Maybe the dumbest thing I've ever done (LOL!)

While I've owned and operated bowling centers for quite a number of years, and typically not apprehensive about new ventures, my first foray into the pizza restaurant business has me a little nervous I must admit! There is an adjacent space next to one of my centers, which many years ago was a local pizzeria. I was talked into taking on the space and re-opening a pizzeria/restaurant. I do have restaurant experience, but not homemade pizza. I'm now in too deep to turn back! Actually, I'm looking forward to it, but find pizza making a much more complex undertaking than I would have ever thought. I've had applicants with pizza making experience, but they all have there own preconceived notion of how to make dough, sauce, pizza, etc. (mostly chain experience). I have read Tony's book over and over, (as well as others), and intend to start with Tony's recommendations. Our goal is to offer a simple, quality, extraordinary pizza. We will use only the best of ingredients, so need the dough to be exceptional as well.

The retrofit is close to being complete, and within a couple of weeks I can start experimenting with dough. I'm having issues sourcing preferred flours, so wondering if anyone can provide some input to the following -

I want to use flour which is not processed with bromates, and is unbleached. I cannot get many flours readily available in the West (Pendleton, Central Milling, etc), but have access to King Arthur flours, as well as a few others meeting my criteria. I gather that dough made with unbromated flour needs more mixing time, as well as a recommended preferment. I planned on trying to make dough with a starter anyway, but unsure of increasing the mixing time based upon what I have read. I do intend to bulk ferment in the cooler, then form balls and allow another 36 to 48 hour ferment in the cooler.

Given the above information, can anyone provide some input as to how to use unbromated, unbleached flours (which are readily available), using Tony's Master Dough with starter recipe? Any preferred flour products? Any dough making hints are welcome! This "bowling Guy" intends to offer a killer pizza! (Quality ingredients, house recipes and baked in a new Roto-Flex oven). Our initial offerings will be simple (thin, hand-tossed and thicker crusts only), until we have some experience. Then we'll work on offering some special, regional pies.

A curious question as well - in simple terms, what does a "starter" do to the dough recipe? (Just trying to understand dough).

Thank you in advance. At this point, I'm a sponge!

Sincerely, In Over My Head! LOL

John M.
posted over 3 years ago

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Welcome John! You've done what countless people dream of doing: start a pizzeria. You've come to the right place. We'll do our best to help you build up your knowledge. The Pizza Bible community has good mix of amateur and professional pizza makers. Here's my two cents regarding some of items mentioned in your post:

In terms of unbromated, unbleached flours, you shouldn't have a problem sourcing them on the East Coast. Flours such as All Trumps are usually available in bromated and unbromated versions. I'd be surprised in Pendletons (now Graincraft) isn't available on east coast since they're based in Chattanooga Tennessee. I suspect you'll probably need to find the right supplier, but I'm confident you'll be able to get those flours.

As for flour recommendations, it really depends on what you're going for. As a point of reference, the most popular flours we offer on The Pizza Bible store are the All Trumps (unbromated) and Pendleton/Graincraft Power. Tony's 00 and Caputo 00 are also popular items too. The All Trumps, Power and Tony's will perform very well in Rotoflex, deck and other gas and electric ovens.

With respect to using unbromated flours, the procedures contained in The Pizza Bible verbatim.

A starter is a type "pre-ferment". Think of it as a way of giving your dough a head start in terms of flavor. I'm about to publish an article on poolish. Once it's up, I'll post the link. Using a starter is an extra step, but is minimal in terms of effort. In my opinion, the end result is well worth it.

It sounds like you're on the right track. Were I in your shoes, there are two things I would consider doing:

1. Getting a clear idea of the type of pizza you want to make. If there's a style of pizza, or even a specific pizzeria that you love, you can start out by emulating it. As you get closer, you can customize your style to suit your needs.

2. Start out with one style. Get it right, then expand your offerings. Making a small batch of dough at home is completely different from making pizza in a commercial setting. As you add more options, things get out of control very quickly.

Hope this helps!

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Raj Irukulla admin
posted over 3 years ago

I very much agree with Raj here.

As far as East Coast flours are concerned, King Arthur Sir Lancelot High-Gluten flour is a good one to start with depending on the style you want to make. It's got a protein level of around 14%. It is unbromated but malted.

As Raj pointed out, there are two version of the All Trumps, bromated and unbromated. And then...there will be the new Caputo 00 Americana flour on the market but I am not 100% sure when. Tony will probably know more about this one.

