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Science looks at pizza until the pizza looks back

There’s been a lot of talking ’round these parts about the ways in which pizza can be refined and perfected, tweaked and explored, fondled and manipulated. There is always talks ’round these parts on such matters. We’re a pizza loving people in this house.

Tonight: SCIENCE. Which is better hydration for a pizza dough? 65% or 80%? (Hydration, if you’re not quite as nerdy as I, is the amount of water in a dough, in relation to the amount of flour, by weight. If you have 100g of flour and 75g of water, you’re looking at 75% hydration.) When M or I make dough, we usually fluctate somewhere between those two ends of the spectrum, so it was time to do them side by side. Then the scales karked it. Hope you weren’t expecting precision in your experiments, suckahs! We buzzed around various local shops, hunting for the necessary CR2032 bits, but it seems we’re the only people in this hemisphere to use them for anything, because they could not be found for gloves nor honey. So we gave up. And then I remembered my little friend in the yarn cupboard…

The hero of the evening.

The hero of the evening.

My prized yarn scale. Doesn’t take more than a couple of hundred grams, but we were working in small amounts tonight, so that’s no problem. And I don’t think I’ve ever had to replace its batteries in the five or so years I’ve had it (looking at you, kitchen scales). Anyway, we overcame the obstacle and pursued the remainder of the experiment with precision. HOOSAH!

ORBS

ORBS.

So we each prepared a dough: 140g plain white flour; 1 teaspoon each of olive oil, salt, and instant yeast. M added 112g water, making his the 80% hydration dough. I took the 65% hydration dough, with 92g of water. And away we went! We kneaded for six minutes (timer and everything), then scooped the doughs into tight little orbs for rising. After basting the orbs with a little more olive oil, we left them to rise in the bowl together, for the duration of two episodes of the Simpsons.

Press press press

Press press press

We shaped the dough, and the differences started to appear: mine, the lower hydration dough, was stretchy and pliant, and fairly strong. It took a little extra work to stop it springing back from the edges, but nothing arduous. M’s higher hydration dough was stretchy and silky, and easily spread for shaping, with no springback.

Higher.

Higher.

Into the oven! Baked simultaneously, and topped identically. Above: the higher hydration dough. Below: the lower hydration dough. Not a whole lot of difference, visually (photography skills notwithstanding).

Lower.

Lower.

Textually, there was a noticeable difference, although not as much as I thought there would be. I thought 80% would be pillowy: it was still thin, but much, much chewier than the 65%. The gluten development had reached a stage of very firm resistance, which left it feeling somehow overcooked. The 65% was firm and thin, without being shattery like crackers.

Conclusion: lower hydration is preferable in pizza dough! Now we’re deciding what variable to examine next. Thicker and smaller vs thinner and bigger? Olive oil vs white sauce (no tomatoes in this nightshade-free stomach)? Milk in the dough? More olive oil? I’ll get back to you…now here’s some action shots of M carving:

Gettin' ready for chomptime.

Gettin’ ready for chomptime.

Toppings: olive oil, oregano, mozzarella (made by ME, thankyouverymuch), olives, roast pumpkin.

Carving!

Carving!

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