It’s common knowledge that 00 flour is the gold standard for classic Neapolitan pizza and fresh pasta dough. It’s mainly due to its gluten content.
00 flour is a finely-milled Italian flour, and depending on the brand, it has an average gluten content of 10%. This is what gives the pizza crust its light and crispy texture with a pleasant amount of chewiness.
Bread flour has a higher gluten content (12-14%), making it ideal for bread and certain types of pizzas baked at a certain temperature. However, if your oven can reach temperatures above 700F, don’t think twice and go for pizza flour.
At the end of the day, your choice of flour boils down to what you want to bake and the kind of oven you use. Curious to find out more? Keep reading.
Why Does the Choice of Flour Matter in Pizza Making?
The only difference between an edible cardboard and a heavenly pizza crust is the flour you use. That’s precisely why the internet is full of heated debates about pizza flours.
00 flour or pizza flour is what most pizzerias and high-end restaurants use for making the dough. But, this flour is not readily available in many states in the US. Even if it is, it can be expensive.
The closest substitute that’s both cheap and easily available would be bread flour. I have baked pizzas with American bread flour a couple of times in my domestic electric oven. And the results were…
Quite alright, I’d say. It’s definitely chewier than crusts made of pizza flour. American bread flour is commonly used for making NY-style or Detroit-style pan pizzas. The high gluten content in bread flour allows for a longer fermentation. This helps the dough develop a more complex flavor profile.
The fineness of 00 flour is ideal for pizzeria-type light and airy Neapolitan pizza. Such pizzas are traditionally cooked in a wood-fired oven for a minute or two.
Domestic kitchen ovens can’t reach such high temperatures anyway. So it’s perfectly acceptable to use bread flour instead of 00 flour for making pizzas at home.
What Is 00 Pizza Flour?
Tipo 00 flour is milled from durum wheat. It is considered the best wheat for pizza dough due to its high gluten content. Although the gluten % varies from brand to brand, it generally contains 10%. King Arthur 00 pizza flour has 11.5% gluten, while Caputo 00 has 12% gluten.
Their high wheat gluten content makes them ideal for baking pizza crusts with a crispy texture and chewy interior. It also has a low amount of starch and sugars, which means it won’t create a gummy crust when baked.
00 pizza flour is the go-to choice for making thin-crust pizzas. This is because it absorbs less water than all-purpose flour, which makes the dough easier to handle. Moreover, low absorbency also makes it perfect for baking pizza in a wood-fired oven that can get hotter than 800F.
Pizza flour is also great for making fresh pasta dough, breadsticks, focaccia, stromboli, and other Italian dishes.
What Is Bread Flour?
Bread flour comes from hard red spring wheat grains that are high in protein. It’s used for making bread because it creates a chewy crust and soft interior. The high gluten strength helps trap air during rising, which makes bread rise properly and gives it structure.
Pizza dough made with bread flour are easier to stretch due to its high elastic toughness. Gluten also impacts the dough’s water absorption capacity. Bread flour can absorb more water, making it the right choice for high hydration, cold fermented pizza doughs.
Note that if you are going down the long, cold fermentation route, you have to use a flour with over 13% gluten. Most commercially sold bread flours contain 12-12.5% gluten.
6 Key Differences Between Pizza Flour vs. Bread Flour
Pizza flour and bread flour – both are widely used for making pizza, traditional bread, fresh pasta dough, and many other baked goods.
There are some noticeable differences between the two flours in terms of gluten strength, grind size, and absorbency. These factors, along with oven temperature, will determine the taste and texture of your pizza crust.
Below is a detailed low-down of the differences between 0 0 flour vs. bread flour. Hopefully, this will help clear up all the confusion and allow you to make the right choice when it comes to choosing a flour for your next pizza recipe.
1. Hydration Level
Pizza Flour and bread flour are both made from wheat. But the difference in their hydration levels makes them ideal for different purposes. Bread flour has a higher hydration level than pizza flour, which facilitates a better rise. This means it will produce a moist dough that leads to a soft and chewy crust.
