Flour in Pizza Dough – A Beginner’s Guide

While toppings often steal the spotlight, the foundation of any remarkable pizza is of course its dough. And at the heart of that dough lies a humble yet essential ingredient that’s essential to understand if you want to make the grooviest pizza… flour.

If you’re a beginner pizza-maker looking to elevate your pizza game, you’ve come to the right place. In this guide, we delve into almost all you need to know about flour, in order to make the best pizza.

Flour Basics (To Make Pizza)

Flour is the primary ingredient in pizza dough, providing structure, texture, and flavour. It’s quite literally the base ingredient you need to know about if you want to make the best pizza possible.

Types of Flour

First, it’s important to understand different types of flour that are available for making pizza:

All-Purpose Flour: Not necessarily the best, but a versatile choice for pizza dough is all-purpose, plain flour. It strikes a balance between protein content and tenderness. A decent choice for beginners who are just getting started trying to make pizza.

Bread Flour: Also often known as ‘strong flour’ or ‘strong bread flour’, this has a higher protein/gluten content which is generally better for making traditional pizza. Bread flour yields a chewier and more structured crust. Ideal for a classic New York-style pizza.

00 Flour: This finely-milled Italian flour results in a delicate, tender crust. It’s perfect for Neapolitan-style pizzas and is used in plenty of pizza restaurants around the world. ‘Zero-zero’ flour gives a good combination of strength and smoothness to pizza dough.

Protein / Gluten Content

Gluten is basically the proteins found in wheat flour, which is one of the so-called secret ingredients in pizza that’s responsible for that groovy elasticity and satisfying chewiness of the dough. In short, it’s bread flour or 00 flour with higher gluten content which produces the chewier, more elastic crust. Flour containing lower gluten, like all-purpose flour, creates a softer, more tender crust.

Mixing and Kneading 

Proper mixing and kneading of the flour, along with the other key ingredients of pizza dough (water, salt & yeast), is what develops the gluten in the dough, improving  your dough’s structure and strength. Beginners should simply aim for a smooth, elastic consistency without overworking the dough. A stand-mixer or hand kneading can both work well.

Hydration Levels

One of the most important things to understand when making pizza is how much water to add to your flour, otherwise known as dough hydration. You’ll want to adjust the amount of water based on your flour type and recipe. High-gluten flours may require more hydration, while low-gluten flours need less. Experiment to find the right balance for your preferred crust texture.

Proofing and Fermentation

After kneading, dough needs to rest and rise, known as ‘proofing’, or the fermentation process. Allowing the flour to just sit and relax together with the water, yeast and salt will enhance the flavour and texture of the final dough. Longer fermentation times (up to 72 hours in the fridge) can result in some seriously groovy flavour development.

Stretching and Shaping

When it’s time to shape your pizza, consider your dough’s gluten content again (based on the flour you used). Dough with high-gluten flour may require more stretching, while low-gluten dough can be more delicate. Either way, gently use your fingertips to stretch the dough from the centre outwards, leaving a thicker edge for the crust.

Baking

A scorching hot oven, ideally well above 300°C as a minimum, is essential for achieving a crispy, golden crust like the ones made by the pizza pros. But it’s important to bear in mind that stronger flours (those with higher protein content) can withstand higher temperatures than weaker flours, which are more prone to burning if you’re not careful.

Experimentation

Creating the best tasting pizza is largely about experimenting with different methods and ingredients until you find the ones you like, and this includes the flour. So don’t be afraid to try out different flours (even use a combination), hydration levels and fermentation times to discover your perfect crust.

Flour Is Just the Beginning…

Flour is a crucial ingredient if you want to make traditional pizza from scratch, and there’s a lot to learn about it, especially if you’re obsessed with the idea of making the grooviest pizza possible. The most important things to understand include protein content, the different types of flours, and how they behave when making pizza.

Understanding these basics of flour is really just the beginning if you want to make great tasting pizza. We could go on about flour for days, but probably best that you just start making some pizza. If you then decide you want to learn all you need to know about flour (and everything else) when it comes to making truly groovy pizza, feel free to grab our complete beginner’s guide to pizza making…