Learning to make truly great Pizzas requires the same attitude--learning from mistakes--and successes, as they add up. I would say that it took me about a year to learn how to make a really delizioso pizza--perhaps another couple of years until I could make pretty much any style of pizza... thin crust, thick foccacia, Chicago deep dish style, etc. I'm not saying it will take you a year, especially since you have me to help you along! You have to start somewhere, and with that simple fact, you need a simple dough that works. I am going to show you how to make my all-around, Basic Pizza Dough...
First, a brief mention of tools...
To start with, you need a large enough clear area of work-space to make your pizzas on. Hopefully, this won't be too far from your oven. The work-space can be anything: marble, granite, Formica or wood. Personally, I like using a wood surface. I use a large board designed for making breads and pie crusts that always sits on my work counter. Keeping it well floured keeps dough from sticking. A bench knife (or bench scraper) is also a must-have too, used when dough does stick, for scraping and cleaning the counter and cutting dough into smaller portions.
Processing: Either a larger sized food processor (with a plastic dough blade) or a stand mixer with dough hook is best. If you really want to go "green", don't plug anything in and learn how to make your dough using the old-school technique of starting with a fontana (fountain, or volcano) shaped mount of flour, with the wet ingredients added and mixed in a well in its center. (I'll write another article on this method). Many nonne would simply use a large wooden spoon and bowl. Still, a powered mixed speeds things up--after all, this is Old World quality with New Millennium technology. You are going to be making artisan pizza--not pizzeria pizza.
Tip: In case you have a small, galley style kitchen, make sure you have room to back out a long handled peel before buying one.
The process: cover your wood peel with parchment; after kneading the dough on your work counter, shape the dough on top of the parchment; next, add the toppings. The parchment does two things: It helps slide your pizza (with the parchment underneath) onto the baking stone (even with heavily loaded pies); and it helps keep your stone and oven clean. When I first started making pizzas, I used to use stone ground corn meal on the wooden peel. You can do this, but I've found that some always falls into the oven itself, gets burned and makes a mess on both the oven and stone.
Most pizzas are shaped on your wooden peel and baked directly on the stone. When just starting out,For making pan pizzas, you might consider getting a set of round, dark pans. When you feel more confident (rectangular pizzas are more difficult to shape in a large pan), you can advance to a large, dark, non-stick rectangular pizza pan--a heavy one is better than a cheap thin pan. You will use this when making foccacia and "Sicilian", square slice pies.
Finally, you need a quality, heavy, sharp pizza cutter and an appropriately sized spatula to serve your cut slices. My favorites are a triangular one made of bamboo and a square edged one made of olive wood. I'll often use a large metal spatula when serving heavily loaded Sicilian style, square slices. The photo on the right shows a nice 3 piece set that would be a good addition to any pizzaiolo's toolkit.
My Recipe for Pizza Rustica, or Double Crust Pizza