Diastatic Malt

    Adds a distinct aroma that you will ask yourself what is in this crust.

    Lard

    If you want a flaky crust, add some lard to the dough and you will see the difference

    Ingredients to Make the Sauce

    Tomatoes

    Only the best canned or fresh tomatoes should be used to make the sauce.

    Salt

    Sea salt brings out the flavor of any sauce

    Olive Oil

    Good quality olive oil will make the difference in any sauce

    Herbs

    Add flavor and color to your sauce with fresh herbs.

    Flour

    Flour is the heart and soul of a pizza. It is imperative to understand the characteristics of each flour so you can determine which one will be the best for the pizza you want to make. Depending on what kind of pizza you will be making, you can use different types of flour. 

    Homemade Pizza Flour

    Protein Content

    To decide which type is best for pizza baking, you need to understand that flour contains carbohydrates (or starch), proteins, and in the case of whole-wheat flour, a bit of fat. Of these three nutrients, protein is of most importance. The proteins in wheat are called gluten-forming proteins, and the quantity and quality of these proteins determine how a flour will perform in the kitchen.

    The protein content of wheat can range from 5% to 15%; the flour industry has established labeling standards that help us find the right flour for our needs.

    A high percentage of protein means a harder (more robust) flour best suited to chewy, crusty bread and other yeast-risen products. Less protein means a softer flour, best for tender and leavened baked goods, like pie crusts, cakes, cookies, and biscuits.

    Accordingly, for pizza, you should use a high protein content flour, also known as bread flour. 

    Which bread flour is the best for pizza?

    If you go to the supermarket in the baking aisle, you will find at least five different types of bread flour or high-protein content flours. So how do you know which one to choose? The second-best characteristic of a good flour is texture, which will determine the structure of pizza. After experimenting with different brands, we strongly recommend Type 00 flour.  

    Type 00 flour comes with a price, so you don’t want to waste a single bit of it.

    Type 00 doesn’t have anything to do with the protein content; it relates to the milling process. The 00 designation is a reference to how fine the flour is. Various flour mills offer such designation. In the US, King Arthur Flour offers a Type 00 flour, but our favorite is the Italian Caputo Flour.  

    To be clear, we are not related in any way to Caputo, and Caputo does not sponsor any of our content. Our opinion is strictly based on our experience.

    Caputo pizzeria flour
    Caputo Flour

    In Naples, most of the pizzerias use the same flour from the mills of Molino Caputo.

    The Caputo family has been making flour for pizza since 1924. As far as we know, it is the only mill making flour explicitly designed for pizza. 

    Most mills, including the ones in the US, are making flour as a general-purpose product in a variety of types. Some called it Pizza Flour, but when you feel it, the texture is not even close to what Caputo Flour offers. The Culinary Institute of America went to Naples to explore the Caputo Flours; you can see the video below.

    This video is brought to you by The Culinary Institute of America

    Caputo pizza flours blend several kinds of wheat selected to produce flours with tasty flavors and the right characteristics for baking pizza. The milling process is designated as Type 00. Caputo passes the flour through the roller twenty-five (25) times to get the right consistency of being almost powdery.

    Caputo has a particular flour called “Pizzeria” that comes in a blue bag.  This flour is specially made for pizza.  The results are simply amazing!

    If you are interested in learning more about the flour and the Caputo pizza flour, you can read our article in below link. 

    Water

    After flour, water is the second most significant component of pizza dough. Water will give the hydration the flour, and the other ingredients need to combine. 

    Pouring Water in Dough

    Your water quality will play an essential role in the pizza-making process.  Have you ever checked the quality of your water?  Depending on where you live, the water may be harder or softer than other areas.  If you have hard water or a high content of chlorine, this will affect both the texture and flavor of the dough.  If you have hard water, try to add less salt to loosen the mixture a little bit and vice versa if you have soft water. 

    Tap water should be fine in most places, but if you want to be safe, you can use purified bottled drinking water.

    Note:  Do not use mineral water to make the dough.  Mineral water lacks the minerals necessary for the yeast to develop the fermentation process.

    We have an article dedicated to water and the hydration process.  If you are interested in learning more about how water affects your dough go to the below link.

    Yeast

    What is yeast?

    Yeasts are celled microorganisms that you can only see using a microscope. They have different uses, such as food sources. For example,  like mushrooms, baker’s yeast used to leaven dough, molds that ripen blue cheese, and molds that produce antibiotics for medical use.

    Yeast varies in size, depending on species and environment. For pizza purposes, the yeast is used in the fermentation process, where the carbohydrates are converted to carbon dioxide. Red Star has a more detailed explanation here.

