00 flour is a fairly uncommon flour that many people do not know much about. This article looks at some common questions on the topic.
The flour originates from Italy, and does not refer to the protein or gluten content as many people wrongly assume. It actually refers to the grade in which it is milled. With 00 being the finest, and going up to grade 2 which is more coarse. The 00 grade is achieved by only using the whitest, inner part of the wheat and then passing it through the mill many times.
With that said, you can also get different types of 00 flour which is targeted for different uses. Like a 00 pasta flour or 00 pizza flour. So it’s important to use the right 00 flour for pizza or bread baking. This is usually indicated on the bag, but as a general rule, you need to have enough protein in the flour.
So in this article I will refer to 00 flours which are designed for bread and pizza baking and have about 12-13% protein content, a common one being the Caputo “Pizzeria” flour. If you find a bag with around 9% protein, then this is best for pasta rather than pizza as it is not strong enough.
What is 00 flour?
00 flour meaning
The 00 in 00 flour means the grade of flour in Italy. They are graded from 00, 0, 1 and 2 and increase with the coarseness of the flour. With the finer grades having less outer parts of the wheat and passed through the mill many times. It creates a very soft powdery flour that is used in baking pizza and making pasta.
Why is 00 flour better for pizza?
00 flour is very soft and delicate. It is good to use when you want to make a style of pizza with a tender crust. This style is typical of a Neapolitan pizza where the pizza is cooked in a couple of minutes in a blazing hot wood fired oven. This keeps the pizza soft and tender. You can get a tender pizza in a home oven but the wood fired oven really brings the best out of this style of pizza. This style is different from an American style pizza which uses stronger bread flour and cooked in a cooler oven to bring a more chewy crust.
A typical New York pizza would use high protein bread flour. This is stronger, and along with more kneading, builds up more strength. It makes a pizza which is suited to being picked up in slices, and hold lots of toppings. The extra gluten in this type of flour also lets the dough be rested for longer. A New York dough is usually left in the refrigerator to slow down the yeast activity, and allow flavors to develop slowly for a better crust.
Is 00 flour gluten free?
00 flour is not gluten free because the 00 refers to the grade of flour in terms of how fine it is, rather than the protein content. Typical 00 flour such as Caputo flour will have around 12.5% protein, and this protein is what forms the gluten when coming in contact with water.
Substitute for 00 flour
A substitute for 00 would be a white flour that has a similar protein content. In this range we are talking about bread or all-purpose flour. The ideal protein content would be 12-13%. Cake and pastry flour has too low protein and therefore gluten strength.
I would recommend going for a bread flour. It works great for pizza, especially in a home oven. It will develop strength from just a few minutes of kneading to allow you to stretch a large pizza base without it tearing.
Remember you can also mix flours. If you have a weaker flour and a very strong flour, you can mix them together to give you something somewhere in middle which would be like a 00 pizzeria flour.
How to use 00 flour
00 flour can be used in your pizza and bread recipes if it has a similar protein content of 12-14% and is not a 00 flour more suited to pasta. Different flours will react in different ways in a recipe, so you might find using a new 00 flour will have a different result to the dough. Hold back some of the water you usually use, and add it in slowly until it feels similar to a previously mixed dough.
Does 00 flour absorb more water?
The absorption rate is how much water can be added to a flour to reach the same consistency as another dough. A low absorption flour will need less water than a high absorption flour to reach the same texture.
As 00 flour is finer flour, it has a lower absorption rate compared to stronger bread flours. This means you will likely need to use less water. Try measuring out the same amount of water and adding it in slowly. You might find you will need around 5% less hydration when using 00 flour.
Can you use pizza flour for bread?
You can use pizza or 00 flour for bread as long as the flour is a bread flour which typically has more protein and therefore gluten. As for the outcome, I would imagine most home bakers wouldn’t notice much of a difference unless you are baking very regularly. You might find it creates a crispier crust on the bread. And as the flour is very delicate, you might find the dough very soft and the crumb very tender.
Keep in mind the difference in absorption of water and how your recipe might need to be tweaked. I would add the water slowly until you reach a consistency that you were familiar with.
Types of 00 Flour
The Caputo blue pizzeria flour is probably the world’s most popular pizza flour. It is used in most of the pizzerias in Naples, the home of pizza. As you can see from their catalogue on their website, you have many different types of 00 flour offered. Some have higher protein content, some lower, and on each of the bags they have ideas of the best uses for that flour (with pictures too!). Most flour producers will have similar products on offer, so pay attention to the ideal usages for each flour. For example, King Arthur do an Italian style flour that has 8.5% protein – this is too low for pizza.
00 Flour vs Bread Flour
As we now know, 00 flour refers to the coarseness of the flour rather than the protein. So a 00 flour can also be a bread flour. But in a straight comparison between a 00 pizzeria flour like Caputo and a standard bread flour found in the USA or UK, you will probably find the latter to have a bit more protein. It will be stronger for things like chewy bread loaves and bagels. The American bread flour can be high gluten and this is used in a classic New York pizza.
The Caputo 00 flour is specifically designed for lovely tender pizza in a wood fired oven. It might lack strength if making a bread that needs a really long fermentation and rise – it might end up flattening rather than rising tall.
00 Flour vs All-Purpose Flour
I see these as two complete opposites in a way. One being a specialist flour and the other a complete all rounder. All purpose flour has around 11% protein and is designed for all thing like cakes, pizza and bread. But as it sits in the middle, it has mediocre properties when cooking all of the above list. Cakes will be slightly chewy, and pizza will have a smaller rise, with smaller interior holes.
In my opinion, better to use a flour suited to the right job if you want to get serious about your bakes. Less protein flour is best for cakes, and higher protein flour better for bread and home oven pizza. 00 flour best for wood fired pizzas.
00 Flour vs Plain Flour
Plain flour is found in the UK and is used for cakes, pastries and sauces. It has lower gluten than a 00 flour used for bread and pizza. It really lacks the protein content to make a good gluten structure, so I can’t recommend it for pizza. On a similar note, you can’t use 00 bread flour instead of plain flour – it will lack the texture that a softer flour requires in cakes and pastries. There does exist 00 “plain flour” which of course can be used as normal plain flour.
I think it’s important to keep in mind that 00 flour can come in many forms. But the most popular is the lower protein version used in pasta, and the higher protein version used in Italian bread and pizza making.
It’s great to test out the different flours for yourself and find something that you like. Many pizza chefs get pretty opinionated about the best flour to use, but in the end it is all down to your own preference.