Not all pizzas are created equal, but all great pizzas start with a well-made dough. For pizza-making beginners, the process of making a great homemade pizza may seem simple at first — after all, it only takes flour, water, salt and yeast to create the perfect crust — but learning how to form a precise balance of crispiness and chewiness is a skill in itself.
For homemade pizza made right, you’ll want a crust that has both great flavor and texture. The crust should nearly stand on its own — it should be tasty enough to enjoy without the addition of your favorite toppings. The best way to achieve a light, flavorful and complex-tasting crust is through cold fermenting your dough over 24 to 48 hours. Slow and cold fermentation allows the yeast to turn the carbohydrates in flour into alcohol and gas, causing your dough to develop its flavor and create air pockets that will contribute to an amazing aroma, flavor, and texture when baked. Fermenting your dough in a shorter time at room temperature will result in a less flavorful crust, with a noticeable difference in taste and texture.
It’s important to note that making a good crust requires care, time and quality ingredients — for 24 to 48 hour pizza dough, you’ll want to choose flour with a high protein content to allow the yeast to work its magic during the fermentation process.
We’re walking you through a tried-and-true cold fermented pizza dough recipe that develops its complex taste over time. This recipe was developed by renowned pizza master Tony Gemignani and is featured in The Pizza Bible, his comprehensive guide to making pizza.
In addition to the basic ingredients of a pizza dough recipe, you’ll be using tricks of the trade like diastatic malt, which helps to promote the browning and texture of your crust when baked. You can find these ingredients online or in the baking aisle of your local grocery store. Check out our list of supplies and ingredients for your next shopping trip, and make sure to factor in 24 to 48 hours of fermentation before your pizza-making day.
- A digital scale with both gram and ounce settings — make sure your scale registers to 0.1 gram
- Stand mixer with a dough hook or a food processor
- Preparation bowls
- Measuring cups
- Measuring spoons
- A half-sheet pan or two quarter-sheet pans
- Plastic wrap
- Optional: a dough thermometer
- 1 ½ teaspoons (4.5 grams) active dry yeast
- 3 ½ cups flour (453 grams) with 13% to 14% protein — try All Trumps, Pendleton Flour Mills Power, Giusto's High Performer, King Arthur Sir Lancelot Unbleached Hi-Gluten, or Tony's California Artisan Flour
- 1 tablespoon + ¼ teaspoon (9 grams) diastatic malt
- 2 teaspoons (9 grams) fine sea salt
- 1 teaspoon (5 grams) extra virgin olive oil
- ¾ cup + 3 tablespoons (225 grams) ice water between 38°F and 40°F, plus more as needed
- ¼ cup + 1 tablespoon (70 grams) warm water between 80°F and 85°F
In a small bowl, mix yeast and add warm water — whisk quickly for 30 seconds. With this process, the yeast should dissolve and the mixture will begin to foam.
Tip: If yeast granules start to float in the mixing bowl, discard the ingredients and start over with a fresh batch of yeast and water.
Combine flour and diastatic malt in a stand mixer bowl with a dough hook. If you don’t have a stand mixer, you can replace the mixer steps with a food processor.
- Run the mixer on the lowest speed as you pour in most of the ice water — save approximately two tablespoons.
- Next, pour the remaining two tablespoons of ice water into the yeast bowl, swishing it around to clean up any bits stuck to the bowl, and add the foamy yeast and water mixture to the bowl.
- Continue to mix the dough at the lowest speed of your mixer for one minute, or until the dough combines around the hook or blade.
- Stop the mixer and use your hands to pull away any dough stuck to the hook or blade of your processor. Make sure to scrape the mixing bowl with a rubber spatula to get all the dough together. Make sure to check the bottom of the bowl for any leftover flour.
- Press the dough into the bottom of the bowl to pick up any stray bits.
- Tip: If the dough isn't sticking together, add a teaspoon of water or more, mixing until the dough is no longer dry.
Add in salt and blend together on your mixer’s lowest speed for one minute.
- Stop the mixer to pull the dough off the hook before adding the olive oil. After oil is added, mix the dough on the lowest speed for approximately 2 minutes.
- As the dough is mixing with the oil, stop the mixer from time to time to remove any excess dough from the hook or blade and around the bowl until all the oil is absorbed.
- Scrape the dough out of the mixing bowl and transfer it to a work surface without any dusting of flour.
Tip: Avoid wood surfaces for kneading. Granite or marble surfaces are ideal because they keep the dough cool and prevent it from sticking.
- Knead the dough for approximately 3 minutes until smooth.
- Cover the dough with a damp dish towel and let rest at room temperature for 20 minutes.
- Cut the dough in half, to make two balls, and form each piece into a 13-ounce ball. Discard any excess dough.
- Set the two dough balls on a half sheet pan about 3 inches apart from each other. Wrap the pan in an airtight double layer of plastic wrap — make sure to seal the wrap well under the pan.
You’re done! This step is where the magic happens — patience is key. Place the pan on a level shelf in your refrigerator and let the dough cold ferment for 24 to 48 hours.