To prepare the sponge:
Add the yeast to the bowl of a stand mixer. Add the water stirring to dissolve the yeast. Allow the yeast to rest for 5 minutes or until it becomes creamy. Add the olive oil and then gradually stir in the flour with a wooden spoon or rubber spatula.
Scrape down the sides of the bowl, cover and let the sponge rest and rise in a warm place (about 85 degrees) for 1 ½ hours. I use my microwave as a proofing oven. It is very warm inside when I keep the task light on underneath. Be sure your dough is free from drafts. The sponge should double in volume and become very bubbly.
To prepare the dough:
Use a rubber spatula to deflate the sponge and fit the mixer with the dough hook. Add 2 cups of flour and the salt to the sponge and mix on low for 2 or 3 minutes. Increase the speed to medium and add a spoonful of flour, one at a time, if needed to help bring the dough together. It should be cleaning the sides of your mixer bowl. Continue to knead on medium for another 5 minutes or until the dough is smooth and elastic.
Transfer the dough to a lightly oiled mixing bowl and turn it to make sure all sides are moistened with oil. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and allow it to rest in a warm location for another 1 ½ hours. The dough should double in volume and hold an impression when you gently poke it with a finger.
Move a rack to the lower third of the oven and preheat to 475°F. If using a pizza stone, place it in the oven to preheat. I don’t have a pizza peel but at this point you would sprinkle the peel with cornmeal and set aside. I used a rimless baking sheet dusted with cornmeal.
Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface. Divide the dough and cover the half you have set aside to work with later. Shape the dough into a ball and then flatten into a disk. Roll the dough into a 12 inch circle using a rolling pin. If the dough snaps back and doesn’t hold it’s shape, let it rest a few minutes then try again. Transfer the dough to the peel.
Top the pizza with sauce, then vegetables or meat and cheese. Leave a 1-inch border around the rim of the pizza. Slide the pizza onto the preheated stone and bake for 15 minutes or until golden and bubbly. Repeat with remaining dough. Yields: 2 crusts