Pizza Dough Hydration: Merits and Perils

In a well-executed dough, all of the elements need to be correctly balanced. One must keep in mind all of the variables which later, during the leavening, influence the work of the yeasts and the enzymes. Among these factors, the water is the most significant. This is because a dough that is highly hydrated or moist will result in a pizza that is extremely soft, fluffy, well-bubbled, but not necessarily better. The pros and cons of an elevated hydration must be considered.


Among the points in favor, as already mentioned, there is a greater softness in the finished product and a crust that is more pronounced. The maturation is also quicker. In fact, when the quantity of water is high, the processes of transformation are faster and the enzymes also work more quickly on the starch and proteins. The dough matures in less time, nonetheless even a less hydrated dough with the right maturation time will have an equally digestible end result.


We must also consider, however, that a dough that is extremely hydrated requires a correct kneading. The experience of the pizza chef is fundamental and a well-trained hand is necessary; one that is decidedly sensitive and that has a natural predisposition for the craft. A ball of dough that is very moist and soft becomes difficult to manipulate, and there is a high probability of gluing the pizza to the counter. It would then be difficult to transport it on the shovel to the oven where it could easily be burned.


Often, to compensate, the dough is spread out over a layer of flour. This worsens the situation because the flour is absorbed by the dough and then transported to the oven. Excess flour in contact with the red-hot oven floor burns and causes a yellowing of the bottom of the pizza. Consequently, it also gives it a bitter taste. When working with elevated hydration, compensation is sometimes made by using “strong” flours to give the dough more elasticity. This can give a softness back to the pizza, however it can often become gummy due to the excessive elasticity of the gluten. Even the solution to increase the weight of the ball of dough to 300 grams or more is risky. Despite keeping the diameter to a contained size, this can result in a defective pizza because the final product is too thick.


Another factor that cannot be underestimated is the baking. If the water content is higher, the baking time should be longer in order to avoid pizzas with a gluey crust that would also be difficult to digest, regardless of the many hours of maturation.


The correct realization of a highly hydrated dough is certainly imperative for a good execution of a Neapolitan pizza. Respect, however, is also required for a few fundamental rules during the various phases of workmanship. First and foremost, one must not try to overdo without the right experience at the pizza counter. The risk of worsening the overall product is far too high.

La corretta realizzazione di un impasto altamente idratato è certamente fondamentale per una buona riuscita della pizza napoletana. Richiede però rispetto, nelle varie fasi di lavorazione, di alcune regole fondamentali, soprattutto non bisogna cercare di strafare se non si ha la giusta esperienza al banco, perché forte è il rischio di ottenere solo un peggioramento del prodotto.


by Ciro Salvo