You were craving pizza and decided to make one yourself. You found a good recipe online and did all that the recipe said—yet your homemade pizza came out bland. If you found yourself in this situation, I’m about to help you troubleshoot what happened in this post, so that you never end up in it again.
So, how can you make homemade pizza dough more flavorful?
If you want more flavorful pizza dough, use 00 flour, add 1⅓ teaspoons of salt to every 2 cups of flour, and leaven the dough slowly for 1-2 days in your fridge.
Sometimes, the reason why your pizza wasn’t very flavorful is that it came out soggy and wet on the bottom. The best way to prevent that is to use a pizza stone and preheat your oven to 550°F (290°C) for 30-45 minutes.
Let’s take some time to look at why each of these techniques works so well.
Use Italian 00 Flour
Savory pizza starts with a good pizza dough. And good pizza dough calls for the right type of flour: finely-ground for a delicate crust and with a lower gluten content, so that the pie doesn’t come out too chewy.
When it comes to pizza, there is no better flour to use than Italian 00 flour. Considered to be the gold standard for pizza, it’s used by the world’s best pizzaiolos in Naples, Italy, also known as the birthplace of pizza, to make Neapolitan-style pizza.
00 flour is a finely-ground Italian wheat flour with a protein content of 11-12%. My personal favorite is Antimo Caputo Double Zero Flour. It’s made of 100% soft wheat, is ideal for baking in your home oven, and can be kept in the fridge for prolonged storage.
For those of you who, for one reason or another, can’t use this Italian-imported flour, here’s my list of the best 00 flour substitutes.
Don’t Forget to Add Salt to Your Pizza Dough
A dough without salt is a dough that tastes bland. Not all recipes call for the addition of salt, and not every home cook follows the recipes exactly, so too little salt is very often the main reason for bland pizza dough.
Salt plays an important role in enhancing the overall taste of your pizza dough. It helps to bring out the natural aromas and flavors present in the flour and the yeast.
Salt adds to the elasticity of the gluten in your dough. It tightens the strands of gluten formed during kneading, which makes the dough better-capable of holding on to the gas bubbles produced by the yeast during the rise.
The best salt to use for a flavorful pizza dough is Mediterranean fine sea salt. It’s expensive compared to table salt, I know. But when you use table salt for pizza dough in the U.S., you’re trading off flavor for cost savings. The FDA requires that magnesium and trace minerals be washed off of table salt crystals. Unfortunately, this washes off some of its flavor, too.
How much salt should you add to your pizza dough? As a rule of thumb, add 1 ⅓ teaspoons of salt to every 2 cups of flour.
Give Your Pizza Dough Enough Time to Rise
When you add yeast to dough, the yeast cells start to feed on the starches and sugars in the flour. The gas bubbles that they produce—a byproduct of their feast—build up on the dough and cause it to rise.
Yeast is a single-cell organism that feeds on the sugars and starches in the dough. As a result, it farts out carbon dioxide (CO2) and ethanol (C2HO5OH) in the form of gas bubbles.
The ethanol produced by the yeast cells in the fermentation process is, along with a few other chemical reactions, what gives pizza dough its distinct flavor.
The carbon dioxide gas bubbles get trapped inside the dough, which makes it rise. Generally speaking, more fermentation means a pizza crust that tastes better and that comes out with more air pockets.
Most pizza recipes, especially for Italian-American pizza styles, will tell you to rest the dough for 1 to 1 ½ hours after kneading it. This is simply not enough time for the yeast to do its magic and develop the flavor of the dough.
To make a more flavorful pizza crust, give your dough plenty of time to rise. After mixing the dough, kneading it, and shaping it into a ball, place it in a large bowl, cover the bowl with plastic wrap, and let it rest in your fridge for 24-48 hours.
I bet you that you’ll be blown away by the flavor of a dough that’s risen for a couple of days in comparison to that of dough risen for one hour.
Bake Your Pizza on a Pizza Stone
For centuries, pizza was made in coal- and wood-fired brick ovens. The hot and porous baking surface of the bricks would puff up the dough and draw out excess moisture from it. A pizza would bake in as little as 60-90 seconds, coming out airy on the inside and charred on the bottom.
All of that changed when Thomas Edison established the Edison Electric Illuminating Company of New York, which slowly brought electricity to America. The first electric oven was exhibited at the Chicago World’s Fair in 1893. On June 30, 1896 and, by the early 1900s, the technology had become mature and affordable enough to enter into American homes.
The challenge of baking pizza in a home oven is that, because hot air has the tendency to rise to the top of an enclosed space, home ovens are hotter at the top than at the bottom. This means that the pizza crust doesn’t get heated enough to become puffy and charred.
By providing a hot and porous surface for your pizza, pizza stones emulate the effect of having a brick oven.
Pizza stones are slabs made of ceramic or cordierite that you preheat in your oven and use as a baking surface for pizza pies. Preheated for 30-45 minutes, most pizza stones will stabilize at a temperature of 500°F-550°F (260-280°C).
Learn more about pizza stones (and see my top two picks) in my post on the topic, “Pizza Stones: 14 Things You Should Know.”
Don’t Go Too Wild With the Toppings
If you put too much tomato sauce on your pizza or add too many toppings to it, it will come out soggy and doughy. Even if you make the most flavorful dough, that taste will be barely noticeable if your pizza comes out wet and raw on the bottom.
Instead, do like the Italians do, spreading “just enough” tomato sauce as the base and using few ingredients of exceptional quality. Some of my best pizzas were also the simplest.
Cooked tomato sauce from a can of San Marzano tomatoes, a couple of garlic cloves, sea salt, and olive oil; anchovy or sliced pepperoni in the middle; pieces of buffalo-milk mozzarella on the top. This is literally all it takes to make a delicious pizza.
No more bland pizza. Now that you know my techniques for making flavorful dough, your pizza will come out savory and delicious every single time you decide to make one.
How did these techniques work out for you? And do you have any tips and tricks of your own that you’d like to share with the rest of this post’s readers? Let me know by leaving a comment below.