A dough fermenting at room temperature

Room Temperature Pizza Dough Fermentation: A Practical Guide to Mastering Room Temperature Fermentation

PizzaBlab » Learning & Resources » Fermentation » Room Temperature Pizza Dough Fermentation: A Practical Guide to Mastering Room Temperature Fermentation
| |

Room temperature fermentation may be more challenging compared to cold fermentation, but it also offers greater rewards. In this article, we will learn how to perfect the process of fermenting pizza dough at room temperature. By following a few key principles, you can quickly achieve excellent results and elevate your pizza-making skills

This article is part of a series on fermentation. It is recommended that you read the previous article before proceeding with this one: Cold vs. Room Temperature Pizza Dough Fermentation: Which Method is Best?.

Guide to Room Temperature Fermentation

1. Using the Correct Amount of Yeast

The most important aspect of fermenting dough at room temperature is using the correct amount of yeast, which depends on the fermentation duration and temperature. Fortunately, PizzaBlab’s pizza dough calculator can help you determine the ideal yeast amount based on the fermentation duration and temperature. It is strongly recommended to read the calculator’s guide before using it for the first time.

Based on my experience, as well as that of many other bakers, the calculator has proven to be very accurate in determining the appropriate yeast quantity for room temperature fermentation. If you plan to ferment your dough at room temperature, you can rely on the quantities provided by the calculator with a high level of confidence.

The less favorable news is that when fermenting at room temperature, especially at higher temperatures, only a very small amount of yeast is usually needed. Depending on the amount of dough, this quantity can be as low as 0.05 grams. Therefore, you will need to use a scale with a precision of 0.01 grams to measure such tiny amounts.

Why Does Pizzablab’s Dough Calculator Recommend Such a Small Amount of Yeast for Room Temperature Fermentation?

It is very likely that you are accustomed to following internet recipes or other sources that recommend using large amounts of yeast, which are significantly higher than the amount suggested by PizzaBlab’s dough calculator for room temperature fermentation (between 2 to 20 times more yeast).

For example, it is common to find recipes that suggest using “1 tbsp of dry yeast” (10 grams) per 500 grams of flour (2% in baker’s percentages), without mentioning the fermentation temperature or duration (the two most important factors in dough fermentation).

To illustrate this, let’s use PizzaBlab’s dough calculator to determine the yeast quantity for a short fermentation of 3 hours at 24°C/75°F.

According to the calculator, we would need around 0.2% yeast – which is only a tenth of the amount mentioned in the example above (2%). If we extend the fermentation duration to 5 hours, the yeast quantity decreases to roughly 0.1% – a 20-fold reduction (!) compared to the example above. We could go on and on with more examples, but I believe the point is clear – most online recipes consistently suggest using excessive amounts of yeast.

Why is this the case? There are several main reasons:

  1. These recipes are designed to be foolproof. Using a large amount of yeast ensures that the dough will rise (and not necessarily mature) regardless of whether it is too cold or too hot, even if the dough making process was not 100%.
  2. These recipes are created for the average reader/baker, including inexperienced bakers. It is much easier and more accessible to instruct the average reader to use “a tablespoon of yeast” rather than calculating the exact amount needed.
  3. The recipe writer may be unaware of the importance of adjusting the yeast quantity based on the fermentation duration and temperature. This is especially common for recipes created by individuals who are not baking experts and just uploaded a recipe to establish an online presence.
  4. The lack of a tool that allows for accurate calculation of the required yeast quantity.

Of the reasons listed above, reason #1 is the most significant. Using a high amount of yeast ensures that the dough rises effectively in any situation; however, using such a large amount of yeast presents three main problems:

  1. The usability window for this dough is very narrow. The high amount of yeast can quickly lead to over-fermentation, resulting in a very short usability window.
  2. The excessive amount of yeast leads to an intense production of CO2 in the dough, causing it to physically rise. However, this process does not allow for proper maturation or flavor development.
  3. A high amount of yeast, coupled with a short fermentation duration, leads to the development of a “yeast aroma” in the dough, accompanied by a musty aftertaste reminiscent of damp newspaper (perhaps some of you reading this can immediately relate to what I am describing). It is important to note that the issue lies not in the quantity of yeast used, but rather in using an excessive amount that surpasses the required quantity. This surplus of yeast in the dough is what causes this unpleasant aftertaste. Instead of experiencing flavors that result from the by-products of yeast activity in the dough, we end up with the taste of the yeast itself.

Therefore, it is highly recommended to avoid using large amounts of yeast that are disproportionate to the amount of flour in the recipe. As a general rule, any amount of yeast higher than 1% in relation to the total flour in the recipe should raise concern. The only exception to this rule is when a very short fermentation period of one to two hours is used at low temperatures below 20°C/68°F.

In conclusion, there is no need to be concerned about the low amount of yeast recommended by PizzaBlab’s dough calculator. With the correct process, even a seemingly small amount of yeast (as little as 0.05 grams) will effectively ferment the dough. For those seeking to improve their baking, precision in the amount of yeast is key.

2. Maintaining a Consistent Fermentation Temperature

To determine the amount of yeast needed, we must know the temperature at which the dough will ferment. This presents two challenges:

  1. We need a thermometer to measure the room temperature.
  2. We need to find a location in the house with minimal temperature fluctuations.

To address the first challenge, you can purchase a thermometer.

