Making pizza dough can be intimidating. You see all the pizzerias with their chefs rolling and tossing these big pizza doughs as if it was the easiest thing to do. Seeing them, you think you will never make pizza dough from scratch. But, to tell you the truth, you can make your very own pizza dough at home.
I learned how to make pizza dough during the early years of the pandemic. My family loves pizza and I found that I have the ingredients at home to make one, so I thought I’d give it a try.
Pizza dough can be tricky to make if you are just starting. So, how do you make pizza dough from scratch? You only really need four ingredients to start making pizza dough: flour, water, yeast, and salt.
I won’t only tell you how to make pizza dough but I will also be discussing how each ingredient impacts the end result of your pizza. We will also talk about pieces of equipment you may or may not need and a couple of tips in order to make your pizza dough a success!
So, get ready to impress your family and friends and start making your own pizza!
Types of Pizza Crusts
Before we get started in making pizza dough, let us talk about pizza crusts.
There are different types of pizza crusts that you can make from scratch. While the ingredients you need for a thin-crust pizza are the same as for making thick-crust pizzas, there are minor differences in the recipe. Some pizza dough recipes can have a few additional ingredients here and there but it will depend on what kind of pizza you will make.
Detroit-style pizza, Chicago-style pizza, and Sicillian-style pizza are the most common style of thick-crust pizzas. The Chicago deep-dish pizza is a thick and classic deep-dish pizza that has pizza slices that are up to 2 inches thick. This type of pizza can hold up a generous amount of toppings and pizza sauce as it has a very thick crust.
Stuffed-crust pizzas are also considered thick crust because the pizza crust has toppings inside of it, mostly cheese. Pizza Hut is known for its stuffed-crust pizzas.
The most common thin-crust pizzas are the Neapolitan Pizza and the New York Style Pizza.
Thin-crust pizzas usually have lower calories because less dough is used in making them. You will also find that thin-crust pizzas have fewer toppings as the dough is thinner and will keep its form if there are fewer toppings.
Thin-crust pizzas also cook faster than thick-crust pizzas.
As I said before, there are different recipes for different kinds of pizza. In this article, we will be focusing on Neapolitan Pizza.
What Makes Neopolitan Pizza Different?
The Neapolitan pizza originated in Italy and it is also known as “Naples-style” pizza.
According to stories, Neapolitan pizza was invented by Raffaele Esposito for the Queen Consort of Italy, Margherita of Savoy. The tomato, mozzarella cheese, and basil were said to represent the colors of the Italian flag .
If you have ordered Margherita pizza before, that is a Neapolitan-style pizza.
A Neapolitan pizza is a thin-crust pizza that has a crispy texture but with a fluffy crust. This pizza is also known for its charred look. Note that it is not burnt. The charred crust is a result of being cooked in high heat. Neapolitan pizzas are usually cooked in a wooden-fired oven to achieve that unique charred crust. If you do not have a wooden-fired oven, you can still make a Neapolitan pizza. Your oven needs to produce heat high enough to produce the char that Neapolitan-style pizzas have.
If making an authentic and traditional Neapolitan pizza, you only need tomatoes, mozzarella cheese, and fresh basil as toppings. If you wish to stick to the strict traditional rules of Neapolitan pizza, your dough should have a diameter between 22 to 35cm.
If you want to know more about the rules for making traditional pizza Napoletana, go to the Associazione Verace Pizza Napoletana website.
But, since we’re making homemade pizzas, you can put other toppings that you like. Just make sure not to put too many toppings else your dough might not be able to handle the toppings.
How To Make Pizza Dough – Neapolitan Style
To make Neapolitan-style pizza dough, you would need flour, water, yeast, and salt. These are also the ingredients you would need for any kind of pizza dough, actually.
Some pizza dough usually needs to ferment for about 12 hours and some let their dough rest for 24 to 36 hours. This is the same for Neapolitan pizza.
The fermentation process begins when the yeast digests the carbohydrates which then produces carbon dioxide which causes the dough to inflate and rise.
Some pizza dough calls for sugar and olive oil.
Olive oil is so the pizza can stretch easily without tearing the dough and it also adds flavor. The sugar is for the yeast to react making the fermentation process faster.
When I make pizza dough I add sugar and olive oil to my ingredients to make the dough rise quicker if I want to have pizza the same day as I make my dough. This allows my dough to rise in just 4 hours. I live in a warmer area so the temperature also helps the dough ferment. When I make pizza dough during the summer, my dough can double in size in just about 2 hours.
But when I want to let the dough ferment longer, I leave out the sugar.
You can also refrigerate your dough overnight. Just allow the dough to proof for about 30 minutes at room temperature before putting it in the fridge. Take the dough out of the fridge the next day and leave it at room temperature for 1 – 2 hours before making your pizza.
Ingredients Needed When Making Pizza Dough
As I said before, you only need a few ingredients to start making your homemade Neapolitan-style pizza dough:
If you do not bake often, All-Purpose Flour might be the staple flour in your home.
When baking bread or pizzas, you need to use a different kind of flour. Flours have different protein content and pizza dough needs a higher protein content to produce a firmer and stronger dough.
When making Neapolitan pizza dough, pizza makers prefer to use the 00 flour or the double-zero flour. The 00 flour is made from durum wheat which makes the dough thin and crispy, which is a traditional Neapolitan crust.
If you only have all-purpose flour in your pantry, you can still use it but the end result may not be as crispy.
When I first started making homemade pizza, I used all-purpose flour because that was all I have. The end result was still a delicious pizza but it was not as crispy as when I started to use 00 flour.
Now, I personally use bread flour when making pizza dough as 00 flour is more expensive and 00 flour is usually used for high-heat cooking. I also do not have a wood-fired oven so bread flour works just fine for me. The pizza is a little bit soft but it still has that crispiness if I make the dough thin enough.
When I make homemade pizza dough, I’m not trying to make a traditional pizza Napoletana so I just use whatever flour I have at home.
I personally think that water is the most tricky part of making pizza dough.
When I first started making pizza dough from scratch, I followed the exact tutorials that I can find on the internet. This made my pizza okay but sometimes it turns out a little tough, or the dough breaks easily when I stretch it.
I did a little bit of digging and found out that hydration is a big part of making dough. There was a lot of trial and error when I first started to make pizza dough from scratch.
The flour you use will also factor in how much water you should use in your pizza dough.
Medium to strong flour usually needs 60% to 75% of hydration. For example, if the recipe calls for 154g of strong flour, you can use 93g of water (that’s 60% hydration).
If you used more than 60% of water, one tip I found useful is to not pour all water at once. Start with the 60% then add if you need more. Remember, you can always add more but can never take out excess water. Adding more flour might ruin your dough.
Another thing I found useful when making pizza dough from scratch is pizza dough calculators. These will calculate the amount for you so if you feel a little bit stuck, you can find these online. Type in the amount of flour the recipe calls for and the calculator will tell you how much water is needed.
Another important ingredient in pizza dough is yeast.
There are different types of yeast used in making pizza dough and the most common is instant dry yeast and active dry yeast.
Sourdough yeast and fresh yeast are also used but if you are a beginner, I would recommend using instant dry yeast first.
You can find instant dried yeast in your local supermarket and it usually lasts for about two years as long as it is stored properly. Once opened, you need to store it in an airtight container and put it in the fridge. Put the yeast at room temperature before using it.
Salt helps in tightening the gluten structure in the pizza dough and it makes the dough strong. If you do not use salt, the dough will have less flavor and will have a weak structure causing your dough to tear when you stretch it.
The amount of salt you use will depend on the amount of flour you have. About 2% to 3% of salt is used when making pizza dough. If the recipe calls for 500g of flour, 2.5% of salt is 12.5 grams.
When putting all ingredients together, do not put salt directly in contact with the yeast. Salt can kill the yeast and your dough will not rise if the salt came in contact with the yeast. I usually put salt and yeast on the opposite sides of the bowl so they don’t come in contact with one another.
Equipment Needed When Making Pizza Dough
When making homemade Neapolitan pizza dough, you do not need any fancy equipment. You only need a few pieces of equipment and you can be well on your way to making your homemade pizza dough.
Depending on the amount of flour you use, you need a bowl large enough to mix your dough.
After mixing your ingredients together to form a rough dough, you will transfer it to a clean surface for kneading. But, you can also use a stand mixer to knead the dough.
A stand mixer is the only fancy equipment you need if you do not want to knead the dough by hand.
Neapolitan pizza is usually kneaded manually by hand.
Using a stand mixer can definitely make things easier as you will not be using your own arm power in kneading. Just be careful not to over-mix your dough. Start at a low speed first before upping up the speed. Using a stand mixer will take about 8 to 10 minutes of mixing.
Kneading by hand can be intimidating especially if you are a beginner.
If kneading by hand, it can take you about 10 to 12 minutes. You will know the dough is ready when it is smooth and not sticking to the bowl or in your hand anymore.
You can also do the windowpane test to see if your dough is ready. Take a piece of dough and stretch it out into a little square. If it stretches out thin enough to let light through without ripping, your dough is ready. If it breaks, it fails. It was either over-kneaded or the dough is not ready yet.
Weighing scales are important in baking. You need precise measurements to make sure the end result is good. If you can, find a digital weighing scale so the measurements are more precise.
12” Pizza Peel
This is optional equipment but this can make transferring your pizza from your workstation to the oven easier. You can also take the pizza out of the oven without getting burnt.
Neapolitan Pizza Dough Recipe
This makes two 12″ Neapolitan-style Pizzas
321g bread flour
180g room temperature
7g fine salt
0.12g instant dried yeast
1/2 tsp granulated sugar
1 tbsp olive oil
Additional flour for dusting
Other materials needed:
Rolling pin (optional)
Pizza stone (optional)
- Put your dry ingredients into a mixing bowl: flour, salt, yeast, and sugar. Stir the dry ingredients until combined. Make sure that the salt does not directly come in contact with the yeast as salt can kill the yeast.
- Add olive oil and water. Mix until combined into a rough sticky dough
- Put a small amount of flour on a clean surface then transfer your dough to the floured surface.
- Knead the dough for 10 – 15 minutes until the dough is smooth and not sticking to your hands.
- Put olive oil around the inside of your mixing bowl (the one you used for mixing is fine). Just enough oil for the dough not to stick to the bowl.
- Put the dough in the oiled bowl and cover the bowl in cling wrap, making sure the cling wrap does not touch the dough.
- Let the dough rest for about 4 hours or until it grows to double its size. *Preheat your oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit or 230 degrees Celsius one hour before you take the dough out of the bowl.
- After the dough doubles in size, take the dough out of the bowl and put it into a floured surface
- Knead the dough a few times more until it is smooth.
- Cut the dough into two balls. You can wrap the dough in cling wrap and put it in the freezer or fridge and use it the next day.
- Stretch the dough. Make sure you do it gently. Use your fingers to gently press the dough and make sure not to press the sides to create the Neapolitan crust. You can use a rolling pin if it’s your first time but you won’t get that fluffy crust of a Neapolitan pizza.
- Optional: If you can, lift the dough gently and use your knuckles to roll out the pizza dough
- Place the dough back down and put on your desired toppings.
- for an authentic Neapolitan pizza, you’ll need tomato sauce, mozzarella, and fresh basil but you can put whatever you want. Just make sure the dough can handle your toppings. Too many toppings can break your dough
- Carefully put the pizza dough in the oven and bake it for 8 to 10 minutes or until golden brown. The time will depend on your oven and how thin your pizza dough and how high your oven can go.
* If you have a pizza stone, you can use it to place your pizza on instead of a pizza pan
- After 10 minutes or so, take out the pizza from the oven and let cool for a bit for slicing
You don’t need to be a professional chef to make pizza. You only need flour, water, salt, yeast, and maybe sugar and olive oil to make your homemade Neapolitan-style pizza dough. If you have leftover dough, you can freeze pizza dough for up to three months. If you freeze homemade pizza dough, make sure to put it in an airtight container or wrap it in plastic wrap so it can remain fresh when you are ready to bake it.
It will take a lot of trial and error to have your own fool-proof homemade pizza dough recipe. So keep on practicing and you’ll have a perfect homemade Neapolitan Pizza in no time!