Pizza flour has a comparatively low hydration level, which makes it slightly less stretchable than bread flour dough. However, you won’t notice the difference if you use a high-gluten 00 flour by King Arthur or Caputo and perfect your water-to-flour ratio.
Bread flour has a higher gluten content than pizza flour because it needs to be able to withstand high temperatures in the oven. The higher gluten content helps the bread rise while baking and gives it structure so that it holds together well when you cut it into slices.
Pizza flour doesn’t need this kind of strength because it is cooked for shorter periods of time.
Pizza flour is made from durum wheat, while bread flour is made from hard spring wheat. This difference in grain makes a big difference in the taste, texture, and nutritional content of the finished product.
Durum wheat has a distinct, nutty flavor and contains more fiber than hard spring wheat and is also high in iron, magnesium, protein, and B vitamins.
Bread flour can be more difficult to digest due to its high gluten content. In reality, neither 00 nor bread flour is “healthy” per se. If you are looking for a gluten-free or low-gluten alternative to 00 flour, you can go with oat flour, cornmeal, or almond flour.
King Arthur also has a gluten-free all-purpose that can make a decent homemade pizza crust with the right recipe.
4. Grind Size
00 flour is finely ground, while bread flour is comparatively coarser in texture. The baby powder-like soft and silky texture of Tipo 00 flour allows it to reach the desired consistency with less water. This results in a lighter texture and more air pockets in the dough.
This makes it ideal for baked goods like pizza crusts that need to rise quickly while still maintaining their shape.
Bread flour, on the other hand, is more coarsely ground and contains more gluten than 00 flour, which gives it a chewier texture and better structure. While both flours can be used interchangeably in some recipes, each one has its own unique characteristics that can affect the outcome of your dish.
So if you’re looking for a light and airy crust with lots of air pockets, then you should go with Tipo 00 flour. If you’re after a crust with a little less crunch and more chewiness, opt for bread flour.
And if you have subbing 00 with bread flour due to availability issues, increasing the fermentation time can help you reduce the chewiness a bit.
Where I live, 00 pizza flour is not only expensive but also difficult to find. And even if you do manage to track some down, it will probably be just a small bag or two because it’s not something most people use often. That’s why I switched to ordering them online.
Bread flour is more commonly available, so if you’re just looking for an easier replacement, bread flour is probably your best bet. It’s also cheaper than 00 pizza flour and will work well as a substitute in most recipes.
00 flour’s applications aren’t limited to pizza. It’s also used for making focaccia, stromboli, and desserts, like cannoli, biscotti, and zuccotto (a large dome-shaped cake).
Bread flour is great for traditional breads like brioche, sourdough, bagels, cinnamon rolls, pretzels, pie crusts, biscuits, cookies, and fudge cakes.
Can You Use Bread Flour for Pizza Dough?
I don’t see why not. 00 flour is specially crafted for baking in wood-fired ovens that can get hotter than 800F. Regular kitchen ovens can’t get that hot.
So, as long as you nail the recipe and adjust the making time and temp accordingly, you won’t notice much of a difference. The only thing to keep in mind is that your crust may be a little chewier than usual.
Pizza Dough Recipe with Bread Flour
Here’s a quick and easy dough recipe that you can use to make pizza at home. It’s simple and delicious, but it does require some time to rise, so plan ahead!
- 1 cup bread flour
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon yeast (active dry or instant)
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 cup warm water
- Mix the flour, salt, sugar, and yeast in a large bowl.
- Add in the olive oil and warm water and stir until combined.
- Cover with plastic wrap or a towel and let rise for at least two hours (four is better). Once it’s risen, preheat your oven to 500 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Lightly flour a work surface and stretch out your dough into whatever shape you want (rounds are traditional, but square pizzas are also delicious!).
Bread Flour vs. Pizza Flour: Final Verdict
Pizza is technically a type of bread. So I don’t see any reason why bread flour won’t work. It’s the perfect substitute for 00 flour for homemade pizzas. That said, if you are a pizza puritan and own a wood-fired oven that can reach 800F or higher, choose 00 Italian flour, by all means.