Making Pizza Dough


Pizza dough is the foundation of any great pizza. Most pizza shops make their dough in house using formulas that scale easily and allow them to make large batches of dough at once. To make these large batches you will need to know about the ingredients, how to mix, proof and shape the dough, as well as adjusting the dough temperature.

In This Article You Will Learn:

  • Pizza dough ingredients.
  • The baker’s percentage.
  • How to make pizza dough.
  • Adjusting the dough temperature.

The Ingredients

There are five main ingredients found in all pizza dough recipes. These ingredients and their purpose are described below:

  • Flour. Flour is one of the most important ingredients to making pizza dough (or any baked good for that matter). Flour adds important ingredients to the dough (like protein) and, when mixed with water, helps hold other ingredients in place. Flour also allows the final dough to retain its shape after fermenting and baking. Most flour used for making pizza dough is made from wheat, but different flours can be blended together. For individuals with a wheat intolerance or allergy, gluten-free flours are becoming a popular alternative.

  • Water. Water acts as the medium in which all of the dough ingredients come into contact. It activates both the yeast and the gluten in the flour and allows the yeast to contact the salt (in direct contact, salt will kill the yeast). Water also controls the temperature of the final dough and makes it sticky and elastic. During baking, water combines with the starch in the flour, making it gelatinize to help give form and firmness to the final product.

  • Yeast. Yeast is the ingredient that makes dough rise and expand. It does this by breaking down some of the enzymes in the flour and releasing carbon dioxide. As the yeast expands and grows, it adds to the dough’s flavor and aroma. Yeast also produces a natural mold inhibitor in pizza dough and breads.

  • Salt. Salt helps increase the strength and elasticity of the dough along with enhancing the flavor. Salt also slows the action of the yeast, so it does not produce carbon dioxide too fast and produce a dull, flat taste.

  • Oil. Along with enhancing the flavor, oil also makes the dough easier to handle. Usually the last ingredient to be added, oil prevents the dough from sticking to the mixing bowl, dough hook and the person’s hands. Once the dough is portioned into individual balls, they are coated with oil to keep the dough from drying out during the proofing phase.

Baker’s Percentage

Rather than using dough recipes that call for a teaspoon of this and two cups of that, pizzerias use what is known as the baker’s percentage to calculate the amount of ingredients they need to add.

  • Baker’s percentage defined. The baker’s percentage is a formula that indicates bread and pizza dough ingredient portions based on their relationship to flour, and the percentages are based on weight. Rather than all of the ingredients adding up to 100%, flour is set at 100% and each subsequent ingredient is a certain percentage of the flour.

  • How it works. Let’s say your pizza dough recipe calls for 10 pounds of flour and 0.1 pounds (1.6 oz) of salt. Since flour is at 100%, then the baker’s percent of salt is 1%.

  • The benefits. The beautiful thing about using the baker’s percentage is that it scales easily, so if you want to make more or less dough, you can half, double or triple the ingredients without worrying that the dough will taste different.

  • The drawbacks. The only major drawback to using a baker’s percentage formula is that it involves a lot of math, and for some people, math is difficult and maybe a little frightening.

Why Weight is Important

Weighing each ingredient provides the most accurate method for portioning. For example, a cup of hard packed flour will contain more flour than if sifted. One pound of flour is the same now matter how it is packed, so you will want to use a restaurant scale to properly measure your ingredients.

Here is a formula for basic pizza dough given in terms of a baker’s percentage. Since a Baker’s Percentage is based on the amount of flour you use, let’s assume that you will be using 100 pounds of flour for the dough; the second column shows how much of each ingredient you will need to include.

IngredientBaker’s Percent FormulaActual Ingredient Weight
Flour100%50 lbs
Salt1.74%13.92 oz (0.87 lbs)
Sugar2%1 lb
Olive Oil3%1.5 lbs
Instant Dry Yeast0.5%4 oz (0.25 lbs)
Water58% (70 °F)29 lbs

The overall weight of the dough will be approximately 83 pounds. If you intend to make 14 ounce dough balls, a standard weight for a 12-14 inch thin crust pizza, you will be able to get about 94 dough balls from this single batch.

Baker’s Percentage Calculator

For the first time, using someone else’s formula is a good way to get used to making a lot of pizzas, but eventually, you may want to experiment with your own dough formulas. In order to make the task easier, the Lehman’s Dough Calculator is available online to help you determine the baker’s percentage and formula for your custom pizza dough. If you have a favorite residential recipe, you should be able to convert it into a Baker’s Formula and scale it up to commercial kitchen portions. Simply set the required flour as 100% and calculate the percentage of each ingredient.

Thickness Factor: This is a term used in the pizza industry to indicate how thick a pizza crust will be. Cracker-thin pizzas have a factor of 0.05. For thin crusts it is 0.1, medium thickness is 0.11 and thick crust pizzas have a thickness factor of 0.13 or higher.

How to Make Pizza Dough

Here are the basic steps each pizza shop will need to follow in order to make their pizza dough:

  • Weigh each ingredient. Water and flour are going to be the largest ingredient portions, so you will probably need a shipping and receiving scale to measure those. Smaller ingredient portions can simply be weighed on a mechanical or digital portion control scale. Whichever type of scale you are using, be sure to place the bucket or bowl on the scale, reset it to zero and then add your ingredients. This way the container will not be included in the ingredient weight.

