The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Seeking how to make a perfect pizza dough

Rowley111's picture

Seeking how to make a perfect pizza dough

I am trying to perfect my pizza dough. There is an Italian deli near where I live that makes the best pizza dough. It is much softer (thinner?) than a bread dough. It smells of alchohol (it ferments wonderfully). It rolls thin. It makes the best pizza. Like pizza I remember as a kid made by a mom and pop pizza house where I lived. I am thinking that the deli uses a starter. They make their dough every day. I want to make pizza dough like that. Mine is good, but I know it is not the best, or how "real" pizza dough should be made. I love to bake and I want to make my own dough. Any pointers anyone?


james.k's picture

Hi Chuck,

I, like you, love pizza.  While I can't say what will be perfect for you, I can tell you what's working for me so far.  It's a lifelong process of experimentation, but with some patience and the right attitude, every bite is rewarding.  :)

For starters, try this link:

To get that softer feel, you probably want to add some fat (likely olive oil) to the dough if you're used to making "lean" (no oil or butter or milk) doughs.  It tends to make it a little more elastic.

I recommend these two books:

  • The Bread Baker's Apprentice
  • American Pie

... both by Peter Reinhardt, which helped take me from someone who was a hack baker at best to a hack baker at least.  I found them entertaining to read and full of great recipes. The dough recipe from the link above is from one of those books (the latter, I think).

To give it a more complex flavor, you can use a starter as you mentioned. Reinhardt provides a simple recipe for a "poolish" starter, which is an easy one (flour, water, and yeast) to make without too much planning ahead.  It ferments overnight in the refrigerator after about a minute of prep work and gives some nice added complexity to the flavor of breads or pizza.  I forget the proportions, but I'm sure the internet's awash with recipes.

Good luck with your pies!


Rowley111's picture

Thanks James! You are awesome! The recipe looks just right. The dough described in the recipe is soft, not like it could be kneeded. It will double in an hour. Sounds like what I have used.

I want to try "tossing" the dough (or rotating it as the recipe calls for).

My daughter and I made the best pizza I have ever ate the other day using a deli made dough. I thought "why do I buy poor quality pizza made somewhere else". I am on a mission. I want everything to come out of my kitchen. I have the right cheeses. I have the stone and peel. A good cutter. Now I have a good dough and sauce recipe. I will let you know how it goes.



james.k's picture

One thing I completely forgot is that keeping the dough from sticking to the peel and ruining the evening was one of the first things that I struggled with.

The "easy" way is to dress your pizza on parchment (not wax!) paper after it's dressed.  You can still use the peel to get used to that, but there's no risk of it deforming or sticking.

Failing that, it's just a sort of guessing game that you play deciding if you want raw flour on your tongue or corn meal until you get the proportions just right to keep it from sticking.  

Alternatively, the less wet the entire dough, the less risk of sticking, but I think a drier dough might sacrifice the "oven spring" for that nice "cornicione" (the puffy ring that some folks call the handle).  Others can better advise you there, since I'm definitely not an expert.

Also, regarding shaping, start by using your fists to stretch the dough and work your way up to tossing.  But make sure you have at least one "backup chute" in case you drop or tear that first one.  ;)

Good luck!


p.s.  If the cutter gives you fits, try scissors...  They work great and have a lot of other uses.  ;)


sphealey's picture

=== Failing that, it's just a sort of guessing game that you play deciding if you want raw flour on your tongue or corn meal until you get the proportions just right to keep it from sticking.  ===

Couldn't resist using an exclaimation point in the subject line.

Anyway, coarse-ground semolina works as well or better than cornmeal as a "dry lubricant" on the peel, doesn't leave a bad taste, and chars to a nice brown at 550 deg.F rather than burning the way flour and cornmeal do.  I suggest giving it a try.


sopwath's picture

Seconding this. Also, the coarse grind makes it more rolly so the dough slides easier than with an equal amount of flour.


Another tip: add more flour than you think you need at first, and don't add too much sauce as it wets the dough and makes it stickier.

HMerlitti's picture

I use 00  (double zero) flour for my pizza dough.   It is difficult to find.  I believe it is very finely milled.  

