I am not a natural at yeasted doughs. The bread usually turns out tasty enough, but the dough is often heavy, dense, and almost pebbly. It is most definitely not the smooth, supple, stretchable dough that I see in professional bakers' pictures. I have tried reducing my flour-to-liquid ratio, using bread flour, letting the dough rest between bouts of kneading, and so on. Sometimes these tactics helped, but they never quite got me there.
Then it all came together, naturally, when I least expected it. I don't know if it was the recipe I used, the ratio of flour(s) to liquid(s), the precise way in which I kneaded (and, at times, didn't knead) the dough, the alignment of the planets, or all of the above. Whatever it was, it worked. That "smooth, elastic" quality that recipes are always instructing you to achieve? I had it. Finally. It's a crying shame that the pictures--and I took several--can't convey the feel of this dough. It was luscious.
This dough, as it happened, was not for bread but for pizza. Homemade pizza is a staple in my family, the perfect thing for a large family or group of people: make a big batch of dough, set out a bunch of toppings, and let everyone make exactly the pizza that he or she wants. Squabbling is kept to a minimum, unless someone hoards the pepperoni, and even the most disparate tastes are satisfied. It's also just a lot of fun, and hey, who doesn't like pizza?
It's difficult to replicate at home the high temperatures of a proper pizza oven (unless you happen to have one, in which case where do you live and may I visit you?) but it's not that difficult to make pizza that tastes good even if you can't get quite the same texture in the crust. You can buy pizza dough, and in some cases you can actually buy very good pizza dough, but it's less expensive and (I think) much more satisfying to make it yourself. And it's easy. Follow me below the fold for the recipe.