The first step to a great-looking crust is properly proofed pizza dough. When making a pizza at home, you need to understand the concept known as proofing.
Proofing is the pizza dough-making stage when the yeast produces carbon dioxide and alcohol by feeding on available carbohydrates. The carbon dioxide diffuses into the dough's gas bubbles, causing them to expand and the dough to rise. The size of the gas bubbles grows more significant with time (Whitworth and Alava, 1999).
Can You Skip the Proofing Stage?
Skipping the proofing stage is a big no, no. The process is essential because the yeast needs to ferment before baking, increasing the flavor and texture of the finished product.
During the proofing process, the dough is filled with carbon dioxide. This gas causes the pockets in the dough to expand as the dough bakes, leaving a light and airy texture. The final product will be dense, dry, and bland without proofing.
Proper proofing of dough results in a perfectly baked pizza crust. Gluten strands stretch to hold air bubbles during the proofing process, forming gas pockets in the gluten. The final fermentation process relies on this perfect proofing process to create a delicious pizza crust. It is vital to give the dough sufficient time to prove during this step.
When baking, a long proofing time is essential for its quality. When the dough is under-proofed, it will not rise correctly, and you will have problems with texture and flavor. Over-proofed dough may have a concave bottom or uneven air pockets inside, and you also risk working with unready dough. Proper proofing is key to creating the best quality product.
1. The first step involves kneading, stretching, and punching down the dough. Once the dough has been shaped, you should place it in a warm spot to prove. You can do this by using the kitchen counter or placing the dough on the fridge. The reason for retarding the proofing process is to slow the fermentation process, which will help develop the pizza crust flavor.
2. Depending on the recipe you are baking, you can choose the exact amount of time you want your dough to be proof. The longer you proof your dough, the slower it will rise. If you're not baking often, you can also try a DIY proofing box or heating mat. Just make sure you adjust the timings accordingly, as temperatures can affect the rate at which your dough rises. Keep in mind that the temperature in the proofing area should be between 11C and 22C—lower temperature results in a slow fermentation process.
3. During the first proof, the dough should double in size. If it grows to twice its original size, it should be punched down. A larger dough is an indication that the gluten has collapsed and cannot hold carbon dioxide bubbles. Therefore, keep the dough smaller than when it started to avoid over fermentation. Otherwise, the pizza crust may fall flat and turn out dense.
4. When it doubles in size, it must be punched down to prevent over fermentation. If it is not punched down, the carbon dioxide bubbles in the dough will make the baking process challenging. According to Elizabeth Yetter, punching down the dough ensures a higher quality product.
5. You can also use a pan of hot water and a tea towel. You will need a basket or a pan to proof the dough. You can either use a large bowl or a small bowl. Be sure to choose the correct size for your dough, and then fill it with water about halfway. This will allow the dough to double in size and bake soon. Then, you can open the door of the proofing basket or pan and let it rise.
6. The final proof is the essential step to baking your pizza crust. The yeast cells can't continue to multiply after the first proofing. A pizza crust is entirely flat and lacks flavor if rushed. This is why the final proofing stage is so crucial. In addition to the taste and texture of the baked goods, it also helps the baker produce a great product.
A Few Things to Remember
- According to Chef Domenic, the right amount of yeast is imperative. Too much will hasten the rising process, compromising the flavor and causing the crust to stain more quickly.
- Check the temperature of the lukewarm liquid with a thermometer if you have one at least until you can gain the skill to judge it properly yourself. It should be between 98 - 180 degrees. To get the proper temperature, mix two parts cold water with 1 part boiling water.
- Several factors determine the amount of liquid needed for the dough. That includes the flour type, other recipe ingredients, and even the room's temperature. As a result, liquid quantities are frequently given as an estimate in recipes.
- Kneading should not be overlooked. Kneading is required to stretch the gluten into a well-proofed, light-textured dough.
- Avoid leaving the dough to rise and ensure that the proofing temperature is not too high, or the dough will begin to cook.
- If the bowl is left open during the rising process, a crust will form on top of the dough. Plastic wrap can be put directly on the dough or draped over the bowl. In any case, the plastic wrap must be applied quickly, or the dough will form a hard crust as it rises.
- Remember that the slower the rising, the better the pizza crust. Do not attempt to speed your dough through the rising stages.
Once the dough is proofed correctly, the real fun begins. Shape your pizza using a rolling pin or stretch it out with your fingertips. Add the toppings of your choice. Slide your pizza on a flat wooden.
The wooden paddle will help keep everything in place as you transfer your pizza onto a hot pizza stone in a pre-heated oven. In about 10-15 minutes, your pizza will be ready.
If you followed the steps to prove correctly, your pizza crust should be light and fluffy with every bite.