The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

I need help with my pizza recipe.

MarkS's picture

I need help with my pizza recipe.

I am trying for a thin, crisp crust with lots of holes. I know that the higher the moisture content and oven heat you have (along with a pizza stone), the more open the crumb will be. I live in an apartment with an electric oven (no self cleaning setting, unfortunately), so the best I can do heat wise is about 600°F.


Right now, my recipe is as follows:

KA bread flour 350 grams

water 245 grams (70% hydration)

salt 14 grams (4%)

yeast 9 grams (a tad over 2.5%)


I mix the water, salt, yeast and half the flour, cover and refrigerate overnight and then scrape the batter into my mixer and mix the remaining flour with the dough hook and knead for about 8 minutes. It is then shaped and allowed to rise at room temp for an hour. The flavor is amazing, but the crumb is very bread like. I use this recipe to make one 16" pizza. Even with stretching the dough paper thin (it passes the window pane test quite well), the center rise is about 1/4". On top of that, the crust is tough and chewy, on the order of beef jerky.


I'm guessing that I should increase the hydration, but at what point does the dough become unworkable? As it is, this dough is very soft and slack.


What can I do to improve this and what am I doing wrong?

jim baugh's picture
jim baugh

* Try using a high gluten flour

* autolyse your starter (u should be using a poolish) and flour and water, mixed. Let rest several hours before adding salt, yeast, etc. Then mix, and rise overnight.

Pre heat pizza stone and use a peel. 70% hydration sounds about right. You should not need much more than that if you are in 600 degree oven. Higher temp, then higher hydration.

You may want to extend you mix time with the while it is a wet mix after Autolyse.

Of course, check your yeast, make sure it is fresh. Proof it is not a bad idea either. I have had bad yeast before in the packets.

Best of luck

Jim Baugh

MarkS's picture

The best I can do on flour is KA bread flour. I cannot find high gluten flour locally and cannot justify the cost of having it shipped.

Isn't a poolish just flour, water and yeast? Everything that I have read about a poolish indicates that it is a mix of the 100% of the water and enough flour to make a 100% hydration batter and all of the yeast that is allowed to sit for at least 24 hours. If so, then that is basically what I am doing. Maybe I should omit the salt until I mix in the final batch of flour? I've use the starter method (flour and water left to sit for several days), but I want something that takes no longer than 24 hours to prepare. 

I do use a peel and I preheat the stone.

The yeast may be an issue. I ran out of bulk yeast and used a packet instead. It should have been fresh, but maybe not. Now that I'm thinking about it, time to order bulk yeast from KA (something also not available locally).

jim baugh's picture
jim baugh

Ok, I understand, here a couple of things to consider.

* To make a SD starter, it takes longer than 24 hours. More like three days to even a month. Once you have a good strong sour dough starter, then from then on, yes it is easy to make your poolish. Just take out a cup refeed the mother jar, and feed your discard with equal parts flour and water. Let THAT poolish sit from 8-24 hours at room temp, your good to go.

* I would get some fresh yeast and check the experation date. I found that discounted yeast, when I look at the pac, is close to experation. Be carful.

* Re think the High Gluten, it is worth the purchase, here is why.

I usually will only use one or two cups depending on the batch I am making. The reason is I also am using WW and a mix of bread flour. So, one bag of high Gluten flour will last a while, stretching out your investment. You dont use it all at once, at least not in our recipes.

* Omit the salt in your Autolyse, sugar, and anything else execpt flour water and poolish.

Hope that helps some


MarkS's picture

Yes, I've done the starter thing. I spent weeks culturing the starter. I followed Jeff Varasano's pizza recipe, but wan't too happy with it due to the shear time and work involved. How he manages to run a restaurant with this recipe, I do not know. I would much rather stay away from a SD-based recipe.


I just ordered the high gluten flour, but I am curious if adding wheat gluten to bread flour will give the same effect? I can get gluten locally and it would be a cheaper option.

Aussie Pete's picture
Aussie Pete

I'm no specialist but the first thing that hit me was the volume of yeast being 9 grams for 350 grams of flour. If you use instant dried yeast I wonder how you would go on using slightly less yeast percentages. My bread recipe for a normal sandwich loaf using 500 grams of flour only calls for 7grams of yeast. Again I am presuming you use instant dried yeast.

