Pizza Dough

It's easier than you think and infinitely rewarding. And because it only has really a single rise, it doesn't take as much planning ahead as other breads. But the best part: no preservative or chemicals. Just the basics. And once you have that down, it's easy to personalize with cornmeal, whole wheat, herbs, spices, etc. This basic recipe is adapted from James McNair's Vegetarian Pizza cookbook. Most of his recipes, while delicious, are a bit fou-fou. Pizza is a common meal for us, but what goes on top usually depends on what's in the fridge. Tonight, we kept it simple: canned stewed tomatoes (drained); blue cheese; chopped garlic and fresh basil from the garden.

1 tablespoon sugar
1 cup very warm water
one 1/4-ounce packet active dry yeast (2-1/4 teaspoons)
3-1/4 cups flour (I often substitute 1/4 cup cornmeal for 1/4 cup flour)
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup olive oil

In a small bowl, dissolve the sugar in the warm water. Sprinkle the yeast over the sugar-water mixture and stir just enough to dissolve. Let sit until creamy/foamy; about five minutes. If clumpy in clear water, throw out and start over. In a large bowl, combine dry ingredients and mix well. Make a well in the center and add the oil and the yeast mixture. Using a wooden spoon, gradually draw in flour from the sides until incorporated and a soft dough is formed. Turn out onto floured surface and gently knead for about 10 minutes, adding additional flour just to keep it from sticking to the surface. Placed in oiled bowl and cover with cloth; let rise about 60 minutes. Punch down and let rest 10 minutes. Preheat oven to 500 degrees. Divide dough in half and roll each out to fit your pizza pan. Add toppings and bake in a preheated 500-degree oven for about 9-11 minutes.

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