These are 3 very pertinent questions when working with your ready-made sourdough pizza dough from Virtue! We are happy to help you understand a bit more about the complex world of yeast, fermentation and what happens when you hide the dough away and let the tiny little yeast workers do their magic!
Firstly, What is Cold Fermentation?
You may have grown up seeing your Mum or Gran putting their dough away in a warm dark place covered with a damp towel to rise after they had made it, and then they would punch it down and let it rise again? Yup. Well, cold fermentation is basically the opposite of this quicker process used in standard dough making.
Cold fermentation is a slower process by which the dough is put in a cool place, such as a refrigerator, and the yeast is allowed to work slowly thereby releasing and accentuating the sweeter and more pleasant flavours that are often lost by rapid fermentation.
This process, also called retardation, improves the texture of the dough and the gluten structure.
Think of it like this. If you are melting chocolate, you could turn the heat up to max, and melt the chocolate very quickly, but in doing so, you will also change the chemical structure of the sugar in the chocolate and it will develop a burnt taste, which would be the result of sugar turning to carbon. However, you take the same chocolate, in the same pan, and on the lowest heat setting gently melt the chocolate. What you will now end up with, is a delightful tasting, a creamy delight for dipping fruit or other edibles that is not burnt at all!
So, what was the difference? Time!
Should You Cold Ferment Your Pizza Dough?
The short answer is, ‘Yes!’. The longer answer is, as always, ‘It depends!’.
If you want a more developed, tastier pizza that is easier to digest, then cold fermentation is definitely the best and only option for you.
However, no one will die or become violently ill if you do not have the time to wait on the slower process of cold fermentation! Therefore, we say it depends, if you have the time to do it, then, exercise patience and you will be rewarded!
Isn’t There A Limit To The Time Dough Is Left To Ferment?
You are absolutely correct! Just as we have our physical limits, so does the yeast! As we get tired, our quality of work can begin to suffer, and we don’t get as good results.
This is also true for yeast. After a certain amount of time, they will begin to cause flavours to develop that are not pleasant at all and are indeed more akin to soured milk!
So what is the best time to let your dough ferment in the fridge? We would not be so bold as to argue with J. Kenji López-Alt, and he writes that in a fridge kept at around 38℉, or here in the UK 3.33℃, flavours started to become less pleasant after the 6th day. He recommends three to five days for the best results.
Is that enough convincing that sourdough pizza dough really is the way forward?
Ready to Make the Most Delicious Pizza Ever?
At Virtue Pizza, we have a little bonus up our sleeves to share with you, for free!
When we freeze our pizza dough right after it is made, the yeast has barely had time to think about work! Freezing the dough is simply like giving the yeast a long sleep in! Then, when you put the dough balls into your refrigerator to thaw out slowly, they wake up and get to work. (Don’t worry, we gave them a bonus, and they are motivated, so you don’t have to give them anything!). We have found that our personal preference is leaving it to thaw in the refrigerator for two or three days gives you the best flavours!
Because our dough has not been pre-fermented, it allows you to cold ferment your pizza dough to your personal preference. You can experiment with different lengths of time to see what your preference is as sometimes individual taste differs from what we, or other pizza dough connoisseurs, say!
How Long Can I Keep Sourdough Pizza Dough In The Fridge?
As long as you like, everyone has their own idea of perfection, but we recommend up to 3 days. After that, we think the flavour starts to go the wrong way, and it can become trickier to work with.
Who has that much self-control anyway? Get to eating! Bon Appétit!