The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

How does bread dough differ from pizza dough, in terms of the process

sournewb71's picture

How does bread dough differ from pizza dough, in terms of the process

Where does bread dough and pizza dough differ in their processes (forget about ingredients for a moment)?  Is pizza dough just bread dough without the final proof?  Would an overproofed bread dough work as a pizza dough?


mike owens's picture
mike owens

you start with a much higher gluten flour than usual for bread.  then the temp needs to stay low (use cold water, keep mixing temps low and a few other things). once it is formed put it in and air tight container or bag and put it in the frige for about 4 days.  then its ready.  you can make 1 day dough but the "real" pizza flavor comes from the dough and this process not the special sauce most people think they have.  there is a lady that used to be one of the lead researchers for a large pizza chain that has a dvd called 'secrets from inside the pizzaria'.  i bought it, it has made a huge difference.  most people now tell me i make the best pizza they have ever had.  i also put in 2-3 oz of fresh ground hard white,  i think it gives a nice rustic texture

sournewb71's picture

Thanks Mike for your input.  I've heard of the cold refrigerator method, however there maybe times when I want to speed up the process.  I'm more curious as to know when the dough is ready.  What makes it ready on the 4th day according to your experiences?  Are you going just by flavor?  How far are you developing the dough before you throw it in the fridge.  Does the fridge method work for natural levain as well?


mike owens's picture
mike owens

to the same extent it was asked. so here is some more:

1 day dough recipe

22 oz bread flour

1 ½ T Sugar

1 tsp dry yeast

2 tsp salt 14 oz cool water

3 tbsp  extra virgin olive oil


Combine the yeast, sugar and water in mixing bowl and allow yeast to dissolve and begin to bubble.  Add flour and mix to completely combine, continue mixing and add salt and oil.  Mix until it comes together in a ball adding more flour or water as needed to make soft elastic dough.  Place in a lightly oiled bowl and rise till puffy. ( it can be retarded at this point) turn the dough and let rise til doubled.


Lean Dough Formulation for 16-inch Pizza

1/2 teaspoon dry yeast

1 1/4 cups water

1 1/4 teaspoons sugar

1 1/4 teaspoons salt

1 1/4 teaspoons oil

Flour – about 3 to 3 1/2 cups to make a stiff dough


1. Dissolve the yeast in 1/2 cup of warm water. You can do this in the measuring cup or the mixing container – just be sure the water is the correct temperature and yeast dissolves completely.


2. Mix in sugar to dissolve.

3. Now add 3/4 cup cool water. Cool water slows the fermentation process and can help keep the finished dough temperature on the cool side.

4. Add flour to make a thick batter, like a pancake batter. Beat well. At this point you can cover the dough and let it ferment for half an hour or more (up to 3 hours) for extra flavor – or add the rest of the ingredients and start kneading.

Note: if your dough temperatures are coming out too high (usually due to using a food processor), the second addition of water should be cold; skip the ferment stage and go directly to processing.

5. Mix in the salt and olive oil. (Remember, if you are using bread flour or all-purpose flour for a thin crust pizza, you may want to eliminate the oil entirely to make a chewier crust – or if you want a softer dough, you can add extra oil up to 4X the recipe amount.)

6. Work in flour to make a stiff dough. Amount of flour needed to make a stiff dough can vary with the type of flour, humidity of the flour and room, and temperature of the dough, so don’t worry about measuring.

The dough should be very firm, only slightly yielding; but not hard and unyielding like a rock.

7. Knead the dough to develop the proteins into a strong gluten structure. At first you’ll notice the dough has no elasticity, but as you work with it, it becomes stretchable and elastic. Kneading by hand will take 8-10 minutes; using a heavy duty mixer with dough hook about 4 minutes (be sure to turn the dough over half-way through mixing); in food processor 45-90 seconds, adding flour until correct firmness is reached.


8. How do you tell when the dough is just right? Shape it into a closed ball and set it down. Over the next minute the dough will relax ever so slightly – much like if you were tense and relaxed your muscles, but didn’t move. If it relaxes more than that, knead in a little more flour and try again. If the dough has too much flour, it will not relax, be difficult to shape and close into a ball, and you may see particles of flour not absorbed. It will be difficult to stretch out when you make the pizza. If the dough is too slack, it will stretch out too easily – four to five slaps of the dough will stretch it to 16 inches.

9. Check the temperature of the dough. It shouldn’t be over 75°F. Cooler is better. The protein in the dough will be damaged at higher temperatures.

10. This will make a doughball weighing about 26 ounces.

11. The biggest handling secret of all: Low and slow.

Oil or spray the dough balls or container. The container needs to be air tight - zip loc bag, covered plastic container (not the kind where the lid will pop off when gas builds up), cake pan with domed lid. I find zip loc bags very convenient for fitting into small spaces in the refrigerator. Let the doughballs rise in the refrigerator for 2 days or more – untouched until

you are ready to use them. If the doughballs have not doubled in size when you are ready to use them, you will need to remove them from the refrigerator and let them double in size. Complete proofing is important for flavor, rising, and browning during baking.


