Make this pizza dough once, and you’ll never again buy a frozen pizza or one of those pre-made doughs that taste like dessicated wood chips. The only challenge is timing, as the biga takes 12 – 16 hours to develop.
While I’ve made pizza crust using my sourdough starter, the crusts I’ve made with a biga turn out thinner, lighter, and crisper. The recipe below is adapted from Jeffrey Hamelman’s “Bread: A Baker’s Book of Techniques and Recipes.” If you’re new to baking bread, this is a well-written, comprehensive book worth having in your library.
While the dough is rising, you can grate mozzarella cheese and cut up fresh vegetables for your pizza.
The key to this dough is the biga, a kind of starter or pre-ferment containing a small amount of yeast in addition to water and flour. It was devised in Italy after commercial yeast supplanted traditional sourdough breads. To me, it’s a kind of midway point between sourdough and yeasted breads, with the biga returning some of the flavor of sourdough into the dough. Then you incorporate that into the dough.
Makes two pizza doughs. One dough suffices for two adults. If you want, you can freeze the other one. If you choose to freeze a dough, be sure to let it defrost naturally; don’t use a microwave!
Where Hamelman’s calls for making dough in a mixer, I prefer to do everything by hand. It’s not a drawback for home quantities.
Bread flour 7/8 cup
Water ¼ cup
Yeast – a pinch
Disperse the yeast in the water. Add flour and stir until just smooth. The biga should be stiff and dense. Cover the bowl with plastic and let stand for 12 to 16 hours.
Final pizza dough ingredients
Bread flour 3 3/8 cups
Water 1 ¼ cups
Yeast ½ teaspoon
Olive oil 2 tablespoons
Salt ½ tablespoon
the biga you made above
Place flour in a bowl. Add water, yeast and salt. Mix together. As the dough comes together, add chunks of the biga until it’s all incorporated. Knead the biga into the dough. Correct the hydration by adding small amounts of water or flour as necessary. (i.e. a tablespoon of water at a time) The dough should be medium consistency. Add the olive oil and continue mixing/kneading by hand. After adding the olive oil, about 5 or 6 minutes kneading time should be fine.
Let the dough rise for one hour, and then fold it. Then let it rise for one additional hour. Divide the dough in two pieces and shape into pizza crusts, or freeze, as you choose.