Pizza is one of life’s finest joys. The rich tomato sauce, the stringy warm mozzarella with chili oil, and garlic drizzled all over the top. Making your mouth water, right?
Well, how about making it from scratch? Now we know this might seem like a scary thought, especially if you’re simply just starting in the kitchen, but we promise it’s easier than you think.
The key ingredient; the dough.
If you’ve mastered a homemade dough that’s either light and crispy, thick-cut, or even stuffed with cheese, however, you choose to make your dough, you’ll already be over halfway there. The toppings are just a fun bit that comes at the end!
Here’s the best part. When you’ve perfected that all-important dough, you can make your dough in advance!
This means you’re prepared for anything at a short moment’s notice as well as it saving you a lot of time and hassle if you’re the next pizza party dinner host, or if you’ve got in from work real late but are craving that little taste of Italy.
We promise that making it a few days ahead or even the night before can make your life a whole lot easier. Well, what are you waiting for? Let’s find out how!
How Does Pizza Dough Last?
Pizza dough can famously be made in advance because after mixing all your ingredients, the yeast in the dough will start to ferment. This kickstarts the lifespan of the dough.
By simply slowing down this fermentation, it ensures the dough will last longer and not over ferment. Therefore, the main two factors that come into play are temperature and the quantity of yeast.
There are four main ways to slow down the fermentation of your pizza dough. You can either freeze or chill it, use less yeast, or even use more salt. So what is the most common way?
Most people go with using less yeast in their dough, which allows the dough to ferment at room temperature.
However, if you like in a very hot climate and would prefer to let it ferment at a cooler temperature, you can do so in the fridge, just ensure you use a moderate amount of yeast.
Our top tip would to be let it ferment as long as possible. Longer fermentation develops a deeper and richer flavor, just like sourdough bread that we all know and love.
This is the main reason why people often choose to make their dough in advance, whether or not they have the time, and why it’s a very common practice all over the world.
That’s why we’re all here, isn’t it? We’ve told you why and how pizza dough can be made in advance but now you want the recipe.
Luckily, we’ve compiled a few in this article that will suit everyone’s schedule and can be made at a variety of different times.
This means whether you want to make your dough in the morning for either that evening or the next, or whether you want to make it at least a day ahead, or even if you want to make a dough several days ahead, we’ve got you covered.
Each recipe makes three pizzas, so divide or multiply accordingly to how many you want to make.
Before we reveal our favorite individual recipes, you’re going to want to know the general method of making pizza dough.
This can be used with the ingredients of all the following recipes and should be simple enough for both adult and child bakers to grasp.
- Gather and measure all your ingredients.
- Mix salt and water in a large bowl. Add the yeast to this mix and allow it to dissolve before adding the flour. Here comes the fun bit, get messy and use your hands to bring the dough together. Next, without removing it from the bowl, squeeze and flip it for at least a minute and let it rest for around 20 minutes until all the water is absorbed.
- Here comes the most important part, please don’t skip this step! You need to knead the dough on a lightly floured smooth surface for around 2 or 3 minutes. The dough needs to be soft but not extremely elastic.
- Next, you need to start the fermentation process. This is called bulk fermentation. You need to let it bulk rise for 1 hour at room temperature in a container that’s covered all over.
- Now you need to ball the dough. To do this, split the dough into equal-sized portions with a dough cutter or knife and fold the edges under the dough before pinching it shut. Take the ball under your hand and roll it in a circular motion on your smooth surface until it forms a smooth ball shape.
- The penultimate step is to cover the dough balls with plastic wrap on your tray, or even place them in an airtight container. Then depending on the recipe, let the dough rise in the fridge or at room temperature to start the second round of the fermentation process.
- Finally, if you have let your dough rise in the fridge, take it out 2 hours before using it and allow it to reach room temperature while still being airtight.
- Now let’s stretch, add our topping, and bake!
Recipe One (Storing The Dough Until The Evening Or Next Day)
This recipe calls for you to leave the dough out of the fridge and ferment at room temperature of around 70F/21C.
This is because of the small amount of yeast used, which purposefully stops it from fermenting too quickly.
The fermentation process should last anywhere between 6 and 16 hours, but be careful, the longer you leave it, the more delicate it will be.
The dough made via this recipe will be relaxed and stretchy as it’s been left at room temperature for so long and the gluten therefore will not snap back.
