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
If you can't find that flour locally, there are sellers online. I find a mix of bread flour & semolina works very well too.
This is my favourite pizza dough recipe: http://www.jamieoliver.com/recipes/pizza-recipes/pizza-dough
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
Alveograph to check their flour's characteristics. One of the values given by Alveographs is the
l value is an index for extensibility: how much can the dough be stretched before breaking.
p value shows how hard is to give the dough a shape.
p/l gives an idea on how the dough holds the shape it's been given. Flours with
p/l≈1 are said to give "equilibrate" doughs for bread, as they are easy enough to give a loaf shape, and they will keep that shape once given.
Pizza flours should have a
p/l≈0.5, as it means the dough can be stretched to a big disc shape, it won't tear, and won't stretch back to a smaller disc.
For long fermentation time, a high
W value is desireable:
W=280, 300 or 320 are common values.
W is not always related to
p/l values, and it can be undesrtood (informally) as "how much gluten the flour has". As gluten in a dough gets degraded with time, a lot of it is desired initially in the dough to assure there will be enough at the end of fermentation, several hours (or days, if refrigerated) later.
Forget about those
00 in Italian flours. It really only means the finesse of grounding. For pizza making I try to use strong flours with a
p/l value close to
0.5, albeit I've also used strong bread flour with good results.
How can I get flours with those characteristics?
There are some specific pizza flours. Some Italian makers (with no specific order) are:
You can see how
Wvalue is related to their recomended fermentation time.
If you check the
p/lvalue you'll see it's
0.6: right for pizza stretching.
If you can't get specific pizza flour, you can also try with flour specific for
croissants, as they will also be strong and stretchy.
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.
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.
Well, I believe all the answers above touch on important points of the flour. I found a local pasta/bread business that orders their flour and they are willing to sell to me at market cost. This is a good quality source and with plenty of advice because they know their flours.
The quality of the flour needs to contain 12% protein or greater for pizza to be firm and rise and withstand high temperatures for best results. The protein is required to form gluten that traps the gases expelled from the yeast.
Semolina Flour (Common): good for high temperatures, sweet, high protein, provides firmness to the pizza crust. Used for helping slide the pizza into the hot oven (do not use corn meal)
Caputo Fine Milled 00 size: For pizza is common, average protein, high temp, assures a light crust, high temperature.
General Bleached White Flour: (Use instead of Caputo) contains about 10% protein. Is chalky and burns easily at hire temperatures. Best to blend with other flours & cook longer between 350 to 400 degree F.
Whole Wheat (brownish): In small quantities (1/8 total flour) provides a nice hearty flavor. Too much Whole Wheat will be more like bread or too tart and will burn easily.
For the best quality blend fresh flour of 1 part Whole Wheat, 3 parts semolina, 8 parts Caputo or (All purpose white flour). These provide the characteristics desired in pizza. The flour is used in a preheated iron pizza pan 500 degree F temperature on the top shelf of the oven for 7 to 8 min.