Preparation / Directions:
Four methods for producing yeast doughs: Bread dough or any yeast dough for that matter, can be made in a number of ways - depending on what you have on hand in the way of appliances and your preference or inclination. I use something recommended by many Parisian bakers called the "autolyse" - a technique developed by bread guru, Professor Calvel. In this method, the dough is mixed into a soft mass, then allowed to rest for 10 to 12 minutes. In this rest, the dough changes its nature - miraculously. After that, it is easier to handle the dough and you will find you do not have to add as much flour to prevent it from sticking. I have incorporated autolyse in the hand, the dough hook and mixer, and bread machine methods.
Remember, all roads lead to Rome and don't get caught up with one method. Given a choice, I would go with hands-on any day. However, some days, better to let the bread machine make the pizza dough and concentrate on something else. The food processor, which is useful for a number of baking duties, is fourth on my list of preferred methods. It does an adequate job but the dough usually produces a dense crumb. Some people swear by it for wet, slack, French doughs but I prefer hands-on, dough hook and bread machine - in that order.
By hand: For this method, you can use either all-purpose flour, all bread flour, or a mix of both. Place water and a pinch of sugar (usually called for in recipe) in a large bowl. Stir in yeast and allow it to sit a moment until it looks dissolved or swells. Stir in any other ingredients (eggs, oil for instance) and flour. When mixture can no longer be stirred by hand, begin kneading, on a lightly floured work surface. Dust in more flour, conservatively, as required. After five minutes - STOP. Let dough rest ten minutes. Then resume kneading, another five minutes until dough is smooth, supple and elastic. Slap it around during this time as well - it helps the dough get into shape! Place dough in a lightly greased bowl and insert bowl in a large plastic bag and allow to rise, as per recipe.
Dough hook and mixer: Place water, a pinch of sugar and yeast in bowl of electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Let mixture sit until yeast swells or looks dissolved. Stir in salt, fat or oil and most of flour and using the paddle, on slow speed, mix to make a soft mass of the dough. Stop and allow dough to rest ten minutes. Stir in remaining flour and attach dough hook. Knead, on slow speed about five to 8 minutes, depending on recipe and dough, until dough is smooth and clears the sides and bottom of work bowl. Dust in flour as required to achieve this. Remove dough from work bowl and knead briefly by hand on a lightly floured work surface. Place dough in a lightly greased bowl and insert bowl in a large plastic bag and allow to rise, as per recipe.
Bread machine: Add ingredients to machine bread pan in order given or as per machine instructions. Program on 'dough' mode. Allow dough to mix about four minutes or so until a soft mass forms. Turn machine off and let dough rest ten minutes. Reset machine to 'dough' mode. Dust in flour, if you think dough is too sticky (it should clear the bottom of the bread pan). A soft, supple dough is easier to work with so take care not to make a springy or heavy dough. Let dough rise in machine. When it is ready, proceed with recipe instructions.
Food processor: Place water, sugar, yeast, salt, and fat called for in recipe (oil or solid fat - or none) in bowl of food processor and pulse to dissolve sugar and salt. Stir in most of flour called for in recipe and process until a soft ball forms. Remove from machine and knead briefly, by hand, on a lightly floured surface. Allow to rest a moment. Then place dough in a lightly greased bowl and insert bowl in a large plastic bag and allow to rise, as per recipe.
For ALL doughs after they have risen: Deflate dough very gently before using and allow dough to rest 15 minutes before proceeding to next step (dough likes a rest in between any sort of handling). Alternately, refrigerate dough in an oiled plastic bag for up to two days, deflate as you see fit - to allow trapped gases