The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Why the cold ingredients for pizza dough?

Angelo's picture

Why the cold ingredients for pizza dough?

I'm sure many here have Peter Reinhardt's Bread Baker's Apprentice. This site is actually the reason I bought the book, and a great buy it was!

The pizza dough recipe calls for chilled flour, ice cold water, and judging from his temperature readings after shaping, he's working pretty fast to get them into the fridge. I've made the dough several times now, and I can't argue that it IS great. Still, I'm more of an Alton Brown fan, and I like to know WHY I'm doing something, not just how to do it.

So WHY is he working with so much cold to make his pizza crust?

I understand that yeast's fermentation is retarded by salt and cold. But why not just mix it together and put it into the fridge afterwards?

I understand why I work this way with pie crusts: I don't want the fat to have a chance to melt. Keeping it cold lets me have flakier quick breads. But how does this apply to a pizza dough, who's only fat is olive oil (defintiely a liquid, even at these temperatures)?

Any insight would be GREATLY appreciated. I'm having no trouble making the dough, I just want to know why he has me working with cold to make it happen.

SumisuYoshi's picture

From what I know of Reinhart's methods, the goal here is to delay the fermentation quite a bit and allow the enzymes in the flour to act first, breaking out some of the sugar from the startches and giving more flavor. If you start with room temperature ingredients, the dough will still take some time to cool once in the fridge. If, on the other hand, you start with chilled ingredients the only cooling needed, is just to remove whatever heat was added by the mixing. That way the dough stays at a much cooler temperature the whole time.

Edith Pilaf's picture
Edith Pilaf

I just made the Napoletana Pizza Dough from Peter Reinhart's American Pie (2003).  It is basically the same recipe as the one from BBA, except it calls for 65 degree water instead of ice cold.  It also calls for a 30 minute rest at room temperature before refrigerating.  Go figure...

longhorn's picture

I agree with others that Peter Reinhart's primary motive is to prevent the yeast from acting appreciably until the dough is removed from the fridge and allowed to warm up. The enzymes produce sugar during the refrigerator retard that then allow the yeast to multiply rapidly. The result is a dough that has a bit more residual sugar than normal and browns nicely IF you bake it at the right time - about two hours after removal from the fridge. Left longer the sugar declines and the process loses some of its benefit. I usually bake pies over a two to three hour period so my early pies are a bit early and my latter ones are a bit over. No big deal IMO so I usually just use straight tap water and move it to the fridge promptly, but if you have the timing right I think the approach works well.