Anyway here is another pizza dough recipe you may like to try expressed in percentages

Bakers Flour(protein level11.9%)..................100%

Salt...........................................................  1.5%

Instant dried yeast........................................2%

Water.(luke warm).........................................60%


Some people call for a bread improver at 1.5% but this is optional. I don't use it.

Method.......Add all dry ingredients then add oil and water and mix ingredients. Then knead on a floured surface till smooth and elastic. Round of into a ball and sprinkle some olive oil over the dough. Place in a bowl covering with a plastic cling wrap or a clean cotton T-towl and allow to double in size. About 40 to 60 minutes. Or you can allow to stand overnight in the fridge.

Then roll out to your desired thickness and do your best topping. Bake at 200C in a conventional oven.

Good luck.............Pete

Nickisafoodie's picture

you can buy gluten at health food stores, perhaps add 1 tsbs to your AP flour.  any more than this and is may taste like cardboard.  but should give you a boost as bread flour would...

jim baugh's picture
jim baugh

You are correct, long fermintation is not a quick way to make a pie, however once you have a good strong starter, the rest is pretty simple. I will make baguettes for Friday, here is the schedule, it is about the same for pizza dough.

Wed- discard one or two cups of starter and make poolish. This takes 5 minutes, your done.

Thur- Autolyse, mix poolish flour and water mix and set for four-five hours

In the afternoon \ evening, mix ingredients, knead, divide and place in bowls in fridge. Or just one big ball of dough and divide day of baking.

Take dough out day of baking, rise at room temp, and away you go.

So, you are correct, it takes some time, but does not require but very little actual work and having to be there by your dough.

Still, it's is not as fast as whipping up the Chef Boyrdee, frozen pie, or delivery.

For quick pies if I am out of frozen dough, I will just add my starter to a pizza mix and away you go. I did this last week because my girlfriend said, "I want Pizza in less than an Hour" So, that is what I did. I always have SM tomatoes around.

Bottom line was this darn "Quickie" Pie was GREAT!!! No kidding. It did not taste like a two day fermintation, BUT! It was darn good pie for off the shelf and ready in an hour. It really was a good dinner. Adding some starter to the mix and a little high gluten flour made for a good tasting quick pie, no complaints. Heck, might make one tonight!!!


naschol's picture

at  They have a thread on cracker crusts.  I think you should be able to get the perfect recipe there.  They work hard at perfecting the different types of pizzas.



wally's picture

The first thing to note is that 245 g of water in 450 g of flour gives you a hydration of 54% - not 70%.  All your other percentages are similarly off: salt is actually just over 3% and yeast is 2%.

You should increase your water to 315 g to reach a 70% dough.

You should also dock your pizza before adding the toppings - this will keep the dough from rising up and giving you a bread-like pizza.

Good luck-


MarkS's picture

Sorry, that should be 350 grams, not 450. :o Fixed.


I do think it was the yeast. I have been trying new variation each time and this time I ran out of my bulk yeast and used a packet. I actually increased the yeast percentage over the last revision, and yet, the rise was less than last time. I'll try it again when my yeast arrives from KA.

pmccool's picture

if your pizza crust already has a tough texture, adding gluten will probably exacerbate the problem.  It is, after all, the thing in wheat-based breads that provides the rubbery network that can trap the gas bubbles from the fermentation and stretch out as those bubbles grow.  You may want to switch to an AP flour instead of using a bread flour.  It will have a lower gluten content and be less prone to toughness.  Italian flours tend to form less gluten than most U.S. flours.  That means they are less likely to produce a tough crust.

Another potential contributor to your crust's toughness is the amount of salt that you use in the formula.  Depending on individual tastes, breads typically run in the 1.5-2% range.  Salt has the effect of toughening a dough.  I've had the experience of trying to wrangle an unsalted dough, which was a sticky, wet mess.  After I remembered to add the salt, the dough underwent an amazing change; becoming more manageable, less sticky and more elastic.  

