Pizza Dough Vs Bread Dough: Can They Be Swapped?


You might be wondering if that bread dough sold in your local store can be used for pizza. Or if your usual go-to bread recipe will work. What are the differences between bread dough and pizza dough?

Basic pizza dough and basic bread dough are identical in their essential ingredients – consisting of flour, yeast, water and salt. The differences in proofing and shaping of the dough is what creates the different outcomes.

There are so many different types of bread out there. Pizza is essentially just another type of bread. There is also lots of different types of pizza styles – from thin and crispy or thick and more “bready”.

As there is so many types of bread, I’m mainly going to refer to basic white bread vs basic white pizza crust which is very similar in recipe. If you start getting more advanced then the recipe and percentages of the ingredients can vary. Follow my pizza dough recipe which has all the instructions to produce perfect dough time after time.

Firstly, let’s look at how you can use one dough for the other. Secondly, a deep dive look at the differences in how the dough is proved and shaped to achieve different products.

Can You Use Bread Dough For Pizza?

You can use bread dough for pizza. It has the same core ingredients, so with the correct preparation you will be able to make pizza just fine. Roll or stretch it thinly for a thin crust pizza, or press it into a sheet pan for a thicker, more bread-like base. There is some recipes below.

Will it rise too much?

Bread dough typically has more yeast that a pizza dough which will make it rise more when proofed and baked. You can combat this by stretching the dough very thinly, so it has less chance of being too thick, and avoiding a final rise. Aim for pretty much as thin as you can without the dough tearing.

Or alternatively embrace the “breadiness” of the dough and press it into a baking sheet or cast iron skillet. Allow it to rest to fill out the whole pan, then top and bake for a thicker crust. You might call this a sheet pan pizza or, Sicilian style.

Be realistic with the outcomes

Let’s be clear; there are a lot of types of pizza and a lot of types of bread. From thin crust, to sheet pan pizza, there is quite a spectrum of pizza crust which range in their likeness to bread.

If you are using a basic white bread recipe or store bought dough, then you will be able to make a basic white pizza crust recipe. For more artisan breads and artisan pizzas, then understanding what affects the dough is important, which I’ve outlined in detail in the final section.

How To Make Pizza With Bread Dough

Thin Crust Pizza

For a thin crust pizza: take 200-250g (7-9 oz) of dough for a 10/12″ pizza. Fold the edges underneath itself and roll it into a tight ball on the worktop. Turn a mixing bowl upside down and allow it to proof for an hour. Roll the dough out with some flour, or stretch it with your hands until it is as thin as you can go.

Now top the pizza and cook it on a pizza stone, in a preheated oven at the highest temperature, until golden. This should be around 7-8 minutes, and remember to turn it once throughout the cooking.

My best tip for making pizza in a home oven is using a pizza “steel”. This adds intense heat from below like a brick oven would – I have this steel from Amazon which is significantly lower priced than the original brand, but works perfectly. Steel is more conductive than stone so transfers more heat, they don’t shatter and they are easier to clean. If it’s out of your price range then the 2nd best option is a pizza stone made from cordierite. To see a round-up of the most important pizza equipment then see my essential pizza equipment list.

Sheet Pan Pizza

For a thicker sheet pan pizza (12 x 18 inch): take 1kg (35 oz) of dough. Oil the rimmed baking sheet and add the dough. Flatten and push into the sheet and leave dough to relax and reach the edges for 2-3 hours. Give it one last stretch before topping. Cook on your ovens hottest temperature, preheated, for around 10 minutes.

How To Make Bread With Pizza Dough

Here are two simple ways to take your left over pizza dough to make some artisan bread. Bread needs a long final proof so that it rises up before baking, so ensure you give it enough time so it is nice and airy. See my best pizza dough recipe for detailed instructions on making pizza dough.

Roll it into a long loaf

Take two dough balls on top of each other and roll them together into a long sausage shape. Let them proof until risen fully, which will depend how much yeast is in the dough, and then bake. Watch this video for full instructions.

Make Focaccia

Focaccia is probably the closest dough to a straight pizza dough with olive oil included. You simple push the dough into a high rimmed baking sheet much like a sheet pan pizza. Then cover with olive oil and rosemary and bake at 450F/230C for 20 minutes until golden. This is good for large quantities, but can also be done for mini focaccias.

Differences Between Bread Dough And Pizza Dough

This section has a more technical look at the differences between the dough. You can use the tips here to start making better pizza and bread.

Ingredients

The essential ingredients for pizza and bread dough are flour, water, salt and yeast – there can be some variation so here are the differences.

Optional extra ingredients

Both can have oil which helps to tenderize the dough and make it a little more chewy. Bread dough can be enriched with butter, eggs and milk to resemble more of a cake like brioche bread. But these are not usually found in pizza dough.

