More than once I have had friends and acquaintances ask me: “Rudy, what flour do you recommend I get to make a good pizza?”
There is no universal answer to this question. Let me see if I can be clearer: How many types of pizzas have you eaten in your life? So many, right?
You should see where I’m going with this. For each product, the right flour.
Importance of flours
In Italy we are so lucky, we really have a myriad of fantastic types of pizza, each with unique and extraordinary characteristics. Pizza Napoletana, Teglia Romana, Pizza al Padellino, Trancio Milanese, Tonda, Scrocchiarella, and Pizza all’Italiana. These are just some of the products we can enjoy, each made with completely different flours and methods.
Simplifying a great deal, for a Verace Napoletana we are going to use flours with very different characteristics than those we would use to make a Roman Pan. The important thing is to be clear about what it is and how to choose a flour based on the product we want to make.
Always keep in mind, however, that the “goodness,” that is, the taste of a flour, is not given by its technical characteristics, but solely and exclusively by the quality of the raw material and the processing methods by which it is made.
Introduction on types of flours
Let’s face it: it has happened to us very often, especially in the early days of our baking adventures, to linger in front of the flour shelf in a supermarket and have no idea what flour to choose to make pizza for the next day.
Indeed, it is not easy to navigate the choice based on the few data you can find on the label, and that is why I offer this brief guide.
N.B. Since this article is about pizza, I will neglect all those types of flour that normally find use in other areas with the promise to explore this topic in more detail in the future.
To make a pizza, of any kind, generally starts with wheat flours.
The reason for preferring it is quickly stated: it is the cereal that can develop the highest amount of gluten.
What is Gluten
Imagine gluten as the fabric from which the special elastic net is made that is responsible for retaining the gases developed during rising.
It is achieved by the mechanical action to which our mix of water and flour is subjected. The two main proteins in flour (glutin and gliadin), bind together and create our elastic network, which is called the gluten mesh.
Flour types and abburatting
You will surely have read in large letters on the various packages of flour the words Type 00, Type 1, Wholemeal, etc. etc.
This is nothing more than an indication of the extraction percentage (called abburatation in the jargon), which is the process by which the bran parts are separated from the rest of the grain. The lower the number (0, 00) the greater the abburaturation.
In a whole-wheat flour, 100 percent of the wheat kernel is present, while in a 00 flour only the endosperm (the “heart”) will be milled, effectively resulting in a flour that is much more breadable.
What you have read so far are often familiar concepts, but it is only fair to point them out so that you can introduce new elements of evaluation.
Strength – Extensibility – Toughness
I will not go into the technical aspects behind these parameters, suffice it to say:
The higher the strength of a flour (expressed in W), the greater the ability of the dough to stretch and the longer it will be able to hold within it the carbon dioxide produced during rising.
The strength of a flour is measured in the laboratory using specific instruments (Chopin’s alveograph) that inflate a ball of dough (with standardized sepcifications) with air until it breaks. We can thus measure its extensibility (i.e., how much it can inflate before it breaks) and its tenacity (i.e., how much resistance it poses to inflation itself).
In a good quality flour for pizza or in general for yeast and large leavened goods, the Strength and the ratio of Tenacity to Extensibility (denoted as P/L) are always given.
The reference value for P/L is 0.5 and can go down to 0.4 if we are talking about flours for doughs that do not need medium or long rising or go up to 0.6 for flours with medium or high strength.
Also not to be underestimated is the ability of a flour to retain liquids.
Gluten is capable of absorbing about 1.5 times its weight in water, so it is easy to see how, by using strength flours, doughs containing more liquid (hydration) can be made than flours with lower Ws, without compromising the formation of the gluten mesh.
Protein and Gluten
Everything I have told you about so far is closely related to the quantity and quality of gluten, which is formed when we supply mechanical energy (kneading phase) to the 2 main proteins in flour in the presence of water.
Is it therefore correct to say that the higher the percentage of protein in a flour, the higher the amount of gluten? ABSOLUTELY NO!Or rather, not always.
Not all proteins form gluten in the same way and some do not form gluten at all, so forget fancy “fixed” ratios between amount ofprotein and strength of a flour.
This is all interesting information, but you may be wondering how it applies. The answer is actually quite simple, although only with a proper method will you discover the true potential of your flours.
Meanwhile, we can summarily divide the products into:
Flours with a strength (W) between 90 and 160, called weak flours, are those used for shortbread, cookies, crackers, and breadsticks, thus those products that in fact have no structure and do not require long or medium rising times.
Flours with W between 160 and 250 are considered medium-strength and are suitable for certain types of breads, pizzas and buns with short rising times.
Strong flours, which can reach up to a W of 400. They are suitable for doughs that require long or very long rising times such as Roman Baking Pan doughs, indirect doughs, or large leavened doughs.
Which flours to choose and why
You may have realized that choosing the right flour can be complex if you don’t have the basic concepts we’ve talked about in mind. In 90 percent of cases to bake a good pizza you just need to have a medium-strength flour and a slightly higher-strength flour on hand, for example, our Soft Wheat and Pizza.
With the former you are going to churn out fluffy products with a dense texture.
With the second you can make crispy pizzas with a lot of texture, provided you use the correct processing methods. And using them in mix, the result will be amazing!
“Okay, all clear, but is it better to use a 00 flour, a type 2 flour, or a whole wheat flour?”
You will be happy to know that there is no such rule. I personally prefer to use not overly refined flours such as Type 1, mixing them with whole wheat or specialty flours. So fix firmly in your head what characteristics a flour must have to work well, but let your imagination guide you as far as taste is concerned.
Flours selected for you
These are the flours I have chosen to offer you, after years of classes and home baking.
- Pizza, or la Rossa as the “insiders” call it, is a Type 1 flour made by natural lava stone milling of a particular wheat bland with added rye. It is a strength flour particularly suitable for Roman-style Pizza in Teglia, Pizza alla Pala, and Pinsa, products that require long leavening and very hydrated doughs. It lends itself particularly well to mixing with special, whole grain or weaker flours and gives the dough a rustic appearance and exceptional fragrance.
- The SoftWheat or the Green is a medium-strength stone-ground Type 1 with which you can make fantastic Pizza al Trancio, Paddle and Neapolitan pizzas. It is a very versatile flour that used on its own, or properly combined with “La Pizza” and other flours, gives us the ability to make any baked product we can think of.
The Special Flours
- La 5 Cerealsis made from a mix of type 1 wheat flour, whole-wheat rye flour, whole-wheat wheat flour, whole-wheat spelt flour, toasted red brown rice flour, and toasted whole-wheat corn flour. It has the advantage of imparting really distinctive fragrances to doughs, a certain degree of sweetness and exceptional crispness. It is able to form a good glutinous mesh so you can use it without any particular fear.
- La Spelt Flour is a flour obtained from the milling of Spelt Spelt. It has good aptitude for gluten formation therefore for baking and is characterized by the slight hint of roasted hazelnuts. Used in the right doses (around 15-20%) it will enable you to make fantastic Gourmet pizzas.
Now you have all the information you need to choose the right flour for your pizza. However, if you have any questions or would like to learn more about the article you just read, feel free to send me a message on Instagram=> by clicking here.
A huge greeting!