Jim Lahey’s Pizza Dough

Pizza Dough

I know how great the lure of dough from the grocery store must be, and I won’t hate you if you turn to it out of lack of time or planning. (A pound of frozen dough should be enough for two pizzas.) But it will not give you the kind of crisp, beautiful, flavorful crust mine will. The moisture content will be different, and so will the texture. The cooking time may be different. Also, beware of additives lurking in the stuff. It will be decidedly inferior. Why turn to the premade when mine is so easy to make? Yes, my recipe does have to be started a day ahead, but then it just sits, on its own, until the next day when it is prepared and waiting for your creation.

While I’m not picky about the flour—either bread flour or all-purpose is fine—what does concern me is how the dough is handled. Treat it gently so the dough holds its character, its texture. When you get around to shaping the disk for a pie, go easy as you stretch it to allow it to retain a bit of bumpiness (I think of it as blistering), so not all of the gas is smashed out of the fermented dough. I prefer to hold off on shaping the ball until just before topping it. If it’s going to sit for a while—more than a couple of minutes—cover it with a damp kitchen towel to prevent it from drying out.

I offer you two approaches for shaping. The simpler one, executed completely on the work surface, is slower than the second, where you lift the disk in the air and stretch it by rotating it on your knuckles. Lifting it into the air to shape it is more fun, too.–Jim Lahey

LC Flinging Dough Like A Fool, Er, Boss Note

We know you’ve always wanted to fling pizza dough like a boss. And Jim Lahey is going to help you get there. We just want to caution that it may not come naturally to you at first fling. It may instead feel that you’re something of a dough-flinging fool at first. Not to worry. It’ll happen. You just need to practice. If you’re the wallflower sort of home cook, Lahey also offers a nonflinging option that allows the dough to remain safely grounded on the counter as you stretch it. But the flinging instructions are still there, as are the inspired and really quite informational photos below, just in case…speaking of inspired, whatever plans you’ve got for this dough, we strongly encourage you to diss them for Lahey’s white pizza.

Jim Lahey's Pizza Dough

  • Quick Glance
  • 25 M
  • 18 H
  • Makes 4 batches/pizzas

Special Equipment: Pizza stone and peel

5/5 - 2 reviews
Print RecipeBuy the My Pizza cookbook

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  • 17 1/2 ounces (about 3 3/4 cups) all-purpose flour, plus more for the work surface
  • 1/4 teaspoon active dry yeast
  • 2 teaspoons fine sea salt
  • 1 1/2 cups tepid water


  • 1. In a medium bowl, thoroughly blend the flour, yeast, and salt. Add the water and, with a wooden spoon or your hands, thoroughly mix the ingredients.
  • 2. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap or a kitchen towel and let the dough rise at room temperature for 18 hours, or until it has more than doubled. Figure room temperature is about 72°F (22°C). It will take longer in a chilly room and less time in a very warm one.
  • 3. Flour a work surface and scrape out the dough. Divide it into 4 equal portions. Working with 1 portion of dough at a time, start with the right side of the dough and pull it toward the center; then do the same with the left, then the top, then the bottom. (The order doesn’t actually matter; what you want is 4 folds.) Shape each portion into a round and turn it seam side down. The dough may be sticky and wet as you work with it, but that’s okay. Mold the dough into a neat circular mound. The mounds should not be sticky; if they are, dust with more flour. Place the dough on the lightly floured work surface and repeat with the remaining portions of dough. (If you don’t intend to use the dough right away, wrap the balls individually in plastic wrap and refrigerate for up to 3 days. Return to room temperature by leaving them out on the counter, covered in a damp cloth, for 2 to 3 hours before needed.)
  • 4. To delicately shape the dough on the work surface: Take 1 ball of dough and generously flour it, your hands, and the work surface. Then press it down and gently stretch it out to 6 to 8 inches. Very carefully continue the process, massaging it into a roundish disk of 10 to 12 inches, stroking and shaping with the palms of your hands and with your fingers. Don’t handle it more than necessary, though; you want some of the gas bubbles to remain in the dough. It should look slightly blistered. Flour a peel and lift the disk onto the center.

    To fling the dough in the air like a boss: Take 1 ball of dough and generously flour it, your hands, and the work surface. Then press it down and gently stretch it out to 6 to 8 inches. Supporting the disk with your knuckles toward the outer edge and lifting it above the work surface, keep stretching the dough by rotating it with your knuckles, gently tugging it wider and wider until the disk reaches 10 to 12 inches in diameter. Set the disk on a well-floured peel.
  • 5. The dough is now ready to be topped. You can store it in the refrigerator, wrapped in plastic wrap, for up to 3 days. Don’t freeze the dough.

Whole-Wheat Pizza Dough Variation

  • I’ve found over the years that I personally prefer less whole wheat in the mixture than others might. Too much of it, to my taste, makes the crust gritty. To make whole-wheat pizza dough, use 2/3 white flour to 1/3 whole wheat, and double the yeast used.

