The pizza dough recipe requires 3 days for the dough to develop a good amount of flavour and the right texture that will give you a dough that can stretch out really thin and that’s easy to work with. However, the amount of time required from you to make the dough is maybe 30-60 minutes in total within the 3 day period, so it’s not a big commitment in time or energy.
As discussed in Part 1 of this series, cold fermentation is essential in developing the right flavour & texture in the pizza dough, which the recipe for pizza dough in this post looks to make the most of. However, that’s not the only way in which flavour is developed.
The recipe makes use of a starter to kick off the flavour development within the dough. There are different types of starters and the one used in the recipe is known as a Poolish. The Poolish uses an equal ratio of flour and water by weight and a small amount of yeast. The end result is a thick sticky batter which is later incorporated into the rest of the dough.
Other starters vary the ratio between these three ingredients or use a sour dough culture instead of yeast. However, the purpose of all these starters are the same i.e. developing flavour and improving texture.
As mentioned in Part 1 regarding the issue of time for the cold fermentation, the starter is affected in the same way in that there is zone in which the starter is optimal. In the case of the recipe in this post, that time is 18 hours at room temperature. Spent too little time fermenting the starter and it doesn’t develop as much flavour. Ferment the starter for too long as you not only develop undesirable flavours compounds that come off as sour and alcoholic, but it also affects its texture with the enzymes in the flour breaking down too much of the gluten.
I’ve had the starter ferment for 24 hours without any appreciable different that I noticed in either flavour or texture, so this optimal zone isn’t too strict. However, if you find that you’re not ready to proceed with the rest of the dough recipe when the starter is done, you can place the starter into the fridge to slow down the fermentation process. Just make sure to bring it back up to room temperature before you use it.
With regards to flour, Caputo & San Felice brands of flour imported from Italy are considered to be the pinnacle product for making pizzas. However, I’ve had pretty good success with a local brand called Gem of the West, which can be purchased in 5kg bags.
Whether you choose to go with the imported or local brands of flour, the main thing that you want in a flour suitable for making pizzas is a high protein content. High protein flours, often referred to as bread flour, should have a protein content of at least 12g per 100g, preferably more. The higher protein allows for better structure in the dough which translates to more of a satisfying chew with the pizza.
Pizza Dough Step-by-Step
There are three major stages that the recipe for pizza dough in this post goes through – the starter, pizza dough and cold fermentation. Below are a series of step-by-step images at each stage to give you a guide of how things should look as you follow the recipe.
Top: The starter just after all the ingredients have been incorporated. It should have the consistency of a very thick batter and should be quite sticky.
Bottom: The starter after 18 hours at room temperature. The starter has increased in volume, is lighter and stickier from the fermentation by the yeast and the development of gluten. It can be a little tricky to handle and remove from the bowl so best to use either a bowl scraper to remove the starter from the edges of the bowl or use damp hands run under some cold water with most of the water shaken off as the dough won’t stick to your hands if they’re damp.
Top-right: A well is formed within the mound of flour and the ice water is poured in first and the flour is whisked into the water until it formed a thick batter.
Top-left: The thick batter formed after whisking in the ice water. There should still be a lot of dry flour remaining. Pour in the yeast water mixture and work in more of the dry flour.
Bottom-right: The dough with the yeast water mixture worked to a thick batter with the starter added to the dough.
Bottom-left: The dough after all the dry flour has been incorporated. Once you add the starter, as you’re working with a thick and now sticky batter, using a dough scraper to scrap in the dry dough from the edges into the centre and using a vertical chopping motion will help to bring the dough together easier without having to get your hands in there and having a sticky mess to deal with. Once all the dry flour has been worked in, add the salt and using the same folding in from the outside and chopping up and down to work it into the dough.
Top-right: Add the extra virgin olive oil. Use the same scrape from the edges and chopping to work the oil into the dough.
Top-left: What the dough should look like after adding the oil. It should still be somewhat lumpy and rather sticky to handle. At this stage, knead the dough by hand for around 5 minutes.
Bottom-right: After kneading the dough for 5 minutes it should be smoother and less sticky. Form the dough into a large ball.
Bottom-left: Dough ball placed into a large mixing bowl large enough so that the dough is able to double in size. If you don’t have a large enough bowl, separate the dough into 2-3 equal parts and place those into separate bowls. Cover with a double layer of cling wrap and place into the fridge.
Top-right: This is what the dough should look like after an overnight rise. It should have at least doubled in volume.
Top-left: The dough after the knock down degassing stage, using your fists to push down the dough and remove a lot of the trapped gas.
Bottom-right: Using a bowl scraper to help remove the dough from the edges of the bowl, fold in the edges into the centre to form a parcel of dough and lightly press down so the folds stick to each other. This along with the previous step helps the yeast to find new sources of flour to feed on to further develop the flavour and texture of the dough.
Bottom-left: The dough after another day in the fridge. Once again the dough has risen but not as much as the first day. This dough is ready to be degassed once again and portioned and formed into individual dough balls.
Changes to the Recipe
While the recipe for the pizza dough in this post tries to remain faithful to the original from the Pizza Bible, there were a few small changes that I felt was necessary to make it more accessible to the average cook.
Firstly, the original recipe uses a small amount of diastatic malt. Diastatic malt acts as a browning agent, helping the dough to cook better with the lower temperatures of a home oven. It also adds some flavour to the dough as well as a little sweetness to it, which also helps to make up for the flavours that you’re unable to produce in a home oven that you would be able to in the higher temperature environment of a commercial pizza oven.
The diastatic malt has been excluded for a number of reasons. The primary reason has to do with its ease of availability. While it is available to purchase online, it’s generally not available in supermarkets or other places you’d likely do your shopping. Also, the amounts in which the diastatic malt available in and given that you need so little of it in the recipe, it doesn’t seem all the feasible for someone to go through the trouble of purchasing the malt if they may only use a small amount of it infrequently. Lastly, there are a couple of methods I’ve come across which allow you to deliver higher temperatures to the pizza that the meager 260C/500F of a typical home oven, which removes the need for a browning agent. These methods of cooking will be explored in the next two posts in the Pizza at Home series.
If you wish to include the diastatic malt into the recipe, add 30g of diastatic malt along with the flour in Step 2 of the main dough recipe i.e. not the starter.
Refer to Part 1 for more info regarding commercial pizza oven temperatures and browning agents.
Another change to the original recipe has to do with the volume of dough for the recipe. 8 balls of dough for pizza may be quite the commitment for some. However, the original recipe required the use of kitchen scales and a palm scale that read in 0.1g and 0.01g increments respectively. As most common household scales read in whole 1g increments, measuring out 2.2g of yeast for the main dough or 0.12g of yeast for the starter becomes difficult without specialised equipment. The teaspoon measurements weren’t much better, with the yeast for the poolish listed as 1/3 of 1/8th of a teaspoon in the original recipe.
If 8 balls of dough is too much of a commitment, feel free to halve the recipe. Though err on the side of rounding down any fractions as some of the amounts in this recipe were rounded up from the original. One thing you may want to bear in mind though is that it takes a similar amount of time to make a batch of 4 dough balls as it does for 8. The only major different being the required refrigerator space for the cold fermentation stage. You can always freeze any excess dough and thaw it out in a matter of hours rather than wait the 3 days for another pizza.
Finally, the original dough recipe was given with instructions for use with a stand mixer by default. As I don’t own a stand mixer, I’ve chosen to go with the more hand-on approach. However, if there is enough of a demand, I can see to a stand mixer version of the recipe. Share this post and leave a comment below and if there’s enough of a response, I’ll see to this in a future post.