In answer to your questions about autolyse, an autolyse is simply a resting period during for a mixture of water and flour.  It allows the gluten-forming proteins in the dough to become hydrated, triggering gluten development.  Salt at this stage would have an adverse effect (see preceding paragraph), so it and the yeast are held back until the end of the autolyse period.  In your specific case, use of an autolyse would allow you to radically shorten the amount of kneading time.  Three or four stretch and fold turns during a room temperature bulk fermentation would help you to assist a more-open crumb.  Extended kneading tends to produce a smoother crumb with smaller bubbles, as you can attest.

You are getting some of the benefits of an autolyse with the overnight fermentation, although the presence of the salt and yeast produce different effects than would a straight autolyse.  You are also letting the dough develop more flavor.

If you are willing to experiment, you may want to try these changes:

1. Mix the water and the flour together, just until all the flour is moistened.  Cover and let sit for 30 minutes.

2. Add the salt (at 1.5%) and the yeast (about 1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon).  Mix just until incorporated.  If you want to dissolve the salt in a tablespoon of water before working it into the dough, that's fine.

3. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface.  Stretch the dough into a rectangular shape.  Fold in thirds, like a letter.  Turn 90º and fold in thirds again.

4. Clean the bowl and lightly oil or grease it.

5. Shape the dough into a ball, place in bowl.  Cover and let sit for 45 minutes.

6. Repeat step 3 and step 5.

7. Repeat step 3.  This time, shape the dough into a ball, place it in the bowl, cover, and then refrigerate overnight.

After taking the dough from the refrigerator, follow your normal routine for letting it warm and then shaping.

You might be wondering why I suggest these steps.  Lets start from the beginning.  First, the autolyse allows the gluten to develop without any manual or mechanized input; that saves you work.  Second, the reduced salt content means that the dough doesn't tighten so much as it does with the higher salt content, making it more extensible prior to baking and more tender after baking.  (Besides, you'll be putting plenty of salty toppings on it when you assemble your pizza.)  Third, the reduced quantity of yeast helps prevent overproofing during the bulk ferment on the counter between stretch and fold turns and during the overnight fermentation in the refrigerator.  Fourth, the series of letter folds serve to organize the gluten into a structured network that can trap and hold the gases from fermentation while providing for a more open (in the sense of larger bubbles) crumb.  Fifth, the overnight fermentation provides the flavor that you already enjoy.

If you want to know more about autolyse, or about stretch and fold, use the Search function at the upper left corner of the page.  You'll find a lot more helpful information than I have included here.

Best of luck with your pizzas!


MarkS's picture

Thank you for the description of autolyse! I had taken a nearly two year hiatus from bread making and I totally forgot the purpose of an autolyse. As you noted, I am adding flavor by letting it sit for 24 hours. This was my only intent. It never occurred to me that I was basically kneading the dough for 24 hours! This would definitely account for the toughness!


I'll try this method this weekend and report back. I think you solved the problem for me!

jackew's picture

I think it is important to not get to hung up on the idea of a perfect recipe. In my humble opinion a great pizza is more technigue than recipe. I used Texas farmers 36 hour baguette recipe with 75% hydration (salt,flour,water and starter) and Jef Varasano's procedures and got my best ever results. High heat is critical - 550+. 

hanseata's picture

yesterday evening, with the smoke alarm going off, the dog going nuts, the pizza stone meeting its maker, and the pizza a total loss, I really admire all of you who manage to make a thin crispy crust pizza at home.

After moderate success with P.R.s Napoletana pizza dough, I tried the Neo-Napoletana one with the above mentioned results - another reason why the very thought of an oven with no self-clean feature makes me shudder!



jim baugh's picture
jim baugh

You are not exclusive to disaster Pizza, it has happened to me with my first wooden peel. WOW was that an interesting night.

I never cook pies in the oven any more, ALWAYS on the grill. Much easier way to go and taste better.

Jim Baugh

MarkS's picture

I wish I could grill pizza! My apartment complex will not allow grills. :(

MarkS's picture

Thanks everyone! I think I have it.

This is what I did:

350 g flour

265 g water (a mistake. Added 20 grams more than I had wanted to in order to dissolve the salt). 74% hydration, should have been 70%.