Try not to walk around the streets with it in a clear plastic sealed zip lock bag however.  People will look at you funny and you will probably attract the attention of the police.

Atimo Caputo flour is made in Naples and available in Italian specialty stores.   Also,  one of mylocal resturants uses Pendelton 00 flour for their pizza dough.

Let us know how you make out.

spacey's picture

I'm getting ready to try some 00 flour myself, and I've done some research.  The pizza nuts at slice ( have described some of the differences from AP or bread flour.

The obvious difference is that the 00 fineness is much finer than what you normally get... see and look for Pizzablogger's info about caputo.

I've eaten bread that I think was made with caputo at Motorino (and cooked in their oven, based on the scorching on the crust, and the odd quality of the crumb) and it isn't a great bread flour.  I guess they had too much dough left at the end of the day... it was good bread, just not nearly as good as the pizza.

james.k's picture

Local italian markets are a great place to look for this kind of stuff too.  It might be pricey there, but it might be something you can get without a lot of advance planning.

Edit:  Note to self:  "italian specialty stores" probably includes markets.  :)

jackew's picture

I have been making Pizza for about 15 years and have about a hundred recipes and have looked at that many videos on you tube. The best site for making the best pizza is This guy is a true fanatic. I recently found the site and have finally learned the esscence of pizza making. 

cliffgarz's picture

Jeff is a great resource but I too have been doing this a long time and tried many different recipes for dough including some that used milk and other things then I went to Italy.  My wife was born there and so speaks fluently while there we got to talk to pizzeria owners and bakers, my brother in law bottles their own olive oil, so I learned how they do and it has been the best dough to date.  The Atimo Caputo flour 00 is the flour to use the recipe is similar to the one found on the fornobravo website for vera pizza napoletanna There is no one in the Augusta area that sells this flour so I order from at a pretty decent price and on days I make pizza I can make enough we sell out everytime.


try it I don't think you will be disappointed

Rowley111's picture

Thanks everyone! I will try that flour and check out that u tube. You guys are awesome. There ARE more people in this world who love to bake and bring these good breads from their kitchen! How cool! I am excited!



midwest baker's picture
midwest baker

Cliff, I tried and didn't come up with anything. Could you check the address and make sure it is correct? Thank you so much. I saw your blog and it's very cool!


matilda's picture

Hi Chuck,

bealieve it or not, I think the best pizza dough you can make at home is from sourdough. I am Italian and since I came here to the US I started different types of pizza dough at home, because the one you get at restaurants is really disappointing to me. It is really thin and the sourdough gives it the slight alchoolic-fruty flavor.  Check out the recipe I use here:

Hope it helps!






rossnroller's picture

I'm another home-baked pizza freakazoid. I've tried lots of recipes, including Reinhart's acclaimed one from BBA (which I think is overrated - his pizza dough, not BBA), done lots of tweaks, and have arrived at a pizza base that has superb flavour - as good as any I've tasted. You'll never get a pizza from a home domestic oven that quite equals a really good one baked in a wood-fired oven, simply because you can't attain those high temperatures at home that are optimal for a fantastic pizza...but you can get pretty damned close!

I, too, am a big fan of Jeff Varasano. My recipe is an adaptation of his that is more user-friendly, and dispenses with the modding of your home oven. I bake my pizzas for 8 - 10 minutes with the convection fan OFF, on a pre-heated pizza stone. The resultant crust is light, airy and delicious. The flavour is directly attributable to the use of sourdough starter and the long fermentation time (I usually retard mine in the fridge for 3 or 4 days before baking).

If you'd like a detailed set of directions, Rowley111, I wrote it up on my blog:

Sourdough Pizzas – As Good As Home Oven Pizzas Get!

Note: The flour you use is crucial. I have tried all the imported Italian "00" pizza flours available here, but I have to say that by far the best flour I've used is a local one only available in bulk that is used by most of the pizza retail outlets in my home city (including Little Caesars, the owner of which won the 2010 Las Vegas world pizza competion, and a string of others before that).

