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Make a Perfect Pizza Crust - Part 1 - Something in the Water

Updated on January 4, 2010

Secret #1 for a Perfect Crust

Learn how to make a pizza crust that will rival ANYTHING you've ever tasted in a pizzeria. Making a great crust isn't difficult; you just have to know what to do. You are about to join an elite group of "upper crust" pizza makers. No more soggy or cardboardy crusts for you!

P.S. See below for Secret #2 and stay tuned for Secret #3 for a Perfect Pizza Crust!

My Long Struggle

Photo courtesy of Flickr and cowbite

I've been trying to make the perfect pizza crust for over twenty years. I've come close a few times, but it's never a sure thing. I've found that there are some things I can do to improve my chances of making a delicious pizza with a beautiful, just-crunchy-enough crust. This series of suggestions will work on any dough recipe and any crust, whether it's thick, thin, deep-dish and double-crust. Give them a try and enjoy the compliments next time you make a pizza. Read on for the first Secret of Perfect Pizza Crusts.

The Basics of Making Pizza Dough

You'll need these ingredients for your crust

Photo courtesy of Flickr and Sarah and Jason

The following ingredients are the basis for most standard white-flour dough/crust recipes. Some people like to use olive oil. You can put lots of other things into the dough too. Try herbs like basil, oregano, or rosemary. Put in some minced garlic or garlic powder, but be a little careful here; too much garlic can retard the action of the yeast. I'll bet some chopped sun-dried tomatoes would be yummy. Don't get too fussy about the exact amount of water or flour; you may need to add more of one or the other while you are mixing the dough.

1 package active dry yeast (2 teaspoons)

1 cup warm water (105° to 115°, no more)

3 cups all-purpose or bread flour

1 tablespoon sugar

1 teaspoon salt

(optional) 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, plus a little for coating

What does each ingredient do for the dough?

Should I use all-purpose flour or bread flour?

The traditional directions for pizza dough as are follows. After we've gone through the basics, we'll talk about those secrets I promised.

1. Dissolve the yeast in warm water (takes maybe 5 minutes).

2. In a large mixing bowl, combine flour, sugar, salt and liquid.

If making your dough by hand, stir until the mixture forms a ball, then turn it out onto a floured surface and knead for about five minutes.

If you have a mixer with a dough hook, knead the ingredients on low for about five minutes with the dough hook.

3. Place the dough into a greased bowl, cover loosely and let the dough rise until about doubled in volume, an hour or two.

4. Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and move it, by hand or with a rolling pin, into the desired shape and thickness. Make sure your edges are a little thicker than the rest of the pie crust.

5. Transfer carefullly to baking sheet and add the desired toppings. Bake in a preheated oven at 425 degrees for about 20 minutes or until crust is golden and cheese is melted and lightly browned." />

So?

Should I put Viagara in the Pizza Dough Next Time?

Photo courtesy of Flickr and Thomas23





That recipe is fine as far as it goes, but it won't give you that fabulous slightly-crispy crust that is necessary for a wonderful pizza. So what do you do? Pay very close attention, because you are about to learn something amazing. Are you ready?

Something's in the Water

Photo courtesy of Flickr and miss kris

Folks in New York and Chicago swear that their pizza crusts are superior because of the water. I was skeptical about this until I did some research and discovered that qualities of the water really do affect pizza crusts and other baked products. So should you have the water for your pizza dough imported from New York or Chicago?

The hardness of water has a big effect on the outcome of baked products. Hardness is a measure of the amount of dissolved minerals, mostly calcium and magnesium, present in the water. A moderate amount of these minerals strengthens the gluten in the dough, giving it "body." That's good for your crust. Too much hardness makes the crust tough. That's bad. You want to find water that has a moderate hardness (amount of dissolved minerals).

Treated or filtered water have most of the minerals removed, so they are soft, and therefore not really optimal for making a great pizza crust. You'll get a spongy or soft crust. Try making your pizza crust with bottled spring water. If you want to try other waters and you're not sure about the hardness of your water, you can request a free water-testing kit.

What is gluten and what does it do?

For more information on the effects of hardness and acidity of water in baked products, visit this article from Baker's Journal.

You Can Buy Water Hardness Testing Kits on Amazon

They're not very expensive. If you're really serious about your pizza crust, you can test and experiment with different waters (bottled, spring....)

Making Pizza on YouTube - A quick and easy thin-crust pizza.

These Books Are Especially Good - And you can buy them from Amazon

See the forum discussion about this book at 101 Cookbooks.

What Do You Think?

Does the Kind of Water You Use Affect the Pizza Crust?

No way! Water is water.

No way! Water is water.

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    Absolutely! I can tell the difference in a 2001 NYC and a '97 Chicago.

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      • anonymous 5 years ago

        I think that ph and hardness in the water definitely could be a factor, however I think the effects would be minimal. I do believe that the chlorine present in most municipal water supplies will kill the yeast or not allow them to flourish and completely do thier thing. An unusually high or low ph level could also cause problems for the yeast.

      • anonymous 6 years ago

        baking is called an exact science for a reason

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      Photo courtesy of Flickr and mandydale

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      I always like to get your comments.

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        • Teapixie LM profile image

          Tea Pixie 4 years ago

          Water issue is interesting. But, I won't give up my soft, shiny locks for a crispy-crusted pizza! Thanks for the interesting read. Now to make my pizza....

        • squared1 profile image

          squared1 6 years ago

          I have learned something new today. Thank you for sharing. I didn't know about the hardness of the water and it's effects. I said (out loud), "Well, huh? I didn't know that." :-)

        • profile image

          anonymous 9 years ago

          My son makes pizza dough a lot, and is never happy with it, I am sure this lens will help him to improve his pizza dough, thanks! 5 stars!!

        • profile image

          Snowfarie 9 years ago

          This is a definate Ditto with the first!

        • profile image

          chef_filipina 9 years ago

          Very informative.

          Great lens. Rated it 5 stars.

          Feel free to visit Filipino Food Recipes.

        • funwithtrains lm profile image

          funwithtrains lm 9 years ago

          Great lens! 5 stars and a favorite!

        • profile image

          anonymous 9 years ago

          NYers & Chicagoans are right. Philadelphians also swear that a real Philly Cheese Steak fr/Philly also is best on acct of their water in making the sub/hoagie roll.

        • profile image

          WhippetTalk 9 years ago

          I tried making pizza once using my bread machine to make the dough. We have hard water where I live, but I never thought it would have any effect on the dough. Good to know. Awesome lens.