Pizza dough is a pretty straightforward formula when it comes right down to it. It is flour, water, yeast, and salt combined to create a dough. The standard method, described below, can leave you with a bland and colorless pizza dough. This results in a lot less flavor.
We will walk you through the standard mixing method and then teach you how to change your process to achieve a crust with more flavor and better structure. The water and yeast are mixed to activate the yeast. The flour is combined with the salt to distribute it throughout, protecting the yeast from being damaged. The water and yeast mixture is placed into a mixing bowl and covered with the flour and salt blend.
The water and yeast are mixed to activate the yeast. The flour is combined with the salt to distribute it throughout, protecting the yeast from being damaged. The water and yeast mixture is placed into a mixing bowl and covered with the flour and salt blend.
It is generally mixed on low speed until the ingredients are combined and then kneaded for 10 to 12 minutes to develop an elastic and extensible dough by activating the gluten found in the flour.
Here is the pizza dough formula I use on a regular basis, and it makes pretty darn good pizzas all by itself.
- 415 grams bread flour
- 9 grams salt, Kosher
- 270 grams water, body temperature
- 1 gram of dry active yeast
This formula will yield roughly 4 x 226-gram dough balls. Enough to make a fabulous 10-inch pizza.
When I make pizza dough, I tend to try and make it one day in advance and store it in the cooler for it to bulk ferment overnight. This will produce a dough that is soft with a lot of extensibility (the ability to be stretched). The longer and colder the dough is fermented the more it has the capacity to be stretched.
The kneading time for the dough is roughly 12 minutes after the primary ingredients are combined. Kneading dough for this long introduces oxygen and bleaches the final product. The bleaching process from the oxygen destroys carotenoids naturally occurring in the dough leaving your pizza crust with less color and flavor.
How do we make better pizza dough?
It is not by changing the formula of the dough. We will use the same pizza dough formula listed above. We are not going to brush it with butter and sprinkle green-canned fake parmesan cheese on it, that would be cheating (although, if you want to add flavorings to the outside of the crust after you perfect this method it would be okay!).
We are going to change the mixing method, and that alone will produce a crust with more flavor, better color, and wonderful texture.
The Autolyse method of mixing dough:
The autolyse method, developed by French baking professor Raymond Calvel, holds back adding the salt and yeast to the dough during mixing to allow the proteins in the flour to go through autolysis, breaking down due to its' naturally occurring enzymes. This time period also allows the flour to hydrate better before gluten is formed. By allowing the time for hydration and autolysis to occur, we can shorten the time needed for kneading reducing the amount of oxygen introduced into the final dough. Less kneading equals amazing pizza dough.
The Autolyse method:
- Weigh out your ingredients as listed above. Place the water (reserve about 5 grams for later) in a 5-quart mixing bowl of a stand mixer and add the flour over the top. With a dough hook, combine the flour and water until a shaggy mass has formed. The mix will look lumpy and undermixed, but it should all be wet.
- Walk away. Yes, leave the wet mass in the mixer for at least thirty minutes. If you have the time to wait a full hour, even better.
- Mix the remaining water with your yeast to form a paste. Scrape all of the paste into the mixing bowl and combine for 30 seconds on low speed.
- Finally, add the salt into the dough. Making sure it doesn't all land on the sides.
On medium speed, knead the dough for 6 minutes. The final dough should be smooth and easy to stretch.
At this point treat your pizza dough as you would in any other application. Let it bulk ferment for several hours at room temperature, or overnight in the cooler.
- Once the dough is rested, let your dough rest for at least 20 minutes before stretching, it can be portioned out to any size. I recommend an 8-ounce ball for a 10-inch pizza. Shape your pizza dough and coat with olive oil, cover it with plastic wrap on a sheet tray, and chill it until you are ready to serve.
- The dough should be removed from the cooler an hour before you are going to do your final shaping. If it is extremely warm you can cut down your time.
Next time you are getting ready to make your pizza, follow these steps to get a crust with more flavor, better texture, and easier to work with.
Do you have a tip on making a better pizza? Leave a comment and let us know!
Tools to bake your dough better: