As the simple steps below demonstrate, pizza dough takes more time than effort to make. Even when time is lacking, it's still easy to prepare homemade pizza. Mix up a double batch of dough in advance, tightly enclose balls of the dough in plastic wrap and freeze them. Then defrost at room temperature for several hours or all day in the refrigerator.
Adapted from Williams-Sonoma Kitchen Library Series: Pizza, Lorenza de' Medici, 0-7835-0229-x (Time-Life Books, 1993)
1. Proofing the yeast. In a small mixing bowl, stir together dry yeast and lukewarm water until the yeast granules dissolve. Let stand at room temperature until the yeast foams slightly and looks creamy, about 10 minutes.
2. Mixing dough in a food processor. If making dough with a food processor, fit with the metal blade and add the flour and any other dry ingredients to the work bowl. With the machine running, slowly pour the yeast mixture through the feed tube and continue processing just until the mixture forms a ball of dough that rides around on the blade.
Mixing dough by hand. If making the dough by hand, combine the flour and any other dry ingredients and heap in a mound on a work surface, or put in a large bowl. Make a well in the center, add the yeast mixture and stir with a fork in a circular motion, gradually incorporating the water until the dough forms.
3. Kneading the dough. If the dough was mixed by hand, transfer it to a lightly floured work surface and knead lightly with the heel of your hand—pushing the dough forward and turning it slightly, then folding it back over and repeating—until smooth and elastic, about 10 minutes. If the dough was mixed in a processor, knead for only 1 to 2 minutes.
4. Letting the dough rise. Lightly brush a large bowl with olive oil. Gather the dough into a ball, place it in the bowl and cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap. Let stand at room temperature to rise until doubled in bulk, 1 to 2 hours.
5. Punching down and shaping the dough. Before shaping the pizza, transfer the risen dough to a lightly floured work surface and, using the heel of your hand, gently punch it down to deflate it slightly. Then shape the dough, and top and bake as directed in the pizza recipe.