Making pizza dough is extremely easy, despite what you may have heard, and you may enjoy the process immensely, once you get used to it. In addition to using pizza dough for pizza, you can also use it to make focaccia, another popular Italian bread product, and you aren't required to use pizza dough as soon as you can make it, either. You can make pizza dough and then freeze it for later use, either uncooked or in cooked form, depending on personal taste.
The ingredients needed to make pizza dough are very simple: flour, water, yeast, oil, and a small amount of sugar. Start by dissolving one packet of yeast in one and one third cups of warm water, adding a tablespoon of sugar to feed the yeast. Allow the yeast to sit for around 10 minutes, until it becomes frothy. If this does not occur, the yeast was bad, and you will need to start over with fresh yeast. This process is known as “proofing,” incidentally.
Add one tablespoon of salt and one cup of all purpose flour to create a slurry of water and flour. Next, add a tablespoon of oil. Beat the slurry well; this will save you time in the kneading later. Next, add another cup of flour to the dough. If you want whole wheat pizza dough, you can use whole wheat flour at this stage, creating an even mix of whole wheat and all purpose flour. The mixture should still be quite wet, so add flour until it starts to pull into a ball; you may need three to four cups in total, depending on the conditions in your kitchen.
Turn your pizza dough out onto a floured countertop and allow it to rest for a few minutes. Next, begin kneading, folding the dough over on itself again and again until it acquires a satiny texture. When poked, the dough should slowly spring back. You may need to add flour to the counter periodically as you knead the dough, and the kneading process should take around 10 minutes. According to this wiseGEEK author's Italian grandmother, you'll know when the dough is finished when it is “as soft as a baby's bottom.”
After this process is down, put the pizza dough into an oiled bowl, turning it once to ensure that the pizza dough is covered in oil. Cover the bowl with a damp cloth and place it in a warm place. If your house is a bit chilly, preheat the oven briefly and let the dough rest inside. Allow the dough to rise until doubled in size, a process which will take around an hour to an hour and a half, and then punch it down. For thinner pizza crust, divide the dough in half; for thick crust, leave it as is, and in either case allow it to rise for another 15 minutes or so while you prepare ingredients.
After the brief second rising, roll the dough out into a round. Scatter a pizza stone or baking sheet with cornmeal to prevent sticking and lay your pizza dough out on it, rubbing the surface lightly with oil and dimpling it with your fingers to prevent bubbling when the pizza cooks. Allow the dough to rest for another 10 minutes before you top and bake it.
If you make pizza dough with the intention of using it as a later date, you can follow the directions above up until the topping stage and then you can bake the dough partially, allow it to cool completely, and then freeze it so that it will be ready when you need it. You may also freeze unbaked dough which has been rolled out, but prepare to let it wake up for half an hour or so before you use it. You can also make pizza dough and stash it in the fridge for a few days before use. When you make pizza dough which you plan to refrigerate, refrigerate it after the first rising, allowing it to go through the second rising when you are ready to use it.