Yeast breads, flat breads and pizzas

Pizza (Without the Box)

From Like Darwin’s Finches

This is the basic Margherita Pizza – in other words, just sauce and cheese. However, that doesn’t mean you can load it up with other stuff on top. Just remember one basic rule – less is more. Too much on top and it’s likely all that goodness will land on your lap when you pick up a slice.

Pizza Dough (From The Tucci Cookbook by Stanley Tucci, 2012)

Makes enough dough for two 12” round or 9×13” rectangle pies

This is Stanley Tucci’s grandmother Tropiano’s pizza dough recipe, which is one of the reasons I love it. The other is it’s a terrific and very reliable basic dough. I did this all by hand just like grandma, but you could just as easily do it in a standing mixer with dough hook attachment.

  • 1 package dry yeast
  • 2 cups warm water (you may not need it all)
  • 4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 TBSP kosher salt
  • 2-3 TBSP cornmeal (fine ground is best)
  • 2 TBSP olive oil

In a measuring cup combine the yeast with ½ cup of the warm water. Stir until yeast dissolves.

In a large bowl (or bowl of mixer), combine the flour and salt. Make a well in the center and add the yeast mixture. Begin by mixing with a fork and then by hand while adding enough of the remaining 1 ½ cups water to form a soft, dry dough. *  (*Don’t add in all the water at once. Add half, and then more as you are mixing.)

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and continue mixing it with your hands. Knead to form smooth dough, adding more flour as necessary to keep the dough from being too sticky. Form into a ball and place in a clean bowl. Cover the bowl loosely with a clean dishtowel and set aside in a warm, draft-free place to rise until doubled – about 2 hours.

When the dough is risen, preheat oven to 500°F.

Divide the risen dough in half. (If you wanted to freeze half, wrap well in oiled cling wrap, then put in freezer bag.) Roll one half of the dough on a lightly floured surface into a round or rectangle (depending on what pan you have.)  Sprinkle the pan with a tablespoon of the cornmeal, then transfer dough to baking 2

The Sauce:

Some folks like to use a cooked sauce for pizza, but since the sauce is going to cook on the pizza, I prefer to do a simple raw sauce for the best tomato punch. You could substitute the same amount of your favorite basic sauce if you prefer.

  • 1 14-ounce can diced tomatoes (use the best ones you can find – there isn’t much to the sauce but really good tomatoes, salt and olive oil. And if good fresh tomatoes are available, use those!)
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • ½ tsp olive oil, plus 1-2 TBSP more for drizzling 

Drain the tomatoes, saving the juices. For each pie, measure out 1/3 cup drained tomatoes and 3 tbsp juice (you want a total of 5 oz.). Add 1/8 tsp salt and ¼ tsp olive oil. Stir and set aside.

The Cheese: (per pizza)photo 3

  • 2 ½ ounces shredded mozzarella (I love a combination of 2 oz. mozzarella or fontina, and a ½ oz. gruyere)
  • 1 TBSP grated pecorino romano  

Putting it all together: 

The biggest mistake when making homemade pizza is too much sauce on the dough. It gets soggy and bottom doesn’t crisp nicely, or gets way too heavy and molten sauce and cheese slide off and onto your lap when you pick up a slice. That’s why only 5 ounces of the tomato mixture is all you need. You’ll also notice I don’t use any oregano or garlic. That doesn’t mean you can’t. If you want to add both, just sprinkle a pinch of oregano over the sauce, and as much minced garlic as you like before adding the cheese.

For each pie: 

Drizzle the dough with 1 TBSP of olive oil. Spread the 5 oz. of sauce on the dough, leaving an inch all around the edges. Sprinkle the mozzarella on top, then the romano.

photo 4Bake until the edges and bottom are lightly browned, about 12-15 minutes depending on your oven. Let sit 5 minutes before cutting and serving.  And for an authentic NY slice, have extra romano cheese and dried red pepper flakes on the side for sprinkling on top.Calories: about 200 per slice, based on 6 slices per pie.

Jim Lahey’s No-Knead Basic Pizza Dough (From My Bread by Jim Lahey with Rick Flaste) 

From Neighbors

Makes enough dough for 2 13×18 inch pies

  • 3 ¾ cups Flour (Lahey’s recipe calls for bread flour, but all purpose works fine too)
  • 1 package (2 ½ tsp) active dry yeast
  • ¾ tsp salt
  • ¾ tsp sugar
  • 1 ½ cups room temperature (about 72 degrees) water
  • Olive oil for the pans
  • One to two 13 x 18 inch sided cookie sheets

In a medium bowl, stir together the flour, yeast, salt and sugar. Add the water and using a wooden spoon or your hands, mix until blended, at least 30 seconds. Cover with bowl and let sit at room temperature until the dough has more than doubled (about 2 hours).

Using a rubber spatula or dough scraper, remove the dough onto a floured work surface and gently form into a rough ball. Divide the dough into two halves and cover with a damp towel, spacing about 4 inches apart. Let dough rest 20 minutes. (If you only want to make one pie, after the 20 minutes are up, tightly wrap the second dough in plastic and freeze. When you are ready to use, defrost overnight and bring to room temp before shaping the pie.)

When you are ready to make your pie, oil the cookie sheets. Pick up the dough and invert and stretch to the length of the baking sheet. The floured side should now be facing up and the moist side down on the pan. Using your palms, gently pull, press, and stretch the dough to fill the entire bottom of the pan. Be patient, it will get there. I find it’s easier to press out if I oil my hands with a little olive oil rather than flour them, but both work. You don’t need to make a crust up the sides of the pan, just fill it.

The dough is now ready to top as you like. I’ve picked out a few of my favorites from Lahey’s book below (each of these all make one pie), but feel free to experiment and be as creative as you like!

Preheat oven to 500°F with rack in center

Pizza Funghi – Mushroom Pizza1 ¼ lbs cremini mushrooms (baby bellos)-sliced thin, 1 1/3 cups diced onions, 2 tsp fresh thyme leaves, 1 tsp salt, 2 ½ tsp extra virgin olive oil. In a bowl toss together the sliced mushrooms, diced onion and thyme. Scatter mixture fairly evenly over dough, putting a little more around the edges (the outside edges tend to brown faster.) Sprinkle with salt and drizzle with olive oil. Bake 25-30 minutes or until mushrooms are starting to turn golden brown and crust is pulling away from pan. Serve hot or at room temperature.

Pizza Cipolla – Onion Pizza: 2 medium onions, 1/3-cup heavy cream, 1 tsp salt, 2 tsp coarsely chopped fresh thyme leaves. Slice the onions thin (about 1/8 inch) with a mandolin or food processor–you should get about 6 cups. In a medium bowl, toss the onions with the cream, salt and thyme. Spread mixture evenly across the dough, putting a little more on the edges since they tend to cook more quickly. Bake for 30-35 minutes until topping starts to brown and crust pulls away from pan. Don’t worry if some of the onions get dark – it adds to the flavor. 


From You’ll Give Me WHAT?!

Makes a baker’s dozen (13), which means you can make a dozen to share, and still have one leftover for that cup of coffee you just made…

For the dough

  • 1 package yeast
  • 2/3 cup warm milk
  • 2 TBSP sugar
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ¼ cup very soft butter
  • 2 cups sifted flour, plus a little extra if needed
  • 1 large orange, zested and cut in half (you’ll need about 2 ½ tsp zest total)

For the filling

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 TBSP cinnamon
  • ½ cup seedless raisins + 1/3 cup orange juice (from the zested orange)
  • ½ cup chopped almonds or walnuts
  • 2 TBSP melted butter

For the glaze

  • Juice from ½ an orange, and ¼ lemon
  • ½ tsp orange zest
  • ½ cup + 1 TBSP powdered sugar
  • Pinch salt

Making the dough:  I suppose you could make this in a mixer, but I actually like doing it by hand. It doesn’t require a ton of kneading, just 2 or 3 minutes and I feel like I’m exercising (and can therefore have a second schnecken with mid morning coffee…)

Warm the milk in the microwave for about a minute. It should be quite warm but not so hot that you couldn’t stick a finger in it. Sprinkle the yeast over the warm milk and let sit a minute and start to dissolve, then mix in. Whisk in the sugar, salt, 1 teaspoon orange zest and softened butter. Switch to a wooden spoon and add in 1 cup of the flour and mix well. Once the first cup of flour is incorporated, add in the second and mix. At this point I usually ditch the spoon and mix it with my hands, first in the bowl then on a floured work surface.

Knead the dough for about 2-3 minutes until it is smooth and not sticky. Depending upon weather and how damp or dry your kitchen, you may need to add up to a cup more flour. Start with an extra tablespoon or two and go from there. You can always add more flour, but you can’t take it away.

Form the dough into a ball and put in a buttered bowl, turning once so both sides gets a little butter on it. Cover bowl with a piece of cling wrap or a clean damp towel and set aside in a warm spot away from drafts. Let rise until doubled, about 35-45 minutes. While the dough is rising prepare the filling.

Add the juice from half the orange to the raisins and microwave for 45 seconds. Set aside to steep. In a measuring cup or small bowl, mix the cup sugar, cinnamon, chopped nuts and 1 tsp orange zest together. Set aside until the dough is ready.

Once the dough has risen to double, punch down and knead on a floured surface about a minute. Cover with cling wrap and let rest 10-15 minutes. (Rolling out right after you knead guarantees you’ll wrestle with a dough that just wants to pop back to it’s original shape.)

Butter a sided cookie sheet or line it with parchment and butter the paper. After the dough has rested, roll out to a rectangle about 18”x 13 (just a little bigger than sided cookie sheet). Brush the dough with 2 TBSP melted butter. Drain any juice from the raisins (there likely won’t be any), and mix the raisins into the cinnamon/sugar/nuts mixture. Spread the filling over the dough evenly to just a little short of the edge.

With the long size facing you, roll up the dough like a jellyroll, pinching the dough together when you get to the edge. Slice the roll into about 1”inch slices. Place the slices on the cookies sheet, spacing out evenly so there’s space between them to rise. Cover with cling wrap and let rise another 35 minutes till doubled.

Preheat oven to 350°F. When the schnecken have finished the second rise, bake for 20 minutes, rotating pan after 10 minutes.

Prepare the glaze by mixing juice from other half of orange plus 1 tsp lemon juice, ½ tsp orange zest, a pinch of salt and 1 cup + 1TBSP powdered sugar. Stir until the sugar is melted. When the schnecken come out of the oven, drizzle each with a tablespoon of the glaze. Brew up the coffee and Guten Appetit! Calories: About 275 per schnecken.

Pretzel Rolls (Adapted from Bon Appétit) Makes 8 rolls

From The Pursuit of Like

I know that yeast baking intimidates a lot of folk, but I have to say these are really easy to make for a few reasons: you don’t have to proof the yeast, just add to the dry ingredients, and you let the food processor do the kneading. The step of boiling them first (the same technique used in making bagels) gives them the wonderfully chewy crust and mahogany color of soft pretzels, and the hint of celery seeds that distinct old world flavor. I like to make half round, the other half long like hot dog buns -there’s nothing better wrapped around a hot dog or brat!

  • 2 3/4 cups flour
  • 1 envelope quick-rising yeast
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • ½ teaspoon celery seeds
  • 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons hot water (the original recipe says 125°F to 130°F, which is just a little too hot to keep a finger in more than a second or two.)
  • Cornmeal
  • 10-12 cups water
  • 1/4 cup baking soda
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 egg and a teaspoon or two of water, beaten to make an egg-wash
  • Coarse salt (if you want to substitute sesame seeds or something else other than salt, up the salt in the dough to 1½ tsp.)

Combine flour, yeast, 1 teaspoon salt, 1 teaspoon sugar and celery seeds in food processor and blend. With machine running, gradually pour hot water through feed tube, adding enough water to form smooth elastic dough. Process 1 minute to knead. Grease medium bowl. Add dough to bowl, turning to coat. Cover bowl with plastic wrap, then towel; let dough rise in warm draft-free area until doubled in volume, about 35-45 minutes.

Line two baking sheets with parchment. Flour one sheet and sprinkle cornmeal on the other. Punch dough down and knead a few turns on a lightly floured surface until smooth. Divide into 8 pieces and form each dough piece into a ball or baton. Place shaped dough on the floured sheet, leaving a little space (about an inch) between. Using a serrated knife cut an X in the top center of each dough ball. If you made batons, cut two parallel slits in the top of each. Cover with towel and let dough rise until almost doubled in volume, about 20-30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 375°F. Bring 10-12 cups water to boil in large saucepan. Add baking soda and 2 tablespoons sugar (water will foam up). Add a few rolls and cook 30 seconds per side. Using a slotted spoon, transfer rolls to sheet with cornmeal, arranging X side up. Repeat with remaining rolls, making sure they have about an inch between.

Brush rolls with egg glaze and sprinkle generously with coarse salt. Bake rolls until brown, about 25 minutes. Transfer to racks and cool 10 minutes. Serve rolls warm or room temperature. These are best a little warm, but you can  prepared ahead and easily rewarm in a 375°F oven 10 minutes. You can also freeze them, and reheat after they have thawed. Calories: about 150 per pretzel roll.


Crispy Rosemary Crackers

From A Superbowl to Remember

(Inspired by a recipe from Gourmet Magazine)

These are a terrific addition to any Superbowl feast, a great “carrier” for my Garlicky Cannellini Bean Dip (recipe follows after crackers), and are pretty darn good any other time too. The recipe makes three 10” flatbread crackers. You can break them up into shards, or score them before baking (like I did) to get somewhat more uniform pieces.

  • 1 ¾ cups flour
  • 1 TBSP finely chopped rosemary
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • ¾ tsp kosher salt
  • 1 TBSP grated lemon zest
  • ½ cup water
  • 3 TBSP olive oil (2 for the dough, and 1 for brushing before it goes in the oven)
  • Flaky sea salt for sprinkling – I use Maldon but if you can’t find it any coarse sea salt works well.

Place a heavy-bottomed baking sheet on the middle rack of the oven, and preheat to 450ºF.

Whisk together flour, kosher salt, baking powder, rosemary and lemon zest in a bowl. Make a well in the middle and pour in the water and 2 TBSP of the olive oil. Mix together with a spoon or your hands to form a ball. Knead a few times; divide the dough into 3 small disks and cover with plastic wrap so they don’t dry out.

Take a sheet of parchment paper about the size of your pan (doesn’t have to be exact) and roll one of the disks very thin so it makes about a 10-inch or so in round. Put the remaining tablespoon olive oil in a small bowl or dish. Brush the dough with the oil. If you want to make more uniform crackers, score the disk with the back of a bread knife or ravioli cutter into square-ish pieces. Sprinkle with sea salt.  Carefully take the hot baking sheet out of the oven, place the parchment on it and return to oven.

Bake for 4-5 minutes, spin the pan and bake another 4-5 minutes until the dough has browned a little around the edges and on any bubbles that have formed in the dough – you don’t want these dark brown.  Slide off the parchment and onto a cooling rack. Repeat with the two remaining dough disks, using a clean sheet of parchment for each. When the large cracker is cool, break into pieces along score lines, or however it wants to break.

After the last bread has come from the oven, turn oven off, but leave the pan in. When all the crackers have been broken into pieces, spread them evenly on the baking sheet, spread out and leave them in the oven for about a half hour so they dry out. It guarantees the crackers are crispy but don’t overcook and burn.

Store in an airtight container – Can be made up to 2 days ahead. Calories: about 105 per ounce, which is around 5-7 crackers, depending on size.

Nearly Knead-Free Bread – Makes one 1 1/2 lb loaf

From Cozy as Toast

Don’t be scared off by the length of this recipe. There are really only three steps – make the dough, form into a loaf, and bake. In between the steps you have nothing to do but think about how good it’s going to taste. The reason I’ve done a lot of explaining below is so you get familiar with the technique.

  • 1 ¾ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 ½ cups whole wheat flour
  • 1 ½ tsp salt
  • ½ tsp cinnamon (optional)
  • ¼ tsp cardamom (optional)
  • 1 package yeast (check the date to be certain it has not or is not close to expired)
  • 1 TBSP honey
  • 1 TBSP milk
  • ½ TBSP vegetable oil
  • 1 ¼ cups very warm tap water
  • Corn meal for sprinkling on pan

Making the dough

Add all of the dry ingredients to a large bowl or container — make sure it’s big enough so the dough has plenty of room to double. Whisk the dry ingredients together. Add the milk, then oil, then the honey to a 2-cup measure or bowl. (If you do the honey after the oil in the same spoon, it will slide out easily.) Add 1¼ cups very warm tap water and mix well.

Pour the wet ingredients into the dry and mix it up vigorously with a sturdy spoon until there are no dry spots. Go ahead, rough up the dough a bit, it likes that and is great for stress release. The dough will look raggy and that’s ok, but if it makes you feel better get your hands in there and knead it a minute so it forms a rough ball. Cover the bowl well with plastic wrap and set aside in a draft-free spot to rise at least 4 ½ hours. If you like you could make it before you go to bed and leave it overnight, or make this before you leave the house in the morning and bake it when you get home. My favorite spot to let dough rise is my microwave. I just stow it in there, shut the door and the yeast has all the privacy it needs to get busy.

