Pizza dough can be intimidating— I mean, how many of us haven’t experienced terrible pizza before? Crust is make or break; no matter how good your toppings are, if the crust is too tough and chewy, too limp and fragile, or too all-the-things-that-can-go-wrong-in-between, the pizza will be a failure. And no one puts all the work into making fresh pizza dough just to have their pizza be a failure, right?
There are a million recipes out there on the internet, all claiming in some way to be the ultimate pizza dough. How do you know which is the right dough for you—a daunting proposition, since every region in America has a different idea about what pizza should be. Once you have the basic dough making technique down, though, you can apply it to any pizza crust recipe you find.
The ultimate pizza dough, though? That has to be New York thin crust. Some people say that the secret ingredient is NYC style tap water, but that’s an old wives’s tale. The real secret: the best NYC pizzerias make their doughs at least one day in advance, giving it plenty of time for the gluten to relax and the flavors to develop. You can make this dough up to five days before you need to make it — the longer it rests, the better the flavor gets, but for real NYC style you only need to let it sit for 24 hours. Here’s everything you need to know.
- 5 ½ cups bread flour, plus an additional half cup for flouring your kneading board
- 2 cups water lukewarm water
- 1 teaspoon instant dry yeast
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt
- ½ teaspoons sugar
- 1 tablespoon olive oil, plus a bit extra for greasing the bowl
In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine ½ cup water with the yeast and sugar. Allow to sit for five minutes until it becomes bubbly.
Add the remaining water, 5 ½ cups flour, and olive oil. Start the stand mixer on medium low, just to get the ingredients to combine, then turn it up to high for two minutes. Scrape down the hook and sides of the bowl to make sure there’s no pockets of unincorporated ingredients, then add the salt to the dough. Return to the mixer and continue mixing on high until it forms a smooth, ball of dough — about three to four more minutes.
Move the dough to a wooden board or clean countertop that’s been lightly dusted with flour. Knead briefly with your hands, adding a bit more flour if needed until it feels like supple, elastic dough.
Do a window pane test: rip off a small piece of dough, flatten it as thin as you can, then hold it up to a light source and start stretching it out. If the dough doesn’t rip and you can see light shining through it, it’s ready. If it tears, continue kneading until it finally passes the test.
Divide the dough into four portions, then roll each around until they become balls of dough with smooth skins. Cover each with the barest amount of olive oil — a good way to do this is to spread a drop of oil on your hands, then toss each ball of dough back and forth a few times. Put each into its own individual quart-sized plastic bag, press out any excess air, and seal tightly.
Refrigerate the dough for at least 24 hours. After that point, you can move them to the freezer if you’d like to make some pizzas at a later date — it freezes beautifully, and is a major timesaver for those nights you want to make pizza but forgot to plan ahead.
When you’re ready to make pizza, thaw the dough on your counter til room temperature while preheating your oven, with a pizza stone inside of it, to 550. You’ll need to preheat the oven for at least an hour to get the stone as hot as it needs to be to properly cook the pizza. Roll the dough out as thin as you’d like it before adding sauce, cheese and toppings. Slide onto the stone and cook until the crust is golden brown and the cheese is bubbly, which can take between 5-10 minutes. When it’s done is entirely based on your own personal preferences, but a great NYC pizza is always just slightly well done.