Pizza dough hydration is key to making the perfect Neapolitan pizza at home. Right hydration means that the pizza dough will be easy to work with, rise nicely, and get you a fantastic pizza crust. However, getting the perfect hydration level without getting troubled while handling the dough is tricky, especially as there are multiple levels.
This guide will review the different hydration levels and help you become a master of pizza dough.
So what’re you waiting for? Let’s dive right in.
What’s Pizza Dough Hydration?
Usually, people make pizza without any knowledge of hydration. It’s an essential part of making the perfect pizza. The concept is pretty simple; it’s just the amount of water relative to the flour in the dough/ratio of water and flour in pizza dough.
A higher hydration level means the dough has more moisture, and the pizza crust will be soft and puffy. In contrast, a lower hydration level will result in a crispier, thinner crust.
Although it all depends on the personal preferences of the baker and the type of pizza, knowing will make you a better pizza maestro. Besides, maintaining the right hydration is vital for the fermentation process and the final texture of the crust.
The different hydration levels are:
- 60% hydration
- 70% hydration
- 80% hydration
Although the hydration percentage can also be anywhere in between, these three levels are the gold standards for making pizza dough.
The 60% hydration pizza dough is easy to handle, while the 80% hydration pizza dough can be most suitable for pizza-making experts.
What’s the Effect of Pizza Dough Hydration?
Hydration level is the biggest factor that affects the outcome of your pizza. By adjusting the hydration level, you can get different results. You should experiment with different pizza dough hydrations to find the best one.
The elasticity of the dough
The higher the hydration, the higher the elasticity of the dough. Once you reach higher levels of hydration, it’ll become much more difficult to shape. 80% hydration dough is considered to be hard to use.
60% hydration dough is the easiest to shape as it’ll be less elastic. 70% hydration is considered perfect as it’s soft and easy to shape.
Rise of the dough
Higher hydration means that the dough will rise faster. The water speeds up the reactions by allowing the yeast in the dough to move around easily. Gluten is what keeps the dough together. With higher hydration, these gluten strands will be softer.
Softer gluten strands allow more bubble pockets to form, allowing more gas to hold inside the dough. Larger air pockets allow the pizza to be lighter and airier. Lower hydration doughs make the pizza denser.
The stickiness of the dough
80% hydration pizza dough is also stickier. This stickiness also adds to the difficulty level of making pizza dough. A scraper will help you tackle a higher-hydration pizza. The stickier dough also sticks to the peel, which could result in a ripped dough.
What’s the Best Pizza Dough Hydration?
Honestly, it all depends on you; if you like a lighter and airier pizza, go for 80% hydration pizza dough. Otherwise, if you prefer a crunchier, denser pizza crust, go for the 60% hydration. 70% hydration is the best of both worlds.
70% hydration pizza is perfect, as it’s not too soft, and it’s still crunchy. 80% pizza dough is fantastic for a soft pizza. In the end, it also depends on how experienced you are.
If you have a high skill level, you can try the 80% hydration pizza. Otherwise, you should stick with the 60% hydration dough as it’ll be easier to make.
How can you make pizza dough with 60, 70, or 80% hydration?
When you make pizza dough yourself, it’ll be a fun and rewarding process. By just following simple steps and adjusting the hydration level to your preferred level, you can achieve the perfect dough.
The basic ingredients for all the doughs are the same; you just need to switch up the amount of water and flour you mix.
You’ll need the following ingredients:
- Flour (00 flour)
- Cold water
- Sea salt
- Yeast (Dry or Fresh)
60% Hydration Pizza Dough
This is the most common pizza dough hydration for Neopolitan Pizza (55.5%-62.5%). The reason for this is that in a wood-fired oven, the temperature is high.
High temperature means that the pizza will cook more quickly. There isn’t much time for the water to evaporate from the dough.
First of all, the flour and water. The water needs to be 60% of the amount of flour. This means that if you have 1kg of 00 flour, add 600g of cold water. Next up, the sea salt needs to be 3% of the amount of the flour. In this case, it’ll be approximately 30g.
The yeast is only 0.2%, in the case of our example, it’ll be 2g of yeast. If you use dry yeast, remember to use half the amount compared to fresh yeast. The reason for less dry yeast is that it’s much more potent compared to fresh yeast.
Steps to make 60% hydration dough
- Take a large mixing bowl and pour in the water.
- Next, add the salt and mix well. Now comes the yeast–but wait! Salt damages the yeast and could result in less dough rising. You can overcome this by creating a buffer for the yeast. So, take about 10% of the flour and mix it in the bowl. The flour will act as a buffer, and add the yeast.
- Once you mix it up well, add the remaining flour into the bowl. Loosely mix everything with a spoon or your fingers.
- After mixing, it’ll be flaky, but don’t worry! You can start kneading the dough now. Once the dough is sticky, you can take it out of the bowl. Sprinkle some flour on the counter, then start kneading it again for about 15-20 minutes.