    Kinds of Yeast

    Types of Yeast

    fresh yeast

    Fresh Yeast

    Fresh yeast, also known as “Cake Yeast,” has been used by bakers for decades and is still popular today. It is available in limited markets, and retailers often only stock it seasonally. 

    Active Dry Yeast

    Active Dry Yeast

    Active dry yeast has a larger granule with a consistency similar to cornmeal and needs to be dissolved in water before using.

    It’s a living organism that’s dormant until proofed or dissolved in a small amount of lukewarm warm water (about 110°F). It’s then added to the rest of the ingredients, where it will cause the dough to rise.

    Instant Yeast

    Instant Yeast

    Instant yeast has a more delicate texture and can be mixed right into dry ingredients. Instant yeast may also be marketed and sold as “Rapid Yeast” or “Quick-Rise Yeast."

    This yeast has also been milled into smaller particles, so it doesn’t need to be dissolved into water. Also, enzymes and other additives are included to make the dough rise faster

    Which yeast you should you use to make pizza at home?

    Making pizza at home is different from making pizza commercially. In a pizzeria, they use yeast every single day. Some of them even use fresh yeast to make the dough, which unarguably will give spectacular results.

    But, to make pizza at home is not recommended to use fresh yeast because the live span of fresh yeast is minimal.

    Within days the yeast just dies. So, to make pizza at home, you can use either active dry yeast or instant yeast.

    The proportion of yeast will be different depending on which one you use. Since they are different sized granules, their weight is also different.  

    We prefer using active dry yeast because it gives us a sense of security. Once you mix it with water within 15 minutes, you will see the yeast is alive, and you will be sure you will get good results. 

    With instant yeast, you mix it with the flour, then add the water and let ferment. If it doesn’t rise, the yeast is dead. You would have to start all over, and you wasted all that precious flour. 

    We have an article dedicated to yeast and its characteristics for making the best pizza.  If you are interested in learning more about how yeast affects your dough go to the below link.

    Salt

    Many think that salt is only used to give flavor to the dough. However, salt plays a vital role in pizza the pizza-making process.  

    Salt

    Role of salt in pizza dough

    How much salt should you use in pizza dough?

    The salt ratio should be precise with respect to the weight of the flour. Generally, the percentage of salt should be 3% compared to the weight of the flour, according to the Associazione Verace Pizza Napoletana rules. For example, if you are using 500 grams of flour (100%), then you should mix it with 15 grams (500 x .03 = 15) of salt. If you use more than 3%, you can inhibit the leavening process. It will require more time to develop.

    How to use salt in the mixing of pizza dough?

    A good rule is not to let the salt come in close contact with the yeast, or it will kill it. A dead yeast occurs when the salt dries the water containing the yeast and kills the cells. 

    As a result, the dough won’t rise.

    We have an article dedicated to salt and its effect on making pizza.  If you are interested in learning more about how salt affects your dough go to the below link.

    Additional Ingredients

    If you are making any other style of pizza other than Neapolitan, you will need additional ingredients.  For example, for NY Style pizza, you need to add to the main recipe oil and some sugar content that could be in the form of sugar or honey.

    Olive Oil

    Olive Oil

    The oil will help to emulsify the ingredients, resulting in a smoother texture and a more tender dough.  We prefer using extra virgin olive oil as it gives a great flavor to the dough.

    Honey with wooden honey dipper

    Sugar or Honey

    The sugar or honey helps in the fermentation process as it becomes the yeast’s food. It also helps balance the flavor of the dough.

    Cornmeal

    Other Ingredients

    If you are making Deep Dish pizza or Sicilian, then even more ingredients are necessary.  For example, Deep Dish Pizza requires cornmeal, which adds texture to the dough. 

    Diastatic Malt is also an optional ingredient.  The malt will give additional flavor to the dough.  It will help with the color of the dough. If you want to learn more about Diastatic Malt, you can go to our malt article here.

    The possibilities of making different kinds of crusts for your pizza are endless. If you are interested in learning more about different pizza crusts you can make, go to our Recipe Section to check them out.

    Gather the Equipment

    To make pizza, you need a few tools to help you along the way.  There’s a good chance you already own most of the tools listed here, but we want to make sure you have what you need to succeed.

    Gather all your equipment

    Equipment Needed to Make the Dough

    Red Kitchen-Aid Stand Mixer
    Stand Mixer

    You sure can mix the dough by hand, but a stand mixer makes your life much easier. It kneads the dough to perfection

    digital scale image
    Digital Scale

    Weighing your ingredients is a basic fundamental of pizza baking. Precise measurements are important to help you get a great result

    Prep Bowls

    Always use glass mixing bowls. Metal or wood bowls might change the integrity of the dough.