What happens during this cool, slow rising period in the refrigerator? The yeast action creates flavorful byproducts during fermentation that turns an otherwise tasteless mass into a ball of flavor. The gluten mellows out, making the dough stretchable, and the cool temperature keeps the protein (gluten) in good condition so the dough will rise under the load of toppings in the oven. Did you know that artisan bread bakers use these time and temperature techniques for their breads? However, they vary the temperatures during the fermentation period to favor the growth of certain bacteria over others used in the sourdough starter process.



To make the New York style pizza, choose the spring wheat. This wheat will have protein ranging 14% and above as compared to bread flour around 12-13% and all purpose flours about 10-11% which are good for cakes and cookies. Premium quality high gluten spring wheat flour provides excellent fermentation tolerance, machine ability, good volume, and absorption. If ash content is listed in the specification, choose the one with the highest ash content. (The higher ash content means there is more Clear Flour in it and that is good.) If you have worked with Vital Wheat Gluten before, you may wonder if you could just add this product to all-purpose or bread flour to make a high protein flour. The answer is: not exactly (although I have done it and it’s not bad and definitely better than no pizza at all). Bread flour is made from winter wheat flour - or a blend of winter and spring, and is a finer patent flour – meaning the mill uses streams of flour from the milling process that are taken from the center portion of the wheat kernel; these streams are white and fine textured. The flour I am suggesting you try has these streams of flour plus some of the more tan, rougher portions of the grain called First Clear. It is still a white flour rather than a whole wheat flour, but if you compared it to a bread flour, you will notice it is slightly darker.

If you rub spring wheat flour between your fingers, you will notice the particles have a granular texture. Bread flour does not have this granular texture – it is softer in texture and more compact. All purpose flour is even softer and more caked. So you see that if you add a teaspoon of gluten per cup of bread flour, you can increase the protein level but you still are missing some key factors. Yet – if you are not able for some reason (you live in Australia?) to get spring wheat flour, you should use bread flour (with or without some extra gluten added) – and you will make a very good pizza. Note that some people will prefer a pizza made with bread flour.

The reason most home pizza makers and even some commercial pizza makers don’t succeed at making pizza dough is that they treat it like bread dough. Forget everything you learned about making bread – the 2 or 3 risings, punching and reshaping, putting the dough in a warm location

patnx2's picture

Mike I do believe your pizza explanation doesn't answer the queation asked. What's the difference? You did not explain how you mixed the dough (pizza) and how that was different from making bread. Also pizza can be made with lower gluten flour. I would be interested others talking about the difference as I am not sure even though I do make both.

On pizza questions I usually go to    Patric from Modesto

cranbo's picture

Where does bread dough and pizza dough differ in their processes (forget about ingredients for a moment)?  Is pizza dough just bread dough without the final proof?  Would an overproofed bread dough work as a pizza dough?

OK, ignoring ingredients (hi gluten flour, 00 flour, water quality, oil/sugar) and formulas (hydration, salt level):

  1. Combining ingredients & mixing: not much difference here, although I personally find I can push pizza dough more (i.e., knead for longer) and it's more forgiving.
  2. First (bulk) fermentation: at room temp, can be very short (less than 30 min) or skipped altogether (see #3 and #4 below). You want the first fermentation to happen in the fridge, over a long period of time (anywhere from overnight to 4 days). You certainly can bulk ferment bread dough in the fridge, but it's somewhat less common, whereas it's very common in pizza dough prep. 
  3. Shaping. You can shape pizza dough right after mixing, for bulk ferment in the fridge; or you can shape after the short room-temp bulk ferment. Usually for bread you can't shape right after mixing, you have to wait for bulk ferment to finish.
  4. Cold storage: this is where it differs most; the duration of cold storage for most breads is much shorter than pizzas. (see #2) Cold storage is almost a requirement for really flavorful pizza crust. 
  5. 2nd fermentation (proofing): this doesn't really occur in making pizza. You will let your pizza come up to room temp for a short time (to reduce elasticity further to enable shaping), but with well-aged dough, you are racing against time somewhat. You're not trying to finish fermentation here and build volume like you do in bread. 
  6. Final shaping: you don't do this in making bread, but you do in making pizza. Generally you are removing most of the fluffiness that may have developed in fermentation, depending on the style. 
  7. Baking: also different than bread, as you bake right after the final shaping. Also you bake much much hotter (like 100F+ hotter) for a much shorter period of time (usually less than 10 min.)

I suppose you could use an overproofed bread dough for pizza, but it will have some of the same off-characteristics as overproofed bread: possible beer-flavors, poor browning, poor crust edge texture. 

sournewb71's picture

Thanks Cranbo for shining a light further into this!

-So would it be fair to say you want to develop gluten for pizza the same as you would for bread?

-Should the dough double in size during bulk fermentation?  Where does your 30 minute guideline come from?


cranbo's picture

Yes, you certainly want to develop gluten and dough strength, but you also want to take steps to enhance extensibility, as FlourChild mentioned below. 

