Pizza Dough

Preparation info

  • Difficulty

    Medium

  • Dough Yield:

    10

    crusts at 1 lb each

Appears in

Bread

By Jeffrey Hamelman

Published 2004

  • About

I Might Be Biased. For many years, flour has been the predominant factor in my work life: sponges and doughs, mixing, kneading, shaping; flour, flour, flour. After all this, it doesn’t seem odd to me that I think pizza is mostly about the crust. Well-made toppings are easy enough to make (as long as the more-is-better philosophy doesn’t result in a mass of lavalike cheese in a molten, tongue-searing puddle). Fresh ingredients for the top, and not too many of them, a hot, hot oven, and a quick and lively bake— these are all important. (The best pizza I have ever eaten was baked in a wood-fired Québec-style clay oven in Norwich, Vermont. A Bosnian immigrant named Milos built and tended the fire, made the toppings for a dozen pizzas, and handled the bake—about 2 minutes per pizza. My meager contributions consisted of making the dough for the crusts and helping as much as I possibly could with the eating!) It’s the crust that is most often elusive. Just as it is really no secret that the best pizzas bake in just a few minutes, it is also no secret that the best pizza dough is one that has all the benefits of slow fermentation and enough moisture so that the baked crust is crisp and brown, with a light, open-textured chewiness. One common technique used to lengthen and slow down fermentation is to retard the dough (many pizza makers divide the dough into pizza-sized weights and retard them that way). A second method, and the one employed in the present formula, is to make a biga the day before the final dough is mixed. The biga then injects the final dough with all the fragrance and flavors of its gentle fermentation.

Ingredients

Overall Formula

U.S. Metric Home Baker’s %
Bread Flour 5.68 lb 2.58 kg 1 lb, 2.2 oz 100%
Water 3.86 lb 1.75 kg 12.4 oz 68%
Salt .1 lb .046 kg .3 oz 1.8 %
Yeast .07 lb, fresh .034 kg, fresh .13 oz, instant dry ( tsp) 1.3 %
Extra-Virgin Olive Oil .29 lb .13 kg .9 oz 5%
Total Yield 10 lb 4.54 kg 1 lb, 15.8 oz 176.1 %

Biga

Bread Flour 1.14 lb .52 kg 3.6 oz ( cup) 100%
Water .68 lb .31 kg 2.2 oz (¼ cup) 60%
Yeast .002 lb, fresh .001 kg, fresh .001 oz (a small pinch) .2%
Total 1.822 lb .831 kg 5.8 oz

Final Dough

Bread Flour 4.54 lb 2.06 kg 14.6 oz (3⅜ cups)
Water 3.18 lb 1.44 kg 10.2 oz ( cups)
Salt .1 lb .046 kg .3 oz (½ T)
Yeast .068 lb .033 kg .13 oz, instant dry (scant tsp)
Extra-Virgin Olive Oil .29 lb .13 kg .9 oz (2 T)
Biga 1.822 lb .831 kg 5.8 oz (all of above)
Total 10 lb 4.54 kg 1 lb, 15.8 oz

Method

  1. Biga: Disperse the yeast in the water, add the flour, and mix until just smooth. The biga should be stiff and dense. Cover the bowl with plastic and let stand for 12 to 16 hours at about 70°F. When ripe, the biga will be domed and just beginning to recede in the center.
  2. Mixing: Add all the ingredients to the mixing bowl except the biga and the olive oil. For production of 20 crusts or fewer, a small spiral mixer or 20-quart planetary mixer works well. In a planetary-type mixer, mix on first speed for 3 minutes in order to incorporate the ingredients. As the dough is coming together, add the biga in chunks. If necessary, correct the hydration by adding water or flour in small amounts. The dough should be of medium consistency at this point. Turn the mixer to second speed. After 3 minutes of mixing, begin drizzling in the olive oil. Once it is incorporated, mix for an additional 2 or 3 minutes on second, until the dough has some supple body to it. The olive oil will coat and lubricate the gluten strands, slowing their development, so the extra mixing time is beneficial. The dough will not be highly developed at the end of the mix, but nevertheless it should have perceptible gluten development when tugged. Desired dough temperature: 75°F.
  3. Bulk Fermentation: 2 hours. Optionally, after 1 hour the dough can be divided into 1-pound balls, covered with plastic, and refrigerated for up to 16 hours.
  4. Folding: Fold the dough once, after 1 hour of bulk fermentation.
  5. Dividing and Shaping: Divide the dough into 1-pound pieces. Round lightly, place on a floured work surface with the seams down, sprinkle a light coating of flour over the tops, and cover with plastic. Let the dough relax for about 20 minutes (refrigerated dough balls will take up to an hour to relax after removing from refrigeration). When the dough is sufficiently relaxed and will stretch without tearing, begin stretching it between both hands. Rotate the dough as you stretch it so the thickness remains roughly equal. As the dough gets thinner, your fingers can easily puncture it, so make your hands into fists to finish the stretching. Eventually, the dough should be about 16 inches in diameter and quite thin, except for a bulbous rim about 1 inch wide all around.
  6. Final Fermentation: Once shaped, there is no need to let the dough proof. It can bake right away. Transfer the pizza to a peel onto which coarse cornmeal or semolina has been sprinkled. Spread over the toppings of your choice. Leave the rim of the crust free of toppings.
  7. Baking: Except in a wood-fired oven, it is almost impossible to have an oven that is too hot for pizza. Ideally, the temperature soars to over 700°F, ensuring a quick, searing bake (if you are able to bake at these temperatures, there is no need to cook the toppings—the oven will do that). Needless to say, neither standard hearth bread ovens nor home ovens can reach this realm of heat. Nevertheless, very good pizza can be made at lower temperatures. The best we can do is to crank up our oven to the highest possible temperature. If baking in a home oven, a preheated baking stone is essential. Quickly slide the pizza onto the hot stone. If more than one pizza is being made, stretch the dough for the second one and assemble it while the first bakes. If pizzas are going to be baked over the course of a few hours, refrigerate some of the dough once it has been divided to prevent it from becoming overaged.