Basic Pizza Dough

Image via Food Network

Image via Food Network

By Linda Edson

The Last Dough Recipe You’ll Ever Need.

Well, maybe not the last (Remember the cinnamon roll dough? Definitely keep that one!), but certainly the most versatile. This is a basic yeast dough, and its many uses include pizza crust (a thick, soft crust) and focaccia bread. I have also used it for Stromboli, pizza pockets, paninis, and runzas (or bierocks, depending on what part of the country you are from).  I know this is terribly unorthodox, and I will probably not be welcome in the U.P. of Michigan after confessing this: I have even used this to make Cornish pasties!  

I teach this one to introduce working with yeast, and when the end product is pizza, let’s just say their motivation to succeed is high! I tell my students that I make this recipe so much, it is what I make when I don’t feel like cooking!  Many leftovers remake into tasty pizza toppings (grilled chicken- yum!).  I have memorized this dough recipe.

Basic Yeast Crust Ingredients:

  • 1 tbsp. sugar
  • 1 tbsp. dry yeast
  • 1 ½ cups water (warm- 110°)
  • 4- 4 ½ cups bread flour (A.P. can be used, but bread flour gets the best results, as it is higher in gluten, resulting in a springier dough.)
  • 2 tsp. salt
  • 2 tbsp. olive oil + 2 tbsp. to drizzle on top

Preheat oven to 400°.

Note: Instructions are to make pizza, but, as stated, once the dough is formed it can become many tasty things!

Dissolve yeast and sugar in water. (Do take the time to measure the temperature of the water with a candy-type thermometer. 120° is the danger zone. Below 105° will not activate yeast enough to get a good rise.) Let it set until a foamy head forms, but don’t let it set too long! Yeast doughs require efficiency!

Into a large work bowl, pour yeast mixture, add salt, oil, and 2 cups of flour and stir until smooth with a sturdy wooden spoon or rubber scraper. From the remaining 2 ½ cups of flour, add a little at a time, working the flour into the dough just until the dough can be picked up in one ball. 

Sprinkle a little flour on the counter, and begin to knead the dough. If you have never needed dough- it is important to maintain a pattern with your kneading to form a smooth ball of dough.  Fold the dough in half toward you, push away firmly with the heels of your hands, and give the dough a quarter turn.  Repeat the fold, push, turn pattern until the dough is soft, smooth, and springy, adding flour only if the dough begins to stick to your hands or the work surface.  This will take about 15 minutes.  To check dough to see if you have kneaded enough, pick up the ball of dough and gently begin to turn it, letting the weight of the dough stretch the ball.  Imagine turning the steering wheel of a car.  If the dough can be stretched thin enough to see light through it, or make a “window pane”, your kneading is done.  Form it back into a smooth ball, rest it on the work surface, turn your bowl upside-down over the top of it, and let it rest for 5-10 minutes.

While dough is resting, prepare pan:  Spray an 11 x 14” pan (half-sheet) or two 12” round pizza pans by spraying generously with cooking spray.  Sprinkle cornmeal lightly over sprayed surface to give it a nice crispy bottom.

When dough has rested, repeat the “steering wheel” stretching move to gently stretch your dough before placing it on the pan.  I like to do most of the stretching this way, and less on the pan itself to avoid moving too much of the cornmeal around.  *If you are using two 12” round pans, cut dough in half and work with each piece separately.  Place dough in pan and stretch to fit pan by rolling the side of your hand toward the outside of the pan, working from the middle or thick parts of the dough.  (I encourage my students to get the dough all the way to the corners, because that means more pizza for all!) 

After stretching dough to fit the pan, brush top with remaining 2 T. of olive oil.  Cover with plastic wrap, and set in a warm place to rise for about 30 minutes.  (If you are pressed for time, this step can be skipped; dough will not be a thick and “bread-like”.)  Remove plastic wrap before baking.

Place in oven for 10 minutes for a quick prebake to avoid a soggy crust. 

Remove crust from oven and top with sauce, cheese, or other favorite toppings.  Return pan to oven for an additional 10-12 minutes, or until cheese is bubbly and lightly browned.


Add fresh chopped herbs, such as parsley and basil, to dough when the first two cups of flour are stirred in.

Replace sugar with honey, and half of the flour with whole wheat.

After stretching into pan, score into breadsticks.  Brush with garlic butter and sprinkle fresh parmesan on top before baking.  Bake for 15-18 minutes.

Make-Ahead Tip:

I make batches of this dough ahead of time and freeze it in gallon-size freezer bags, sprayed lightly with oil.  Remove from freezer to refrigerator the night before.


Linda Edson has spent three decades honing her culinary skills as a mother of five.  She enjoys sharing her passion for good food with her students as a high school culinary instructor.  She draws inspiration from her family, local farmer’s markets, a vast collection of cookbooks, and a cultural heritage that includes French, Danish, and Menominee Indian.