Recipe Testers Reviews

What a simple, great-tasting bread dough. First, the author says the flour is not at issue. I used a bleached, all-purpose flour that I purchased in error. DO NOT USE A BLEACHED FLOUR. It’s far too weak to hold together while stretching the dough. I recommend bread flour or unbleached, all-purpose flour. Make certain that you make the dough the day before. Rushing the process, while tempting, will only serve to cheat yourself of the wonderful, complex flavor that can only be achieved with a small amount of patience. Every few hours, take a smell, and you will notice the difference each time. This can be made on a floured pan in the absence of a stone, but I highly recommend a stone. They are well worth the modest investment. The author’s baking method (preheat and then broil) works VERY well. I chose to preheat the oven and stone to 500°F (260°C). I neither left the oven to preheat for a half hour, or left the broiler burning for 10 minutes. After all, 500°F is still 500°F, no matter how much energy you use. As soon as my oven reached the prescribed temperature, I turned it to broil (high) and, after a couple of minutes, slid the bread onto the hot stone. When the bread came out of the oven, I put it on a cooling rack over waxed paper. I then used a high-quality olive oil that I had heated in the microwave with some of the rosemary, and I tossed in some sun-dried tomato as well. I brushed the bloomed spices and olive oil generously on the crust so the flavors would be in every bite. As the author points out, this is a wonderful base for almost anything you can find—olives, feta, and sun-dried tomato or pepperoni and cheese or just oil and spices or herbs—to make the perfect pizza.

I have never made pizza dough from scratch. I make breads and every other bakery item at home, but always seem to just buy the dough from a local restaurant—probably just lack of planning ahead on my part. But this worked out perfectly. We eat pizza every Sunday night, so Saturday I made the dough. Sunday night I divided the dough into 4 portions and let each family member decide how they wanted to shape their disc, whether by the massage-on-the-counter method, or the on-the-knuckles-in-the-air process. Needless to say, the knuckles-in-the-air-process won out with my husband and both boys. My husband made his thinner than the rest of us and ended up with fewer air bubbles in his dough. It didn’t taste any different and I kind of liked the way the bubbles gave the pizza a rustic look. Each of us topped our own pizza as we liked, with everything from pineapple, sausage, and bacon, to barbeque sauce, shredded chicken, and very little cheese to mushrooms, green olives, fresh tomatoes, and extra cheese to my simple tomato sauce with veggies version. We all agreed that the dough worked great, and less toppings worked better than going heavy with them. We all had leftovers that reheated great for lunch today, too. I think we have a new part to our Sunday tradition.

This is a versatile dough on many counts. It’s easy to make, no special equipment needed. I also loved the fact that this recipe has very little yeast, and that you can mix it and forget about it for 18 hours, which is very convenient. At the end of 18 hours, the dough had risen well and was quite bubbly. I made 2 fairly large pizzas with the dough. I will be using this recipe fairly often. The only downside is that you need a bit of planning to make the pizza dough. It will not satisfy instant cravings for pizza.

Unfortunately, I was unable to try it, so these are mostly the comments from my family. They loved how nice and crisp the crust became, that it was easy to grab a slice with your hands without it falling apart, and that the taste was relatively bland, which was perfect to really taste the actual toppings. The cook-time was perfect. The dough was beautifully elastic, so it rolled nicely. They asked me to make sure to use this recipe when not making gluten-free pizza dough.

I finally found the pizza dough recipe I've been seeking. This is so user-friendly. Mix 4 ingredients to form the dough, let it sit in a bowl overnight, and then later the next day, you have pizza for dinner. No need to take the temperature of the water and let something proof. No kneading. Nothing other than a few measurements and a stir. The dough can be rolled very thinly. It also stretches very easily by hand. The finished product is delicious. Oh, and so very much better than the prepared dough you can buy in stores. Done deal.


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    1. Hi Clara, although we only tested this with all-purpose flour, it should be fine with 00. Please let us know how your pizza turns out!

  1. The dough was perfect — not too flaky, not too thick or bready! I found that throwing some garlic salt and herbs into the dough really made for a flavorful savory taste.

      1. I used it for a pizza but because I like to keep the toppings simple (red sauce, sliced tomato, onion, fresh basil), I decided to add a little flavor to the dough.

  2. I’m wondering why does the recipe say to not freeze the dough. I like to keep a couple of pizza dough balls in the deep freezer for ease of cooking. I’ve successfully frozen other recipes before; what’s different about this one that doesn’t facilitate freezing? Or is it, that the author believes that all pizza doughs suffer once frozen? And if so, how exactly. Thanks for addressing my queries.

    1. Hi Tina, some yeasts do not fare well in freezing temperature. If you plan on freezing the dough, it is recommended by Jim Lahey that you use SAF Gold Instant Yeast. And yes, the dough will change a bit after freezing.

  3. I’m a life-long yeast killer – I have a 100% success rate on ruining anything that contains yeast. Maybe I’d have success with this recipe if I had a muscular guy to give this middle-aged lady lessons on working the dough. Reminds me of “Moonstruck.” Tee-hee!

  4. I’ve been making homemade pizza since I bought this book several months ago. We are completely spoiled, and can no longer stand “bought” pizza. Since the dough can be refrigerated a few days, we usually have a pizza one night and then various “happy hour flat breads”…shared with neighbors with the rest of the dough. Trust me, this will make you newly popular with friends and family.

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