7 g salt 2%

4 g yeast 1.14%+-

I mixed up 245 grams of flour and 245 grams of water and let it autolyse for 30 minutes. I then added the additional 20 grams of water with the salt and yeast, mixed well and then kneaded in the remaining 105 grams of flour with the dough hook. I kneaded for 5 minutes, let the dough rest for an additional 30 and then kneaded for another 5 minutes. It was then shaped into a ball and allowed to rise for 24 hours in the refrigerator.

The crust is very close to what I am looking for. It has a very open crumb, it's very crispy and not chewy and < 1/8" in the center. I'd take pics but I wasn't paying attention and burnt the crust somewhat. :o Not too bad and it still came out OK.

I do see an issue with the lower salt content. While I am prepared to accept that increasing it will add to the toughness, at 2%, the crust was kind of bland. The crust was not chewy at all and some chewiness isn't necessarily a bad thing, so I am going to experiment a bit more here.

Still, I am going in the right direction now and I thank all of you greatly!

MarkS's picture

I'm still open to comments or suggestions.

toyman's picture

I know and understand that you are trying for a 'neopolitan' pizza, but without the high heat (800-900*), you aren't achieving a true neopolitan pizza.  So, if you want a your dough to be less tough, you need to add a touch of oil (1-2%).  Over the past 2 years, I've settled on 2 main base doughs.  One for my Wood Fired Oven which consists of:

Caputo 00 100%

Water 65%

Salt 1-1.5%

Yeast .5%

I mix 75% of the flour in with the water for a 20 min autolyze.  I mix the yeast in with the balance of the flour.  After the autolyze I mix the salt in well and then add the balance of the flour/yeast mix. 

For my regular oven:

Flour (HG, Bread, AP?) 100%

Water 65%

Salt 1-1.5%


Yeast .5%

Both have a min 24 hour rise in the fridge and then a few hours on the counter to come to room temp.  Both are very extensible and can be stretched or thrown very thin.  In the regular oven I have a stone on the top rack and bottom rack which cooks very even.  I bake at 525% with an hour preheat. 

Good Luck and embrace a little oil, it's ok!

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

I like to put a touch of oregano in my crust, or a pinch of chili, or sourdough.  Even a teaspoon of balsamic vinegar.   2% Salt is more than enough considering toppings can get salty too.  I actually reduce the salt for pizza crust.  Also experiment with other sources of salt, a tablespoon of chopped capers instead or try some wacked up sardines, olives... a mixture.  ???

Oh that's right you want Napolitanian dough, who said that in the land of olive oil, no oil is in the pizza?  I think it's basic, like water.  I don't make pizza crust without olive oil.  Oops, sorry, I used the oil pitcher to measure the water...  or are the dough balls rolled into oil while they are rising? 

Ok, now I've read the AVPN rules.  Drat.  Do you think if one ate enough olives, one could perspire oil into the dough while mixing it?  :}   Change the flour.  Find a tastier one.

MarkS's picture

I think the main reason for the bland taste is that I let it over proof after taking it out of the fridge. As soft and slack as the dough was, I could have and probably should have shaped and topped it immediately after taking it out. One hour of sitting at room temperature and it looked like a tighter dough would look after sitting out for 12 hours. This is never a good thing. By the time I shaped it, it had spread to a 12" circle and was nearly unmanageable.

The next time, I'll reduce the yeast by half and get the water back down to 70%. Even with the one percent yeast, the dough was very bubbly and nearly over proofed coming out of the fridge.

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

It might help to mix the formless dough with some fresh made dough.  This might give you what you're looking for. 

My Austrian cupboard is bare, I get to go restock!  But first I must brush all the snow off my car and shovel the drive!  I love it!  :)

bcsverige's picture

I make pizza for a living and we make arguably (on a great dough night) pretty darn good pizza. We do the following: Cold water, yeast, starter (dough from the previous day) Add these three together, let sit for 10 min. Add the flour and then the salt on top of the flour. We then mix for 7.5 minutes, let rest 5 min, then mix again for 7 mins. The finished dough is then cold fermented for 24 hrs. Note: we are mixing 25kg 00 caputo flour. It sounds like your dough is developing too much gluten. I have done test with different mixing times and have found that has affected my dough quite a bit with chewyness etc.