It’s also a perfect example of how although days of fermentation can bring out the intense flavors of the dough, you can reach the same amount of flavor in just one day if prepared correctly.
- 500g Bread Flour
- 325ml Tepid Water
- 0.3g Instant Yeast
- 15g Salt
Recipe Two (Storing The Dough For 24-48 Hours)
This recipe is stored in the fridge only to slow down the fermentation process.
To get fermentation rolling, it uses more yeast than the previous recipe and should be stored in the fridge for at least 12 hours.
It can last up to 48 hours but after 12 hours has passed, the earlier you take it out, the better.
Don’t forget, like all recipes, it needs to reach room temperature before serving so ensure you remove it from the refrigerator around 3 hours before stretching otherwise you might struggle when opening it up.
This recipe makes a delicious tasting dough with great texture, it just takes that little bit longer.
- 500g Bread Flour
- 325ml Tepid Water
- 2.5g Instant Yeast
- 10g Salt
Recipe Three (Preparing The Dough Over 48 Hours In Advance)
Freezing our food to give it that bit of extra life has become a common practice and we can do the same to our pizza dough.
Freezing your dough balls is convenient, easy to do, and tastes just as great. You can even store them individually and take them out when you so need to.
To do this, simply follow the basic method above and pop your dough into the freezer after separating them into balls.
Make sure you freeze on a flat surface until they are firm and wrap each ball into plastic wrap.
When it comes to serving, make sure you use them within 2 months and allow them to defrost in the fridge overnight or at room temperature for 3 hours to thaw before continuing with the rest of the steps.
- 500g Bread Flour
- 325ml Tepid Water
- 2.5g Instant Yeast
- 10g Salt
After your dough is ready, whether you opted to use recipes 1, 2, or 3, we then suggest you top with your favorite sauce and toppings and pop in the pizza oven.
Some of our favorite toppings include pepperoni, ham, mushroom, spicy chicken, pineapple (controversial we know), peppers, spicy beef, anchovies, or chorizo.
Unless you’re feeling extremely adventurous, we wouldn’t recommend you try all these toppings on one pizza but they make for some fantastic pairings.
Ham and mushroom for example is an absolute classic among millions of pizza lovers everywhere. But which sauce should you use?
We always swear by a classic tomato sauce, although we know barbecue is increasing in popularity, tomato never lets you down and that’s why we’ve even included a recipe for our delicious homemade pizza sauce that’s rich, thick, and dense in flavor which pairs perfectly with that fermented flavorsome dough.
Pizza Sauce Recipe
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1 finely chopped small onion
- Crushed garlic clove
- 2 400g cans chopped tomatoes
- 3 heaped tbsp tomato purée
- 2 tbsp dried oregano
- 1 bay leaf
- A sprinkling of brown sugar
- Sprinkle of finely chopped basil
- Heat the oil in a saucepan over very low heat, before adding the onion and plenty of salt.
- Gently fry for around 12-15 mins or until the onion is soft and has turned translucent.
- Next, you need to add the garlic to the pan before frying for a further minute and adding in the tomatoes, purée, bay leaf, oregano, and sugar.
- Bring to the boil and lower back down the heat. Simmer, uncovered, for around 30-35 mins or until thick and has reduced considerably. Don’t forget to season and stir the basil into the sauce before using it. If you were making it for fussy kids who hate ‘bits’, you can always blitz the mixture for an extra smooth source but it’s just as tasty straight from the pan.
- This method makes enough sauce for 4-6 large pizzas and keeps well in the fridge for 1 week. You can also freeze it but ensure it’s in an airtight container and it’s best used within 2-3 months. This means with a frozen pizza base and sauce, you’re prepared at the drop of a hat to make the perfect pizza whenever you’re craving it.
The Wonderful World Of Dough Fermentation
For those of you who are invested in the process of making dough in advance but aren’t completely sure how fermentation works still, this section of the article is for you!
We’re about to explain, in that little bit more detail, how it all works and the different ways you can aid the process.
The Effects Of Fermentation
We’ve thrown around the word ‘fermentation’ too many times in this article for you to not have any idea what it means by now but what are the main effects it has on the dough?
Well, mixing the ingredients of your dough causes two reactions. The yeast becomes activated with moisture and warmth and starts the whole process.
It then consumes starches found in the flour, and the by-product is carbon dioxide, acids, and even alcohol.
Secondly, the flour and water react to each other and start to form what we know as the glue that keeps the dough together; gluten. These two reactions kickstart the dough’s lifespan.