Hydration level

The water ratio found in bread is usually higher (i.e. the percentage of water compared to flour). Because the dough is more fluid and flexible, it can rise faster and easier than a dense dough. It allows for larger holes in the crumb, like you would get in a ciabatta. More water usually means a crispier, lighter pizza too – but too much makes it impossible to shape into a pizza base. Bread can handle higher hydration as it can be folded to be mixed and shaped. Pizza is usually 50-70% hydration, but some bread dough can be 90%.

The hotter the oven, the less hydration you need. This is because it spends less time dehydrating in the oven. A wood fired pizza which might take 60 seconds to cook only needs 55% hydration, whereas an oven baked pizza which takes 8 minutes to cook would dry out too much at this percentage. Bread is cooked at lower temperatures so is another reason for more hydration in bread.

Mixing and Kneading

Usually pizza dough is mixed for less time, as more mixing means denser crumb – pizzas are better nice and light. Pizza only needs 1-5 minutes of kneading, just enough to become a smooth ball. Bread dough is usually kneaded for longer to build up a stronger structure and denser interior.

By vigorously mixing dough for longer periods, it strengthens and organizes gluten to be lined up in layers. This makes a very uniform and tight crumb which is good for denser bread.

If less mixing is done then the dough has larger, irregular holes. This is good for ciabatta, baguettes and other rustic loafs. Pizza is usually kneaded for only a few minutes so that it stays a little lighter and has holes in the crust. This is desirable on a thin pizza, and makes it turn out less like a bread.

Both can be mixed by using an electric mixer or by hand. Personally, I like to feel the dough when kneading so you can tell when its just right, so I use my hands.

Dough strength and extensibility after kneading and resting

Both pizza and bread dough aim to be strong and extensible. Both dough needs to be strong so that it can trap the C02 released from the yeast. Too strong and the dough won’t be able to rise. Too weak and the dough won’t be able to hold the gas, and it could deflate.

Extensible dough allows it to be stretched more without tearing. Pizza needs to be stretched much thinner to make a large thin base, so this is very important. A combination of enough protein in the flour and adequate gluten development from mixing and resting achieves this.

Fermentation

Both doughs have a bulk fermentation where the whole piece is allowed to rise before dividing. This adds flavor and pockets of gas from yeast fermentation.

Pizza dough is then shaped in balls and allowed 1 more rise before shaping into a base.

Bread dough can have 1 or 2 more rises. The degassing of the dough pushes out the larger bubbles out, and evens the bubble size. This is why 1 rise dough might have larger holes, while 2 rises has more even distribution of bubbles in the dough.

Shaping And Final Proofing

Bread is shaped and placed into a loaf tin for the final rise before baking. Depending on the bread, other containers might be used such as baking sheets, or floured cloths with the edges push around the dough to keep its shape.

Pizza is formed into a ball for its final rise. But before baking it is rolled out or stretched so it is very thin. This preparation just before the baking is crucial as it means the pizza remains a thin crust pizza when cooked. Toppings are added and baked straight away with no time for it to rise again.

Some pizzas have the air knocked out after the first rise and are then placed in a baking sheet. These are then allowed to rise in the sheet and fill it out to the corners. This makes for a thicker pizza resembling bread, much like a Focaccia.

Cooking

Temperature

Bread is typically cooked at a lower temperature than pizza. Especially in a wood fired pizza oven, where the idea is to get the temperature to a maximum. Here the pizza can cook in 60 seconds.

In a home oven, temperatures are lower, but you are still cooking pizza at a much higher temperature – usually with a preheated pizza stone.

This is because you want the thin pizza to hit the hot surface and instantly rise to form a crust. As it is thin, you can get a fully cooked dough, with the exterior crisp but keep the interior fairly moist. Cooking for longer times dries out the crust.

Bread being thicker can’t handle the high temperatures because you need to allow the center to cook before the crust burns. So the temperatures are lower, which crisps the outside and ensures no uncooked dough in the center.

Steam

Bread sometimes has steam or a water bath added to the oven, which allows the surface to stay moist as it rises. This gives a good oven spring meaning the bread is lighter. This practice isn’t usually found with making pizza.

Conclusion

So as you can see, bread dough and pizza dough are pretty similar. Especially when you compare the likes of Focaccia and sheet pan pizza.

Bread loafs have a crucial final rise before baking to give them volume, while pizzas are compressed right before baking to give them a thin crust which doesn’t rise when cooked.

But pizza dough and bread dough can still be swapped interchangeably if you follow some preparation to get the outcome you are looking for. Give some of the recipes in this post a try!

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