Long Fermentation Pizza
Pizzaiolo Pasqualino Barbasso of Il Falco Azzurro – Cammarata, Italy
Medium Fermentation Pizza
Chef Cathy Whims of Nostrana – Portland, OR
Short Fermentation Pizza
Chef Nicholas Stefanelli of Bibiana – Washington, DC
Pizzaiolo Pasqualino Parbasso prepares to stendere (roll out) la pizza
When Pizzaiolo Pasqualino Barbasso claimed pizza as a health food to a room full of New Yorkers, he received skeptic glares. Watching his presentation at the 2011 International Day of Italian Cuisines at the Italian Culinary Academy we envisioned scooping greasy, dripping slices of pizza into our mouths and scoffed. Barbasso gave an Italian sniff. He wasn’t talking about [insert sniff here] New York pizza. He was talking about Neapolitan.
Barbasso shows off his Harlem Globetrotter-esque skills
While bread completes its transformation in the oven, pizza only browns there, so the work must be done beforehand. During fermentation, yeast transforms carbohydrates into alcohol (responsible for the crust’s aroma and for soft texture) and carbon dioxide (the air pockets that bubble and blister in the oven). Meanwhile the flour’s proteins form an interconnected, elastic web of glutens that trap carbon dioxide and support pizza toppings. Proper fermentation allows time for the yeast to complete its job. Carbohydrates that remain undigested continue to fuel the yeast, even after ingestion, and causes the insatiable thirst.
Barbasso prepares the toppings for a classic Neapolitan pizza
Long fermentation isn’t always convenient for restaurants that need to make and bake dough on the same day. But to compensate and allow for optimal fermentation, chefs can adjust the flour they use for the dough: dough that uses lower-protein flours requires shorter fermentation time. The following chart outlines different options for finessing the fermentation process to fit kitchen practicalities without sacrificing taste or texture.
|Process:||Possible Flour Choice||Protein Content|
For pizzerias with weekly or bi-weekly dough production. Dough cold-ferments in the refrigerator at 39°F to 42°F for at least 24 hours, with best results between 48 and 72 hours.
|5 Stagioni Tipo 00 LL Flour||Minimum 14.5%|
For pizzerias that ferment dough overnight. Dough ferments at room temperature for 6 to 12 hours or in the refrigerator at 39°F to 42°F for at least 24 hours and at most 48 hours.
|Shepherd’s Grain Enriched Unbleached High Gluten Strength Flour||13%|
For pizzerias that ferment the dough same day. Dough ferments at room temperature for 5 to 8 hours.
|Antico Molino Caputo Tipo 00 Pizza Flour||11.5 to 12.5%|
For pizzerias that make the dough the same day as the pizza is made. Dough ferments at room temperature from 2 to 4 hours.
|Giusto’s Vita-Grain Artisan Unbleached Malted Bread Flour||11 to 11.5%|
Chef Cathy Whims puts the final touches on her Margherita pizza
What Chef Cathy Whims of Nostrana in Portland, Oregon likes most about keeping her own starter is the story that comes with it. “It comes from a pizzeria in Nice, [France],” she says and admits, “I love telling people that.” The starter isn’t the same starter any more, since a starter attracts yeast bacterium from the ambient air, but it’s got history all the same. When incorporated into Whims’ original pizza dough, the fresh yeast bolsters the flavor with an almost nutty sweetness and makes the roll-out a breeze; “it’s really easy to shape … with commercial yeast the dough was much harder to form, it wanted to pull back on itself.”
To care for the starter, Whims keeps it sealed in the walk-in and tends it twice daily. “The starter is healthier if it has to work really hard,” she explains, “so we take it down really far.” Every morning she discards all but a half pound of the starter and feeds it 12.8 ounces flour and 9.6 ounces water. For the evening feed, she takes away what she needs to make tomorrow’s dough and adds 52 ounces flour and 44.8 ounces water. As a backup, Whims recommends drying a piece of starter on a baking sheet and preserving it. If the yeast ever dies, refresh the dehydrated starter, and life can begin again. However Whims' original French starter is over a decade old at this point and it’s still going strong.