Last but not least, you can always try a blend of flours and experiment with those.

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Mike K.
posted over 3 years ago

Hi Raj and Mike,

Thanks for the welcome, input and encouragement! While me head is spinning regarding dough making, I am looking forward to experimenting. Being located in the upper midwest (WI), I don't have a particular "style" crust in mind to begin with, rather trying to develop an all purpose dough which makes a nice pizza crust (thin, hand-tossed and thick), as well as use for Calzone, Stromboli, Italian sausage roll, cheese bread, etc. As Raj mentioned, I don't want things to get "out of control" at the outset. The more familiar my team and I become with dough making and the variables and complexities, we can experiment.

After reading Tony's book numerous times, and doing some research, I had settled on using Tony's Master Dough recipe with starter, using a flour mix of Pendleton Power (2/3) and Mondako (1/3). I have made many contacts as well as Pendleton directly, and don't think I can readily access those flours. I can get the All Trumps, but have read the unbromated is very weak (per Tony's book and others). So, now after more research and the consideration of what flours are readily available to me, I am thinking of trying a blend of King Arthur unbleached Sir Lancelot High Gluten (2/3), and Harvest king (1/3) - just to have a staring point.

Does anyone have an opinion on the unbromated All Trumps? Thoughts on the flour blend I am considering to produce an all purpose dough? I have also considered using the High gluten flour just for hand-tossed and thick crust, and use a lower gluten (ie - Harvest King), for thin crust pizza, calzones, stromboli, etc). This likely would not become too confusing or out of control. I'll know more when I can experiment in a finished kitchen!

i am a little confused - does Tony's Master Dough recipe assume the use of an unbromated flour? As previously stated, I have read unbromated flours require a recipe adjustment.

Lastly (for now!), I note in Tony's book that it states a bulk ferment is not necessary for doughs made with a starter. So, do I understand correctly and one would make the dough per instructions, form balls and let rise for 48 hours? Or, can one still follow the bulk ferment procedure? Or, does the dough require less rise?

Thanks for the input Raj and Mike - much appreciated!

John M.
posted over 3 years ago

You're welcome. I'm constantly experimenting with pizzas and find it useful to change only one variable at a time and make detailed notes about what works and doesn't work. Thought I'd mention it since it sounds like you're going to be running a lot of tests.

You mentioned earlier that you wanted to avoid bleached flour. Mondako, in case you didn't know, is a bleached bread flour.

In California, bromated flours aren't legal, so I'm 99.9% sure that Tony would be using unbromated flours. Personally, I love All Trumps and find that it's quite strong. I suspect you'll find that the unbromated version is strong enough to get the job done.

I'd recommend trying out some of these flours rather than just going off the protein level. Hydration level (% of water relative to flour), fermentation time, and even technique (e.g. folding) all have an impact on the end-result.

Regarding the bulk ferment, I'll take a closer look at what's mentioned in the book.

Also, this is just opinion, but I wasn't too impressed with the Sir Lancelot. While it's a very strong flour, I just didn't care for the end-result. I've been very happy with All Trumps, Power, Tony's 00, and even the King Kaiser and Supreme. I've yet to try Kyrol.


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Raj Irukulla admin
posted over 3 years ago

Hi Raj,

Thank you again! The information is very helpful in an attempt to get the first step taken care of - narrowing my flour choices down to 2 or 3 to start with. I'd like know I am on the right path with flour, as there are so many other variables to work with after that. I plan to start with using a specific flour, then use Tony's Master Dough recipe as a starting point, and make several batches altering all variables slightly (hydration, fermentation process, tiga vs. poolish, etc, etc.). I will take notes and try to make only one variation to each batch, then cook in the same manner to start with. There is a lot to this! I'll keep researching which flours are available in my area and work from there.

Regarding the excerpt from Tony's book which mentions "a bulk ferment is not necessary for doughs made with starter" - this can be found as the last sentence on page 25. Tony appears to recommend always using a starter, so I am curious how that changes the ferment process.

I greatly appreciate your input and expertise. While my head is spinning over my dough making decisions, I am looking forward to firing-up the Hobart mixer and oven!

Thank you!


- John   over 3 years ago


This is where it gets all technical :)

A flour higher in protein usually gives you more room to experiment with hydration levels since those flours have a higher absorption rate. As Raj mentioned, Tony's is great flour and I have used it with a hydration of up to 70% and it worked without a hitch. If you can source that flour locally or from a distributor, go for it. Excellent flour. Perhaps TG can set you up.