Unfortunately, I doubt it's available outside Australia. For Aussie readers who might be looking on, it's Allied Mills 'Superb' flour. VERY high gluten, high protein. It absorbs more water than any other flour I've come across, so the hydration of the dough has to be adjusted up to compensate for this. 

That's something you should bear in mind - flours have different absorption properties, so inevitably you will need to tweak your recipe to suit your flour and get a nice wet dough as per Varasano's recommendation. Wet doughs yield a lovely airy, bubbly crumb and crisp but thin exterior crust (as long as you bake it for the right time...not always easy to get this exactly right).

Anyway, going by my experience, I'd suggest you try to find out which flour the majority of your city's top retail pizza joints use and track that down. Compare with the Italian "OO" ones, by all means...but keep an open mind. You might just find that local is best.

May you find your holy grail of home-baked pizzas...but the fun is in enjoying the quest!


matilda's picture

Hi Ross,

I wanted to try Jeff's recipe but I would prefer to refrigerate my dough before cutting it into balls. Do you think this is possible?



rossnroller's picture

I don't see why you couldn't refrigerate, then divide the dough on baking day. One thing, though - you won't be dividing it into balls. The dough is too wet to shape like that. As you'll see from my blog, it needs to be put on a floured surface and stretched outwards from its centre, gently and bit by bit.

I get my partner to assist with transferring the stretched dough to the semolina-sprinkled peel before adding toppings - you'll struggle to pick it up by yourself if your dough is wet enough. That's the trickiest part, but you'll soon get the hang of it. One quick lift and carry motion and voila!

Just make sure during the topping that you keep giving your pizza a little back-and-forward shake on the peel to ascertain that it's not sticking and will slide easily off the peel and on to your baking stone when the time comes. Any sticking at all and the peel-oven transfer can be disastrous!


G-man's picture

I definitely agree with sourdough pizzas, if you haven't done it, do it!

 I'm personally a fan of thin crisp crusts. My wife isn't, so I've had to go to great lengths (and make doughs that you put toppings on which aren't really pizza doughs) to find something to suit her tastes. When I make pizza for my friends, the recipe definitely comes down to flour, water, and salt, nothing else. People will tell you to use this flour or that flour. In the end it works for them, and that's awesome. Work with the flour that works for you.

I personally like to use a 50/50 blend of bread flour and AP flour because I'm used to the feel of it in my hands and I can tell when it is ready for the next step in the process. I think that the most important part, really, more important than the brand of flour you use or its protein percentage (excluding really low-protein cake flour), is just getting a feel for the dough at every step of the process and learning by experimentation when a dough is ready to be moved forward. I stopped using my KitchenAid after the second time I made pizza and I recommend avoiding tools that deny you the ability to feel the dough, when making pizza.

Also, temperature! High heat or bust. Most home ovens don't reach the temps pizza makers shoot for, but get it as high as you can.


(Edits: really need to remember to type my whole post before hitting submit)

james.k's picture

Great advice!

High heat also means go light on the toppings, since they won't have as long as you think to heat up while the crust cooks.

Another tip:  Depending on the model grill you have, it might be a good candidate for getting past the heat limits on your home oven.  Always use it outside of course, and check out some internet posts to avoid destroying your pizza stone in the process.  ;)

I have one of those green egg ceramic cookers and it works fairly well.  I got a medium sized model, which unfortunately seems like it keeps me from getting much past 600F, but it's noticeably better than 500F inside.  :)

cliffgarz's picture

Sorry it was   Mark there is good and has help me with some problems early on. 



bcsverige's picture

Try fermenting your dough over night in a cold fridge. 

Tatoosh's picture

I love pizza.  My palate is not quite so discerning as some, so I can often be content with even a run-of-the-mill chain pizza.  But I enjoy better quality pizzas when possib le.  Hot Lips in Portland Oregon turned out a pretty decent pie and was just across the sreet from my work, so I got to visit them often.

Now I live in a smaller city in the hinterlands of the Philippines and pizza, while available, is often quite different than what I had in the USA.  We have Yellow Cab which is okay and Shakeys which has a surprisingly edible "hand-tossed" (the pie's name, not that it is actually hand tossed, which I doubt) plus a few different local makers that usually decline in quality quckly or t least depart the standards I am used to. 

So I am on a quest to make an improved pizza at home.  I have a problematic gas fired home oven, a newly made baking stone out of builders blocks and flour that has no pedigree at all.  Flour here usually comes in a clear plastic bag and someone has written #1, #2, #3 or CF on it for the various grades.  Occasionally you can get Pillsbury or Gold Medal at somewhat inflated prices.  But they will be AP flour.  One is stuck with the no pedigree stuff if you want a so-called bread flour, usually #1 grade, but depending on the store, #1 can be AP flour also. 

With anything related to cooking, ingredients are the key.  So I get the best I can find/afford.  There is no true mozzerella cheeses here, just mozzerella style or named cheeses, much like the stuff used by the chains.  But it melts.  I did find some expensive but real Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese which I added judiciously. The sauce was, I must contritely admit, a store bought concoction in a pouch. I have a sauce recipe for lasagna that takes two to three hours to make and will give it a try in the future, as well as the fresh tomatoes that Jeff Varasno recommends.  But time constraints didn't allow me to try either on my first try, so I used what I could.

Having read about sourdoughs, I am in the process of creating a starter here (following SourdoLady's guide), but only 3 days along in that.  So I made a preferment which I changed to more of a biga after reading a bit about the two.  It was 3/4 cup of #1 flour, 1/2 cup of water and a 1/4 or so teaspoon of yeast left to do its thing overnight.

The dough recipe came from and was very straightforward, flour, sugar, salt, a bit of olive oil.  We let it rise once then stretched it out by hand into two smallish pies with somewhat enlarged rims.  We fired up the oven and let it heat up for an hour ahead of time, to bring my building bricks baking stone up to temperature. 

Then we slipped a pie onto parchement and then into the oven which was somewhere over 400 degrees (as far as my oven thermometer reads) for an 8 minute pre-bake.  Then the pie is extracted and topped it off with ersatz mozzerlla, some pretty good Australian-made spicy pepperoni (sorry folks, I did say I am a child of chain pizza) and finished with a sprinkle of the Parmigiano-Reggiano. Back to the oven for a 12 to 15 minute bake. 

Pizza one came out very good, the curst done, the edges just browned, crispy bottom though some of the sauce did make the top a bit soggy, but it didn't soak all the way through.  Pizza two, a bit smaller came out slightly darker, but still good.  Very crispy and the crust had nice crumb which my wife said I should try to emulate the next time I bake bread.

So I will try to improve my ingredients where I can, perfect my techniques, and keep my stove as hot as I can get it.   What I made was quite edible and the equal of most of the pizzas offered here (in my part of the Philippines), particuarly benefitting from the better quality of the pepperoni sausage, at least in terms of flavor.

Pizza #1 disappeared before I could take photos, but pizza #2 lasted a bit longer and I was able to capture it before it slipped out of sight.

Pizza #2:


Don Bigote's picture
Don Bigote

Hello Tatoosh..

I take it that you're buying repacked generic flour from a bakery supply store at the local market or commercial center.  In the Philippines, primera clase (first class) or #1, is bread flour used by most small-scale panaderias (bakeries) to make pandesal (breakfast buns) and sandwich loaves. 2nd-class or #2 is AP, and #3 is cookie/biscuit/cracker/pastry flour.  If you want bread flour of better and consistent quality, you'd have to buy from food industry suppliers (who may or may not entertain small quantity purchase, or require a minimum volume).  In which hinterland city in the Philippines are you residing?  I will try to look for an institutional supplier servicing your area.   

drdobg's picture

Your Phillipine pizza looks great!  Keep experimenting.  I hope you find your Dulcinea!

amauer's picture

Makes great pizza and easy. There is also a great Ciabatta Pizza crust on this site somewhere my son loves. It has pics pf the dough and rising, (triple) etc. It is very wet, but as above of you stretch it and sread it on Parchment over semolina it works pretty well. Make sure you bake it on the bottom the bottom crsut gets done all the way.

