A partially-baked pizza crust, ready to top and freeze for homemade frozen pizza (if you were making fresh, you would’t pre-bake it)
This is the recipe I use to make homemade frozen pizzas. Of course, it also works well for pizza made fresh! The recipe here describes making a fresh pizza. I’ll make a post soon about homemade frozen pizzas that will describe that process.
Most pizza crusts use only white flour, which gives a softer dough with more consistent length gluten strands. That makes it easier to toss or spread the crust. Others use a bunch of whole wheat trying to make pizza “healthy,” but they tend to make tough, dry crusts that are unpleasant.
My recipe uses a bit of whole wheat to provide a more rustic flavor, along with mostly (unbleached…) white flour. Much like in making bagels, you need to understand gluten a little bit. While bagels require a bunch of gluten, pizza crust needs just a little. Otherwise, it will fight you when you shape it, and you’ll have more large crust bubbles displacing your toppings.
Therefore, do not use bread flour! I use unbleached all purpose flour for mine. Pastry flour would probably yield even better results, but I never have it on hand.
Chad's Pizza Crust Recipe
A simple, slightly rustic, pizza crust. I use it to make homemade frozen pizzas as well as fresh pizza. Also good for calzones, a westernized version of a sambusa, and similar things.
Add the yeast and 1 C warm water to a large bowl, and stir to dissolve.
Stir in the milk, salt, and rest of the water together in a small bowl, until dissolved, then add to the large bowl.
Add olive oil, whole wheat four, and about 4 C of the white flour, and stir to mix until it forms a rough mass.
Turn the dough out onto a floured board. Let the dough rest while you wash out the bowl (just hot water - no soap!), dry it, and oil it.
Knead the dough, working in additional flour as needed, only until it is smooth - around 4 or 5 minutes. You do not want to develop a lot of gluten for pizza crust.
Form the dough into a ball. Return it to the bowl and turn to coat with oil. Cover with a clean towel, and allow to rise until doubled in size - 45 minutes to an hour, depending on your yeast and room temperature.
Place a pizza stone, or clay tiles, in your oven and preheat to 450 degrees.
Punch down the dough, divide it into 5 even pieces, and form each into a ball.
Read my note about hand-tossing pizza.
Let the dough balls rest for about 5 minutes to relax the gluten. Otherwise, they'll fight you!
Shape one crust at a time. Begin by flattening the dough ball gently.
Begin shaping by tossing the crust back and forth from one hand to the other, with the dough oriented vertically, while constantly rotating the crust, until it is about 1/3 to 1/2 the desired diameter.
Gently pinch-stretch the dough between your thumbs and middle fingers about 1/2" in from the outer edge, all the way around the circumference. This will form an outer crust, avoiding a crust that is taller in the middle with no "lip," and thus avoiding all of your sauce and toppings spilling all over the oven floor.
Turn the crust so it lies horizontally across the back knuckles of your hands. Gently stretch and turn the crust, forming it into a nice circle. Take your time - if you rush, the dough will tear (a small tear when it is nearly to size is no big deal - just pinch it closed. But when you've got a long way to go, it will just get bigger and bigger). The crust will be quite thin by the time it reaches full size.
When your crust is full size, place it on a floured surface, a pizza peel, or a cardboard cake circle, while you prepare the other crusts and/or top them.
If making frozen pizza
Stab the middle area of the crust a few times with a fork to prevent large bubbles.
Partially bake the crust before topping your pizza: Slide from the cake round or peel onto the pizza stone, and bake for about 8 minutes - until it is somewhat firm and just starting to take on some color.
Return to the crust to its cardboard cake round.
Remove the crust from the oven, and top as you wish. Remember, the sauce will expand so you probably need less than you think. Stop toppings at the "lip" you formed. Also, it's usually best to be heavier near the edge, and to put few toppings right in the center, where cuts will converge.
Wrap the pizza & cardboard tightly and freeze for up to two months.
To bake a frozen pizza
Place pizza stone in center of oven and preheat to 375.
Slide frozen pizza off its cardboard cake round onto the pizza stone, and bake until done. Exact baking times will vary depending on type and quantity of toppings, but will probably be around 22 minutes. Just watch carefully on your first couple with a given topping configuration.
A note about hand-tossing your pizza crust: don't.
When I was in high school, I worked for pizza joint and got quite good at hand-tossing. I enjoyed it, especially when little kids would smoosh their noses up against the window to watch (thankfully someone else usually had to clean the window!). But it's a perishable skill: if I try to toss pizza now, I tend to drop it or put holes through my dough.
If you must try, remember: always catch on the back of your hands to avoid poking holes through the dough, and its all about rapid rotation, not altitude. And when you drop all of your crusts on the floor, it's time to call the carry out place...
I also think a fair portion of the ability to toss a pizza is in the dough itself. You need long, but weak, gluten strands, which probably means long (refrigerated) rising times. You might also try pastry flour instead of all-purpose, or more olive oil or dry milk to make it more tender.