I rarely, if ever, ferment my pizza bases at room temp, because you just cannot get the same level of flavor as you do with a long, slow cold ferment. In a pinch, yes, if I needed to make a quick pizza base I would certainly let it double at room temp during bulk fermentation. 30 minute guideline is simply a short period of time after mixing to enable fermentation to establish before a cold fridge ferment, but it's certainly not necessary; in fact, depending on how long you will age your dough and how much yeast you are using, a 30 minute rest may not be desirable. 

In terms of doubling during bulk fermentation, I've never paid close attention to whether actual doubling has occured, because my dough balls are always in the fridge, and not in a container where it's easy to measure doubling. Usually there is some size increase, but I don't measure it. Dough balls will certainly will double if it sits long enough, even at cold fridge temps temps. 

FlourChild's picture

Most of my thinking about pizza relates to three things:

Flavor  First, it's a bread whose flavor needs to stand up to all those toppings.  Flavor comes from long fermentation, something like 12 hours at room temp or a day or more in the fridge (some recipes do both).  

Extensibility  Second, it has unique shaping needs.  It takes some skill to shape a pizza, and the dough needs a combination of strength (so it doesn't tear when you stretch it) and extensibility (so it will stretch and stay stretched, i.e., not shrink back to a smaller pie when you're trying to stretch it out).  When the yeast are subject to cold, they give off a bit of glutathione which enhances extensibility.  Also, a long rest before shaping helps relax the gluten.  So a long, cold spell in the fridge might accomplish both.  Or ice water plus a long room temp rest/fermentation.  There are various ways to do it.

The flour also affects shaping- if you are making smaller pies (say 10" or less), and can use a gentle style of shaping, you may not need a high-gluten flour- personally, I enjoy a more tender crust and use a flour with 10.5%-11% protein.  If you are making larger pies, and/or enjoy a very chewy crust, then a higher gluten flour (bread flour) may be the right choice.  Most recipes that use bread flour also include some oil to tenderize the crumb.

Cornichione  Finally, the rim- I like mine to brown easily, and to be puffy and have large interior holes.  A super hot oven and cooking surface that transfers heat well (pizza stone, cast iron, etc.) is part of the equation.  For browning, sugar is the other part, and it has to come either from added sugar or from a long retardation/fermentation in which the yeast have been slowed down enough so that the amylase enzymes have time to create plenty of residual sugar in the dough.  You can just add sugar, or you can reduce yeast and/or refrigerate the dough to limit the yeasts' consumption of sugar.  

Large holes come from a hot pizza stone, dough that is underproofed and still has plenty of "legs," moderate gluten development, and high hydration dough, normally 70% +.  




sournewb71's picture

Thanks everyone, these were the answers I needed!

Emerogork's picture

"I suppose you could use an overproofed (?) bread dough for pizza, but it will have some of the same off-characteristics as overproofed bread: possible beer-flavors (!), poor (?) browning, poor crust edge (?) texture."

Didn't Shakespeare say something about a response like that?

I doubt you can imagine the superior flavor bread dough has over the conventional pizza dough.  There is one place here in central CT that has me "House of the Rising Sun" spoiled. I am not talking about the thick crust pizza either.

I simply do not enjoy any other pizza, it all tastes like frozen grocery pizza. I suffer silently the people I know who rave over their home made pizza dough and that of their friends.

Bread dough for Pizza is the way to go.


cranbo's picture

For me, poor browning, poor rise, and beer-y flavors represent fermentation gone too far. But enjoy if you're into that kind of thing.

I'm certainly not saying you can't use bread dough, but I am saying I personally don't like overproofed bread dough or overproofed pizza dough, and much prefer dough that has proofed properly. 

How do you define "conventional pizza dough" anyway? 

Emerogork's picture

Easy, all "pizza" dough that I find is conventional, even with minor adjustments and different recipes, compared to pizza made with bread dough. This includes restaurant made, home made, grocery store, and "Gourmet" shops. They all seem to be reliant on the toppings to be successful. More often than not, the bread-dough pizza only wants simple tomato sauce and good mozzarella.

I may sound as if I am related or pushing this but here in CT, in Middletown, is Jerry's Pizza.  This is where I got spoiled many-a-year ago and have been on a quest to figure out what he does for such an incredible flavor.

Since then, all pizza dough became conventional. What's more, these restaurants that use pizza dough for pizza also use pizza dough for calzones.. YUKKK.

Am I a bit aggressive on this? Sorry about that but it has become an obsession for me.   I have been to hundreds of pizza shops but no-one compares to Jerry's.



Emerogork's picture

maybe you can tell me how to get that "Beer Flavor" that you relate to as in bread dough.  I have been trying for months now can cannot seem to get it.

It is interesting that I really do not like beer yet I seek it in bread....



cranbo's picture

I may be Captain Obvious here, but how about including beer or spent grain? Those are good ways to get that flavor. 

The alternative is to let your bread overferment. How do you let it overferment? Let it rise til it doubles or triples and starts collapsing on itself. Then bake it (as a pizza or a bread). Then maybe you'll find the flavors you're looking for.