  • Dump ingredients into mixing bowl. Place the mixing bowl on the dough mixer first and add the water, salt, sugar (if called for), flour and yeast. Make sure the salt is added second, so it dissolves in the water, and add the yeast last. If yeast and salt come into direct contact, the salt can kill the yeast, but when the salt is dissolved in water, it will not harm the yeast.

  • Start at a slow speed for a few minutes. This will allow all of the ingredients to be properly dissolved in the water, and it should start to form a paste as the flour absorbs the water.

  • Switch to medium speed. Mix at a medium speed for six to eight minutes, or until all of the flour has been picked up in the dough.

  • Add oil and mix for a few more minutes. Among other things, the oil will keep the dough from sticking to the bowl or your hands. The dough should look smooth and have a slight satin sheen to it, indicating that it is sufficiently coated with oil.

  • Check the dough stickiness. Though the dough may have a satin sheen, you will want to check to make sure it is not still too sticky. To do this, turn off the mixer, pull off a small portion of the dough and roll it in your hands. If the dough is sticking to your hands, mix it for a little while longer. Keep doing this test until little or no dough sticks to your hands.

  • Check the dough temperature. The dough formula will indicate the final temperature of the final dough batch, usually somewhere between 80 and 85 °F. You can check this temperature with a with a digital pocket thermometer to make sure it is within the desired range. If the dough is too warm, then it will have to proof in the cooler for a longer period of time. If the dough is too cool, you can mix it a little while longer, so the friction will heat it up. Also, whether the dough is too warm or too cold, you will want to adjust your water temperature with the next batch.

  • Remove the bowl from the mixer and portion the dough. When creating individual dough balls, you will want to weigh the dough as well. This is for portion control purposes, and so your pizzas are all the same size and thickness. Depending on the size of your operation, you can shape the dough balls by hand or by machine.
    How to Form Pizza Dough Balls »

  • Coat dough balls with oil and place in the cooler. Olive oil is the traditional coating placed on dough balls before they are proofed, but some pizzerias use Pam or another cooking spray. The oil will keep the balls from drying out or sticking to one another.

  • Cross-stack the boxes for a few hours. If you are using dough boxes, you will want to cross-stack them one atop the other for 45 to 90 minutes before you leave them overnight. Cross-stacking will cool the dough faster since air is able to circulate around the balls, but you do not want to leave them exposed for too long, else the dough will dry out. After 45 to 90 minutes, you can nest the boxes inside one another for overnight proofing and to increase the overall shelf-life of the dough. Smaller operations that use dough pans will not gain the benefit of cross stacking. However, dough pans are made of metal (not plastic, like the boxes), which will help the dough cool.

Dough Temperature

The mixing friction is a representation of the heat generated when the dough is mixed. It is created by the mixer motor and the physical motion of the dough rubbing against the mixing bowl and dough hook. As long as you use the same mixer and implements, the mixing friction should be constant for all of your dough batches.

Commercial pizza dough recipes indicate that your dough has to have a specific temperature once mixing is complete, and the temperature of the dough affects the proofing. The warmer the dough, the faster it will proof. This can be problematic for pizza shops, because most pizzerias want the dough to rise slowly, usually overnight. For the most efficient proofing, it is important that you achieve the final dough temperature indicated by the dough formula.

For pizza, the final dough temperature is usually between 80 and 85 °F. The final temperature is affected by the room temperature (RT), flour temperature (FT), water temperature (WT) and mixing friction (MF). In order to achieve the desired dough temperature (DDT) the only factor you can control is the water temperature. In order to determine what the water temperature needs to be to achieve the DDT, you can use the following equation:

WT = 3x DDT – (RT + FT + MF)

What is Mixing Friction?

The mixing friction is something that each pizza shop has to determine for itself because it depends on your specific mixer and the speeds at which you mix the dough. You will need to make a test batch of dough beforehand and use a pocket thermometer to measure the actual dough temperature (ADT) of the test batch. Then, use the following equation to determine the mixing friction:

3x ADT – (RT + FT + WT) = MF

Example: Let’s assume the actual dough temperature (ADT) is 80 °F, the room temperature (RT) is 75 °F, the flour temperature (FT) is 72 °F and the water temperature (WT) is 60 °F. Using the above equation you can calculate the mixing friction.

So, the mixing friction is 33. You can now use this variable in all subsequent dough formulas to determine the desired water temperature. Here is the equation for determining the water temperature:

WT = 3x DDT – (RT + FT + MF)

Example: Assuming the desired dough temperature is 80 °F, the room temperature is 73 °F, the flour temperature is 71°F and the mixing friction is 33, you can calculate at what temperature the water needs to be to achieve the DDT.

WT = 3 x 80 – (73 + 71 + 33)

WT = 63 °F

In order to achieve a final dough temperature of 80 °F, the temperature of the water needs to be 63 °F. This is right around the temperature of normal tap water, but you will want check the water temperature with a digital thermometer to make it is where it needs to be. If the water is too cold, let it sit out at room temperature for a few minutes, and check it again. If the water is too warm, place it in the walk-in cooler and check periodically until it reaches the desired temperature.

Now that you know some of the basic procedures for making pizza dough, you will need some pizza dough recipes to tinker with and hone your skills. When trying a new dough recipe, scale everything down and make enough dough for one or two pizzas, because you may want to make some minor adjustments to the formula.


About Author

Maggie Henderson

Maggie once gained five pounds in pursuit of the perfect Indian dal recipe. When she isn't cooking, she spends her days as a marketer and her nights and weekends blogging, taking pictures and chasing after her son and dog.

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