You may have heard of 00 flour being used as a basis for excellent pizza crust, but what is 00 flour? This is a type of flour that originated in Italy and is labeled with an Italian system.
It is a very popular flour for making pizza crust with all of the traditional elements that pizza enthusiasts have come to expect. It is one of the secrets behind a smooth, airy, and chewy crust. Its special qualities make it perfect for pizza.
Double Zero Flour is Different than Other Flour
To answer the question what is 00 flour, you must refer to its Italian source. Italian flours are categorized differently than flours made in the United States. Flours in the US are labeled according to their protein content.
Italian flours are labeled according to how finely the ingredients have been ground. By Italian standards, 00 flour, also called doppio zero flour, is ground so fine that it resembles flour. Compare this to level 0, 1, or level 2 flour that is coarsely ground.
The texture of 00 flour is comparable to cake flour or finely milled pastry flour in the United States. The difference is that finely ground types of flour in the United States have a much lower protein content than Italian 00 flour. This makes them light enough for cake but does not provide enough bite necessary for great pizza dough.
Bran and Germ
Bran refers to the material that covers a kernel of wheat. The germ is inside the seed itself. Generally speaking, when flour is refined, bran and germ are removed in the process. This causes nutrients to be lost, but it gives the flour a longer shelf life.
It also allows it to be ground into a form where it can be best used in different kinds of baking, particularly in heavy bread. Flour that maintains its high bran and germ content will have a much higher fiber content than more refined flour.
Italian double zero flour is not low in protein just because it is finely ground. The protein content can vary based on the type of wheat that is being used. Most 00 flours have a mid-range protein content of about 8% to 13%. It is often made from durum wheat flour, which allows for elasticity but also is still strong. Durum wheat gives the flour a protein content of around 12%.
Some brands and types of 00 flours have some portion of wheat flour blended into them as well. These may be more appropriate for various baked goods or baking techniques and will result in a sturdier product that is not as soft.
This type of flour is excellent for making pasta because it is finely ground to create a smooth, silky dough. It also lends itself to bending and stretching, which makes it perfect for intricate shaping that is required to create many types of traditional pasta. Using 00 flour for pasta creates a light result but it is also strong enough for ravioli or other pasta that must hold something.
Many serious bakers insist on using 00 flour for pizza crust. Sometimes the double zero flour is combined with semolina or all-purpose flour depending on the desired outcome of the dough. Double zero flour is a highly prized choice for pizza because it is not only smooth but also has the right gluten content. This is what helps create the soft, chewy, elastic texture of the perfect pizza crust.
Gluten is a protein that is left behind when starch is removed from wheat, and it helps create a wonderful texture in bread and other baked products. In pizza crust, gluten helps the pizza dough rise properly and also helps create the bubbles that form in dough with the right levels of moisture.
Substitutions for 00 Flour
Many home bakers and some professional pizza makers and other bakeries use regular all-purpose flour in place of 00 flour. These products tend to come out just fine, but there is a difference in taste and texture that someone with experience can immediately identify.
Wonderful pizza crust often starts with 00 flour in some combination because of its ability to deliver the perfect soft, chewy pizza experience. It’s an Italian specialty that you shouldn’t ignore in your pizza creations, because, while America is renowned for its innovations in pizza, this is one area where it’s wise to stick with the traditional ingredients for the best possible crust.