1 cup warm (105°F to 110°F) water
1 teaspoon dry-active yeast
450 g (3 cups) “00” flour, divided
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
Cornmeal, semolina, or flour for dusting work surfaces
Toppings such as caramelized onions, cheeses, minced herbs, chili flakes, tomato sauce, anchovies, olives, pesto, roasted garlic paste or minced fresh garlic, etc.
1. The day before you want to bake, prepare the dough: Put the warm water in a large bowl. Sprinkle the yeast over the water and give it about 10 to 15 minutes to dissolve. Shake the bowl to swirl the water but don’t stir.
2. In a medium bowl, whisk together 300 g of the flour and salt. Place the remaining 150 g flour in a small bowl. Using a wooden spoon, stir the 300 g flour-and-salt into the yeast water solution little by little. Add the reserved flour, little by little, until the dough comes together. You will probably have about 1/2 cup flour leftover.
3. Scrape the dough onto a floured work surface and knead until smooth and elastic, about 10 minutes. While kneading, use only as much of the remaining flour as needed to make a smooth, pliable, nonsticky dough.
4. Once smooth and pliable, place the dough in an oiled bowl and roll it in the oil until evenly coated. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let it sit until doubled in size, 1 to 1 1/2 hours.
5. Transfer the dough to a work surface and cut with a bench scraper into 4 equal pieces. Shape each into a tight ball by cupping it under your palm and rotating your hand quickly. Place the dough balls into an oiled rectangular container, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for 12 to 24 hours. The dough can now be frozen or kept refrigerated and used over the next several days.
6. The next day, when ready to bake, remove the dough from the refrigerator. Set the oven to the highest setting (but not to broil). Place a baking stone (or use 2 if you have them) in the oven and let it heat for at least 30 minutes.
7. Working on a floured counter, shape each ball of dough into a round about 10 inches in diameter. If you use a rolling pin, be careful not to roll over the edges and deflate the dough. Or, to stretch the dough by hand, simply pat and prod it into shape. You can drape it over your knuckles and stretch it by moving your fists away from each other and rotating the dough quarter turns between each stretch. You can also pick the dough up by an edge and work it through your fingers, as if you wanted to pleat it, but instead, letting gravity stretch the dough while you pull the edge thinner.
If the dough shrinks back, simply let it rest a few minutes on a floured surface while you work with the remaining dough. The finished rounds should be thin. If they tear, simply press the torn edges together and continue shaping.
8. Generously dust a pizza peel or sheet pan with cornmeal, semolina, or flour. Transfer a dough round to the peel, gently shaking it back and forth to ensure that the pizza moves freely. If needed, lift up the crust and dust the board again. You want to make sure the dough moves easily on the peel, so shake it after each topping you add to your pizza.
9. Brush any excess flour off the dough. Top it according to your desire or recipe. Scatter the toppings sparingly but evenly so each bite will be full of flavor but still light. Shake the peel to ensure the pizza is not stuck after each addition. Season with salt, pepper, chili flake, etc., and drizzle with oil.
10. Slide the pizza from the peel to the hot pizza stone and cook until the bottom is nicely browned and the top is blistered and bubbling, 5 to 10 minutes depending on your oven’s heat.
11. Use the peel to transfer the pizza to a cutting board, cut with a pizza cutter or large, sharp knife and serve immediately. Pizza, as Jill says, should be hot!