an overhead shot of a 12 liter cambro bucket filled about halfway with super bubbly pizza dough

basic overnight pizza dough (with baking steel instructions)

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I’ve tried at least half a dozen pizza dough recipes since I bought my baking steel earlier this year and this basic overnight pizza dough has quickly become my favorite. I make it all the time now without even looking at the recipe, that’s how simple the instructions are.

I’ve got a post in the works reviewing some of my favorite pizza dough recipes and the best times to use them, but before I get to that I wanted to share this overnight pizza dough recipe with you all because it’s a really good recipe for beginners.

There’s a lot of things I like about this dough, but the one that matters most is that it makes great pizza. The dough is whisper thin, gorgeously bubbly, and also very easy to work with.

a close up of a large, cheesy bubble in the crust of a cheese pizza

If you’re new to the world of dough — bread, pizza, or otherwise — this pizza dough recipe is a great way to familiarize yourself with many universal dough techniques. You’ll learn how to autolyse (mix the flour and water before adding salt and yeast) and fold the dough (to develop gluten and flavor) and get used to measuring ingredients by weight instead of volume.

It’s also a great, sturdy dough ideal for practicing the basics of hand-stretching pizza dough. No rolling pin needed.

This recipe is basically a smaller version of the basic overnight pizza dough from Ken Forkish’s book Flour Water Salt Yeast, only, instead of shaping it according to his instructions, I use the deli container technique I picked up the Baking Steel 72-hour fermented pizza dough instructions, which makes it so much easier to stretch the dough in a circle shape.

an overhead shot of a 12 liter cambro bucket filled about halfway with super bubbly pizza dough

Flour Water Salt Yeast features a few different pizza dough recipes, one of which can be done same-day, but I prefer the basic overnight dough. I don’t usually think to start making dough first thing in the morning, so for my schedule the overnight method works best. I’ve also found that the overnight dough develops a stronger gluten network, better flavor, and is less prone to tearing.

To make things a little more practical, I shrunk Forkish’s dough recipe down by half. The full recipe uses 1,000 grams of flour and makes enough dough for 7-8 pizzas which is just more pizzas than I can eat in a week (I do have a limit, believe it or not). The version you find here will make enough for 3 large pizzas or 4 medium pizzas.

an overhead shot of four 32 ounce round deli soup containers with shaped balls of pizza dough in them

My recipe differs from Forkish’s when it comes time to shape. Where Forkish’s preferred method is to have you shape the dough into boules (that’s bread maker for “round balls”) and let them rest on a sheet pan in the fridge, and some of my other favorite recipes have you store the shaped dough in plastic bags, I’ve had much more success using the Baking Steel instructions to store the dough in 16 or 32 ounce round deli containers.

I love the deli container method because it’s far easier to store the dough in your fridge without worrying it’s going to get bumped or squashed or accidentally dry out. It also helps the dough stay in a perfect circle as you stretch it. Plus, you can easily stack the dough containers on top of one another.

a straight on shot of a 32 ounce deli container filled about one-third of the way with pizza dough according to the baking steel instructions. a thin layer of golden olive oil is visible in the bottom of the container. the baking steel company recommends storing dough this way and it works great.

I don’t love Forkish’s method of shaping the dough and letting it rest on a sheet pan because, while it gives the dough time to relax, it also means the dough spreads out as it rests. This makes for a looser, stretchier gluten network. While stretchy is usually a good thing when it comes to pizza dough, a dough that’s too stretchy is a dough prone to tearing.

The deli containers are a brilliant way to rest your divided pizza dough because they hold the dough in a tight, perfectly circular shape. As the dough rests and relaxes, it doesn’t stretch outward, flattening out. It stretches upward creating a tighter, stronger, denser gluten network. The circular shape of the containers also trains the dough to hold that shape as you stretch it.

About an hour before you plan to stretch the dough (around the time you start preheating the baking steel according to instructions), you’ll take it out of the fridge and let it rest at room temp in the container. Depending on how warm your kitchen is, you might see it double in size during this hour. This loosens up the gluten network just enough to make the dough stretchy and elastic to work with, but not so stretchy that the dough tears easily when you handle it.

a quick autolyse explainer

Wait—come back! Don’t be scared. Autolyse might sound like a fancy scientific (or French?) term but it’s actually super simple. The second step step of this recipe is an autolyse step and you don’t even need to know what “autolyse” means to do it, but I want to explain it just so you know what you’re doing and why it makes a difference. Because #KnowledgeIsPower.

Autolyse is a method common to sourdough baking, but it can be used in non-sourdough recipes too.

