Wondering why your homemade cold-fermenting pizza dough never hits the mark? I’ve got a solution for you: cold ferment pizza dough. I know it seems fancy and daunting, but trust me when I say it isn’t. You can transform your lousy pizza into a pizzeria-quality masterpiece with only a little know-how.
So, how long should you cold ferment a pizza dough?
The answer is not as simple as you might think. Depending on the recipe and the temperature, the ideal duration can vary anywhere from 24 to 5 days. The cold fermentation process helps the crust develop a deeper flavor and a fluffy, airy texture on the cornicione.
“But, dude, is there really a point in waiting that long for a pizza?” you may be thinking. Yes, in my opinion. I’ll go over all you need to know about cold fermented pizza dough in this article. I’ve got you covered, from the science behind it to step-by-step directions on how to do it.
What Exactly Is a Cold Fermented Pizza Dough?
Do you ever wonder why, despite your earnest efforts, your handmade pizzas never taste as delicious as your favorite pizzeria’s pie? As a home baker, I understand how upsetting it can be to fall short of expectations. The key to a flawless crust, though, is to ferment the dough for an extended length of time in your fridge.
It requires some forethought and patience. But the end result is a light, delicate crust with rich flavors that rivals the greatest pizza places. Anyone who is familiar with traditional Neapolitan-style pizzas will tell you that the dough should be chilled for at least 24 hours for the best flavor development.
True professionals would allow it 3-5 days to optimize the dough. My patience game isn’t too strong. So a 24-hour cold ferment pizza dough is my usual go-to.
On special occasions, I cold ferment the dough for 72 hours. And the results are always dramatically better! The lengthy fermentation time allows the dough to develop more complex flavors.
How Cold Fermentation Impacts the Flavor and Texture of Pizza?
Here’s the deal:
The slow, cool fermentation process allows the dough to develop rich, nuanced flavors. This is not something you can achieve with a quick rise. Depending on the recipe and ingredients used, you may notice a tanginess, nuttiness, or even a subtle sweetness in the finished crust.
But it’s not just the flavor that benefits from cold fermentation; it’s also the texture. Long fermentation in a cool environment time creates air pockets and a light, open crumb. This is what makes the crust crispy on the outside and tender on the inside. It’s also one of the key secrets to developing leopard spotting on the crust.
Ideal Duration for Pizza Dough Cold Fermentation
The ideal duration for cold-fermenting pizza dough depends on the recipe and temperature. Typically, the dough should be left to sit in the fridge for at least 24 hours. Some recipes call for 3-5 days of fermentation.
I tried cold fermenting five different pizza dough balls with 70% hydration for varying periods of time. And the results were eye-opening.
After 24 hours of fermentation, the dough had a slightly sour flavor and a bit more elasticity than usual. That made it easier to stretch and shape. At 48 hours, the dough had developed a more pronounced tanginess and a tender, pillowy texture.
But the real magic started happening at the 72-hour mark! The dough had developed a rich, nutty flavor that was perfectly complemented by the puffy crust with lots of large air pockets. The texture was light and airy, with just the right amount of resistance when bitten into.
At 96 hours, the dough had developed a stronger sour flavor, which may not be for everyone, but I loved it. The crust was even airier and crispier than the 72-hour dough.
Finally, after 120 hours, the dough had developed an almost caramel-like flavor. The texture was incredibly light and crispy, almost reminiscent of a pastry. This dough was perfect for more delicate toppings that would have been overwhelmed by a heavier crust.
Is Cold Ferment Pizza Dough Healthy?
If you’re concerned about the health benefits of cold fermented pizza dough, I’ve got good news for ya! The cold fermented dough can be a healthier option than traditional pizza dough.
The prolonged fermentation process breaks down the gluten and carbs in the dough. This enhances the digestibility of the dough. The long fermentation process also boosts the bioavailability of some elements. This makes the pizza more nutrient-dense than regular pizza. How cool is that?
Benefits of Cold Fermented Pizza Dough
As someone who loves pizza, I’m always looking for ways to improve my pies. I stumbled upon the technique of cold-fermenting dough a few years ago, and it has changed the game for me. Here are some of the benefits of the process that should convince you to try this technique:
Enhanced Flavor and Texture
I’ve already touched on this benefit, but it’s worth diving into a bit more. The flavor development you get from cold fermenting can’t be replicated by a quick rise. It not only deepens the flavor profile but also elevates the texture.
Longer fermentation time forms air pockets and a fluffier texture. If you are sick and tired of chewing on a hard, unpalatable crust, cold fermentation is the solution!
With cold ferment pizza dough, you can achieve consistent results every time you make pizza. The long fermentation period allows you to control the rise of the dough. This is especially helpful if you’re making pizza for a large group or running a pizzeria.
