Proofing of dough, bulk fermentation, makeup…what do these terms mean? ?

The first time I read these 3 wordsproofing of dough“, “bulk fermentation” and “makeup“, I remember being a little shocked. (I mean, when I read the Italian version of these terms, of course!)

Until that moment I had quite odd ideas on what could be “the secret” to make a real Neapolitan pizza. For example, I tested random mixtures of flour that should miraculously have led me to great results! ?

But when I read about the existence of technical terms related to the preparation of the pizza dough… I realized that there is a science about making pizza, and I was also a little ashamed for not having even suspected it before.

If you want to have results really similar to the pizza of Italian pizzerias, you can’t help discovering more about it.

Thus welcome to this hidden world. What I’m about to tell you is certainly very far from the simplifications that you can find in the most common cooking blogs.


In the Neapolitan pizza making process there are 3 moments:

  1. Kneading phase
  2. Dough-balls shaping
  3. Stretching phase

Now, do you know when they recommend letting the dough rise in the bowl for a couple of hours?

Well, that first leavening, between the kneading and the dough-balls shaping, is the so-called “bulk fermentation“.

proofing of dough, bulk fermentation and makeup of Neapolitan pizza doughMakeup” instead, is the term used in the pizza-making process to mean when you actually cut/divide the dough (from the bulk) shaping it into several dough-balls.

Note: I leap the chance to highlight that even if the rising times of Neapolitan pizza dough can be very long (even more than 24 hours), actually the makeup is the only phase that requires your partecipation. Actually it will not take you more than 10 minutes. ?

And after making the dough balls, what do you usually do? Obviously you let them rise a second time!

Well, that is the proofing of dough: the second and last leavening.

This diagram summarizes what we have just said so far:

Proofing of dough, Bulk Fermentation and Makeyup: the 3 phases of Neapolitan pizza making process
This image is part of the material of the “SfidaPizza” video course


As you can see, you’ve already had to deal with bulk fermentation, makeup and proofing of dough.

Where is the difficulty then? Why do we talk so much about these terms?

Actually, the hart of the matter is not the terms, but the duration of the two leavening phases, and the dough-balls shaping technique.

In fact the following features of the pizza depend on the lasting of the two leavening phases:

  1. The dough elasticity, and therefore the possibility for you to stretch the pizza-bases easily, without causing tears or holes.
  2. The aroma, as well as the digestibility of the dough. These characteristics depend on a sufficiently long maturation of the dough.
  3. The appearance of the outer crust, which should be puffed-up and spongy!

This is why we need to know more about bulk fermentation, makeup and proofing, even if we are simple passionate about pizza!


Your questions at this point might be:

  1. How long should the leavening last?
  2.  When should I make the dough-balls?

The answers can be found in the International Regulation. It is the bible of the pizza makers all around the world. But of course, I have summarized it for you.

At a room temperature of 25°C (77°F), 8 hours of leavening are suggested, and they are divided in the following two steps:

  • Phase 1: the dough will rise in the bowl as one bulk-mass for 2 hours (bulk-fermentation)

Bulk Fermentation Neapolitan Pizza Dough

  • Phase 2: you will form the dough-balls and they will rise on their own for another 6 hours (proofing of dough)

Proofing of Dough Neapoiltan Pizza Dough Balls

So, where is the difficulty?

The Regulation, however, does NOT answer two essential questions:

  1. What happens if the temperature is lower or higher than 25°C?
  2. How does the strength of the flour affect the leavening time? (Since, according to the Regulation itself, the flour can vary from 220 “W” to 380 “W”.)

The answer is not banal. In fact, both the temperature and the flour greatly affect the leavening times.

I broadly talk about this topic in my video course, but in short, the features of the pizza depend in large part on the maturation process of the dough and on the elasticity reached by the gluten.

In fact the reason why we divide the whole leavening into two phases (bulk fermentation and proofing of dough) is to allow the dough to mature, without gluten completely slackening.

What changes in the gluten by doing makeup

As time goes by, the gluten network relaxes more and more. This facilitates the next step, which is the stretching of the pizza-base. On the other hand, if it relaxes for too long a period, it will be counter-productive. In fact the air bubbles (produced during the leavening period) filter-through the gluten network. This means: no bubbles…no spongy outer crust…no Neapolitan pizza!

So, in order to retain the air bubbles in the dough, we make the makeup. Cutting and shaping the dough-mass into smaller portions has in fact the function to “regenerate” the gluten network in the dough.

On this delicate balance between leavening, maturation of the dough and the structure of gluten, both the temperature and the strength of the flour are very important.

Therefore it’s clear that what suggested by the Regulation (2 + 6 hours) is only a starting point.

The task of developing a reliable method is up to the pizza maker. And his method is what will distinguish him from all the others.


If in your house there isn’t a place where you can let the dough rise at a constant temperature of 25°C (77°F), you have two options:

  • The normal way: start from a suitable flour and the Regulation suggestions, then build your method in small steps. This means you’ll need to test and fine tune the lasting of bulk fermentation and proofing of dough again and again, according to the room temperature in your kitchen, until you’ll reach satisfying results.
  • The fast way: finding someone who has already done all this work and is willing to share his method with you.

Now you are probably thinking that it is not easy to find someone who is willing to do it. And you are right, or rather, you would have been right until a couple of years ago, but today someone willing to do it exists.

Sharing my method with other Italian pizza enthusiasts like you is just what I did with my video course. 

About my method

In the course I show in detail not only all the crucial topics (how to knead, how to stretch pizza bases, how to top and cook an authentic Italian pizza) but I also reveal my “roadmap”.

In short, next to the videos where you can see step by step how to do everthing from scratch, you will find a PDF guide in which I wrote the exact lasting for each leavening phase (bulk fermentation, makeup and proofing). And I did this not for a single temperature, but for all temperatures between 16°C and 28°C (61°F – 82°F)

It basically is a scientific method, which leaves nothing to chance, by guaranteeing you the same excellent result in any season of the year.

So if you prefer a quick solution, today that solution exists, and you just need a simple click to get it. Click here to find out more.

Whatever your choice will be, I wish you great results and lots of fun!


  • Bulk fermentation: term used in the pizza-making process to mean when the dough rises as one-mass (when it is resting in the bowl)
  • Make-up: term used to mean when you actually cut/divide the dough (from the bulk) shaping it into dough-balls.
  • Proofing of dough: term used to mean the last stage in the leavening process of the dough-balls.
  • The starting point is the suggestion by the Regulation: 8 hours, divided into 2 hours of bulk fermentation + 6 hours of proofing, at a constant temperature of 25°C.
  • Once you have chosen an appropriate flour, you can adjust the lasting of the leavening phases according to the room temperature in your kitchen.

P.S. If you want to know more about the flour for Neapolitan pizza, download the guide I created specifically. You can get it for free by clicking here. And if you liked the post or have questions, leave a comment below or write me at! Bye!

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