Making and dividing the dough Dissolve the yeast in the warm water and set aside (a Pyrex 2-cup measure makes for easy pouring; be sure the cup isn't cold). Meanwhile, put the flour and salt in a food processor fitted with the steel blade; process briefly to mix. With the machine running, add the water-yeast mixture in a steady stream. Turn the processor off and add the oil. Pulse a few times to mix in the oil.
Scrape the soft dough out of the processor and onto a lightly floured surface. With lightly floured hands, quickly knead the dough into a mass, incorporating any bits of flour or dough from the processor bowl that weren't mixed in. Cut the dough into four equal pieces with a knife or a dough scraper. Roll each piece into a tight, smooth ball, kneading to push the air out.
Rising and storing the dough What you do next depends on whether you want to make pizza right way or at a later date.
If you want to bake the pizzas as soon as possible, put the dough balls on a lightly floured surface, cover them with a clean dishtowel, and let them rise until they almost double in size, about 45 minutes. Meanwhile, turn your oven on, with the baking stone in it, to let the stone fully heat.
In just 45 minutes, the dough is proofed. These dough balls are ready to be shaped.
Shaping your pizza Put the proofed or thawed ball of dough on a lightly floured wooden board. Sprinkle a little more flour on top of the ball. Using your fingertips, press the ball down into a flat cake about 1/2 inch thick.
Flatten the ball into a cake. Flour your fingers -- and the board -- for easier handling.
Topping your pizza For some people, pizza isn't pizza without the scarlet of tomatoes peeking through the cheese, but there are many delicious savory combinations that show off fresh seasonal produce. It's better to use winter vegetables like greens or even canned tomatoes when fresh tomatoes are out of season.
To get you started, here are two of my favorite ways to top a pizza -- plus lots of suggestions for combinations to inspire your own designs.
To make the Angeli Caffé's favorite, Pizza al Caprino -- Over the shaped pizza, scatter 10 to 15 cloves roasted or slow-cooked garlic, 5 to 6 oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes (drained and sliced), 3 ounces crumbled goat cheese, a few capers, and a pinch of oregano. Drizzle with extra-virgin olive oil.
To make a simple flatbread -- Scatter sliced garlic (3 to 4 cloves), minced fresh rosemary (from 1 small sprig), and coarse salt over the dough. Make several 1/2-inch slashes to keep the dough from puffing up. Drizzle with lots of extra-virgin olive oil before baking, and garnish with Parmesan. Serve this delicious "Pizza Aglio e Olio" with a salad or cheese.
To design your own pizza -- Use any of these topping combinations to inspire your own creation. A generous drizzle of olive oil is a great addition to just about any pizza.
Sautéed onions, fresh sage leaves, grated pecorino romano, grated Parmesan.
Basil pesto, toasted pine nuts, slow-cooked garlic, grated Parmesan.
Sautéed leeks, chopped artichoke hearts, a bit of crushed tomatoes, grated Parmesan.
Italian Fontina, Gorgonzola, sun-dried tomatoes.
Garlic, olives, capers, anchovies, and crushed tomatoes.
Sliced tomatoes, mozzarella, fresh basil.
Thinly sliced prosciutto, ricotta, fresh basil, grated Parmesan.
Cooked Italian sausage, sautéed onions, Italian Fontina, mozzarella.
Sautéed mushrooms, thinly sliced cooked potatoes, Gorgonzola, crumbled cooked bacon or pancetta.
Baking your pizza Put a pizza stone or unglazed terra-cotta tiles on the lowest rack of the oven and heat the oven to 500°F. Ideally, let the stone heat in the oven for an hour.
Shake the peel (or baking sheet) gently back and forth to make sure the pizza isn't stuck. If it seems stuck, lift the edges up with a spatula and toss a bit of flour under the dough. Quickly slide the pizza onto the hot baking stone. Bake until the edges are golden, about 8 min. Using a peel, a wide spatula, or tongs, remove the pizza from the oven.