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Wood fired, grilled, or baked, yeast water pizza dough is a success! I’m continuing my yeast water bread baking –or you could call it evangelism– testing lots of different ways to make pizza dough with yeast water. The recipes have all worked beautifully, with a variety of time schedules and methods. My friend Brooke is a master pizza oven baker, so I asked her to give YW a whirl. Here’s her story.
Guest post by Brooke Jackson
Rosemary’s incredible enthusiasm for yeast water, (and that she gifted me a large jar of it), lead me to try it for my standard pizza dough.
I’ve made this dough recipe for years for use in my wood fired pizza oven. The recipe was developed by Andrea Mugnaini and published in her fabulous book The Art of Wood Fired Cooking. The original recipe uses 1 teaspoon active dry yeast to 4 cups of ’00’ flour and takes about 3 hours from mixing ingredients to shaping of the dough balls.
Rosemary’s first advice was to use a preferment (like a starter) made from yeast water and flour. She has since tested the recipe without the preferment, essentially using the yeast water in a no-knead bread recipe and it worked great! So take your pick, either longer method with preferment, or the quicker style without preferment.
I started 3 days before I wanted to use the dough (now I know it can be 2 days ahead). I made a 100 grams of preferment, of 50grams each yeast water and 00 flour and left it on the counter overnight. The next day I made the dough adding the preferment along with ½ cup of yeast water, which replaced one third of the total water amount of 1 ½ cups.
I left this to rise until doubled, which took about 5-6 hours (my kitchen is 65-68 even in summer) then I put it in the fridge overnight. At this point when the dough doubled, I could have shaped and baked the pizzas. But I wasn’t ready so I refrigerated until the next day.
Note from Rosemary: rise time and schedules vary. As Brooke says, ‘Don’t let bread dough schedule you, just work it around your life’. Refrigerating helps flex the your schedule and allows a little flavor development, but you could also make pizza with the dough at this point. See the rough sample schedule in the recipe.
The next day (this can be either day 2 or 3) was pizza day. I intended to bake starting at 6 pm, so I took the dough out of the refrigerator at 11 a.m. and gave it a good long time to come to room temperature. Given the usual temps in my kitchen, this took until 4 pm, but you would need to customize the timing if you live in warmer climes so the dough doesn’t over-proof. (If it does over-proof, you can still make pizza but it may be a flatter crust).
The dough looked beautiful and handled really nicely as I made the dough balls. Six balls from this recipe works for me, for the size pizzas we like, but 4 is also good. Don’t overly flour the dough as you portion it, as rolling into firm balls is dependent on the tension between the rolling surface and the dough. This takes some practice to perfect. Basically, take each piece and use both hands to form it into a ball shape by tucking the ends under. Then using one hand, create a cage of sorts with your fingertips on the counter surface (I use my granite counter but wood or other surface materials would work) with the dough ball underneath. Make small circles with your fingertips and the ball until you can feel the tension of it on your work surface beginning to form it into a nice tight ball. Rest all the balls for 30 minutes for easier shaping, or up to about an hour. Then gently press and lightly stretch into rounds.
I found the yeast water leavened dough shaped as easily as the yeast leavened version and it baked up into perfect, crusty pizzas. I hope you’ll give it a try. And you don’t need a pizza oven to create a tasty pie, just use your regular oven or a BBQ grill as Rosemary does.
Why use yeast water instead of active dry yeast?
Here’s my reasons for using yeast water:
- Yeast water allows the dough to rise slowly, adding a subtle complex grain flavor and improved dough structure, or ‘crumb’. Crumb is the level of lightness, holes, and texture of dough which is created by how the gluten is stretched and handled. I relate the long-rise difference to the flavor of bakery artisan breads that are ‘just so good’!
- Because yeast water (and sourdough too) rise slower than active dry yeast, there is more control with the rising meaning there is a longer window for when the dough is ready to bake. This is handy for scheduling (note Brooke’s motto – ‘Don’t let dough run your schedule!’) However you do have to plan for the longer amount of time for yeast water (or sourdough) vs dry yeast.
- It’s fun to see the bread rise from the simple mixture of dry fruit and water! Plus the slower pace is part of the process of bread baking 🙂
Keep in mind that the yeast water takes 5-6 days to ferment the first time it’s made. Then the water is ready for baking straight from the refrigerator. Always save a little to make more after you’ve used some for several batches of bread. It takes 2-3 days at room temperature to refresh with more water, sugar and a couple dates. The water keeps refrigerated for months, and is always ready for baking without further feeding.
Yeast Water Pizza Dough
Preferment – optional
- 50 grams (about 3Tbsp) yeast water
- 50 grams (appx scant 1/2 cup) choice of flour – whole wheat, spelt, '00' pizza flour
- 500 grams (4 cups) '00' flour '00' flour is more finely ground than bread flour. Bread flour will work fine. Or, if you only have all-purpose flour, just use it!
- 240 grams (1 cup) water
- 120 grams (1/2 cup) yeast water
- 8 grams salt (Kosher salt is 1-3/4tsp; Table salt is about 1-1/4tsp)
- 1 tsp olive oil the recipe by Andrea Mugnaini uses olive oil
- Preferment: Stir together the yeast water and flour in a small bowl. Cover and let stand at room temperature until doubled. Usually 12 hours. If you are not ready to make the final dough once it has doubled, refrigerate the preferment up to 48 hours. Let come to room temperature before using. It can be used cold, but may slow the final dough rising.
- Final Dough: In a large bowl, stir together the flour, water, yeast water, and olive oil if using, until the flour is completely moistened. Let stand 20-30 minutes.
- If you using the preferment, add now with the salt. Or without preferment just sprinkle the salt on top and start mixing. Mix well with hands, lifting and folding the dough, and pinching across the dough into smaller pieces then folding it over itself. In 2-3 minutes the dough will start to have tension. Just be sure the preferment and salt are mixed in. See links below for mixing and shaping demos. OR, mix in stand mixer with dough hook, which is the method Brooke uses.
- Cover the dough with a lid or plastic wrap; let rise until double. With Preferment: Expect 5-8 hours depending on kitchen temperature. Ideal proofing room temperature is 75-78F. Without Preferment: Expect 12-14 hours for dough to double.
- When dough is doubled, place container in the refrigerator for an overnight rise, about 12 hours. OR, shape into 4-6 balls. (One ball makes one generous personal-size pizza). Shape into balls by tucking around the dough with your hands and moving the dough in a circle. You'll start to feel a tension and the ball will hold it's shape. Make into pizzas right away, or place on a lightly floured tray, cover the dough balls with plastic wrap and refrigerate, 3 hours or up to 1 day.Allow dough to come to room temperature before continuing with either shaping into balls or flattening for pizza.
- Heat a pizza oven, BBQ, or oven to at least 500F. A pizza stone works well in the oven. Gently stretch and pull dough to desired shape and thickness. See YouTube below for shaping. Shaping takes a little practice if you want perfectly round, but exact rounds are really not critical. Just leave a slightly thicker edge and do best you can for evenness. (You can see mine isn't evenly round but I don't mind the crispier grilled parts). If grilling on a BBQ, I use little or no flour when handling the dough balls, then generously coat dough with olive oil and place oiled side down on grates. Grill until bottom is well marked, about 3 minutes.*
- Remove from grill and place grilled side up on a tray. Add toppings and return to grill on a slightly lower heat setting. Close grill and cook until toppings are heated through and bottom of dough is well browned, 6-10 minutes. *In a super heated pizza oven or on a pizza stone, there is no need to pre-grill the first side.
- Brooke's pizza baked in her pizza oven.