    Wet and dry measuring cups

    Using this kind of measuring cups will allow you to use the same cup for both wet and dry ingredients

    Bench Knife

    This inexpensive tool is very useful for cutting dough and scraping its remains off the counter

    Bowl scraper

    A Rubber bench scraper allows you to literally scrap all flour remains from the mixing bowl

    Set of measuring spoons

    If you don't have a scale to measure your ingredients you can always use measuring spoons

    proof box image
    Proofing Box

    These are plastic containers with a lid that allows your dough to rest without any external contamination

    Equipment Needed to Make the Sauce

    Immersion blender

    These are extremely helpful for making sauces. They can easily do the job of a regular blender without occupying much space

    Mandoline

    Get consistent perfect paper-thin slices of any vegetable even if you have good knife skills

    Saucepan

    Any saucepan with a spout will do the job. The spout allows you to pour any sauce without spilling

    Wooden Spoon

    Wood is always better than metal or plastic as these can impact the flavor of your sauce.

    Equipment Needed to Set the Oven

    Instant-read thermometer

    Essential for making sure you're using the right temperature of the water and for measuring the temperature of your mixed dough

    Rectangular pizza steels

    These are a must if you are trying to get a nice crust on your pizza. They reach higher temperatures than a regular stone

    Pizza Stone
    Pizza Stone

    The perfect addition if you want to evenly cook your pizza crust. For best results, heat the stone well in advance

    Timer

    A timer allows you to keep track of your proofing time. Never under or overproof you dough again

    Equipment Needed to Shape the Dough

    Rolling Pin

    Perfect for NY Style Pizza. A wood rolling pin allows you to get an even dough everytime

    Wood Cutting Board

    It is always a great idea to have a woodworking surface. Flour seems to adhere better to wood than to any other surface

    Dough Docker for NY Style Pizza

    Only for NY Style Pizza. The tiny holes allow air to escape while is the dough is baking leaving a flat and evenly cooked crust.

    Sheet Pans

    If you don't own a baking steel or a stone to bake your pizza you can use a regular baking sheet. It is recommended that you line it with parchment paper

    Equipment Needed to Bake the Pizza

    Pizza Peel

    Top and transport your pizza with a pizza peel. It is recommended that you add a bit of cornmeal to help the dough slide

    Tongs

    Get heat resistant or metal tongs to handle the any hot steel or stone you have in your oven

    Cast-Iron Skillet for Deep Dish Pizza

    Bake the perfect Chicago Style pizza in these cast-iron pans. They achieve a very high temperature allowing your crust to be perfectly baked.

    Cooling rack

    Set your baked pizza in a cooling rack to avoid have any soggy bottoms.

    Step 2 to Make Homemade Pizza

    Mix the Dough

    It isn’t funny that with so few ingredients you can make pizza dough, you can learn to make it relatively fast, but it will take a lifetime to become an expert.

    Mix Dough

    Yet, there are no shortcuts to crafting a proper pizza; it merely takes a lot of practice. But don’t be discouraged, just try making different doughs using different flours or different ratios. Most importantly, learn which is the best process for you.

    Get a feel of the texture of the dough when it is kneaded. Find which one gives you the best results. 

    Other factors will also determine the best results for your pizza; these are:  
    hydration percentage graphic

    Hydration

    Pouring Water into flour in a bowl

    Hydration

    Hydration plays an essential role in the dough making process. Generally, the dough should be wet and sticky. Wetter dough gives you lighter, less dense pizza in the end.

    Also, it should produce light, puffy air pockets around the edges. An adequately hydrated dough is your best bet for a delicious pizza crust.

    hands kneading dough on wooden surface

    Stiff Dough

    A dry dough will be difficult to spread.

    sticky pizza dough in hands

    Wet Dough

    Dough that is too soft or too wet is more challenging to manage because it will stick to your working surface, and it will tear.

    A dry dough will be difficult to spread, and dough that is too soft or too wet is more challenging to manage because it will stick to your working surface, and it will tear.

    Fermentation icon

    Fermentation

    Top view of dough in a wooden bowl

    Fermentation Duration

    The fermentation duration is also significant as the dough should have enough time to develop.

    As a general rule, pizza dough should rise twice.

    The first time should be right after the mixing process. The dough should sit to rest for about 1 hr. to 1 ½ hrs., depending on the proofing temperature.

