We are going to start with a crowd favorite because everyone loves pizza. You can top it with all of your favorite things plus, it doesn't require a lot of dishes.
The first thing to start with is the pizza dough; it's pretty simple to make, as long as you don't overheat the yeast. The best rule of thumb when working with yeast dough is; if your liquid is too hot to stick your finger in then it's too hot for the yeast to grow. You must also make sure your water is not too cold either because it will slow down the process of leavening. Run the water from your kitchen faucet until it is warmer than body temp (so warm to the touch) but not hot, and this should be the sweet spot for the dough.
How does yeast work, its simple yeast is revived in warm water, and when it is, reanimated it's hungry. This hungry single-celled organism needs food, and yeast feeds on sugar. Make sure that when you're adding yeast to the liquid, you add the sugar from the recipe in the same bowl. Yeast feeds off of the sugar. In the words of my friend Katie, "it farts out bubbles" we work with high school students. This is the carbon dioxide that is responsible for the growth of your dough.
When you bake your dough, you should be left with tiny little pockets inside the dough that resemble bubbles because they were bubbles. When the dough is baked it kills the CO2 farting organism and leaves behind nice light air-filled dough.
Give the dough time to rest after you mix it. The gluten will develop and give your dough a nice stretchy consistency. Then knead baby, knead; work the dough and your arms. Stretch and fold the dough for 5 minutes or so; this will help stretch the gluten even more.
Now it is time to let the yeast do the work; let the dough rest in a warm(not hot place) for about 30 minutes. This allows the dough to rise and nearly double in size, as the yeast creates lots of bubbles. Once you have a dough monster, punch the dough down and get to shaping your crust.
There are many ways to do this, and everyone has a different version; but, I'm going to share a couple of my favorites. The first is rolling out a crust; you can use a rolling pin, a smooth round glass cup, or even a wine bottle for this. Be sure to start with your dough in the shape you want it to end up. By this, I mean squish your dough into a rectangle if you want it to baken it on a cookie sheet (my preference). If you prefer a round pizza, start your dough in a round ball. Then roll it from the center to the edge. You are pushing the air out to the edges of the dough, be sure not to run your rolling tool off the edge of the dough. Doing this will, push all the air out of the dough, giving you a thinner crust pizza (if this your preference, roll over the edge). The other technique that I like to use is, pushing a pizza. It is as it sounds. Start in the middle of the pizza and push the dough out with your hands. I prefer to use my hands as often as possible when cooking. The best way to know how the food is going to turn out is by feeling it. Also, I hate to wash dishes so, the fewer I have the, better. Work your way out to the edge of the dough, pushing firmly but not hard. You don't want to tear the dough; a taller edge should form, becoming the crust for your pizza.
Then you place your dough on a light cornmeal-coated baking sheet (not a must, but it does help make a crispier crust) and let it sit for 20 minutes so it can rise again. While your dough is rising, preheat your oven to 450 degrees. If your oven is hot to start with, your crust will bake more evenly and develop a beautiful golden crispy crust. Add your sauce and toppings; I am a fan of sundried tomatoes, roasted garlic, and parmesan on my pizza. Then bake your pizza for 15-20 minutes.
Yield 1 half-sheet pan sized pizza
1 tablespoon of yeast
1 teaspoon white sugar
1 cup of warm water
2 1/2 cups flour
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
Toppings and sauce of your choice
1. In a medium bowl, dissolve yeast and sugar in warm water. Let stand until creamy, about 5 minutes. Stir in flour, salt, and oil. Mix Let rest for 5 minutes
Knead dough on a lightly floured surface for 3-5 minutes.
Wrap dough loosely and set in a dry, warm place for 30 minutes.
Roll out dough to form your crust. Using your hands or a rolling pin, roll your dough out to the shape of your pan. Sprinkle 1 tsp. of cornmeal on your pan to get a crispier crust.
Preheat your oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit, let the crust set for 20 minutes; it will rise again.
Bake in your preheated oven for 20-25 minutes.
*Recipe note the more toppings you add, the longer it will take for the dough to bake through. It may require more time if you enjoy extra toppings.
Chef Amanda Rose has been working in the culinary arts industry for over 10 years. She has a passion for this business and now includes teaching in her culinary tool box.