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Pizza vs. All-Purpose Flour? Differences? Similarities? What’s better?

Pizza vs. All-Purpose Flour? Differences? Similarities? What’s better?

What is the Best Flour to Make Pizza?

The answer to your first question is, yes, it is absolutely possible to make a great pizza crust with standard all-purpose flour.

If you are new to making homemade pizza, you may want to start with all-purpose flour to see if you really enjoy it before investing in specialty flours. Let’s say that you are now a big fan of homemade pizza and you are ready to up your “crust game”.

Flour 101

A woman hand flattening pizza dough on table.

You have probably heard a lot of talk about gluten, which is a key component of wheat flours. You don’t need to be a food scientist to understand why gluten is important in making breads, all you need to know for our purposes is that gluten is what makes breads stretchy as a dough, and chewy when it is cooked.

The protein content of a flour corresponds to its gluten content. The protein content can usually be found on the packaging. The higher the percentage of gluten in your flour, the chewier your pizza crust.

All purpose flour is typically 9 to 11% protein, with the same percentage of gluten. This amount of gluten is useful in most recipes, which is why it’s called all-purpose flour. This ratio can vary between brands, so check the label to find the best gluten ratio for your baking.

Bread flour has a higher protein (and gluten) percentage of 11 to 13%, and that increase is what makes it ideal for working well in yeast recipes, like pizza crust.

Pizza Crust for Every Taste

A pizza ladle in hand, getting sliced pizza.

Pizza crust thickness is something that can be debated regionally. There are some pretty passionate advocates for thin and crispy crust versus thick and chewy, so for our purposes here let’s say there is no perfect answer.

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Remember that the more gluten in the flour, the chewier the crust. If you prefer a crispier crust, the gluten content in all-purpose flour is all you need. Take care when stretching your dough because the lower gluten ratio means your dough could tear more easily.

If you have to repair tears or restretch it, you risk overworking your dough, which will make it tougher and less soft. For a chewier, thicker crust, you will need a higher gluten ratio in your flour to support that more substantial dough structure.

For a softer, chewy dough, using bread flour will give you the results you need. The increased gluten will allow you to stretch your dough more easily and build a substantial edge to hold in your sauce, toppings and cheese.

What About Whole Wheat Flour?

Whole wheat flour uses more of the wheat grain in its final processed form and has a protein (and gluten) ratio of about 14%. You might think this is ideal for a super-chewy crust, but in reality there is such a thing as being too chewy when it comes to breads and pizza crusts.

This higher gluten content and the use of the whole grain can give whole wheat products a denser texture. It will feel different when it is rolled or stretched, so if you are not experienced at baking with whole wheat flour, you may overwork the dough.

If you want the health benefits of whole wheat crusts, you can still incorporate it into your baking. Just use a ratio of one cup all-purpose flour to one-half cup of whole wheat flour. If you like the nuttier taste associated with whole wheat breads, you can increase the ratio to one-to-one.

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Specialty Flours

Antimo Caputo Italian Superfine "00" Farina Flour 2.2 lb -- Pack of 3

If what you are really trying to do is duplicate the amazing pizza crust you experienced during your Italian vacation, I hear you. While an exact duplication might be nearly impossible, you can get that crusty and chewy combination that makes you long for Italy.

The secret is a perfected gluten ratio of 12%, and a different kind of wheat. While most all-purpose flour is made with red winter wheat, Italian 00 wheat is made with duram wheat, which produces a dough that is both chewy on the inside and crispy on the outside.

The 00 designation in the name may confuse some American consumers, but this does not refer to the gluten content. In Europe, the 00 is a way to indicate the powder-fineness of the grind on the flour. Course ground flours have a designation of 02.

Several brands of Italian 00 wheat are available from online baking supply websites, but they can be almost double the cost of all-purpose flour. One way to make your Italian 00 flour last longer is to use it in a one-to-one ratio with all-purpose flour (for crispy crust fans), or bread flour (for chewy crust afficiandos).

Bromating

All Trumps Bleached Bromated Enriched Malted High Gluten Flour, 25 Pound -- 1 each.

You may also hear about bromated flour, which is used by many professional pizza kitchens. Bromated flour is made with potassium bromate, an oxidizing agent that can speed up the fermentation process.

Bromate is not permitted as an agent in European flours, so if you seek an authentic Italian pizza crust, you’ll have to skip the bromated flour.

Fermentation

A pizza rolling pin in a pizza dough.

If you have ever used yeast to make bread (or beer for that matter), you understand how fermentation is a part of making breads. One thing to consider is that higher protein flours absorb more liquid, which can extend the fermentation (or rising) time.

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If you are using a pizza crust recipe that specifies all-purpose flour, but you plan to substitute flour with a higher gluten ratio, you may want to adjust the amount of liquid used, or the length of time you allow the dough to rise.

Part of the fun of making homemade pizza crust is developing a recipe and process that is perfect for your kind of pizza. It may take some experimentation with different flours and recipes to arrive at the exact kind of pizza crust you love.

You don’t have to be a food scientist, but with a passion for the process and a sense of adventure, you will probably enjoy the journey. Mangia!

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