Imo, Sir Lancelot is a good flour with lots of possibilities and it can hold a good amount of water. I believe that, with flours higher in gluten, it comes all down to the way of kneading. It's very easy to over-mix a HG flour and end up with a dense, tough and chewy crust. I always under-mix a tad with a HG flour and let the fermentation do the rest of the work (24 - 48hrs). Underkneading is also a good way of preventing oxidation of the dough which occurs when you incorporate too much air into the dough by mixing it too long. It'll affect the color and taste of the finished crust.

Another thing you want to look out for is the ash content of a particular flour. Most millers don't mention the ash content in their flours but I think it is an important factor...the lower the ash content, the purer the flour. The ash % indicates the mineral residue left in the flour after milling.

You want a flour that is on the lower side of ash content.

All Trumps (unbromated), Sir Lancelot, TG's 00 and even the KA Bread flour are good flours to start with, imo.

And, like Raj said, take notes with every dough you make. Document any change you make, no matter how small the change is and note the outcome.

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Mike K.
posted over 3 years ago

John, I forgot to mention...your distributor should have all those numbers and specs on file for the flours they carry.

If not, either contact the miller directly or have the distributor do it for you.

- Mike   over 3 years ago

Thank you Mike! Going into this venture, I thought - "how hard can it be?" I have a couple of friends in the pizza business and they said no worries. While their pizza is okay, I'm looking for better. My issue is that I am a perfectionist, and want to learn this craft rather than just follow a recipe and procedure provided to me. My goal is to serve an exceptional pizza. You are so correct when you mention "technical"! There are so many variables, but as I mentioned in my response to Raj - I need a starting point with regard to flour choices. So, to narrow that to two or three is my goal, then start with Tony's Master Dough recipe and try slight variations so I understand what each does to a finished product. I will have a lot of notes!

As you mentioned, and is apparent in reading Tony's book, over kneading is a no no. I will need to figure out how to adjust the Master Dough recipe given the larger batches I'll be making (ie - mixing time, rest/rise time out of the mixer before bulk fermenting in cooler, etc).

Thank you for the comments regarding ash content. I had actually researched that and ended-up eliminating a few flour choices for that very reason. Unfortunately, those seem to be the most readily available to me, but I'll keep looking for the recommended flours.

I forgot to ask Raj this question as well - but in your opinion, will one dough recipe suffice for a great pizza crust (traditional crust - thin, hand-tossed and thick), as well as Calzone, Stromboli, cheese bread, olive bread, etc?

Lastly for now, you mentioned mixing flours. Raj provided a spec for Mondako, which I had overlooked. I have read that perhaps a 1/3 to 2/3 mix of a lower gluten flour to HG can produce some fine results. While an intriguing experiment, that may just add another variable in an already complex equation!? That said, if it is worth trying......I might as well! Thoughts?

I appreciate your input! I feel like I could write a book of questions at this point. I just need to get started and then begin to understand all the variables as related to a finished product.

Thank you for your input Mike - much appreciated!


- John   over 3 years ago


Re-reading through the whole thread, I wanted share a few more thoughts:

1. Precision really matters with pizza making and baking in general. As a perfectionist, you should be able to get good results.

2. You probably won't need a separate flour (or dough formulation) for calzones, strombolis and your thin crust. It all depends, but I have a feeling you can kill two birds, or three actually(!), with one stone. And without taking shortcuts.

3. As far as experimenting goes, I'd start with small batches using a stand mixer, or even mixing by hand. Once you get the result you want, then you can start thinking about how to scale the process. You'll save a lot of time and money.


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Raj Irukulla admin
posted over 3 years ago

Thanks Raj! I appreciate all the input. I will try to limit my initial experimentation to as few variables as possible, be precise, take good notes and go from there. I'll post again after I can "play" with some dough!

Much appreciated - John

- John   about 3 years ago

HI Raj (and Mike),

A couple quick questions please before I start experimenting -
1) Do you have an opinion on the use of a preferment/starter in dough not requiring a bulk ferment - per Tony's book (bottom of page 25). If you don't bulk ferment, would one increase the cooler retardation time of the formed dough balls?
2) While I want to offer a thin crust pizza, I also am intending to offer a hand-tossed and thick crust for those folks whom like a heartier crust. Can the same dough recipe produce this variety of crusts? Should the recipe be altered for thicker crusts? (not super thick, just thicker than thin, if that makes sense).

Thank you!


John M.
posted about 3 years ago

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