    The second rise should happen slowly in a cold environment to allow the dough to develop a more complex taste. Ideally, you make the dough the day before baking it and let sit in the refrigerator for a slow rise. The ideal fermentation period should be from 24 to 48 hours. However, if you make it in the morning to use it in the evening, it will also be fine.

    By having the right hydration and fermentation, we do not doubt that you will become an expert on making pizza.

    The crust is what is going to make it different. The taste of all the other ingredients is constant across all different pizza styles. The crust is what is going to make it unique.

    Like many people say, in the crust, we trust. Learn how to master the crust, and you will go on your way to become a pizza expert.

    One of the challenges home bakers face is that dough is always different. Sometimes it is softer, sometimes it is harder, and sometimes it is just different and you don’t know why.   The only way to solve this problem is by being consistent with what you do.  

    Once you know what works for you, make it your own. Name it, give it its personality and character. You can call it “the ideal dough” or anything you deem appropriate. Going forward, just maintain consistency to obtain the best results every time.  

    Weigh & Measure

    It is best if you weigh and measure all ingredients before you start. Like the French say “Mise en place” or “Everything in its place. Having everything handy saves a lot of time and effort.

    Weighing flour

    Weighing Flour

    Dry ingredients are weighed in grams, while wet ingredients are weighed in millimeters.  

    How to Measure Flour

    By weighing the flour in grams makes your life much easier. For example, our Classic Neapolitan dough recipe calls for 500 grams of flour, which will represent 100% using the baker’s method. If you like to double or triple the recipe, just multiply it by 2 or 3, giving round number results. Such as 500g x 2= 1000g or 500g x 3= 1500g.  

    On the other hand, if you were to use the imperial system and weigh flour in cups, 500g of flour would result in 4 cups + 2 tbsp. Now, try to double or triple that. I’ll be doing a lot of math (+_/*).  This is a pizza-making class, not a physics class.

    Experiment, grab 3 cups of flour, and individually place them in containers and then weigh them. You are going to get three different readings.  

    Another thing to keep in mind is that different flours have different weights, depending on the kind of flour. If you were to use all-purpose flour, it would weigh less than bread flour due to the weight of the grain.  

    Our base recipe calls for 500g of Type 00 flour. If you are interested in learning more about the characteristics of this flour, go to the below link.

    Activating Yeast

    Activate the Yeast

    When making pizza dough, we prefer Dry-Active yeast. This yeast, although it is not mandatory, should be activated. 

    Activate the yeast at 100°F for about 15 minutes.   If the yeast is dead, discard the mixture and start again with fresh yeast. If you are using Instant Yeast disregard this step.

    There are two main reasons why you should activate the yeast:

    For example, if you are using instant yeast, you must combine it with the flour first, mix it, and let sit. If the yeast is dead, you must discard the whole batch of the dough mixture.

    Using Instant Yeast

    You can certainly use instant yeast, particularly if it is what you already have.  There are three things you need to pay attention to when using instant yeast:

    Make sure is fresh and alive.  Check for expiration date.

    The proportion is different as supposed to active yeast.  Their respective weights are different.

    The order of ingredients will change.  

    If you are sure your instant yeast is fresh, you are still going to use 3% of total flour.  

    If you want to learn more about yeast you can go to our yeast article here.

    Order of Ingredients

    Homemade Pizza Order of Ingredients
    Homemade Pizza Order of Ingredients

    The order in which you mix your ingredients matters. For best results, follow this order when it comes to mixing the ingredients.  

    Order of Ingredients for Neapolitan Pizza

    Important:  This order only applies if you are using Active Dry Yeast.  For Instant Yeast, See below.

    1. Water
    2. Yeast
    3. Flour
    4. Salt

    Order of Ingredients for all other pizza styles

    Important:  This order only applies if you are using Active Dry Yeast.  For Instant Yeast, See below.

    1. Water
    2. Yeast
    3. Flour
    4. Additional Ingredients required by the recipe
    5. Salt

    If you were to add the flour first, and then the water, you would have a significant amount of flour attached to the walls of the mixing container. Making for difficult for all ingredients to fully incorporate.

    Let’s say you want to make NY Style pizza, which requires additional ingredients. Or, some other method, which may require oil, sugar, malt, or honey, you should add these ingredients after the flour — leaving the salt for last, so it doesn’t affect the gluten.

    Order of Ingredients when using Instant Yeast

    When using Instant Yeast you mix the flour with the yeast first and then incorporate the water. 

    The best way to do this is by having separate containers. 

    One container with the dry ingredients, flour, and yeast, no salt; and the other with water. 

    Then pour the flour into the water container so the flour won’t stick to the sides of the container. Once flour, yeast, and water are mixed, then add the salt. 

