CLEVELAND — Of all the home-cooking adventures, working with dough likely sits near the top in terms of the intimidation factor. There is something scary and mysterious about bread baking that prevents many novice cooks from even trying. That’s a shame, because it is also one of the most magical and satisfying kitchen experiences.
What more incentive does one need than the promise of converting a few elementary ingredients like flour, water, yeast and salt into warm, fragrant, chewy bread. All it takes is a little faith and patience.
Here’s how it’s done.
In a measuring cup, combine 1 cup of very warm water (105°F.-110°F.) with 1 tablespoon of honey or sugar and 1 teaspoon of active dry yeast. Wait for 5 minutes to make sure that the yeast is alive and kicking as evidenced by the formation of a little foam and bubbles.
In a large bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer, add 2.5 cups of all-purpose flour, 1 tablespoon of olive oil, and 1 tablespoon of salt. With the dough hook attachment in place, begin mixing on low while you add the yeast liquid. Slowly increase to the speed to medium, stopping every so often to scrape down the sides of the bowl. After about 5 minutes, the dough should be pulling away from the sides of the bowl. If it seems very wet, sticky and loose you can sprinkle in a little more flour.
Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and gently knead it into a ball. It should be tacky, but not overly so. If so, simply sprinkle on a little flour, but just enough so that you can shape it into a ball. Oil the inside of a bowl at least twice the size of the dough ball. Add the dough and turn it to coat it in olive oil. Cover and place in a warm spot to rise for about two hours, until the dough has doubled in size. (The bread proof setting of an oven is ideal.)
After a couple hours, scrape the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and divide into two balls. Using a bench scraper and a little flour, form the two portions into smooth balls and cover for 30 minutes.
If you have a baking stone or steel, place it on the middle rack. Preheat the oven to 450°F. or hotter if your oven has a higher setting.
Have at the ready a lightly oiled pizza pan or lightly floured pizza peel (or upturned baking sheet). Working with one dough at a time, roll or stretch into a 12-inch dough and carefully transfer to the pan or peel.
Top with any combination of sauce, cheese, veggies, meats and herbs.
Bake until the crust is golden brown and the cheese melted and bubbly, 5-10 minutes depending on the oven. Carefully remove from the oven and let sit for a couple minutes before slicing and eating.