Tatoosh's picture

Thank you, drdobg. Some may not like the darkened spots of cheese, I suppose I am influenced by too many lasagna pies in my past.  I enjoy a bit of dark cheese. Anauer's comment has me looking at Ciabatta recipes and considering a sourdough Ciabatta down the road.

We will make pizza again tomorrow. My attempt at a wild sourdough starter is not progressing very fast so I will have to hold off doing a sourdough  for now, hopefully the starter will flourish in another week or so and we can use it in my pizza recipe. 

Forgoing the heretical pouch of tomato sauce this time, the boys are buying local tomatoes at the marketo today.  I will teach them how to peel and seed tomatoes tonight or tomorrow morning.  Then we will try fresh tomato (uncooked) sauce as a topping along with basil and cheese.  Sadly,  olive oil is lost on the Filipino's taste buds. Well, those Filipinos that reside with me.  Neither my wife nor my brothers-in-law care for it.  So I either have to minimize its use or sneak it in when they are not looking.  So it goes.

I am a thin crust sort of guy and the oldest pizza shop and Italian restaurant in Portland Oregon is called Caro Amicos.  It produced an oval pizza with a uniquely flavored crust and some of the best tasting sausage topping I have ever had. I am starting to think the crust may have been a sourdough variant though I was oblivious to that sort of distinction at the time I was dining there, years back.  

Some other members of the family prefer a thicker crust pizza, so I should try the Ciabatta crust and maybe Focaccia for them? I will try to promote a copy of RH's American Pie as a Christmas gift from Santa (across the Pacific) but until then I glean my recipes from here and elsewhere on the net. 

Is the differe4nce between the Focaccia and the Ciabatta in the use of a preferment or biga in the Ciabatta? It sounds like a Focaccia might stand up a bit better to the toppings, though I like the idea of an airier bread personally. 

_____________ Update __________________

I was very pleased to see the boys arrive with a couple of kilos worth of plum tomatoes. A pan of boiling water, a bowl of ice water and they got the hang of skinning a tomato very quickly.  Seeding the little puppies took a bit longer. And my sourdough starter produced a couple of bubbles so I think it is progressing too. Not enough to be part of the next pizza evening, but it holds promise for a sourdough future. 

I started a biga with 2/3 cup of hard flour and 1/3 cup of whole wheat. The dough will either be hard flour or 50-50 hard and AP flour;  Topped with a raw tomato sauce, some mozz and parmi cheeses, the mandatory pepperoni and a bit of fresh basil.


wizarddrummer's picture


There is no thing as the "perfect" pizza. It's too vast a universe, the Pizza Universe.

Doughs with lots of hydration will give you the holes. I sometimes use a no knead ciabatta bread recipe for my pizza dough and I add a little oil, works great if you let it ferment for about 1.5 days or more.

If Pizza is your thing than I suggest you look at this video.

This dough is to die for in some respects, however, Tom Lehmann, the undisputed dough doctor, differs in his opinion on this. I wrote to him and he said that the texture of the dough in the video leans more towards the type of texture you would have for rolls. He said that pizza dough does not have to be that well mixed.

goto PMQ (provided in the links below below, search for my name in the think tank and you can read the response.

There are some excellent links above that I didn't include because they are already there.


Here are some excellent resources for Pizza:

1) This forum







I would give up a body part to be close to this place:


I have about 30 more links to major sites regarding baking, technques.


This should keep you busy for awhile.

FYI: Drupal may be one of the better CMS's around, (personllay, for forums I like the software suited for forums such as phpBB) but they've really blown it with the text editor. Jeeeesh, it's a pain just trying to paste text, you can't simply do a Ctrl-V to paste the text. You have to do a Ctrl-V to open a popup which then makesyou do ANOTHER Ctrl-V and a click the insert button -OR- you have to wiggle something creative if you use the mouse because the silling thing selects everything to the LEFT of the cursor. YUK!