Autolyse basically just means “mixing your flour and water together before you add salt, yeast, or anything else.” In sourdough recipes, sometimes the autolyse includes the starter too, but what an autolyse step never includes is salt. King Arthur Baking has a great in-depth article about the history and benefits of an autolyse step here.

an overhead shot of pizza dough in the bottom of a large mixing bucket during the autolyse stage, before salt and yeast are added

Autolysing your dough gives the flour a chance to fully hydrate and start forming gluten strands (which makes the dough strong!) before you do any kneading (folding, in this case). The dough isn’t shiny or smooth or even kneadable at this stage. It’s just a shaggy, messy mixture of flour and water. It also gives the dough more flavor and makes it stretchier, which is really important for pizza dough.

If you added salt at this stage, the salt would tighten the gluten strands. Same with yeast. So salt and yeast get added in the second step when you mix the dough. 

  • To watch a slowed down step-by-step video demo showing just one set of folds, click here. You’ll use the folding technique both to develop gluten in the dough before the overnight rise and again when you divide and shape the dough. If you skip this step, the gluten strands will be weaker and your dough will be more likely to tear when you stretch it.
  • For step-by-step video instructions showing how to hand-stretch your pizza dough click here.
A hand picks up the edge of a pizza showing the crispy, leopard spotted bottom hot off the baking steel.

a few quick notes

  • You definitely want to use a kitchen scale to make this dough. Scooping flour in measuring cups can throw off your whole recipe by A LOT and you’ll end up with a wet sticky dough that doesn’t form a strong gluten network or a dense dough that never develops any elasticity.
  • Use wet hands when mixing the salt and yeast into the dough and when doing your folds. This helps incorporate some water into the dough and prevents it from sticking to your hands. Re-wet your hands as needed; they shouldn’t be dripping but they should be more than just damp.
  • My overnight pizza dough schedule usually looks like this: 8:30 p.m. mix the flour and water (autolyse), 9 p.m. mix in the salt and yeast, 9:30 p.m. first set of folds, 10 p.m. final set of folds. I divide the dough at 10 a.m. the following morning, pop it in the fridge, and it’s ready to bake with by 4 p.m. that day.
  • Forkish’s original recipe is very precise with the water and dough temperatures and I encourage you to buy his book if you’re interested in precision. What I can tell you, however, is that you’ll be just fine with water that’s just barely on the warm side of lukewarm to the touch. If your kitchen is cold, use slightly warmer (but not hot) water. If your kitchen is hot, use slightly cooler (but not cold) water.
  • Instant or active dry yeast both work just fine here. No need to make any adjustments, just use whichever one you already have. If you forget to mix the yeast with 1 TBSP water and set it aside while the dough autolyses, just sprinkle the yeast in when you add the salt.
  • If you plan on using the dough the same day you divide it, 16 oz deli containers are fine. If you plan on keeping the divided dough in the fridge for 2 or up to 4 days, I’ve found the 32 ounce containers are ideal because it gives the dough room to keep rising without risking the top popping off.
  • When you go to stretch the dough you’ll find that on day 1 it’s slightly more resistant to being stretched. The longer it sits in the fridge the looser and stretchier it will get. Take care not to tear the dough when you stretch it; if it fights you, pause for a few minutes and let it rest, then stretch it again. If the dough does tear, gently pinch it back together.
  • This pizza dough, like all pizza doughs, is best when cooked on a scorching hot baking steel on the top rack of your oven. If you have a pizza or baking stone, you can use it the same way but baking steels get hotter and cook the pizza faster — just like wood fired pizza ovens do.
  • When I first starting making pizzas at home on the baking steel I was surprised by how hard it was to find instructions for how to actually bake the pizza. Most recipes stop once the dough is made and expect you to do the rest. That’s because depending on your toppings, oven heat, whether you’re using a steel or a stone, the baking times can change dramatically. But I didn’t want to leave you hanging, so I’ve included instructions for making pizza on a baking steel with this dough. IMO a baking steel is the best way to get a restaurant-quality, as-good-as-wood-fired pizza at home, and I don’t really recommend making pizza at home without one.