    Stand mixer icon

    Making the Dough

    Make Dough

    To make the dough follow these steps:

    1. Put the mixer bowl with the flour in it on the mixer stand fitted with the dough hook.
    2. With the mixer at its lowest speed, pour in the water/yeast mixture and mix for about 1 minute. Most of the mix will be attached to the dough hook.
    3. Pull the dough from the dough hook, and with a bowl scraper, grab the remaining dough from the sides of the bowl and incorporate it into the mixture. If there is unincorporated flour on the bottom of the bowl, just add a couple of tablespoons of water, and it will detach from the bottom of the container.
    4. Add the salt and mix on the lowest speed for 1 to 2 minutes.
    5. Stop the mixer again to grab any unincorporated flour with the bowl scraper and incorporate any remaining flour into the mixture. Keep mixing for about 6 to 8 minutes, depending on how the dough is mixing.
    Mixing dough

    Mix the Dough

    We mix the dough with a stand mixer just to make things easier. However, if you do not own a stand mixer, you can also mix the dough by hand. The process of mixing dough by hand is much more gratifying, but it is also a workout. 

    So, if you think you will end up overeating pizza, you might want to consider mixing the dough by hand so you can burn some of the extra calories.

    The main reason why we mix the dough other than combining the ingredients, is to develop the gluten.  The gluten will give the dough structure and serve as a glue between all the ingredients.  Here’s a little more on this subject.

    Gluten

    gluten web image

    What is Gluten?

    The gluten is a viscous and elastic substance, which is formed during the mixture and is given by the union of two proteins in the flour, which are insoluble in water: "gliadin" and "glutenin."

    These two proteins, in contact with the water and stressed by the energy of mixing, bind to each other, forming the gluten.

    Gluten is also called mesh gluten because just like a web or network holds together the dough. Gluten is what helps the dough take shape and creates a structure. It acts as a glue in the mixture. Some flours do not contain any gluten, which is very difficult to handle because they have the consistency of a cream.

    When the dough is just made, the gluten is very tense and elastic, like stretching a rubber band. Then over time, the pressure of the gases produced by the leavening is released, and the dough becomes loose.

    The mixture should separate from the sides of the bowl,  all together forming a big ball of dough in the center of the bowl.

    Note:  If you over-mix it, the dough will become tough and difficult to handle.

    If you prefer you can also mix the dough by hand. 

    knead icon

    Knead the Dough

     

    We think there is nothing more relaxing than kneading the dough by hand. The only downfall of it is time, and if you are making a considerable amount of dough, it will be a workout. Try it; then you don’t have to go to the gym.

    With the palm of your hand in a forward push motion, knead the dough by hand. You need to check whether the gluten is fully developed by doing a windowpane test.

    Knead the homemade pizza dough

    How to knead the dough

    1. Knead the dough by folding the dough over itself and turning it repeatedly for about 30 seconds to 1 minute to form a big ball of dough.  Note:  Do Not over-knead the dough, or it will become very tough.
    2. With your index finger touch the dough, it should spring back to its original shape.
    3. Place the mass of dough is a lighted oiled, sealed container.

    To know if your dough is ready, you need to perform a windowpane test.

    Windowpane test

    Here is how you do it.

    Tear a piece of the dough off the mass and try to form a square or a window with your fingers by stretching it out until it is paper-thin or translucent. 

    If it breaks, then the gluten is still not developed, and one needs to knead it more. 

    windowpane test for pizza

    Windowpane Test

    When ready, poke the windowpane with your finger, and it will form a perfect circle. 

    Fermentation Icon

    Ferment the Dough

    Our base recipe calls for a two-fermentation process. Allowing the dough to rise twice results in a more delicate gluten structure than allowing it to rise once. It results in a smaller crumb and prevents huge gaping air holes in your crust.

    Dough Fermentation

    First Fermentation

    During the first fermentation, the dough let the dough rise in a sealed container for 1 to 1 ½ hr.

    You can set it room temperature or in the oven at the “Proof” setting. 

    What is the best temperature to ferment pizza dough?

    The dough is proofed best at 80°F. Depending on where you live, the room temperature and the time of the year will determine the conditions for your dough fermentation. 

    It is not the same if you live in Wisconsin, and it’s the middle of January than if you live in Florida. So, you need to check your room temperature if you plan to ferment the dough at room temperature.  

    We like the “Proof” setting in the kitchen oven because it will give you a constant temperature already set at 80°F. If your oven does not have the “Proof” setting, check if you have a “Warm” setting and check at what temperature sets the oven. Keep in mind the temperature shouldn’t be more than 80°F, and if it is less or at room temperature, the dough will still rise. It just will take a little longer.