For the second challenge, some investigative work is necessary. Once you have a thermometer, check various areas of the kitchen or house to identify the spot with the most consistent temperature.

Please note that turning on an air conditioner or heating will obviously impact the temperature and affect the fermentation process; However, it’s important to verify if the air conditioner or heating causes a temperature change at the specific location where the dough will ferment. In many cases, this may not be true. A pleasant overall temperature due to the functioning of an air conditioner or heating does not necessarily guarantee the same temperature at the specific location where you intend to ferment the dough.

If you rely on the temperature set by the air conditioner, you can use the iFeel function. This function essentially allows the remote to “sample” the temperature in its immediate vicinity, enabling the air conditioner to cool the area based on the specific temperature where the remote is situated (and in accordance with the desired temperature for the air conditioner). In simpler terms, by using the iFeel function and positioning the remote close to the dough, you can ensure that the temperature at which the dough ferments is precisely the temperature targeted by the air conditioner (as long as the remote is placed near the dough).

A deviation of 1°C/2°F up or down during fermentation is acceptable, but it’s advisable to avoid larger deviations. When selecting the fermentation temperature in PizzaBlab’s dough calculator, choose the temperature that represents the majority of the fermentation duration (or an average).

A wine cooler is an excellent choice for fermenting at room temperature. It offers a consistent and adjustable fermentation environment.

3. Determining the Fermentation Duration in PizzaBlab’s Dough Calculator

So we have the temperature at which the dough is going to ferment, and now we need to determine the fermentation duration.

The fermentation duration refers to the time from the moment when the initial kneading is complete (at this point, the yeast begins to work, regardless of folding, balling, etc.) until the dough goes into the oven. For example, if we finish kneading the dough at 12:00 and plan to bake it at 17:00, then the fermentation duration is 5 hours – this is the fermentation duration that we will input into the calculator.

Once we have entered the temperature and fermentation duration, the calculator will provide us with the required amount of yeast.

4. Achieving and Maintaining the Ideal Final Dough Temperature

The final dough temperature, which refers to the temperature of the dough after kneading, has a significant impact on the fermentation rate, especially when fermenting at room temperature. Generally, a lower final dough temperature (FDT) will result in slower fermentation, while a higher FDT will lead to faster fermentation. This can be explained by the yeast’s preference for a warmer environment. When the FDT is higher, the yeast starts in a more favorable position, accelerating the fermentation process.

To ensure consistent results every time we make dough, our target final dough temperature will always be between 23-27°C / 75-80°F. This temperature range is ideal for yeast activity at the beginning of fermentation. It also ensures that the yeast’s starting point remains the same for each dough preparation, thus achieving consistent outcomes.

It is important to note that this principle applies universally. For instance, if we have two identical doughs fermenting at the same temperature, but one has a final dough temperature of 23°C/75°F and the other has a final dough temperature of 27°C/80°F, the second dough will ferment much faster than the first.

5. Troubleshooting and Adapting to Unexpected Fermentation Results

Sometimes, the dough seems to have a mind of its own and does what it wants, without considering our preferences. This can be especially true during fermentation at room temperature, which gives the dough even more “freedom” to do as it pleases. If you find yourself in a situation where the dough did not behave to your satisfaction, it is helpful to draw conclusions for future dough making.

Consider factors such as the fermentation temperatures (too high or too low), the final dough temperature, the amount of yeast used, and any other aspects of the dough preparation and fermentation process. By taking note of these factors and making adjustments, you can improve your results, especially when it comes to fermentation at room temperature.

Making Emergency Dough (Short-Fermented at Room Temperature)

Emergency dough, as its name suggests, is dough intended to be used as quickly as possible. The concept originated from pizzerias that found themselves without dough and had to prepare a dough that would be ready as soon as possible, sometimes within an hour from kneading to baking.

Emergency dough is typically fermented at room temperature for a few hours (usually no more than two hours) to ensure it is ready as soon as possible. While this method may not result in optimal flavor development, it is a valid choice when time is of the essence and you need a dough that can be prepared quickly.

There are two main goals in preparing emergency dough:

  1. Dough that has risen enough in volume (CO2 production by the yeast).
  2. Dough that is extensible enough to work with so that it can be easily shaped into a pizza base.

When making emergency dough, it is important to follow some key principles:

  • Adjust the amount of yeast to the fermentation temperature and duration. Too little yeast will result in longer fermentation time or dough that is not mature enough and difficult to work with. Too much yeast will create a dough with a yeasty, musty flavor.
  • Sufficient kneading is necessary. Since there is not enough time for biochemical gluten development during a short fermentation, it is important to achieve significant gluten development at the end of kneading. However, be cautious not to develop too much gluten, as it may result in a dough that is too elastic and difficult to stretch into a pizza base. It is generally better to use flour with low-medium protein content and knead until the windowpane test is achieved.
  • Keep the final dough temperature on the higher side (between 26-30C / 79-86F) to speed up the maturation of the dough.
  • Since there is usually not enough time for enzyme activity to create residual sugars in the dough during a short fermentation, it is advisable to add 1-2% sugar to the dough to help with browning.

In terms of preparation and baking, the rest of the principles remain the same as for any other dough. It is important to note that emergency dough will be bland and flavorless since the short fermentation time is not enough to develop flavors in the dough (which is reasonable as the emphasis in the preparation of an emergency dough is not on flavor compared to long-fermented dough).

Similar Posts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *