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  • Writer's pictureScott Rotella

Pizza Dough: The beginning of a beautiful thing!

Updated: Feb 1




This is my go-to recipe for pizza dough. It is based on a Neapolitan dough and process, but can no longer be classified as a Neapolitan dough because it does not conform to the prescribed standards.


When I started this dough, it was a basic recipe. The pre-fermentation process adds tons of flavor and interest. However, I was looking to add more interest and flavor to the dough. I also wanted a dough that worked equally well in a home oven or a high temp wood-fired oven. Although the results from either cooking technique are great, they are inherently different end products--both delicious! I absolutely prefer the high temp cooking results, but sometimes pizza outdoors is not possible.


One thing I tried was adding a touch of rye flour. I learned this from Nancy Silverton's dough recipe. I liked the subtle flavor change. I also added diastatic malt powder. That helps the fermentation process and aids in both flavor and browning. I then add molasses. It adds color, flavor and some simple sugars to feed the yeast. I also add olive oil. That is typically not used for high heat dough, but I find that the oil protects the crust from getting soggy. It does also aid in browning...which usually isn't an issue in the wood-fire oven. You can certainly omit the olive oil for a high heat oven--which will result in a less chewy crust. However, this is a must for a lower temperature home oven. The longer cook time results in more moisture loss from the crust. The oil will keep it from getting too dry.


This is a two-step process. The first step is creating a biga. Biga is an Italian fermentation process. Similar to the benefit of a sourdough, a biga transforms flour into a flavorful component to make dough. This fermentation is similar to what happens when making alcohol or even kombucha. During the fermentation, simple carbs are consumed by the yeast.That turns into sugar alcohol that is partially responsible for the rise of the dough. The fermentation process also reduces the carbohydrates in the dough. Less carbs...yes please! In addition, it makes the dough much easier on the stomach. Ever eat pizza and it rests like a rock in your stomach and feels a bit uncomfortable? You will not find that with this dough.


In most prefermentation processes, a portion of the flour is used to make the preferment. In this instance, all of the flour is added to the biga to ensure that 100% of the flour has an opportunity to ferment which also aids in the digestibility of this dough.


Once the biga has had ample time to ferment, it can be turned into dough with the addition of a few extra ingredients. Mostly water and salt.


In this post, I am including videos to demonstrate the steps and techniques. This might be a good reference. Just keep in mind that these are full length and frankly, monotonous. I expect folks to skip around a bit.


STEP ONE: Make the Biga



Ingredients

  • 00 Flour: I use Caputo 00 Pizzeria Flour (Blue) This flour is finely ground from soft wheat. Is has a fairly high protein content (12.5%) which makes is great for pizza and high heat ovens. Caputo also makes a Chef's Flour (Red), which also works for pizza. That has a higher protein content. I find that the blue is easier to work with when opening up the dough ball. I do buy a large amount to bring down the price. This really will make the best dough, but you can substitute with a 75/25 blend of all-purpose flour and bread flour. The bread flour will bring up the protein level of the all-purpose. But it will not be the same!

  • Rye Flour: It is a scant amount of rye flour, but it really adds flavor and texture to the dough. If you are making without rye, just backfill the amount with your regular flour.

  • Diastatic Malt Powder: Diastatic malt powder contains enzymes that break down starches into sugars. This can be beneficial for pizza dough in a few ways:

    • It can help the dough rise higher and faster. The enzymes in diastatic malt powder help the yeast to ferment more quickly and efficiently, which results in a dough that has more volume.

    • It can give the dough a richer flavor. The sugars that are released by the enzymes in diastatic malt powder caramelize during baking, giving the dough a deeper, more complex flavor.

    • It can help the dough brown more evenly. The sugars in diastatic malt powder also help to promote browning, which gives the pizza crust a golden-brown color.

    • It can make the dough more pliable. The enzymes in diastatic malt powder also help to break down the gluten in the dough, making it easier to work with and stretch.

  • Dry Yeast: I use Fleischmann's Active Dry Yeast. If you have a source for fresh yeast, you can use that also but make sure to use about twice of what is called for in the recipe. Instant yeast can also be used, but I would recommend only using that on quick rise / same day dough. It is not really what you want to use for a long cold fermentation. When scaling the recipe up or down, please keep the yeast as a constant. In a long fermentation, you will use the same amount for 12 pizzas as you would for 6.

  • Cold Water: I use cold filtered water. You want the water to be very cold. Distilled water is a great option as you will have less interference with the water impacting the flavor with chemicals such as chlorine. However, this also strips many of the beneficial and flavorful minerals from the water. I just use my refrigerators filtered water.

Instructions

  • Dissolve the yeast in the cold water. This is really only for a minute or so. The granules will not fully dissolve.

  • In a large bowl, add the 00 flour, rye flour and malt powder. Whisk thoroughly together.

  • Add the water to the flour blend and mix very gently until a shaggy, clumpy dough begins to form and the water is mostly absorbed by the flour. The goal is to be gentle and not start any form of gluten development. Using a tool like a sturdy spatula or your hands, Enter down the side of the bowl and bring up contents from the bottom center of the bowl. This will get the water consumed by the flour. However, we need to continue to ensure that there are no flour pockets.




Using a second bowl, grab a clump of biga and tear each piece in half into the new bowl. This is to open up the wet interior of the biga clumps to expose it to the loose flour. Do this to the entire bowl.

  • Scrape the flour from the bowl into the new bowl. Repeat this to the other bowl until the wet consistency of each piece is similar to all other pieces. I may go back and forth between bowls 3 to 4 times to ensure that there is no loose flour remaining. The result should look similar to shredded chicken.

  • Scrape contents into a sealed air-tight container (or use the bowl that it is in). Gasses will form and can pop a sealed lid off of the container. Seal with two layers of a high quality plastic film wrap that can stretch. Let rest at room temperature for 4-6 hours. After this room temperature rest, you will see the plastic wrap beginning to bulge. This is your signal to move the bowl to the refrigerator. Then refrigerate for 20-48 hours or up to 72 hours.


STEP TWO: Make the Dough



Ingredients

  • Biga: This is the fermented flour you just created. You can tell how the flour has transformed based on the smell. You should smell yeast, sweet, beer and maybe bananas.

  • Cold Water: Same story as before. In this step, it is even more important to have cold water as you want the dough to be cool while kneading it. If it gets too warm, it could impact both the flavor and texture of the dough. It may also be more difficult to open up the dough balls to make pizza. In warm weather, I make sure the water is cold by shaking it with ice in a cocktail shaker and then scaling to the appropriate amount.

  • Molasses: I like to use organic unsulphured molasses.

  • Salt: I prefer to use Diamond Crystal salt. Different salt have varying salinity because the grains are different sizes and density. However, 1 gram of sea salt will have the same salinity as 1 gram of kosher salt, flake salt and even table salt. Please weigh your ingredients for the highest success.

  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil: In addition to flavor, this adds a few things to the dough, starting with flavor. In addition, I previously mentioned that the oil coats the flour and helps protect it from getting soggy. However, this can lead to burning in a high heat pizza oven, so omit if you choose.

Instructions

  • Dissolve salt and molasses in the water.

  • Rip the biga into small chunks and place into the bowl of a stand mixer.

  • Add about ¾ of the water/salt/molasses into the mixer bowl.

  • Mix on lowest speed with the kneading attachment. You are looking for the dough to become hydrated and to clump around the kneading attachment.



  • When the sides of the bowl are clean and you have a cohesive dough ball (about 10 minutes), turn the mixer on medium high (6 on a KitchenAid) and slowly add the rest of the water–a small drizzle at a time. Make sure the water is absorbed and the sides are clear before adding more.

  • When all of the water is added, turn off the mixer and test the strength of the dough using the window pane method. You should be able to stretch the dough thin enough to see light through it. If the dough easily breaks when stretched, continue to mix on medium high until the dough becomes very strong.


Once at strength, add the olive oil and mix for a few more minutes until the oil is absorbed. Cover the bowl with a damp cloth or plastic film and rest the dough for about 10 minutes.

  • On an oiled countertop (baking spray works great), pull and stretch the dough to both sides and then fold it like a letter. Rotate the dough and repeat the process (the second pull will be more difficult to pull). Pat the top with oiled hands. Cover with a damp towel or inverted bowl and let it rest for about 10 minutes. The goal here is to further strengthen the dough by aligning the gluten structure in a cross-hatch pattern. This process will also make the dough less sticky and easier to handle. Repeat this process at least twice until the dough becomes much less sticky. If the dough is still sticky, let it rest for up to 15 minutes and fold again.


  • Gather the dough into a ball after your last stretch and place in an oiled and covered bowl. Refrigerate for 2-4 hours.

  • After this rest, form your dough balls. I scale them to 270 grams. I place a piece of plastic wrap sprayed or small plate with cooking spray onto my scale and then tare the scale to zero. Make sure the dough ball is smooth and tight. You can achieve this by pulling the dough under from four imaginary corners of the ball and tucking them in the bottom. Then by rolling on the counter with a cupped hand. Place in your proofing container to allow the dough to proof at room temperature for about 1 - 2 hours depending on your environment. I now just use individual deli containers. You are looking for the dough to rise about 25-50%. I usually do this ahead of time and place it back in the refrigerator until about 60 minutes prior to use. Keep in mind that you want your dough to be room temperature prior to opening up the ball to make pizza. Depending on your ambient temperature, that should take up to an hour or more if it is cold.


This is a somewhat advanced dough recipe. If you have questions, please reach out. Best of luck and enjoy the results from this fantastic dough recipe!


If you would like a more traditional Neapolitan style dough:

  • replace the rye flour with your regular flour

  • omit the diastatic malt powder

  • replace the molasses with water

  • omit the olive oil

All of the other steps and ingredients remain the same. If you would like a more simple same day dough recipe, let me know. However, this one really can't be beat for flavor and rise.


In a hurry? Try my same day pizza dough.






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Jean-Pierre Ciudad
Jean-Pierre Ciudad
Nov 21, 2023
Rated 5 out of 5 stars.

Great recipe. The dough is tasty and the pizza looks fabulous!

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Lisa Genereux
Lisa Genereux
Sep 23, 2023
Rated 5 out of 5 stars.

LOVE the dough, Scott and Pizza 🙌🍷

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