Fermentation is the conversion of carbohydrates to alcohols and carbon dioxide, by yeast or other bacteria. It happens in alcoholic drinks, bread, and pizza dough! It gives breads and doughs the light, airy texture and a slightly sour taste. So what happens to pizza dough during this process?
During this stage, you mix together ingredients such as water, flour, yeast, and salt. Two proteins in the flour (gliaden and glutenin) begin to connect together and form an elastic network called gluten. Some flours have a higher ‘gluten’ content which supposedly make for a great texture and taste in the dough. But it also means it is very elastic and hard to roll or stretch out.
- First Rise
After kneading, the dough is left to rise for about an hour. This is when fermentation occurs, creating carbon dioxide bubbles, and the dough may double in size. The gluten network continues to develop.
- Second Rise/Proof
The dough can be punched down and shaped into a ball or loaf for a second rise time. This allows fermentation to continue and gluten structure to develop further. This process should take place in a cold place such as a refrigerator, because higher temperatures allow the carbon dioxide to develop too quickly and produce undesirable flavors. Although you don’t need a second rise for a basic pizza recipe, it may result in a more floury or bread-like taste. This process of placing the dough in a cold environment is called retardation.
The dough is then rolled out and put in the oven. When it hits the warm temperature, the air bubbles start to expand, making the dough inflate. At some point the dough reaches maximum expansion and the structure solidifies and you can see the bread-like structure.
As there are so many variables to consider, it can be hard to get a consistent pizza every time you make one. I think the biggest challenge for me is the variable temperature of my electric oven. It’s also frustrating to try to roll out the pizza when it shrinks back so much. What are your suggestions?