    Dough Fermentation

    After 1 1/2 hrs at 80F

    This will be the first fermentation.  Note the dough is full of air like a balloon.  The yeast has eaten all the sugar in the flour and has expelled carbon dioxide making the dough rise.

    Degasing Dough

    Degas the Dough

    Once the dough is fermented, you will have big pockets of air. You need to release all that gas to allow the dough mature and develop flavor.

    By degassing the dough or making it flat with your hands, you will be releasing all that accumulated gas in the dough. You’ll hear bubbles popping, and the dough will deflate to a more compact mass.  

    Transfer the dough onto a un-floured surface, knead for about 30 seconds gather it into a ball.

    Sealing Your Dough Balls

    Divide the Dough and Shape the Dough Balls

    1. Set your digital scale next to your working surface, with lighted floured hands remove the mass from the proofing container.
    2. Divide all dough into equal-sized pieces.
    3. With a metal dough scraper, cut the dough and weigh according to your preferred dough weight. For a 12” pizza, it is recommended a 285g dough ball.  
    4. Seal the dough balls
    5. Grab one of the dough balls and hold the edges between your hands with your fingers curled inward on top of the dough. Fold the left and right sides up to meet in the center.
    6. As you fold, try not to tear the surface; just try to stretch it, so it becomes smooth and tight.
    7. Turn the dough ball 45 degrees and repeat the process. Continue turning and folding until the dough ball as a smooth surface.  

    If you want to make a bigger pizza, then the dough ball should be heavier. Check our guide on the recommended dough ball weighs for larger pizzas. 

    Unsealed pizza dough ball
    Sealed Pizza Dough Ball

    Sealing the dough balls is extremely important. If you don’t have a tight seal, the gas formed in the second fermentation will escape, and the dough will not rise as it should.

    In the end, you might have a little extra dough left. Check our article on what to do with extra pizza dough. You may also discard the leftover dough, but it will be a shame to get rid of your money and labor when you can make something amazing with it.  

    Refrigerate the Dough Balls

    Refrigerate Dough Balls

    Second Fermentation

    Set the dough balls, pinched side down on a sheet pan or proofing box, spacing the balls about 3 to 4 inches apart.   

    If you place them too close to each other, they will attach to each other during fermentation making it more challenging to handle.

    Wrap the sheet pan airtight with layers of plastic wrap or tight close the proofing box with the lid.  

    Place the sheet pan or the proofing box in a level spot in the refrigerator and let it ferment for 24 to 48 hrs.

    Note that this will be the second fermentation.  During this stage, the dough relaxes and starts to develop flavor.

    How can you keep pizza dough for future use

    You can also individually wrap the pizza dough balls and place them in the freezer for whenever you need them if would safely last for up to three months. Just when you decide to make it, just pull it out of the fridge and let it defrost overnight in the refrigerator or at room temperature for faster defrosting.

    Step 3 to Make Homemade Pizza

    Make the Sauce

    The best sauce for your pizza will depend on which pizza you want to make.

    Decide which sauce will be best for your pizza.

    Homemade Marinara Sauce

    As a tribute to the Italian flag, the basic sauces you can have are either red, white, or green sauce. However, there many other sauce recipes or just make your own. As you get more into pizza making, you may want to experiment with different flavors to switch things up.

    Red

    A red sauce is primarily made from tomatoes; you can use fresh or canned tomatoes. 

    For example, Marinara, Ragu, or Puttanesca.

    White  

    A white sauce is made from milk or any other dairy product derived from milk, like cream, butter, etc. For example, Bèchamel or Porcini Crema.

    Green

    A green sauce is made from fresh herbs, like pesto. Pesto can be made with Basil, Arugula or Spinach. Just make sure your herbs are fresh so the sauce will maintain its color.

    When it comes to sauce, the less you have, the better. Keep in mind the sauce will add a lot of weight to your pizza, which will make it more difficult to handle. As you become an expert, you may want to add as much sauce as you want.

    You can find all sauce recipes in our Recipe Section.

    Step 4 to make homemade pizza

    Set the Oven

    Most home pizza makers bake the pizza, and wait for it to be cooked, without knowing anything about the oven. A home kitchen oven only reaches up to 500°F.  

    We named our kitchen oven “The Big Fat Liar” because even though the digital indicator shows 500°F, it never reaches such temperature.  Also, the temperature varies among different spots within the oven. The back of the oven is always hotter than the front.  

