The science behind our dough
Want to know what happens behind the scenes with our pizza dough? In this post, we break down the role of each ingredient in pizza dough and explain what happens when dough rises.
The fantastic four - flour, yeast, salt, water
Baking is a science. It is food chemistry at its finest. There are multiple variables that come into play when preparing and proving dough – temperature, humidity, timing, order of adding ingredients, composition of the ingredients and ratio of the ingredients. These variables all affect the flavour and texture of pizza dough. Think soft, crispy, chewy, dense, airy, sour, bland – what’s your preference?
Flour - The Key Player
Flour is the main ingredient in any dough and there are several types. The primary difference between each type of flour is the gluten content. This is indicated by the amount of protein in the flour. The higher the protein, the more gluten. The more gluten, the more strength in the flour. This affects the structure of the pizza. A high-protein flour typically has >12% of protein while most all-purpose or plain flour has 9- 10% protein content. High-protein flour is commonly referred to as bread flour or strong flour. This flour is optimal for baking breads and pizzas due to its strength and ability to be handled without tearing.
Flour is difficult to find these days, and strong flour is even more rare! If you can only find plain or all-purpose flour but are keen to bake breads, it is best to increase the protein content in the flour. This can be done by adding vital wheat gluten to your flour. Vital wheat gluten is a pure gluten flour. It is flour that has had the gluten activated during the dehydration process, which removes all other ingredients except for the gluten. Add approximately 1 tablespoon of vital wheat gluten to every 500 grams of flour. The amount required will vary depending on what you’re baking so start experimenting! Vital wheat gluten can be found in health stores such as Holland&Barrett here.
Yeast - The Rising Star
Yeast is another critical ingredient for making any pizza dough. It is available in three forms – fresh, active dry and instant. Fresh yeast is sold in compact, compressed cubes and kept in the fridge due to its perishable nature. It typically lasts for 2 weeks in the fridge. Active dry and instant yeast are sold in packets or small containers and easier to find. Each form of yeast is dehydrated to some extent so that the yeast cells are kept in their dormant state. Active dry and instant yeast last for months due to their lower moisture content, especially when stored in the fridge after opening!
So, what exactly *is* yeast? Yeast is a living, single-cell organism. It is activated by moisture and heat and acts to leaven bread via fermentation. Its scientific Latin name translates to “sugar-eating fungus” and this type of yeast does exactly that. It digests sugar present in the starches of the flour to grow. The products of this fermentation process include carbon dioxide gas (CO2) and ethyl alcohol. The CO2 bubbles are what cause the dough to rise, or leaven, and the ethyl alcohol is what imparts the familiar flavour and smell of any yeast-leavened bread. It might now make sense why adding sugary, lukewarm water to your instant or active dry yeast is a way to check if it is still alive and suitable for baking.
Salt - The Enhancer
Salt is a common ingredient in all cooking. It brings flavour to our food and this is no exception for pizza dough. Without it, any bread would taste bland. Salt also has an impact on the leavening of dough. A high salt content can inhibit the growth of yeast and impact the strength of the dough. It is important to strike the right balance between flavour and enabling the fermentation process.
Water - The Motivator
Water brings all the dough ingredients together. Once the water is mixed with the flour, the individual gluten proteins in the flour connect to one another and create strong bonds. This can be seen after the water is absorbed by the flour. After a period of rest, you will see an intricate network of gluten strands. This network is what gives the dough the structure and holds it together.
Network of gluten strands
Similar to flour, there are different types of water. Hard water has a higher mineral content and can make your dough firm. Conversely, soft water can make dough too relaxed and limp. The amount of water added to flour is known as the hydration level. The hydration level has an impact on the texture of the dough. This is a variable that we have worked at length with to find the perfect texture, workability and performance.
At Mama Mei’s, we use simple, high-quality ingredients. Our dough has only four ingredients – flour, water, yeast and salt. It is free from additives and preservatives. We have experimented at length using different variations of each ingredient, quantities of the ingredients and various proving times and temperatures. The experiments are endless! After more pizzas than we can count, we finally landed on the perfect ratio of ingredients and method to achieve our dough today.
Keep it simple. Respect the ingredients. Enjoy the process. Eat the pizza!
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