Selecting the right flour type for a pizza style is crucial, as one flour does not fit all crust types, according to Paul Bright, senior innovation manager for AB Mauri North America.
For hand-tossed pizza crust, a high protein (12-14%) spring wheat flour is desired, he points out. This flour type provides the ability to easily handle and stretch out proofed dough and gives pizza consumers an expecting eating experience of a chewy inside and a crispy outer crust.
“The flour type will change, too, if you are making a thin and crispy cracker style crust,” Bright says. “We suggest using a lower protein patent flour (8-10%) for ease of sheeting and to provide a crispy, not chewy, eating experience.
When it comes to flour, Tom Santos, field sales rep at General Mills Foodservice, points out that overall, consistent quality that replicates a great dough every time is the goal when choosing the right flour for pizza crust.
“When we work with pizza makers, we first ask what style of pizza they want to make,” Santos says. “Flours are classified by their protein levels and the amount of protein in a flour is directly related to the strength of the dough.”
When it comes to pizza dough, there are a few different general protein ranges. For instance, a thin, crisp but chewy pizza (e.g., New York style) calls for a high gluten strength and a protein level of 13 to 14 percent while a thicker crust with a soft bite (e.g., Chicago deep dish) requires a lower gluten strength and protein level of 10-12 percent, he explains.
Dave Krishock, bakery technical support manager at Grain Craft, likes to point out, “flour just ain’t flour!” and he’s right.
The baker or owner needs to determine the type of crust their customers are asking for and then make the choice about the appropriate flour.
Milling companies, such as Grain Craft produce a wide variety of flours for pizza makers; they vary in strength, protein content, class of wheat used and absorption capabilities.
All of these are factors that have a direct impact on the characteristics and “mouth feel” of the final product. The pizza maker needs to make a flour choice based on functionality, not simply on price or availability.
“Consistency in process is the key,” Krishock explains. “Dough is a living product, at least until 140 degrees when the yeast dies during the baking process. Time and temperature standards must be in place and adhered to when mixing, processing, and storing dough for later use.”
Fermentation equals flavor and shortcuts taken during the processing will simply produce substandard pizza crusts, he adds.
During Covid and as America enters the post-Covid world, the “pizza to go” trend continues to expand rapidly.
“To go” or delivery vs. eating in the restaurant has an impact on how the crust holds up in the pizza box. According to Krishock, formulators and pizza restaurant owners may need to reevaluate their choice of flour, and processing methods to ensure their customers don’t get home with a soggy/ limp crusted pizza.
“We always encourage owners to reach out to their flour company who can put them in touch with bakery tech specialists to help identify the corresponding flour and formula for the most robust crust,” he says.