The cold-fermented dough is easier to work with than its room-temperature counterpart. The longer fermentation period allows the gluten in the dough to relax. This will let you stretch and shape the dough more easily.
Storage and Convenience
The process allows you to prepare the dough way in advance and store it in the refrigerator for up to five days.
This makes it convenient for busy schedules and impromptu pizza parties. You can prepare the dough in advance, let it cold ferment, and have it ready to go when you’re ready to make pizza.
Ever felt bloated or uneasy after eating pizza? You might be shocked to learn that cold-fermenting the dough improves its digestibility.
The long fermentation time allows the yeast to break down the gluten and other proteins. This makes the dough easier for your body to process.
My Poolish Recipe for a 24-hour Cold Fermented Pizza Dough
Making pizza dough is an art. And creating a delicious crust requires patience, skill, and the right recipe. After years of experimenting, I’ve found my go-to poolish recipe that works right for me.
What’s a poolish, though?
It’s a simple pre-ferment made out of equal parts flour and water and a trace of yeast. It improves the flavor and texture of the dough. And I’ve discovered that using a poolish makes all the difference in achieving a nice crust.
To make my poolish, I combine 200 grams of bread flour and 200 grams of cold water. Then I’d add ⅛ teaspoon of active dry yeast and a tsp of honey to it. Don’t skip the honey.
That’s because the yeast gobbles up the sugars in honey and releases carbon dioxide. The gas build-up forms air pockets and gives the dough its characteristic rise.
I would swirl the mixture until it’s completely combined. Then cover it, and let it aside at room temperature for 8-10 hours.
After the poolish has fermented, I’d combine it with the rest of the dough ingredients. I use a stand mixer to process the dough until well combined. Then I knead the dough for 10-15 minutes until smooth and elastic. If you don’t have a stand mixer, it’s perfectly alright. Mix the dough manually.
Once I’m happy with the kneading, I’d put the dough in a lightly oiled container and wrap it in plastic wrap. I cold fermented it in the refrigerator for 24 hours, but you can easily go longer if you choose.
Take it out of the refrigerator and let it sit at room temperature for 1-2 hours before baking. This will allow the dough to come to room temperature, making shaping easier.
Three things to remember:
- When creating the dough, use cold water. This slows the fermentation process and allows the flavors to develop more gradually.
- Be gentle when kneading the dough. A tough crust might result from overworking the dough.
- Allow the dough to come to room temperature before shaping. Cold dough is more difficult to deal with and stretches into the proper form.
How to Tell if Pizza Dough Is Fermented?
Using your senses to determine if your dough is well fermented is the key.
The poke test is one of the most dependable ways to determine whether your dough is well fermented. Press your finger gently into the dough, about 1/4 inch deep.
If the dough springs back quickly and completely, it’s likely not fully fermented yet. And if it slowly springs back and leaves a small indentation, it’s probably ready to use.
Another easy way to be sure about the dough is by observing its size. When you hold a well-fermented dough, it should be clearly larger than its initial size. The texture you’re going for is light and fluffy. You may also detect little bubbles on the dough’s surface or a lovely, somewhat sour odor.
The baked crust of a long-fermented dough will have a sourdough-like open-crumb structure. You will also notice uneven browning on the cornicione, with one side being paler than the other. The rustic, unpolished appearance is an indicator of the real deal. Embrace it!
Overfermentation can result in a sticky, sloppy dough. So, especially when you’re starting off, it’s safer to under-ferment than over-ferment. That’s ‘cause it’s much easier to rescue an under-fermented batch. On your next batch, you can always modify the fermentation period.
After trying numerous pizza dough recipes, I can confidently tell that cold fermenting pizza dough is a game changer. It not only adds depth of taste and texture to the crust, but it also provides for greater scheduling and preparation flexibility.
Don’t be afraid if you’re new to cold fermenting pizza dough! You’ll be able to tell when your dough is well-fermented and ready to bake with a little effort and patience. Just keep an eye out for symptoms of fermentation, including air pockets and a slightly sour odor. Start with 24-hour-long fermentation first. Then gradually increase the duration.
Once you’ve mastered cold fermentation, you’d never want to go back to the quick-rise dough. So give it a shot, try new recipes and techniques, and don’t be afraid to be creative with your toppings. That’s all for today. All the best!
Tim Anderson is the founder of pizzapeopleaz® and has been in the pizza industry since 1998. Since then, his mission has been to make a pizza lover’s guy into a personal pizzaiolo. And each year, he continues to help more people with Pizza chemistry, pizza Crust, pizza oven, and oven troubleshooting.