I've been making pizza dough and the recipe says to use "good quality flour" but I'm not sure what it means? Are there differences in quality between different types of flour and how can I tell?
The best is the Italian Tipo 00: http://www.fornobravo.com/brick_oven_cooking/pizza_ingredients/flour.html.
If you can't find that flour, I find a mix of bread flour & semolina (ferina) works very well too.
This is my favourite pizza dough recipe: http://www.jamieoliver.com/recipes/pizza-recipes/pizza-dough
Using a high-gluten flour will allow more of the gas bubbles formed by your leavening agent to be trapped making an overall lighter bread that is stronger too. This is generally a desirable consistency for pizza doughs.
The answer depends upon the type of pizza you're making:
00 Flour (Caputo or San Felice are two common brands) is an italian flour that's finely milled. It's low in protein content and performs well in high temperature ovens (e.g. coal fired, wood fired ovens). I usually don't cook 00 under 700F. 00 Flour is almost always used in Traditional Neapolitan style pizzas. Pizzas made with 00 have a softer texture.
High Gluten Flour is a high protein flour. It's commonly used in New York Style pizzas. Common brands are King Arthur Sir Lancelot, Pendleton's, Giusto's and All Trumps. It's harder to find in supermarkets. But you can find it in the bulk bins at some grocery stores. Pizzas made with High Gluten Flour have a breadier texture.
Bread Flour or All Purpose Flour are commonly used flours that are higher in protein content than 00, but lower than High Gluten. You can use these in most recipes and get great results.
00 Flour, such as Caputo 00 is considered by many to be the best for wood-fired. There is actually an organization in Italy and a counterpart here in the US that certifies pizzerias in the making of True Naples Pizza or Verace Pizza Napoletana.
Caputo 00 is an important factor. The flour is milled in Naples by Molino Caputo (molinocaputo.it), run by a guy named Antimo Caputo. They mill a variety of 00 flours, and not all are the same. They do produce a 00 Pastry flour which has a lower protein content (9%) than all-purpose flour (11%), but their Pizzeria 00 and their Rinforzato (reinforced) 00 flours which are used to make pizza crust and bread happen to have higher protein content (12.5%) than typical all-purpose flour.
The key takeaway is that the flour number (00, 0, 1, 2) is a measure of how finely ground it is, and does not correlate directly to the protein content which is what the Wikipedia article implies with its chart.
So according to the experts, if you want to make true Naples-style pizza, Caputo tipo 00 is the best, but doesn't it come down to personal preference? Experiment and have fun, but be sure to try the Caputo flour at some point.
What do we look in a pizza dough?
There are many styles of pizza: Italian Vera Pizza Napoletana, Chicago style, ... All of them have something in common in their dough: it should be stretched without tearing, and shouldn't stretch back.
Also, some recipes call for long fermentation times: 6, 9 or more hours at room temperature. With this you get a more relaxed dough (it won't stretch back), and more flavour.
Which flour characteristics give us that dough?
Millers use a tool called
Pizza flours should have a
For long fermentation time, a high
Forget about those
How can I get flours with those characteristics?
There are some specific pizza flours. Some Italian makers (with no specific order) are:
If you can't get specific pizza flour, you can also try with flour specific for
I've never eaten nor seen Chicago style pizza, so I can't help with flours specific for them, but I guess the guidelines given above should help.