The short answer is yes; if instead, we want to get to the bottom of the matter, an entire book might not be enough.
A lot of variables are involved in the pizza-making process, which can significantly affect the final result. To make a good pizza, the main factors involved are:
- Quality of raw materials;
- Pizza chef’s experience and manual skills;
- Time, temperature and method of preparation of the dough;
- Oven characteristics;
In this article, we will see how to make the pizza dough based on the oven we have available to cook it. We will talk about all the factors listed above, discussing the various types of stoves and the consequent changes to be made to the dough to improve our pizza.
To understand what the relationship between the oven and the dough is, we will first have to talk about the different types of stoves and their particular characteristics. We will also have to consider the differences in the mixes of the various types of pizza, each with its specific qualities, to understand how best to adapt the baked recipe we have.
Pizza dough: types and characteristics
The pizza dough is simple and sophisticated at the same time.
Simple because it is a mediocre dish, made with the same ingredients like bread, the only ones that were never missing (and often the only ones present) in the kitchens of peasant families, that is, most of the Italians until the economic boom of the 50s – 60. In the absence of household appliances, there was a wood-fired oven in the countryside, obviously without a thermostat. The pizza was used to test the oven temperature before baking the bread, essential cooking for the whole family.
Even if the recipe has only a few simple ingredients, the pizza-making process includes various physical-chemical phenomena that occur in the different preparation phases. The sum of the results of the multiple stages will give us the quality of the final product, which therefore depends on many variables, and it is this complexity that makes the world of bakery fascinating. Whatever the recipe, here’s the procedure to follow.
Union of ingredients
It can occur in different sequences depending on the method and the recipe, but the best solutions are usually two: either you start by dissolving the yeast in the water and then gradually add flour, sugar, oil and finally the salt, or you start by combining flour yeast (or flour mix) to add water and other ingredients slowly, but always with salt away from the yeast. The quantity of water about that of the flour provides us with the most critical parameter of a dough: hydration. A more hydrated dough is more difficult to work, but it is lighter and more digestible because a more significant presence of water (if combined with correct processing) improves the dough’s ability to rise and form large cavities during cooking.
Once the ingredients are added, the processing phase begins, which is essential for the formation of gluten. This protein is the structure of our dough, the one that allows leavening by retaining the air inside the mass, then going to make our pizza grow even in the oven. To ensure that a robust glutinous mesh is formed, the dough must be worked energetically on the floured surface for at least ten minutes, until we have obtained a tenacious mass, that is, that does not immediately lose the form we give it. Many pizza chefs also advise you to take one or two breaks during this process, to make the gluten contract and re-spread to increase the elasticity of the dough.
Once the dough is finished, the leavening phase begins, in which the dough must at least double its volume. There are two factors for a correct leavening: time and temperature. Given that at a higher temperature corresponds a faster leavening, we must balance these two factors to obtain a proper leavening in the times we want, also to the quantity of yeast that we put in the dough.
In this phase we divide the mass into various parts, with the aim of having the bases for our pizzas already portion based on our needs: balls for the pizza al piatto (usually between 200 and 300 grams), or more loaves large for pan pizza, with variable weight depending on the size of the pan and how thick we want the pizza. It is essential to rework the dough without exaggerating, and the result must be a smooth and compact ball, which will again grow in size without losing its shape, when the money is maturing, essential for obtaining light and digestible pizza.
This is the last phase of dough creation, which is followed only by seasoning and cooking. It’s the phase that determines the shape of your pizza, but also its ability to grow in the oven because you don’t have to break the gluten mesh. If the dough is crushed, the various layers formed by the rising bubbles will join again, preventing the money from swelling. If instead it is stretched too much, in addition to the risk of breaking we could find a pizza too thin to grow a lot.
Each pizza recipe includes all these phases, even though each can have different variations linked to many factors such as manual aspects, quality, and the dose of ingredients, leavening time and the temperature at which the dough is made and left to rise.
In addition to the Neapolitan pizza, the only one that has an official specification to comply with in order to respect the art of the pizza heritage of UNESCO, there are many different recipes. These may also have different names depending on the local variants, such as the Genoese focaccia, the Puccia Pugliese or the Roman pinsa.
Many variations of pizza arise from the use of different flours, the main ingredient. In our blog, we saw what differences there are between the various types of flour. Here we will only repeat the fundamental principle that the more refined a flour (00), the lower its strength, that is the ability to absorb water and form a tight dough. A less refined flour (type 1, 2 or wholemeal) has a higher bread-making index (W) and absorbs more water, but needs longer times to mature.
We can also open a parenthesis on the use of flours other than soft wheat. We could talk about the various cereals, their nutritional properties and the organoleptic characteristics of the most memorable meals, but here we will limit ourselves to saying that we can do many experiments that, if well done, can give life to delicious doughs.
Generally, the flours of other cereals are less refined and have rather high strength, because they contain more fiber and proteins than ordinary wheat flour. They also have a more intense and characteristic taste, and therefore doughs with other meals are usually made by combining both types in varying proportions, but often the majority is made from soft wheat flour 0 or 00, to balance both strength and taste of a different meal.
We have seen in our blog what are the factors that influence the excellent leavening, the excellent cooking, the consistency and the digestibility of dough, to have a fragrant and soft pizza at the same time. Let us now turn our attention to the oven, the other essential element of pizza preparation.