Cheezy Pizza Crust

Pizza is a constant in my life; one of my top five favorite foods, and of those, the one I eat most often, almost every week. My pizza dough, on the other hand, is not constant. I make one type for a few months in a row and then decide to change it up. I’ve read Jeff Varasano’s pizza tutorial before and incorporated parts of it into my own pizza making, but a few weeks ago I decided to follow it almost exactly. His page illustrates one of my favorite things about the internet. This guy loves pizza – I daresay as much as Peter Reinhart! – and although he owns a pizzeria that I’m sure he hopes you will come spend money in, he wants to share his knowledge with you for free even if you don’t. His page on making pizza is just stuffed with both passion and information, and I love it!

The first time I made it, I intended to make the dough exactly the way he instructs you to, which is very traditional – nothing but flour, water, salt, and yeast. (Another thing I love about his method is the use of wild yeast, or sourdough. I don’t know if you know this about me, but I am a sourdough fanatic.) But on a whim – I think the reality is I’d just bought a bunch of nutritional yeast and it didn’t all fit in the container I have for it, so I was trying to use the excess up – I mixed a bit of the yeasty goodness in with the flour. Although I (and my cats) love nutritional yeast, I felt a little guilty defiling Jeff Varasano’s very pure recipe with the stuff, especially since as a vegan, I love it when pizzerias use very traditional crusts instead of all those disgusting American things like cheese-stuffed monstrosities. But you know what? I did it anyway and I’m not sorry! I loved the crust! I’ll make it sans nutritional yeast sometime and I’m sure it will be just as if not more extraordinary, but damn it, this was great. But feel free to simply omit the nutritional yeast if you want to be pure or just don’t like or have it; there is no need to adjust the water.

Again, this recipe and technique, other than the nutritional yeast, are from Jeff Varasano’s page and all credit goes to him. I’m just offering my photos of the process and suggesting you read through his very thorough instructions as well for a great background.

If you don’t have a sourdough starter, there are tons of resources online, including my link above, on how to make one. My current starter is from King Arthur Flour, and actually, if you asked me nicely and live in the continental US, I’d probably be willing to send you some of mine. If none of those options are happening, you can try omitting the sourdough starter and increasing the instant yeast.

Cheezy Pizza Crust
makes enough for six 10-ounce/300 gram (about 12″) pizzas

1000 grams (35.5 oz) bread flour (I prefer, as does Jeff Varasano, King Arthur) divided into 750 and 250 grams.
36 grams (1.25 oz) nutritional yeast (optional, though it won’t be “cheezy” without it)
36 grams (1.25 oz) salt
3 grams (.1 oz) instant yeast (optional)
75 grams (2.7 oz) sourdough starter
660 grams (23.3 oz) water

Weigh out 1/4 of the flour (250 grams) and set aside.

Put the other 3/4 of the flour (750 grams) into the mixer bowl and add the nutritional yeast.

Cats and nutritional yeast! They love the stuff! Bad cats, get out of there!

Weigh the salt …

(Torticia would NOT leave me alone!)

… and instant yeast, if using …

… and the sourdough starter.

Put all that stuff in the mixer bowl.


Weigh the water and add that.

Mix on low speed for about a minute, until it’s all combined. Then let sit for 20 minutes.

After 20 minutes of rest, start the mixer back up and let it run for 5 minutes. After 5 minutes, begin adding the rest of the flour, spoonful by spoonful, over the course of another 3 minutes, for a total of 8 minutes of kneading. On a Kitchen Aid mixer, you can go up a speed when you begin adding the rest of the flour; my Bosch is powerful enough that I don’t bother. After the 8 minutes of kneading, when all flour has been incorporated, it will look like this:

It’s quite tacky, by the way. This is a very wet dough. Don’t be alarmed.

Cover and let it rest for another 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, prepare your containers. If you will be making any pizzas in the next three days, store the dough for them in a container at least three times larger than the dough volume. Ideally you would freeze the dough in the same container you will rise it in, but who has that much freezer space? Not me, so I store the doughs I will be freezing in containers that just fit them. Whether freezing or refrigerating, spray a very tiny amount of olive oil into each container and wipe it around to completely cover the surface.

This is a dough I’ve just removed from the freezer.

I want to bake it tomorrow, so I removed it from the tiny container and moved it to a larger one (which I treated with another tiny amount of olive oil) that will allow it to rise in the refrigerator over the next 24 hours. When you want to bake a frozen dough, just do the same, at some point 1 to 3 days before bake day.

After the dough has rested again, sprinkle a small amount of flour on a work surface and spread it around a bit. I really used way too much flour in the picture below; you don’t need that much. Pour the dough onto the flour.

Round the dough, allowing it to become lightly dusted with flour. You’ll be surprised how easy this is – you don’t need to manipulate it very much. It should feel very soft and well, just wonderful. Don’t go ruining it by allowing a lot of flour to get mixed in – just keep a little bit of flour on the surface to keep the dough from being too sticky to touch.

Divide the dough into 6 equal pieces; you can weigh them or just eyeball it. Form little rounds.

Place each round into a prepared container. Pizza Inspector Torticia is giving my containers the old smell test. I hope I passed.

(By the way, the kittens are not allowed on the island when I’m working with dough, and I thoroughly clean it before and after working dough…)

This has been long, so I’ll do a separate post later this weekend when I bake the pizzas. To tide you over, here’s an earlier photo of a pizza made using this dough:


  1. Josiane Said,

    March 4, 2011 @ 5:49 pm

    I’d been waiting for that post ever since you had mentioned it was coming. It was well worth the wait!
    That pizza looks sooooo good! I’ve been craving homemade pizza like crazy lately, *and* I’ve been too busy/tired/lazy (pick one) to bake, so the craving isn’t gone… and your pics are only making it worst! Or I guess I could say they might make it better, since they’ll probably motivate me to get baking. 🙂 (That’s a good thing because the other option – just showing up at your door on a pizza night – wouldn’t be very polite…)

    Thanks also for the link to your sourdough starter post. It will be really helpful when I move “make a sourdough starter” from the “one day” list to the “Today!” one. That day is getting closer and closer…

  2. renae Said,

    March 4, 2011 @ 6:21 pm

    Josiane, you are welcome to come for pizza night any time!

  3. radioactivegan Said,

    March 4, 2011 @ 7:51 pm

    Your dough looks so great! I always want to make sourdough pizza, but I’ve never really thought about how. I guess job one is getting a starter going! Thanks for the step-by-step 🙂

  4. Courtney Said,

    March 4, 2011 @ 8:33 pm

    What is it about cats and nutritional yeast?!? My cats used to love it too! They once destroyed a whole bag I accidentally left out on the counter…major disappointment!


  5. Jain Said,

    March 6, 2011 @ 1:08 am

    OMG, that Varasano link is the most beautiful, detailed, extensive thing I’ve ever read. Umm, skimmed. I may spend the rest of my life trying to absorb it all.

    I’ll try your version one day soon, thanks!

  6. Josiane Said,

    March 6, 2011 @ 2:04 pm

    Seriously? I may take you up on that invitation, Renae! If I ever find myself in your area, don’t be surprised to see me popping up at your door… 🙂

  7. renae Said,

    March 7, 2011 @ 1:53 pm

    Of course, seriously, Josiane! If you ever visit the DC area, please be sure to let me know!

  8. Lydelle Said,

    August 1, 2012 @ 4:31 pm

    Lovely! Thanks so much for this. I’ve recently got a sweet pizza oven for outside that I’ll be using in my journey of making the perfect pie. Having this info will be super valuable.

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