Water is the most important ingredient for making pizza. But what type of water should you use?
Most people don't know that there are many different types of water, and they all have different properties affecting both the taste and texture of your pizza crust. Some will make your crust chewier, others will create a crunchy exterior, some will even change the color of your dough!
Some restaurants in NYC actually claim that New York tap water is the secret ingredient for pizza.
This article solves this problem by providing you with an easy way to select the right kind of water for your specific pizza recipe. It's like having a world-class sommelier at your fingertips!
Why is Water Important for Making Pizza?
All you need for perfect pizza dough is flour, yeast, and water. But if these three ingredients don't come together just right, it's going to be difficult to work with your dough either for its low moisture or too much liquid that will imbalance the entire mixture! You can use the world’s best pizza cutters, but the piece still won’t come out perfectly if your dough isn’t perfect.
Therefore, here comes the burning question:
What Type of Water Should You Use to Make a Good-Tasting Pizza?
Different pizza recipes call for different proportions of water considering how wet or dry the dough needs to be. To control this variable accurately, you have to know what water you are using since water composition depends a lot on the location you are currently in. To make it easier for you, in this article, we will break down the variables of water from its core. We will then discuss how each variable affects your dough and how you can control or manipulate it to keep the taste and texture of your pizza crust consistent. We will mainly talk about iron, acidity, calcium, magnesium, and last but not least, the temperature of the water.
Many oxidative dough strengtheners, such as ascorbic acid or azodicarbonamide (ADA), or potassium bromate, can react with iron in the water. If you're making pizza at home or opening a new restaurant in an area with iron-rich tap water, this might have some pretty serious implications for your dough! Fortunately, a good filtering systems can reduce most of the iron and keep things looking good under refrigerated storage conditions too.
To measure the acidity of water, we test its pH. Higher alkaline content in hard waters can reduce yeast activity and affect the fermentation process when making the dough for pizza baking. However, there are some methods that you can do like boiling or adding citric acid. This will raise the pH to counteract this effect. If your desired result has an idealized flavor profile with high levels of color stability over long periods, then using distilled or demineralized water will solve the issue.
In cases where there is some sulfur in it, an activated carbon filter will remove the offensive (rotten egg) taste and aroma. Avoid alkaline water (pH of 7.5 or higher) as this is too high for yeast that loves lower pH levels. As a result, the dough will not rise sufficiently during the fermentation process. The solution to this problem is easy and pleasant. Acid-type MYF would be used at about 0.5 percent for fungus-related issues, or you can replace 0.25 percent of the water with .0.25 percent of white vinegar to balance the alkalinity. Don’t worry; the smell is eliminated during the baking process!
Calcium and Magnesium
Calcium and magnesium refer to the hardness of the water. If you are constantly facing issues with your pizza dough, the hardness of your water probably has something to do with it. This property of water is measured in parts per million. Soft water has less than 50ppm, whereas hard water has more than 200ppm. For an ideal pizza crust, water with a moderate hardness of 100 to 150ppm works best. The amount of magnesium and calcium should be enough for the yeast to feed on during fermentation. If there’s a shortage, the dough will be loose, and if there’s an excess, the dough will be tighter and denser than preferred.
Hard water has a strengthening effect that soft water does not have. This can be readily remedied by adding calcium sulfate or non-bromated mineral yeast food. Both of these ingredients can be easily found at shops selling baking supplies. I suggest adding 0.5 percent Mineral Yeast Food or 0.25 Calcium Sulfate to your pizza dough whether you add soft water or hard water. This should give you consistent dough every time, and it will not negatively affect your dough if you use hard water.
If your water is drawn from deep, underground wells, or lakes and rivers, the hardness of your water will vary a lot. The water that is being drawn from the surface has fewer minerals in it (soft water). Water that comes deeper wells, mountain springs and rivers often has a higher calcium content and therefore it is called hard water. Even if you are using tap water, which is usually hard, the hardness may change depending on source and season. In case you have soft water or are unsure, adding MYF or CS is a good solution.
Minerals like magnesium and calcium help the amino acids in the flour to form tighter bonds, thus a stronger gluten structure is formed, which gives the dough its elasticity and strength. Therefore, lots of minerals in the water means a denser and chewier dough. If the water is too soft and has a low mineral content, the dough becomes sticky and difficult to handle. Adding more flour to it dries out the dough in turn. If you ever come across that situation, try wetting your hands as the dough doesn’t stick to wet hands easily.
There's a lot of debate about what the temperature should be for pizza dough. Our experience is that 37-42 degrees Celcius is the ideal tempearture for the yeast fermatation. However, some chefs swear by the use of cold water. To be on the safe side go with the warmer temperatures.
What water should you choose for Pizza?
If all of this seems too overwhelming, the best option for you is activated carbon filtered tap water. Filtered water has no/low chlorine and activated carbon doesn't remove the good minerals. Purified or soft bottled water should be avoided if possible as it may negatively impact the taste and is bad for the environment.
Another honorable mention is skim milk. Skim milk will not add any additional fats to your dough. Depending on the hardness of your water, a ratio of skim milk to water can be used. Soft water will need more skim milk than hard water. The only drawback is milk will alter the taste of your dough. This depends on whether you like the taste or not. Milk will also add a little bit of lactose sugar, so keep that in mind before you add your seasonings.
Conclusion on best water for Pizza
Before ending this article, I would like to add that a good tap water filtration system can be enough for a good pizza crust, but if you are willing to go that extra mile, you might want to try out some of the tricks explained above. Let us know if it helped you. If you are curious to know how water can affect other food and drinks then please leave a comment below!
Guest post by Glenn at the OLW Agency.