Double-zero flour, or "00 flour," is a finely-ground wheat flour that's commonly used for making traditional Neapolitan pizza doughs. When baked at high temperatures in wood-fired ovens, it yields a crispy, crackly pizza crust with moderate chewiness.
- Made in Italy
- Finely milled
- Used mostly for making pizza dough
- Various gluten levels
What Is 00 Flour?
Unlike in North America, where wheat flour is categorized by its protein content, in Europe flour is categorized by how finely it is milled. The scale is numbered from 2 to 00, where 2 is the coarsest grind and 00 the finest, with a consistency almost like baby powder. The finer the flour, the smoother and more silky the resulting dough will be, which in turn produces a softer baked product.
Double-zero flour, or 00 flour, is usually used for baking pizza doughs, especially traditional Neapolitan pizzas, which are baked in wood-fired ovens. There are various strengths of 00 flour, ranging from a minimum of 7 percent gluten, all the way up to 14 percent. There's even a version of 00 flour made from durum wheat designed for making pasta.
Double-zero flour takes its origins from flours that were milled centuries ago in Italy. The doughs made from these flours used no refrigeration and would be fermented at room temperature. The finer grind of 00 flour allows for longer fermentation while producing a light, airy, crispy crust (as opposed to chewy). It also means that the flour absorbs less water, which is another way of saying that it takes less water for it to achieve saturation. This is crucial in pizza doughs that are cooked very rapidly in wood-fired ovens that exceed 800 F.
High hydration, or a higher ratio of water to flour, i.e. a wetter dough, softens the glutens, allowing the formation of larger air pockets, so that the dough has more rise, and produces a more open, lighter, airier pizza crust.
This wetter dough can typically use less yeast, since it derives its oven spring from the steam being released from the dough, which means these pizza crusts will have less yeasty flavor.
There are five main varieties of 00 flour, and while they are all milled to the same 00 specification, they use different types of wheat to produce different protein levels. Pizzeria flour might have a protein content of 11.5 percent, which is close to all-purpose flour and is best for short fermentation and quick cooking times. Other varieties have different protein contents and absorption levels, which allows for varying fermentation times.
Additionally, there are two major brands of 00 flour in Italy, Caputo and 5 Stagione, each of which manufacture different varieties under different names. But in general, the distinctions allow for different hydration levels, fermentation times, and cooking temperatures.
How to Cook With 00 Flour
Cooking with 00 flour requires balancing three factors: the hydration of the dough, the fermentation time, and the cooking temperature. The different styles of 00 flour are intended for different styles of cooking. Pizzeria flour, which might have a protein content of 11.5 percent and an absorption of 55 percent, is best suited for superhot ovens, 850 F and higher, where the pizza cooks in 70 to 90 seconds. This extremely brief cooking time means that the water in the dough has less time to evaporate, thus the lower hydration.
So, the hotter the oven, the lower the hydration. Which is why, for traditional Neapolitan pizza, the best flour would be the one that absorbs the least water, namely the 11.5 percent protein pizzeria flour. But if you're cooking your pizzas in a conventional home oven, you'll be better off using one of the higher protein 00 flours.
A higher protein 00 flour will absorb more water, allowing for longer fermentation, which yields more flavor, and is best for lower cooking temperatures and longer cooking times, like in a gas or electric oven.
What Does It Taste Like?
Foods prepared from 00 flour derive their flavor from the other ingredients, the yeast, sugar, salt and fats with which it is combined, as well as the fermentation of the dough, and lastly, from the caramelization of starches that occurs when the dough is baked. Longer fermentation usually produces a more tangy flavor, approaching that of sourdough. And as we noted earlier, wetter dough in a wood-fired oven requires less yeast, so it will have less of a yeasty flavor.
Double-Zero Flour Substitute
Unless you're cooking pizza in a wood-fired oven, it's not strictly necessary to use 00 flour. So if you see a recipe that calls for 00 flour and you don't have any, you can use all-purpose flour. But you may have to adjust the amount of water in the recipe, since 00 pizzeria dough has an absorption level of around 55 percent, while all-purpose flour might be 61 to 65 percent.
Double-Zero Flour Recipes
While 00 flour is mostly used for pizza dough, there's a version for making pasta as well. You can also use a high-gluten 00 flour in other bread recipes that call for high-gluten bread flour.
Where to Buy 00 Flour
Although it's possible to find 00 flour in specialty food stores or at Italian markets, ordering it online is a better bet.
Storing 00 flour is no different than storing all-purpose flour. Keep it tightly sealed in a cool place, where it will keep for 6 to 8 months.