The dough can however become over fermented, making it unpleasant to use. When the dough becomes over fermented, it can give off too much gas.
This will cause large bubbles which might have burst, deflating and eventually flattening the dough completely.
Additionally, the acidic byproducts of over fermented dough can cause a sour and strong taste that no one wants ruining their favorite food.
However, don’t be afraid of fermenting your dough for a long time as if done correctly, can make some of the most flavorsome dough you’ve ever tasted.
It also gives it the best possible texture you could wish for a pizza dough base.
Some people compare it to brewing beer as fermentation is a slow process if you want a pizza with a delicious base.
As we’ve mentioned in all three recipes, you can ferment your dough either at room temperature, by refrigerating it, or by freezing it. It all comes down to the amount of yeast and salt you use.
Using Less Yeast
As recipe one highlights, you can ferment your dough at room temperature by using that little bit less yeast and it will still give that same strong flavor, without puffing out too much.
However, the more yeast you use, the more fermentation you’ll get as the yeast breaks down starches.
Yeast is often measured in percentages to work out how much you need, compared to how much flour you need and according to how you want to store your dough.
In Italy, Naples in particular, the dough is not usually kept in the fridge and so only small amounts of yeast are added, whereas in the US, more yeast is added to the mixture and the dough is often kept refrigerated.
Overall, using less yeast extends the shelf life of your dough when left at room temperature but if refrigerating or freezing works best for you, adjust accordingly and follow one of the other recipes highlighted above.
Using More Salt
One thing we haven’t explored in more detail in this article is how the quantity of salt in each recipe affects the dough.
Salt inhibits any activity from the yeast and by adding more of it to your recipe, you can slow down the entire fermentation process.
Recipes that don’t require you to refrigerate the dough more often than not require more salt as it can naturally lower the temperature.
It’s not a common method though, as storage temperature and yeast content have more of an impact.
However, revisiting Naples, we find it is used widely along with their reduced amount of yeast as it extends the dough’s lifespan when kept out of the fridge.
Moreover, if it’s the extra flavor you’re after, adding more salt could be your solution.
How Do I Store My Dough?
After you’ve followed the basic method and you have your freshly prepared dough, you need to be aware of how you’re going to store it, whether that be at room temperature, in the fridge, or in the freezer.
The most important thing to note is that you’re going to want to store it in an airtight container. After you’ve made it, the dough is going to be moist, supple, and flexible.
If it dries out, then all your hard work will be wasted as it simply will not rise. It will become both dense and hard, and the surface will end up cracking when you try to reshape it.
This happens because of a process called dehydration. When the dough makes contact with the air, it will dehydrate quickly.
Just ensure your airtight container is sealed to avoid this or use a tray with a tightly covered plastic wrap on top.
When it comes to quantities, you can either store them in a bulk or you can store them in individual balls to take out when needed.
We recommend storing them as individual balls as it’s what works for many pizzerias across the country and generally has the best outcome.
This is because the fermented dough that’s stored in a ball rather than bulk makes better tasting pizzas as it gets into its tight ball shape, then relaxes easily, ready to be rolled out and made into the perfect pizza.
How Long Can I Store My Dough?
How long you can store your dough depends on the yeast and the methods you have chosen to slow down the fermentation process.
Lots of yeast and warm temperatures may mean your dough will only last a few hours, whereas small amounts of yeast, higher salt contents, and refrigeration will ensure your dough is kept fresh for days at a time.
To break it down further, a dough with only 0.5-1% yeast quantity that has been stored in the fridge will still be usable after 2 days, yet anything after this will start tasting sour and of alcohol.
We would not recommend you use this dough over 3-4 days old. Dough with a 0.05-0.1% yeast quantity however can last around about 16 hours outside of the fridge before it starts to over ferment.
But don’t panic if you still don’t want to use it after 16 hours, you can extend its life by simply popping it in the fridge.
We hope by reading this article you have gained a better understanding of how to make your pizza dough in advance to impress all your family and friends at your next dinner party.
We hope you can try out each different method to slow down the fermentation process and can finally appreciate the dense flavor of fermented dough.
When paired with our favorite homemade tomato pizza sauce, which we’ve given you the recipe for above, we promise you’ll have the most amazing taste of Italy right at home.
So dig out that pizza oven, pair with a glass of wine on date night, or serve up with some popcorn for movie night, we promise you won’t look back!