What works in one climate may not work in another
Last month I discussed how I left a student perplexed when I explained to him that I had several different recipes for Neapolitan pizza dough. And I brought to light the fact that we simply are not in Naples… we’re in different parts of the United States. Therefore, what works in one climate may not work in another and may need to be adjusted.
Here are some of the differences between making dough in southern Italy and in various parts of the U.S.
- Refrigeration — have you ever been to Naples and looked at the refrigeration they have for dough, if any? Well it’s not typically 35 F, it’s not 40 F and some aren’t even 50 F. Several pizzerias don’t have walk-ins where the dough can cool off quickly. Most of the time they are left out or put onto a pizza table. So the dough rises a lot faster.
Same-day or overnight fermentation at room temperature can result in a fast-rising dough with little yeast needed. I prefer that my dough is cold fermented for at least 24 hours — 48 hours, if possible. Most pizzerias in Naples and some in other areas of Italy do not refrigerate their dough. This is okay, but you don’t need to use a lot of yeast for this type of fermentation. Typically it can be .10 to .20 percent of the flour weight.
Temperature and humidity — This can play such an important role, so controlling your temperatures is important. Flour kept in a warm environment like 70 to 90 F can result in the much warmer final dough temperature (when the dough is done mixing). If you do not cool your flour off before use, it will raise that temp. So typically in a warmer, humid environment like Naples, restaurants or storage rooms with no A/C end up lowering the percentage of yeast in the recipe. What’s great about the U.S. is that we typically aren’t in such harsh conditions. Or when we are, we at least have cold walk-ins to place our flour bags in before use if you really had to.
Humidity is also a factor that can cause our dough to rise quicker. A higher salt percentage can help. By raising your salt to 2.5 to 3 percent (or even higher), your gluten net becomes stronger, which helps control the rise.
- Water — the water in Naples can be different everywhere you go. It’s not too hard and most pizzerias have no ice machines. So when making dough from tap water the water comes out a bit warmer than I prefer. I prefer a finished dough of 68-70 F. In Naples I have seen dough coming out of the mixer at 80 F.
If I control the temps from my mixer and have a better controlled bench-rest environment (meaning not too warm of a kitchen), then everything is golden. Cross stacking is very important, too. Cooling off your dough balls before closing the dough trays is a must for long fermentation. This is much easier in a walk in that is cold.
Next month I’ll finish with Part III of “We’re Not in Naples” by discussing yeast, starters and salt.
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