The Role of Fermentation in Pizza Dough


Many of us would describe pizza as a little slice of heaven — perfectly cooked dough, fresh tomato sauce, and delicious oozing cheese. This nationwide favourite is a £3.8 billion industry in the UK, with the average Brit eating 731 pizzas over the course of their lifetime.

But do any of us understand the science and preparation behind creating pizzas?

Read on to find out more about the importance of the fermentation process when making pizza dough…

The Science Behind Pizza

Pizza dough is made with flour, yeast, water, salt, and olive oil. When yeast is mixed with the ingredients, something magical happens; it reactivates the yeast and “wakes it up.” The organisms that feed on the sugars in the flour begin to multiply the yeast, releasing flavour molecules which make the dough more tasty.

The Fermentation Process

Fermentation is key to creating the perfect dough and is the part of the process that gives the dough its rise and bounce. It occurs in the dough-making process after the ingredients have been mixed together, kneaded, and left aside to rest and rise. During this process, the yeast transforms carbohydrates into alcohol, which is responsible for pizza crusts’ scrumptious aroma and soft texture.  Carbon dioxide is also produced during fermentation – tiny pockets of trapped air within the dough cause it to rise during proving and then bubble up again in the oven, causing it to rise further.

How Long Should the Pizza Dough Ferment?

The answer to a good pizza is a long fermentation – this ensures the best balance and flavour. Fermentation timing is essential in crafting the perfect pizza dough. The sweet spot is from 24 to 36 hours; in this time, the yeast begins to digest carbohydrates, producing carbon dioxide, which causes the air bubbles in the dough to inflate and swell. Simultaneously, the gluten continues to strengthen, link up and inflate, allowing the dough to stretch and create bubbles.

It’s important, however, to not let your dough ferment for too long, as this will allow the sugars to continue converting to alcohol. This process results in the pizza dough becoming sour, which nobody wants when they are sitting down to munch on their favourite slice. Allowing the dough to ferment for too long can cause overproving, which makes the dough denser and flatter. Therefore, fermenting your dough for the correct time is essential!

The Next Steps

After the dough has rested, it’s shaped into balls and then goes back for a second proving. This step is usually the longest process of creating the pizza dough and can take anywhere from 24 to 72 hours.

How do you tell if your dough is ready to use? Two of the main signs your dough is proven, fermented, and ready to use are if the dough has roughly doubled in size and if it springs back slowly and leaves an indent after poking. If so, you can rest assured that you’re well on the way to a delicious pizza!