Forming the loaf and preparing the oven

When the dough has risen to double in size or so, scrape it onto a floured counter. Get your frustrations out and smack it down to release the air in it, then knead it for about a minute. (FYI, kneading is just folding it on itself over and over.) Form the dough into a ball. Sprinkle some cornmeal liberally on a cookie sheet. Place the dough on the  sheet and jiggle the pan a little to make sure the dough can move. Cover the dough with a clean towel and let rise another 55-60 minutes.

While the dough is rising, move the top oven rack to the middle and if you have a pizza/baking stone** put it on the rack. Place your broiler pan (or another pan that can take the heat) on the bottom of your oven. Preheat oven to 400°F.

Baking the loaf

Once the dough has risen the second time and the oven is hot and ready, take a serrated knife and quickly cut two parallel slits in the top of the dough, about ¼” inch deep. (If you forget to do this, don’t worry; the bread will taste wonderful just the same.) Slide the dough from the cookie sheet with a quick jerk onto the stone (if using), or just place the sheet into the oven. Quickly toss ¼ cup or so of water into the broiler pan and shut door to create a little steam. (And if you forget to do this too, the bread will still taste wonderful.)

Bake 30-35 minutes until golden brown and when you thump on the bottom of the loaf it sounds hollow. Shut off the oven, but keep the bread in for about 5 minutes more (a trick I picked up watching an early Julia Child episode. It dries out any extra moisture in the center of the loaf.) Remove dough to a rack to cool. DON’T cut into it for at least 20 minutes. Trust me, the bread will taste much better when it’s just warm and not hot. Calories: about 55 per ounce.


  • Substitute semolina flour or fine cornmeal for the whole wheat, or you could use all AP flour
  • Add in 2 tsp of fennel seeds and ½ cup golden raisins (works nice if you are using semolina flour)
  • Add in 1 TBSP finely chopped rosemary and 1 TBSP lemon zest instead of cinnamon and cardamom
  • Add in ½ cup chopped kalamata olives, substitute water for the milk and honey, leave out the spices

**A Note about Pizza/Baking Stones: Baking stones are great for getting a good crust and providing somewhat even heat in your oven. But that doesn’t mean you have to run out and get one to make this recipe. If you don’t have one, just bake the bread on the cookie sheet.

Schiacciata con Pesche

From Felice Quinquantesimo Compleano Karina!

Makes one large sized flatbread, about 17” x 13”

  • 3 cups flour
  • Heaping ½ tsp active dry yeast
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp lemon zest
  • 1 ½ cups cool water
  • Extra virgin olive oil for brushing on pan and dough (I use an EVOO spray)

For the peaches:

  • 2-3 large peaches, sliced in half, pitted and cut into about ½” pieces
  • 1-2 tsp sugar for sprinkling on top

In a medium bowl, stir together the flour, yeast, salt, and sugar. Add the water and using a wooden spoon or your hand (I find using my hand easier), mix until you have a wet, sticky dough, about 30 seconds. Lightly coat a second medium bowl with olive oil and place dough in it. Cover and let sit at room temperature until the dough is more than doubled and the surface is dotted with bubbles, about 8-9 hours. (This is perfect for putting together the night before and letting rise while you sleep.)

When the first rise is done, generously dust a board or work surface and scrap the dough out of the bowl in one piece. Using floured hands or a bench scraper, fold the dough over itself two or three times and nudge it into a loose flat ball. Brush or spray the surface with olive oil and sprinkle a pinch of sugar over the top. Let sit, uncovered in a warm draft-free spot and allow to rise until doubled, about 1-2 hours.

A half-hour before the end of second rise, preheat oven to 500°F and put rack in center of oven.  Oil a sided cookie pan or half sheet pan. Transfer the dough to the pan in one piece, and spread out to a relatively even thickness. It doesn’t necessarily have to go all the way into the corners but should be even thickness so it cooks uniformly. Using your fingers (or if you have nails, your knuckles so you don’t tear the dough) make dimples all over the dough. Push the pieces of peach into the dimples, then brush with olive oil (or a little melted butter) and sprinkle with 1-2 teaspoons sugar.

Bake in the center of the oven for 12-15 minutes, rotating pan halfway through.  Remove from pan to a cooling rack and let cool about 15 minutes. Slice up and enjoy with a cappuccino! Calories: approximately 185 per slice for 8 slices, 125 for 12.



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