- Shape the dough into a ball and let it rest inside the bowl for two hours after applying a thin layer of oil. After that, just cut the dough into portions, make dough balls, and place them in a bowl with cling film for 4-6 hours at room temperature.
70% Hydration Pizza Dough
The True Neopolitan Pizza Association’s (AVPN) international regulation considers 60% to be the hydration for a Neapolitan pizza. That’s debatable, though, because the best pizza makers consider 70% hydration the perfect level.
This is because it’s a perfect balance between the crunchiness and puffiness of the dough. Many people consider 60% too crunchy and 80% too puffy. In addition to that, it’s also easier to handle than the 80% hydration dough.
Ingredients are the same, but the percentages vary. You need to take 400g of flour for this dough.
The water will be 280g. Lastly, 15g of sea salt and 5g of dry yeast (8g of fresh yeast). Use cold water because it makes the dough rise slower, resulting in an airy and delicious crust.
You can even use a dough mixer for this, as it makes your life much easier.
Steps to make 70% hydration dough
- Add the dry ingredients to a bowl and mix them well (except the salt). The yeast must be evenly distributed in the flour. The water will hydrate the yeast much better if it’s mixed well.
- Next, separate about 50g of water and add the rest of the water to the bowl.
- Once the water is mixed, add the salt. Now, add the water you set aside, but slowly as adding it fast could ruin it. Mix it and let it rest for 5-10 minutes in a humid (room temperature) place. This process is known as autolyze, and it helps the yeast grow.
- The next step is similar to the 60% hydration dough; you just need to take it out, knead it for 20 minutes, and let it rest for another 4-6 hours at room temperature. After that, make dough balls and let them rest inside a refrigerator for another 4-6 hours.
80% Hydration Dough
It’s the highest level of hydration possible. It’s perfect for ovens that don’t heat up to a high temperature. On the downside, 80% hydration can be really difficult to handle as the dough is super soft and mushy. It’s great for those who want a quick pizza.
This type of crust is also known for its chewy texture and a more complex flavor profile. Although it’s quicker, it requires a higher level of skill and patience to make. The ingredients are the same, but a longer fermentation time is also required while making 80% hydration dough.
For making 80% hydration pizza dough, you’ll need 400 grams of 00 flour and 320 grams of cold water. 15g of sea salt will be required, and 5g of dry yeast (double in case of fresh yeast). The next steps are pretty similar, but it’ll require a lot of patience on your part.
Steps to make 80% hydration dough
- Take out 70g of water and put it aside. Mix the flour and dry yeast well. Keep mixing and adding the rest of the water slowly.
- When it’s well-mixed, add the salt. Once everything is sticking together and mixed, add the water you set aside little by little.
- Making 80% hydration dough is pretty difficult by hand, and it’d be better if you used a dough machine. After adding all the water, let it rest in the dough machine (or bowl) for 5 minutes.
- Sprinkle some water on your hands and take out the dough. You have to make the gluten stronger by making a dough ball with the dough. Let it rest for a couple of minutes, and start making the dough ball again. It’ll start becoming nice and smooth.
- After making the dough ball, let it rest for 30 minutes at room temperature in a bowl. When you take it out, just make it smoother and cut it up into a couple of parts. Make two dough balls and place them in the dough box. Let it rest for 3 hours at room temperature.
- You can use it to make a pizza after time passes.
Tips to keep in mind for Making Pizza Dough with Right Hydration
- First of all, keep in mind that measurements are key! Always measure your ingredients using a scale or volume. Cups are not recommended as it’s hard to get an exact measurement. If you have a kitchen scale, make sure it’s in grams. You need to be super precise when measuring pizza dough hydration.
- Another important thing to remember is the additional flour you add while kneading. If you use more flour, then the hydration will be reduced. Thus, measure the exact amount beforehand and don’t go a gram over it.
- Adding extra water is also not recommended as it could increase hydration. If you live in a dry place, add more water as it could evaporate the water inside.
Is 00 flour necessary for making pizza dough?
To make these dough recipes perfect, you need to use 00-flour. The reason is that 00 flour has the highest content of protein. Protein results in more gluten formation. More gluten means that your dough rises more and becomes airy and puffy.
What if I make pizza dough straight from the refrigerator?
You should always let your pizza dough rest for about an hour after taking it out from the fridge. It needs some time to come to room temperature and ferment. Otherwise, you’ll get a burnt and dry pizza.
What’s cold fermentation?
Cold fermentation is a type of fermentation: it’s slow and extended fermentation at a lower temperature. It’s different from room-temperature fermentation as it allows more gluten to form and fermentation to occur. Instead of hours, you leave it in the fridge for days.
Pizza dough hydration is an important factor in making the perfect pizza dough. A 60% hydration level is perfect for making a traditional Neapolitan pizza if you’re a novice to pizza making. Higher hydration levels mean a softer and more flavorful pizza.
It’s vital to use the correct ratio of water and flour when making pizza dough. It’s also necessary to monitor and adjust the hydration level to achieve the desired pizza crust. With some practice, you can master the art of making pizza dough and always create the best-tasting homemade pizzas.
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