I’m about to share with you an easy make-ahead recipe that could potentially save you from losing your mind during the middle of a busy week: the make-ahead pizza crust.
Think about it. The crust is often the part that has you nixing the thought of making homemade pizza during the week, and good intentions for a fun Friday night dinner might fly out the window when you’re simply too tired or hungry. Enter the make-ahead crust.
All you need to do is take an extra hour or two on the weekend to make your crusts, then pop them in the freezer until an emergency strikes. Of course, these crusts are so awesome that you just might have an emergency a few nights in a row. Not that I’m speaking from experience or anything.
Make-Ahead Pizza Crusts
makes 3 pizza crusts
1 package active dry yeast
1/2 cup warm water
1 tablespoon honey or sugar
1 1/2 cups bread flour*
pinch of salt
1 tsp dried Italian herbs (optional)
1 tablespoon olive oil
Combine yeast, water, and honey in a liquid measuring cup. Let sit for 10-15 minutes. You will smell the yeast and the mixture will look very foamy on top – if this does not happen, toss it and start over – the yeast was bad. (By the way, this step will ensure a perfect pizza crust for you, since you’ll know right away whether or not your yeast will give you any trouble. So for those of you afraid of trying anything with yeast, trust me on this, you’ll get good results from this dough.)
Meanwhile, combine the flour and salt (and herbs, if using) in a medium-sized bowl. With a spoon, make a well in the middle of the bowl and add the olive oil. Pour the water into the well. With a spoon, stir the flour and water. When it gets difficult to combine the flour and water (usually after five or six strokes), use your hand to mix. If the dough seems a bit dry, add a small sprinkle of water. When the dough comes together in a ball (the texture will still be rough), knead the dough about 10 times or until smooth. I have a shallow enough bowl that I can knead the dough right in the bowl, but kneading on a floured board works as well.
Coat the same bowl with olive oil. Toss the dough in the bowl so it’s evenly coated with oil. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let sit for 45 minutes.
Preheat oven to 475*F. Spray large baking sheet with cooking spray or brush with oil.
Divide dough into 3 balls and press into circles on baking sheet for a rustic look (if you want more perfect looking circles, go ahead and use a rolling pin). Bake on lowest rack for 6 minutes.
Cool crusts completely on a wire rack. Freeze until ready to use (I just put them all in a large plastic bag with waxed paper in between the crusts).
To make a pizza: Take out the number of crusts that you need. Preheat oven to 450*F. Top each crust with desired sauce and toppings, bake for 7-8 minutes on the middle rack for a cheese pizza, more like 9-12 minutes if you add toppings.
Remove from oven and let sit for 5 minutes. Cut and enjoy!
*You can substitute half of the bread flour with whole wheat flour. You can also use 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour in place of the bread flour. Don’t, however, do half all-purpose flour and half whole wheat flour…there’s just not enough gluten to produce gread results.