Last week I saw this post on Facebook
“Current trends: spontaneous proving with sourdough benzocaine crystals in disactivated reversed biga without yeast”... yes that’s a bit of a mouthful. Then the original poster goes on asking whether all this complexity
- Improves the final product
- Lengthens prep time and makes it more challenging to manage the dough
- Increases costs
- Is even noticeable to our customers
Most likely the answer to 1 and 4 is no and 2 and 3 is yes. So why do a lot of pizzaioli go to great lengths to complicate their lives? Well, that’s because it looks cool on social media!
One just needs to follow other pizza chefs on Instagram or be a member of one of the largest Pizzaioli Facebook Groups to realise the extent of these new trends: Hydration and Proving/Maturation are pushed to the limits. 95% hydration, proving for 120 hours, using a mix of 3 or 4 flours.
In my opinion it is hard to say what the inflection point is. Is 95% hydration better than 80%, and is 80% better than 70%. Where do we draw the line, where is the optimal point after which nothing can be gained in quality and all the extra complexity just causes more work, more stress and more costs?
I know for personal experience that it’s easy to be drawn into this whirlwind of innovation and trends, after all being able to work a high hydration dough, obtain a high and airy “cornicione” it’s like a badge of honour and brings us the respect and sometimes adulation of pizza fans and peers. I am the first one that wants to experiment: biga, eliminating 00 flour, adding wholegrain stone-ground flour, making pizza without using yeast...But also I am always the first one to ask “is this worthwhile?” Am I just doing this for myself or is there a chance I will be using this new methods and products on a day-to-day basis in my pizzeria?
The other important point to consider is whether the average customer will notice any difference. Once I asked a friend to try a pizza on Monday (made with our standard dough) and then again on a Wednesday (made with a new improved dough). My friend ended up coming back on a Thursday and hence he ended up having on both occasions our standard dough (albeit from 2 different batches), then he came to me and said the standard dough was better than the new one! This in my opinion goes to show that the average person won’t be able to tell the difference between two different doughs unless they are substantially different.
Another thing I notice very often, especially when obtaining recipes from friends and enthusiasts, is how steps in a recipe are over complicated or some ingredients are redundant. Do you really need to add vanilla to a cake that’s already full of flavours? Will you be able to taste it? And if you don’t add it does it really make any difference? If the answer is no, then let’s just get rid of it and save time and money. This of course can be applied to pizza making as well.
Our aim should be to obtain the best possible product, with least effort and expense.
Photo by Mauro Lima on Unsplash