The Fresh Loaf

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Substituting honey in pizza dough

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chasenpse's picture

Substituting honey in pizza dough

Hey everyone, I've got a question for the adventurous pizza enthusiast here. What started as a friendly competition between my brother and I has left me on a journey for the best homemade pizza possible, and i'm starting at the base - the dough.

I don't have my recipe refined and put into percentages but roughly speaking it's based from my sourdough starter using KA bread flour. I'd like to substitute the refined sugar with local unheated honey which I've recently purchased and was wondering if anyone has any tips or experiences they'd like to share with this - does the honey make a difference in browning, cooking time, rising, etc.

I'll post pics as soon as I make a batch, hopefully the pizza won't be devoured before I get the camera out!

fthec's picture

I guess my question would be 'why would you put either'?  Pizza dough and sweetening seems like an oxymoron.  Unless, of course, you're making some kind dessert pizza, which is just plain wrong altogether. Ha.


proth5's picture

pizza dough is left unsweetened - but I have seen recipes that use sugar.  They don't produce "authentic" doughs, but can be tasty nonetheless.

But I would have to guess that the amount of sugar is relatively small.  Honey is usually substituted for sugar at a ratio of one to  two - but I have done it at the same weight without any effect on browning, ferment/proof times, etc.  Again,that is if it is a relatively small amount.

Hope this helps and good luck!

FlourChild's picture

I haven't tried raw honey in sourdough, but I'd also be interested to hear of any effects, from enzymes, etc.  Please report back if you try it.

l find a source of sugar in pizza dough to be indispensable! Home ovens do not reach the hot temps of pro pizza ovens and home doughs often need help browning.  As a jumping off point, my SD pizza dough starts at 2% sugar, 2.0-2.5% salt, 10% pre-fermented flour (small levain to limit acid, which makes shaping difficult), 5-8% whole grain flour, and 75% hydration.  Looking forward to seeing your pizza!

Marty's picture

In the book " American Pie" Peter Reinhart has recipes that call for sugar or honey. The amounts are equal, so if you used 1 teaspoon of sugar put in the same amount of honey, according to Peter.  I have seen many great pizza recipes that use sugar.

trailrunner's picture

That is the key to their crust...color and chewiness. I had a friend that worked there and he told me a long time ago that it was the secret ingredient. I have tried it..only takes a Tbsp or so. Makes a huge difference in the crust. c

chasenpse's picture

i've seen recipes that call for molasses or barley malt syrup, correct me if i'm wrong but the syrup helps feed the yeast and give the crust a nice color, like with bagels. I personally hate working with the stuff since it's so sticky and can't find the powder version but it's worth a shot

PeterS's picture

When I'm working with the likes of honey, molasses or anything very sticky, I'll reserve some flour, add it to the sticky ingredient and make a dry paste that I can more easily transfer.

chasenpse's picture

Hello everyone,

I finally got around to testing this out yesterday and i'm fairly satisfied with the results. My dough has a mild sweet taste with some salt to back it up, and a soft chewy, crisp crust...i'm actually eating the leftovers as i'm writing this!

Here's some pics I took throughout the day -

FlourChild's picture

Looks great!  Did you notice any differences in fermentation times or the dough's texture?  Just wondering about enzymes, etc.  How much did you use relative to the amount of flour?  Happy to help with leftovers :)

chasenpse's picture

I finally got around to converting my recipe to baker's percentages and made another batch last night - sorry FlourChild, there were no survivors. :)

I had to cheat a little with my previous batch and added some commercial yeast in addition to my sourdough to get the dough ready in time for a party (not proud to admit it) so I didn't want to comment based on that. Last night's batch used only my sourdough and I was very, VERY happy with the results. I let the dough rise for about 11 hours before use and the texture of the dough was perfect - very soft, elastic, and forgiving. To be honest I think even 8 hours would have sufficed. Even after I screwed up stretching one pie starting over was no problem and the crust still had a nice rise to it!


...and after!

The flavor was interesting. There was a slightly sour taste and I feel the honey helped keep the dough moist during baking and gave the crust a nice color. I don't think the amount used was enough to considerably taste a difference from refined sugar, the main reason i'm experimenting with local honey is for it's health benefits and to help balance the sourness of the dough. Personally, I think the sour taste went exceptionally well with the pesto I had used on one pie - the salt, garlic, and cheese played nice with one another. When I have time and people to feed I'd love to do a comparison between no sugar, with sugar, and with honey.

FlourChild's picture

Nice follow-up :)   Interesting that you liked the sourness of your dough with pesto.  When making pesto, I always add a small squirt of lemon and often serve it with fresh tomatoes, so I would probably like your acidic SD combo, too :)

Emelye's picture

I use honey in an enriched whole wheat and oatmeal bread made with sourdough and find that the combination gives the dough a nice depth of flavor even when it's spiked with some instant yeast.  I like a sweeter dough for my pizza and rely on low sugar tomato sauce to provide the sour.  When I get it right the flavors balance very nicely.

chasenpse's picture

Hi Emelye,

Just out of curiosity, do you add any sugar to your sauce and do you cook it at all?