Get ready to get your hands floury.
Making your own pizza dough is one of the hardest parts of home cooking pizza. No matter how well you manage the other ingredients, a bad crust can completely derail the experience. There's nothing worse than tossing a pizza into the oven, spending the next 20 minutes wafting in the pizza smells, only to find out that the crust is some sort of soggy, half-formed abomination. Save yourself both the disappointment and the time spent existentially howling over your failed pizza experiment like some home cooking Dr. Frankenstien by upping your pizza game with cold fermented dough.
Cold fermented dough produces crispier crusts, decreases cooking time, and boosts your pizza game to the next level. We'll save you the paragraphs about a particularly romantic summer that we once spent in Tuscany and get right to the recipe!
- 500 grams (4 cups) of bread flour
- 16 grams (about 1 tbsp) of fine sea salt
- 1 packet of active dry yeast
- 1 1/2 cups of water
- Some patience
Barring your cookware, that's all you need! Be aware that the inclusion of patience isn't a joke here: this recipe is going to take 72 hours. We probably should have mentioned that earlier.
Start by mixing the dry ingredients in a large bowl.
Once they're thoroughly incorporated, slowly add in the water while gently mixing with a wooden spoon. You don't want to get too hasty on this one. Give the yeast a nice, gentle bath and they'll reward you appropriately. After all the water has been incorporated into the dough, lightly flour a countertop (or large cutting board), and drop the dough on it. Unless you want a bunch sticking to your hands, we suggest lightly oiling them first.
Give the dough a light knead for 2-3 minutes. You don't need to beat it up too much, just remove the clumps. While the dough won't be super elastic, it should easily form a rolled ball.
Go ahead and roll it into a ball before dropping it in a lightly oiled bowl and covering with a damp (but clean) kitchen cloth. Allow it to sit undisturbed for a full 24 hours at room temperature. During this time, it will double in size and you'll see plenty of yeasty activity in the dough.
The Cold Ferment
Here comes the hard part.
After you've allowed the dough to double in size, you'll want to portion it out. Think about how many pizzas you want to make using this dough. We usually divide it into 4 equal portions, which are each good for a standard 10-inch pie. If you're planning on making larger pan pizzas, 3 similarly sized balls will do.
If you feel like invoking the mad sciences and saving the entire thing for an attempt to cook a 35-inch pizza monstrosity, we won't tell you no.
Once they're divided, place the dough balls into oiled, cylindrical airtight containers. Takeout containers from delis are usually your best best for this. These containers must be as close to airtight as possible: too much extra air can interfere with the cold ferment process.
Now, for the fun part: you want to refrigerate these dough balls for at least 48 hours and up to 72. You read that correctly—2-3 days is a long time to wait until you've got pizza dough, but the product is worth it. The longer that you let this dough rest, the deeper and more complex its flavor will become.
When the dough is done fermenting, we recommend cooking with it sooner rather than later. Yeast activity and flavor profile hit a high point towards the end of the fermentation window that loses its quality if you leave it around for too long. When cooking, make sure to let it rest at room temperature for at least an hour, but otherwise, use it like you'd use any normal cooking dough. Except, take an extra degree of pride in this dough when you cook, because you just committed the majority of a week to this dough and that's more pizza-dedication than most people have.
How It Works
Cold fermented dough produces a chewy, airy crust that's got a deep flavor. This dough isn't just a vessel for toppings, it's an active player in your pizza. It's not a jam band bassist, it's a keytar soloist. It also responds very well to a variety of different cooking methods. Cooking it thin crust produces a crispy product that lightly burns for extra flavor, while cooking it in a pan pizza will give you a hearty base for anything you pile on to it.
Let's look at the science at play here:
The fermentation process that gives a crust its texture and flavor consists mainly of the yeast breaking down molecules in the flour to bind into gluten. That's the process at play when dough increases in size while resting. By cold-fermenting the yeast, we can slow down the yeast growth without completely stopping it. This leads to more consistent and thorough development of gluten, which translates into a much better crust.
Who knew that science could be so tasty?