11/04/2011 12:08 pm ET Updated Aug 31, 2012

How To Make Pizza Dough

If you've been looking for an easy pizza dough recipe, chef Scott Swartz of The Culinary Institute of America has one tailor-made for you.

Instead of hand-kneading, this recipe lets a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook do all of the work. Chef Swartz starts by adding 2 cups of all-purpose flour to the bowl of the mixer, along with 2 tablespoons of sugar, 1 tablespoon of salt, and 1 teaspoon of instant dry yeast. This type of yeast doesn't require activation in warm water, so it lets you skip a step. He mixes the dry ingredients together with the dough hook, then pours in 1 tablespoon of olive oil (use a good quality oil here, since you can taste the flavor in the crust) and 3/4 cup of warm water (you want it to be around 100F to activate the yeast). Then, just turn on the mixer and let the hook do the work. After about 3 to 4 minutes at medium speed, check the dough's consistency: If it bounces back when you poke it with your finger, it's ready. If the indentation stays, then put it back in for another 2 to 3 minutes of mixing. Once the gluten has fully developed, form the dough into a ball and let it rest in a bowl covered with plastic wrap for 30 minutes. The dough will double in size and be ready for the next step -- forming it into a crust.

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Video Transcript

Hi, I'm Chef Scott Swartz from the Culinary Institute of America, and I'm here to show you this kitchen basic: how to make pizza dough.

For ingredients, all I've got is flour (we're going to use all-purpose flour; you could substitute bread flour, or there are pizza flours called durum flour that work), water, sugar, olive oil, yeast, and salt. We'll get everything set up, and we're going to use a dough hook. The advantage of using the dough hook in the mixer is it's much easier for us, we don't have to knead it on the table; we'll let the machine do all our work. So we are really making your life easier.

We'll take our flour - what I've got here is two cups of all-purpose flour - and to that I'm going to add two tablespoons of granulated sugar, one tablespoon of salt, and one teaspoon of instant dry yeast. Instant dry yeast is very easy to find nowadays; you can find it in your grocery store, usually in the refrigerated section. Again, we're going to let the dough hook in the machine do a little work. The first thing we need to do is get all these ingredients evenly distributed. On a low speed, we're going to let it go for thirty seconds or a minute to evenly distribute it. You're going to read a lot of pizza dough recipes where they tell you to take the yeast and put it in warm water, and let the yeast start to come alive, and it'll start to foam and bubble. With instant dry yeast, that's not necessary. That's something you needed to do with the old-fashioned cake yeast. We can actually save a whole step here and mix the yeast in with our dry ingredients.

At this point my dry ingredients are all mixed nice and evenly together. I'm going to add a tablespoon of olive oil, which is going to give me some flavor - this is where I want to use a little better olive oil. Then I'm going to add three quarters of a cup of warm water. Warm water is very important in this case. If it's too warm, it's going to kill the yeast. If it's too cold, my yeast won't come to life fast enough. Our magic number is around 100 degrees. The easy way to know that is 100 degrees is right around body temperature, so I can put my finger in the water and when it feels just warm to my touch I'm right around a hundred degrees.

We're going to let the machine bring the dough together on a low speed. I've reserved a little bit of water just in case. So look at the dough: in this case I did need all the water in the recipe called for. Now we'll turn this up and we're going to let the machine bring it all together. We'll go for three to four minutes to knead this together. We're developing something called gluten that's going to make it really stretchy; otherwise, you won't be able to stretch the pizza dough.

At this point you can see our dough has come together as a ball. We'll turn it off, and we'll see whether we've achieved that kind of elastic consistency. They way we're going to check is we're going to touch the dough, and we're looking for it to bounce back. You see it comes back a little tiny bit, but it doesn't have that spring. So at this stage, since we haven't developed that yet, we're going to put it back in the bowl and let the mixer work for us a little more, for about two or maybe three more minutes.

It looks like it's coming together nicely. We'll check it again, and I'm looking for that same elastic consistency from it. I take a little bit of it out, and it bounces back much better. I get a nice spring to it, telling me that my gluten has developed really nicely and that my dough is ready to rest. Resting is the process where we allow that gluten we just developed to relax a little bit. And by letting it relax, it'll allow us to stretch it. If I try to stretch it right now it'll shrink back up. I'll take these two pieces of dough and just bring them together; all we're trying to do is bring them to a nice tight ball, then we'll put it in a bowl so it can rest. We can even use the same bowl - it had flour in it, it's not going to stick. We'll cover it closely with a piece of plastic wrap, which will keep it from forming a skin on top. We'll let this sit about thirty minutes, until it doubles in size, then we'll check back and show you what it looks like.

We can see that it's doubled in size. At this point we'll take it out - and now it's ready to stretch and turn into pizza dough.