My Favorite Pizza Dough

*Makes 2 12-inch pizzas or 1 large 16 to 18-inch pizza

1 1/4 cups warm water

2 teaspoons instant yeast

2 tablespoons sugar

1 tablespoon honey

1 tablespoon olive oil

2 teaspoons salt

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour

Make the dough the night before or early the morning on the day you want to make the pizza. In a large mixing bowl (or in the bowl of a stand mixer), mix the water, yeast, sugar, honey and oil. (If using active dry yeast, increase the amount of yeast to 2 3/4 teaspoons and proof the yeast in the water until foamy before mixing in the sugar, honey and oil.) Then mix in 1 cup flour and the salt. Continue mixing in all the remaining flour until you get a nice, soft dough. Knead until dough is soft and smooth, about 10 minutes by hand or 5 minutes with a stand mixer.

Shape the dough into a ball and place in a lightly greased bowl and cover tightly (with a lid or plastic wrap). Place the dough in the refrigerator to slowly rise until three hours before baking. Three hours before baking, remove the dough from the refrigerator and let it come to room temperature, keeping it lightly covered.

45-60 minutes before baking, move the rack to the lowest position in the oven, place the pizza stone on it and preheat the oven to 500 degrees. Don't be nervous about a hot oven! I used to be scared to death to cook anything above 400 degrees but I promise 500 degrees is the only way to go when cooking pizza. If your oven is a bit sketchy at that temperature, bake at 475 degrees. Also, I think a pizza stone makes all the difference in good versus great pizza.

Here's a few different methods for making great pizza:

Pizza Paddle/Peel: I have a wooden pizza paddle, like this, which I sprinkle with cornmeal and place the pizza dough on. I layer my toppings on the dough and slide the dough quickly onto the hot pizza stone. After about 8 or 9 minutes, the pizza is baked to perfection and I slide it onto a cutting board to slice and eat.

Alternative Pizza Paddle/Peel: If you don't have a pizza paddle, you can use the underside of a baking sheet (I use an 11X17 size) or a large cutting board as a makeshift pizza paddle. Cover it lightly with cornmeal, flour or parchment paper, make your pizza on the floured baking sheet or cutting board and gently slide the pizza off of the makeshift paddle onto the baking stone when ready to bake (if using parchment paper, you can let the parchment paper slide onto the baking stone with the pizza). Bake for 8-9 minutes until the crust is nicely browned. Retrieve the pizza with a pair of tongs or a spatula and slide the baked pizza quickly onto a waiting cooling rack.

Rimmed Baking Sheet: If you currently bake pizzas using cornmeal on a pizza paddle, you'll know how messy it can be - cornmeal everywhere. In fact, right now, my oven is in serious need of a good vacuuming. So, ofttimes, I'll still preheat my baking stone like normal and instead of using my wooden pizza paddle, I stretch the dough into an irregular shape on a lightly greased rimmed baking sheet (I don't worry about pressing it into the corners to give it a rustic look), add the toppings, and slide the entire baking sheet on the pizza stone to bake. Bake the pizza for 9-10 minutes until the crust is nicely browned. This method still browns the crust nicely - and while you don't get the extremely authentic crispy pizza crust, it is still mighty delicious and I can make more pizza at once rather than sliding them one at a time onto the baking stone.

The Best Pizza Sauce

*Makes enough for 2 16-18 inch pizzas

1 (14.5 ounce) can diced tomatoes

1 small can tomato paste

1 teaspoon sugar

1 teaspoon dried oregano

1 teaspoon dried basil

1 teaspoon garlic salt

pinch of red pepper flakes (optional)

Combine all ingredients in food processor or blender and blend until desired consistency. All the seasonings can be modified depending on taste - add what you like!

Pizza Sauce Recipe Source: My Kitchen Cafe

Pizza Dough Recipe Source: adapted slightly from Emily at Savory Seasonings