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How to make pizza dough

Making your own pizza dough is relatively easy but takes a little time to perfect. (You might not toss and twirl your dough around like chefs on TV during your first pizza-making attempt.)

Ingredients

Basic pizza dough recipes call for yeast, warm water, flour, salt and olive oil. Some recipes call for the addition of sugar or honey, while others say it is not a necessary ingredient.

To make FineCooking.com's easy pizza dough recipe, dissolve one package of active-dry yeast in 1-1/2 cups of very warm water. Place 4 cups of flour and 1-1/2 teaspoons of salt in a food processor or the bowl of your mixer. Run the appliance to mix the ingredients and, while it is going, steadily add the water-yeast mixture. Turn the machine off to pour in 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Pulse to mix in the oil.

Take the dough out of the processor or mixing bowl and place onto a lightly floured surface. Add some flour to your hands and knead the dough. Integrate any little pieces of dough or flour that were left behind in the bowl. Knead the dough into one big lump and then, using a knife or dough scraper, separate it into four equal pieces. Roll each one of those into a smooth ball, making sure to knead them until all of the air is released.

Place whichever dough balls you plan on using on a lightly floured surface. Cover them with a clean dishtowel. Leave them until they have about doubled in size.

According to RecipePizza.com, you can speed up the rising process by placing the dough in a warm place, but you are already taking the time to make the dough from scratch, so let it rise naturally. This should take between one and two hours, so keep an eye on it to determine when it has expanded to the proper size.

You can preheat your oven as the dough rises. To shape the dough ball, place on a lightly floured wooden board and sprinkle a little more flour on top. Press into a flat, pancake-like shape. Lay it on top of one fist and then gently stretch the dough by placing your other fist underneath, pulling and rotating.  You can also use a rolling pin. Decide how thick or thin you want the crust to be, and you are on your way to a delicious pizza pie.

Pizza dough will keep in the refrigerator for several days. Cover the balls with plastic wrap, leaving it room to rise in the fridge. You can also freeze the dough and keep it in the freezer for several months.

Variations
According to RecipePizza.com, the use of high-gluten flour, sometime called bread flour, is key to achieving the proper elasticity in your pizza dough. Eating Well has an easy recipe for whole wheat pizza dough that uses a mix of whole-wheat flour, bread flour and cornmeal.