When making pizza dough at home, the type of wheat flour you use may not seem like a big deal, but it will affect the dough. Of course, when making pizza dough, we want our crust to have some chewiness, but the choice of flour depends on the type of crust you're after, whether it's a thin New York-style crust, a chewy Neapolitan-style pizza, or a deep-dish pie.
When trying to decide which flour is best for you and your pizza, it’s important to understand the differences between the various types of flour, including all-purpose flour, bread flour, pastry flour, and cake flour. Each flour will behave differently when stretching into a circle, and specific types are best for specific styles of crust.
Understanding Gluten Content
Flours have different textures, depending on their gluten content. For example, cake and pastry flours are very soft and fine and almost feel like silk, while bread flour is a bit coarser. Cake and pastry flours have very low gluten content (eight to 10 percent), making them “soft” flours, while bread flour has a high gluten content (12 to 14 percent), making it a “hard,” or “strong” flour. All-purpose flour is a combination of “hard” and “soft” flours and contains 10 to 12 percent gluten.
Gluten is a protein that, when wet, creates an elastic system throughout the dough. It is what gives bread its chewy, springy nature, and therefore the more gluten in the flour, the chewier the bread will be. This is why cake and pastry flours are used for delicate baked goods—no one wants to eat a chewy cake.
Just as it sounds, all-purpose flour can be used for almost everything. It will taste good in most pizza dough recipes, but it can sometimes be more difficult to stretch out as it may tear more easily. All-purpose flour is great for Sicilian and deep-dish pizza crusts and will also do well in thin crust, New York-style, and Neapolitan-style pizzas. Your average supermarket brand is adequate, but many swear by King Arthur Flour.
This is most people’s go-to for home pizza baking. It’s easy to find in any grocery store (again, King Arthur Flour is a favorite brand), is affordable, and adds some extra oomph and crispiness to thin crust and New York-style pizzas. It will make your crust crispy on the outside and chewy and textured on the inside.
Bread flour won’t tear as you stretch it out, but it can sometimes be hard to form into the desired shape, continually springing back because of the high gluten content. If you are interested in even higher gluten content, look for King Arthur Flour’s Sir Lancelot High-Gluten Flour with 14 percent gluten. It's sold online on the King Arthur Flour website.
Caputo Tipo '00' Flour
If you want to make Neapolitan-style pizza, which is thin in the middle and puffs up around the rim, seek out the more expensive Caputo Tipo "00" flour. The “00” refers to the texture of the flour: Tipo "00" is the finest grind you can get, 0 falls in the middle, and 1 is the roughest. This fine grind, along with a 12 1/2 percent gluten content, produces a crust that is chewy but not rubbery, with just the right amount of puff on the edges that gets charred in some spots in the oven.
Caputo flour can be found in Italian or specialty grocery shops or online. You can also try King Arthur Flour’s Italian-Style Flour, the “American clone of Italian '00' flour,” available on King Arthur Flour’s website. Be aware that if your oven does not perform well with temperatures over 500 F, the Caputo Tipo "00" flour may not brown and char sufficiently for a good Neapolitan-style pizza, so it’s probably not worth the high price tag.