Don Bigote's picture
Don Bigote

I was supposed to do a test bake in a portable brick oven, last Saturday afternoon.  The test would involve both raw and parbaked dough.  So last Friday evening, I prepared the following:

300 g. flour (200g AP + 100 g bread flour only because I ran out of AP)

180 g water

15 g olive oil

15 g brown sugar

5 g kosher salt

3 g instant yeast

The resulting dough was quite slack but still manageable.  Minus the olive oil and its pretty much what I use to bake breakfast buns.  So.. I halved the dough - one portion going into the refrigerator, and the other further split into two 125g dough balls.  The balls were left to rise for about 1-1/2 hours, then rolled out to 11 inches (they'd shrink down to about 10+ inches upon baking), then parbaked for 2-1/2 minutes.  The result was a pretty thin, still floppy crust with slightly puffed edge - typical of my quicktime straight dough pizza crust.

The dough in the fridge exhibited surprisingly active rise despite the low temperature - it had more than doubled 12 hours later.  I guess that would have been just fine in as much it was going to be cooked later in the day.  BUT.. the oven maker called to reschedule the test bake for Monday.. so the raw dough would have to stay in the fridge for two more days.  Suffice it to say that I've had to deflate the dough (twice) lest it pop the lid off its container.  It finally stopped "growing" by Sunday.  

I've been contemplating using this 3-day old dough as preferment for another batch.. but for the moment, I've decided to go ahead and bake half of it into a test pizza anyway.  I'm very curious what I'd get...

I guess we'll find out in about 12 hours.




Don Bigote's picture
Don Bigote

It's been a week since the oven bake test.. and I just felt I had to put some "closure" to my post on the thread.  I was not able to use the 3-day old refrigerated dough during the test - it had turned even slacker, almost runny.. and near impossible to stretch very thin without tearing.  My guess is it got over-retarded and the gluten started to break down.   I simply had to go with the parbaked crusts and a fresh batch of straight dough I made that morning.

Just the same.. I decided to keep the runny dough and when I got home rolled it out as thin as workable then parbaked it in a pan.  It puffed up and blistered as "normal".. but.. unlike its un-retarded "siblings" (from the same batch of dough) which remained floppy after 2-1/2 minutes of parbaking, the 3-day old began to turn cracker-like in barely 2 minutes.  After cooling, I bagged it and put it in the refrigerator..

Finally.. midnight last night (a few hours ago), I decided to put an end to old dough crust's journey. A grumbling tummy would probably be quite forgiving of most shortcomings.  So I "fired up" the electric oven, and cobbled up a leftover bacon/pepperoni pizza.  Because the crust was already somewhat dry, I decided to tent it (using a 1-1/2 inch deep round pan) during first half of the bake.  

By and large, the pizza turned out okay enough.  Probably should have cut back on the open bake as it toasted the edge too much and turned it a little hard.  T'was hard to discern difference in flavor from the unretarded dough crusts.. mainly because of the thiness and cracker texture.

Anyway.. for what they're worth.. here are a few pictures (taken using my cellphone camera)..



wassisname's picture

...that actually looks seriously munchable.  Reminds me of when I used to make quick "pizza" on a tortilla, only yours looks far better.  Give it a fancy name and an exotic backstory and pretty soon everyone will be making them!


jackew's picture

I have found baking pizza directly on stone pizza tend to fry. Are their disadvantages to using pan or is it just personal preference? This is not a subject I have found discussed.

Don Bigote's picture
Don Bigote

In general, I bake on stone.  However, when having to manage very thinly stretched dough, especially when topped, I resort to baking initially in a pan or screen (just until the dough sets slightly more rigid).. then transfer to stone.  I almost always parbake in a pan.   Starting off in a pan makes for evenly round pizzas and less difficulty loading into the oven.. finishing on stone gives the desired crispness and bottom browning - just a little trick in getting the most out of both.  I've witnessed the very same thing done in some of our local pizza establishments. 

G-man's picture

I personally love pan pizza occasionally, but there is one reason not to do it: The grease you have to use in the pan to keep the pizza from sticking stays on the crust and therefore gets eaten.

Depending on your approach to food, this is either a good thing or a bad thing. Personally I love a bit of fat from time to time, but I only make a pan pizza every few months because the grease can be overwhelming and is usually not what I'm looking for.

Ultimately I would say it comes down to personal preference. Pizzas baked on a stone come out crisp and clean, pizzas baked in a pan are a bit heavier.