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an overhead shot of a 12 liter cambro bucket filled about halfway with super bubbly pizza dough

basic overnight pizza dough

Ken Forkish (adapted by The Practical Kitchen)
Prep time includes mixing the flour and water and prepping the yeast mixture as well as time for dividing the dough the next morning. Resting time includes the (3) 30 minute rest periods (1½ hours) between mixing and folding the dough PLUS the long overnight rest (12-14 hours).
Start this at night, then shape the dough in the morning, and your pizza dough will be ready for dinner in the evening. Take it out of the fridge about 30-60 minutes before you plan to stretch it.
To disable the videos in the instructions below click the camera icon with the slash through it under the "instructions" header.
0 from 0 votes
Prep Time 20 mins
Resting Time 13 hrs
Total Time 13 hrs 20 mins
Course Main Course
Cuisine Italian
Servings 4 pizza dough balls

Ingredients
  

  • 500 grams all purpose flour (approx 4 cups)
  • 350 grams water (just above lukewarm, 90°-95°F)
  • 10 grams fine sea salt

Yeast mixture

  • tsp yeast (active dry or instant)
  • 15 grams water (1 TBSP)

Instructions

  • Combine yeast and 1 TBSP (15g) of water in a small dish. Set aside.
  • In a large bowl or 6 quart Cambro bucket, combine flour and 350 grams of water. Cover and let rest (autolyse) for 30 minutes.
  • Sprinkle 10 grams of fine sea salt over the surface of the dough, followed by the yeast and water mixture you set aside earlier. Use your fingers to pinch, tear through, and fold the dough over itself, wetting your hands as needed, until the salt is dissolved and incorporated into the dough.
    Fold the dough back into a ball and let rest, covered, 30 minutes.
  • Use wet hands to apply a set of folds to the dough: With the dough still in the bowl or bucket, use a wet hand to reach under the top edge of the dough and dislodge it from the bottom of the bowl. Stretch it out and up, away from the dough, then fold the flap down across the center of the dough like you're sealing an envelope.
    Rotate the bowl 90° and repeat, folding the new section of dough down across the previous flap of dough. Do this all the way around the dough.
    Turn the dough over so the seam side is facing down and the edges are all tucked under.
    Cover and let rest 30 minutes.
  • Repeat the folding process one more time. The dough should be smooth and elastic, but not as stretchy as it was during the previous set of folds.
    Finish the folds by turning the dough over so the seam side is down and the edges are all tucked under. Cover the bowl and let the dough rise 12-14 hours, or until tripled in size.
  • When your dough has tripled in size, divide it into 3 or 4 pieces (use a kitchen scale if you want to be precise).
    Shape each piece of dough into a round ball. You can use the same folding technique to do this or you can pick the dough ball up and hold it in front of you in both hands with the heels of your hands together and your fingers curled loosely around the dough. Rock your hands so that your knuckles touch and the heels of your hands move away from each other, folding the dough in half and tucking the far edges inside. Rotate the dough 90° and repeat several times until the side of the dough facing you is nice and smooth.
  • Transfer each dough ball to a lightly oiled 16 oz or 32 oz tall, round deli container. Place in the fridge for at least 6 hours before baking.
  • Before stretching, let the dough rest at room temp for 30-60 minutes. The dough will stay good in the fridge for up to 4 days.

baking steel instructions

  • Preheat oven to 500°F for at least an hour before baking with the baking steel on the top rack of the oven. Before stretching the dough, turn on your oven's broiler setting if it has one.
  • On a generously floured countertop, stretch the dough into a large thin circle. It should be almost translucent in the middle with a thicker crust around the edge.
  • Sprinkle a 50/50 blend of semolina and all purpose flour on a pizza peel (or on a piece of parchment paper on the back of a sheet pan). Transfer the stretched dough to the peel and arrange it back into a circle shape.
  • Add any desired toppings, bringing them almost all the way to the edge of the dough. Leave about ½" margin around the edge but don't be shy about getting close to the edges.
  • Give the pizza a shake on the peel to make sure it hasn't stuck to the bottom. If it has, dust some extra flour under the stuck area.
  • Open the oven and pull the top rack out slightly. Slide the pizza onto the baking steel by tipping the peel down so that the end touches the back surface of the steel. Quickly slide the peel backward, out from under the pizza so that it lies flat on the steel.
    Slide the oven rack back in and cook for 2-3 minutes under the broiler.
  • Turn the broiler off and pull the top rack out.
    Slide the pizza peel under the front edge of the pizza and carefully rotate the pizza so that it browns evenly. Slide the oven rack back in for an additional 2-3 minutes.
  • Remove the pizza from the oven, slice and serve immediately.

Notes

  • My overnight pizza dough schedule usually looks like this: 8:30 p.m. mix the flour and water, 9 p.m. mix in the salt and yeast, 9:30 p.m. first set of folds, 10 p.m. final set of folds. I divide the dough at 10 a.m. the following morning, pop it in the fridge, and it’s ready to bake with by 4 p.m. that day.
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Deb

If you wanted to freeze some of the dough, how would go about it? At what point in the process; best way to store it; defrosting and final steps to get it ready to bake? Thank you

Deb

Thank you! Looking forward to giving this a test drive. 😊