Making your own homemade pizza can be a really satisfying task. You can experiment and make a dough, sauce, and toppings that exactly fit your personal tastes and, in the process, you might learn a little about food science.
Not surprisingly, the kind of flour you choose and how you treat the flour during your baking process makes a difference in the final pizza you serve.
Depending on the kind of crust you like, you will choose your flour accordingly. For a thinner, crispier crust, all-purpose flour with a lower protein ratio is sufficient.
Bread flour or other kinds of higher protein flour are good options for pizza dough that produces a thicker, chewier crust. Sifting flour is a somewhat normal practice for other kinds of baking, but is it necessary for making pizza dough?
To Sift or Not to Sift
Sifting flour is still useful for some kinds of baking—particularly delicate pastries. Historically, sifting was seen as more necessary for all baking during times when miscellaneous debris or bugs could be in flour that was stored for long periods in containers that weren’t sealed airtight.
With this in mind, it is not as necessary to sift flour for most recipes. Pizza crust is produced as a result of your flour, yeast, salt, and water reacting together. The way you combine these ingredients can affect this reaction, so be sure to follow your recipe’s directions.
If it recommends letting your yeast bloom in a properly warmed liquid versus stirring the yeast into the dry ingredients. If you mix yeast into the dry ingredients, definitely do not sift your flour with those other dry ingredients.
American bakers primarily rely on using measurements of cups, teaspoons, and liquid ounces. In most other countries, bakers use weighted measurements from the metric systems like grams or milliliters.
While sifting can completely change the volume of flour used in a cup, it is not going to affect the amount of flour used when it is measured out by weight. For this reason, I recommend measuring your flour by weight in grams.
Generally speaking, one-quarter cup of flour weighs 30 grams, so converting any recipe to grams is not difficult. If you measure by weight, you won’t have to worry about how to scoop your flour into a cup, or even concern yourself with sifting.
Making the Most of Your Dough
The truth is that when it comes to pizza dough, sifting is not going to make any noticeable difference in the pizza crust you end up with. There are some schools of thought that it will help with absorption of liquids, or result in a lighter, fluffier crust, but this is not widely supported.
Whether you are making a quicker pizza dough or one that will proof in a refrigerator overnight or longer, sifting your flour will not make a difference. If you begin with flour that is clumpy (and you aren’t worried about bugs), this could be a sign of excess moisture in your flour.
This can happen in high humidity environments when flour has not been stored in an airtight container. While sifting might fix the texture of the flour, it won’t immediately help any excess moisture. This could affect the texture of your dough.
The Best Way to Ensure Great Dough
If you can move away from using cups for measurements, you can develop a recipe that can be adjusted more easily. Start by thinking of each recipe, especially your pizza crust, in baker’s percentages. This is how professional bakers develop and adapt recipes to come up with unique, new products.
This method means that ingredients are used proportionately relative to the weight of the flour used. Cookies follow one set of baker’s percentages, brownies or cakes another, and pizza crust another still.
You can begin with a recipe that you enjoy but begin to tweak it according to your preferences or the quantities you need. Using the metric system makes this pretty easy.
For example, if your beginning recipe calls for 60% liquid, and smaller percentages of salt and yeast, you would use 60 grams of water for every 100 grams of flour you use. Begin with about 2% salt (or 2 grams) and a half-gram of yeast if you are making dough that will have longer to proof.
For quick rise pizza crust, if you want to make it and bake it on the same evening, you will need to increase the percentage of yeast to as much as 9%. Also keep in mind that liquid can include water, olive or vegetable oil, and—to boost your quick rise crust—a bit of lager (beer).
Remember that water will provide the necessary structure in your dough and can affect elasticity, rise, and stickiness. Oil can provide another dimension to the crust by giving it a crispy edge and bottom.
There are so many factors that can affect your pizza crust, but it is pretty widely accepted that sifting is not one of them. Think about the kind of crust you prefer, then find the flour, hydration ingredients, and baker’s percentage that will work for you.
[Note: I have this article at 865 words, but I am struggling to add additional information without getting into fluff. I am putting this note here to meet the minimum word count, but if there are not additional topics you think are missing from this article, you may want to send it back to me via revisions and lower the minimum word count. That would ensure that you aren’t paying me for any words over 865. I am happy to make any revisions you would like. Thanks, Sarah R.]