I was surprised to learn that you don’t need to to autolyse your pizza dough. In fact, it may be detrimental. All the artisan bread recipes say you need a rest period, typically called autolyse (AUTO-leese) after the initial mix. That it is critical to let the dough rest and for the gluten chains to form. If it is so critical to good, well developed artisanal bread, then why is the step often lacking in pizza dough recipes?
First, we need to understand what autolyse is and why it is so often used in artisanal recipes.
Autolyse is the time the dough sits in the bowl after the initial mix. This resting time allows the gluten to develop and improves the pliability and extensibility of the dough as you continue to mix and fold.
In bread recipes there are two main reasons for autolyse. First, the added salt in recipes can slow down the water absorption by the flour so letting the dough rest, even for a short period of time, will more completely hydrate the dough. This is critical with artisanal recipes that use high hydration (most recipes).
Second, the water activates two enzymes, amylase and protease, that aid the yeast in forming that gluten network which will make the dough much easier to work with.
So, with all these benefits why don’t you need to autolyse pizza dough?
You can certainly autolyse pizza dough if you want to use it quickly, during the same day, perhaps. But good pizza dough often involves less yeast than artisanal loaves and longer, slower fermentation periods. All the work of autolyse is done more passively during the long ferment.
Second, pizza doughs typically use less water than high hydration loaves and need less time for the flour to absorb all the water.
Will an autolyse period hurt your pizza dough? No, probably not. Is it necessary? No, also probably not. The lower amount of yeast, longer fermentation time, and less water in pizza dough renders many of the benefits of autolysing seen in artisanal bread recipes less effective.