    Set the Oven

    Get to know your oven

    The home kitchen usually has different settings for baking, “Bake,” “Convection,” “Broil“ and the more modern ovens “Microwave Convection”.

    By the way, you would never want to bake your pizza in the microwave. 

    We don’t even heat up leftover pizza in the microwave.  

    Set the oven, and with a digital thermometer, check the actual temperature and where the hot spots are.

    If you want to simulate pizzeria ovens or an outdoor oven, you can place two pizza square stones or steels. We use pizza steels for better results. You need to leave about 8 to 10 inches separation from the two. The top stone will serve as a heating element for the top of the pizza allowing the pizza to cook evenly. Without the top stone, there would be a lot of space allowing air to circulate, so the crust may be crisp while the top can remain chewy and uncooked.

    It is also recommended that halfway through the cooking process, you take a steel pizza peel, and you rotate the pizza a 180° leaving the backside now to the front of the oven. Since the hot spot is usually at the back of the oven, doing this allows the pizza to be cooked at an even temperature.   

    Shape the Dough

    After you made your dough allow it to come to room temperature for about 1 hour before making your pizza.  

    The pizza must be stretched by hand when you are making Neapolitan pizza.  This helps to relieve the stress of the gluten and moves the carbon dioxide of the dough, from the center towards the outside to create the border.

    Shaping Homemade Pizza Dough

    Shaping of the dough

    First Step for Shaping Pizza Dough

    Step 1

    Dip the dough into a little flour, shaking off the excess, and set on a clean, lightly floured surface.  

    Second Step for Shaping Pizza Dough

    Step 2

    You can flatten the dough with your hands or have the help of a rolling pin.

    Third Step for Shaping Pizza Dough

    Step 3

    Start stretching the dough with your hands, turning the ball as you press down the center.

    Fourth Step for Shaping Pizza Dough

    Step 4

    Using your fingertips, dimple the dough a few times. 

    Fifth Step for Shaping Pizza Dough

    Step 5

    Pulling apart from the center start shaping a bigger circle.

    Sixth Step for Shaping Pizza Dough

    Step 6

    With the tips of your fingers start shaping the rim leaving a small indentation so the sauce doesn't escape.

    Stretching Pizza Dough with back of hands

    Step 7

    As you become more confident you can take it up in your hands, turning it with your fists, slowly pulling with each rotation to stretch.

    Laying of the Pizza

    The laying of the pizza is one of those details that make the difference between a successful pizza and a lousy pizza. To make the best pizza is better if you dust a wooden pizza peel with flour and slide it under the dough. 

    Laying uncooked pizza on stone with cornmeal

    During the laying, you should pay attention to the following:

    If you do have some holes, don’t worry, it’s okay if a hole or two forms.  You can patch them by gently pulling some of the surrounding dough over to close and seal the tears.

    Alternatively, if your find stretching by hand is difficult, use a rolling pin to work the dough until you form a 12-inch circle.

    For the laying of the pizza to the pizza peel, we always use just regular flour since the only purpose it will serve is for the pizza not to stick to the peel.

    In addition to the flour, you can also add about a teaspoon of course cornmeal. The grains of the cornmeal serve as tiny wheels in between the dough and the peel, making it very easy to transfer to the oven.

    If you are making any other pizza style other than Neapolitan or NY Style, the laying of the pizza will be much simpler. 

    For all other pizza methods, you will lay the dough either in a sheet pan or a cast-iron pan.  The dough will remain in the pan during the baking process and does not need to be transferred to the pizza stone or steel.

    Top the Dough

    Going back to Step 1 – Getting Started, don’t forget that all the ingredients and all the toppings shall be prepared beforehand. You should not attempt to make a pizza without having everything on hand. Otherwise, you will have “Chaos Style Pizza.”

    The pizza toppings are something that has a lot to do with personal taste. 

    The first thing to keep in mind is not to overdo the seasonings and the toppings. The balance in the quality and the quantity of the ingredients is the rule to follow to prepare a good pizza.

    When topping your pizza, start with the sauce, then add cheese and the other topping ingredients.  

    Spreading Sauce to Homemade Pizza

    Sauce

    When it comes to sauce the less is better.

    Spreading the Sauce

    1. Grab a large, preferably flat spoon and disperse the sauce onto the center of the dough.
    2. Use the back of the spoon to spread the sauce outward from the center in a spiral motion.
    3. Leave about ¾” inch around the rim of the pizza.
    Adding Cheese to Homemade Pizza

    Cheese

    Top your pizza with your favorite cheese. You want to add cheese first because the cheese acts like a glue between the crust and your toppings.

    1. Pour the cheese onto the center of the pizza and spread it with your fingers. Do not go all the way up the rim.
    Placing Pepperoni on pizza

    Toppings

    Top your pizza with your favorite toppings

    Note that you must work quickly, so your dough doesn’t get too soft or sticky as it sits on the pizza peel under the weight of the toppings.

    1. Arrange the rest of your toppings evenly over the cheese.
    Transfer pizza to oven

    Set it on a Pizza Peel

    Shake the pizza peel to make sure the dough isn’t sticking.

    1. Give it a final shape by adjusting the rim as necessary to give the pizza a perfectly round shape.
    Making Adjustments to Homemade Pizza on Peel

    Make Adjustments

    Quickly, make final adjustments

    Chef sprinkling mozzarella cheese onto a raw pizza

    Alternative

    If you find it hard to transfer the pizza to the peel, you can ways top your pizza on the peel. Shape the dough and place on the peel and then top it.

    Step 7 to Make Pizza at Home

    Transfer the Pizza to the Oven

    We think this is the hardest part of making pizza at home. It takes some practice to get it right. So, don’t be disappointed in you can’t get it done the first time.

    We recommend using a wood peel to transfer the pizza to the oven. We think the dough slides faster with the wood peel then switch to a steel peel to rotate the pizza and to remove from the oven when done.

    Transfer Homemade Pizza to Oven

    Here is the tricky part of making pizza at home. However, if you follow these steps, you have a better chance of getting extraordinary results.

    Before anything, be very careful, the oven is extremely HOT.

    1. After topping your pizza, shake the pizza back and forth again to make sure it isn’t sticking.  If it sticks to the peel, lift the edge and add flour, cornmeal, or a mixture of both.
    2. Slide the prepared pizza onto the hot pizza steel, stone, or baking sheet. The pizza peel and the stone or steel should be at the same level, not angled or sloped.
       
    3. Bring the pizza to where you want to place it just slide it off the peel by moving forward and backward the peel.
    4. Once the dough touches the stone or steel, it will stick to it. 

    Look at the shape; you will only have a few seconds to make any adjustments with the peel. You must be very careful as it would be scorching to touch with your bare hands.

    Step 8

    Bake the Pizza

    Unfortunately, we can’t give you an exact time to bake any pizza. Every oven is different, review our section once again on “Get to know your oven” to check what works best for you.

    Bake Pizza in Kitchen Oven

     

    We sure can tell you the following tips for better results:

     

    Tips When Baking Your Homemade Pizza

    1. Set a timer for at least 5 to 6 minutes so you can check the progress.  
    2. If you see any large bubbles in the pizza, just poke them with a knife and add additional cheese on top of that section.
    3. Try not to open the oven door too much as every time you open that door, the oven will lose temperature, and your pizza might turn mushy, and it will take longer to cook.
    4. Grab the peel and rotate the pizza 180° if you feel the back is cooking faster.
    5. Check the bottom of the pizza to make sure it has been cooked well. It should be rich brown and burnished.
    6. The total cooking time should be from 12 to 15 minutes total depending on your oven.
    7. Bake until the crust is properly browned. Check your time, so see how long it took to cook and keep a record of it.
    Step 9

    Finish

    It’s time for the best part. After you waited a day or two to make your pizza is now time to taste the fruits of your labor.

    Finish Homemade Pizza

    Now that your pizza is done

    Step 1.
    With the pizza peel, transfer the pizza to a cutting board.

    Note:  Do not cut the pie on your peel, or you may damage it.

     

    Step 2.
    Hold on; we are not done yet.

    Some last steps:

    Finishes

    You may want to add a small number of your finishes right before serving your pizza. If you like, drizzle the pizza with garlic oil, or add flaky salt, our favorite truffle salt or any other add-on that you may want.

    For additional flavor, add a sprinkle Parmesan or Pecorino to give it that extra pungent flavor.

    Garnishes

    Just like any other food that we eat first with our eyes, you need to make it pretty and pleasant to the eye. Garnish with your favorite garnishes. A pop of color is always nice, as well as a touch of texture.

    You can garnish your pizza with Oregano, Basil, Arugula, or Parsley or any other herb you deem appropriate.

    Wrapping up

    Now that you’ve learned how to make your pizza. Here is what you should expect from it.

    Check for the following:

    Finally

    Step 3.
    Cut the pizza into slices
    Step 4.
    Serve immediately
    And,
    Step 5.

    Enjoy!

    with Friends and Family.

    Homemade Pizza

    We hope this guide serves you at least to a starting point on how to make pizza at home. If you like it, please share it with your friends and family or anyone interested in making the best Homemade Pizza.

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