Experiment Five: Is Pizza Worth Its Salt?

In Scotland it used to be a Hogmanay traditional to offer a heated spoon of salt to your neighbours to wish them a prosperous new year. Due to health concerns, the salt is now generally replaced with heroin.

It is a truth universally acknowledged that, of the four ingredients in pizza dough, salt is definitely one of them. And how true that is. As you’d expect for an ionic compound produced by reacting an acid with a base, salt contributes a lot of the yumminess in the foods we eat. However, its wonderful, flavour-giving yin is balanced by the galling, stroke-inducing yang that when taken in excess, salt can do pwoper nasty things to your health. It’s like a tiny, powdered, gastronomic version of Ray Winstone in “Scum”. Whilst a bit of salt won’t kill you, the proliferation of high-salt processed foods means it’s very easy to consume far more salt than we intend. This is bad news, because too much salt brings with it risks of diseases such as… er… I can’t remember. Google it if you want. From memory, I’m pretty sure too much salt brings with it risk of Witzelsucht, bad AIDS, and the Jumping Frenchmen of Maine. So how can we reconcile the inherent duality of salt, being on the one hand a flaky powder of deliciousness, and on the other, a lurking white killer? I have absolutely no idea. But inspired by a general sense that reducing the amount of salt we eat is probably a good idea, I’m going to do an experiment to see what pizza tastes like when you take out all the salt.

Standard dough:                                                   Salt-free dough:

500g strong white flour                                         500g strong white flour
330g water                                                            330g water
7g instant yeast                                                     7g instant yeast
10g salt

Doughs were mixed and kneaded for five minutes, then coated with a little olive oil and left to prove for an hour.

Eyeball test: There is absolutely no visible difference between the two doughs, neither before nor after proving. That isn’t all that surprising, though it’s mildly interesting: one other property of salt is that it’s even worse for microbes than it is for humans. Indeed, salt is used to preserve food such as salt beef, which lasts much longer than regular beef simply because microbes think it’s disgusting too. In this experiment, the regular and salt-free doughs rose the same amount, which tells us that the amount of salt in the regular dough isn’t sufficient to noticeably impair the yeast’s performance.

Pizza test: As always, the flavour differences between the doughs have to be perceived above and beyond the (usually more pronounced) flavours of the tomato sauce and mozzarella. However, while both the regular and salt-free pizzas are palatable enough, the regular pizza really is much better: it has a longer-lasting and more rounded taste. The salt-free pizza isn’t nasty tasting, but it’s a little cardboardy. The cheese and sauce combine well with the crunch of the crust, but next to the regular pizza dough, it’s obviously lacking a certain je ne sais quoi. Though actually, je do sais quoi. It’s salt. That was the whole point of this experiment.

Nein! Ich lichten nichten!

Dough ball test: Eeeuuggh! Bleeeugh! Me no like! The normal-dough dough ball tastes fine. Like a normal dough ball. The salt-free dough ball tastes like warm cardboard. The flavour is flat, and even though it tastes of little more than cooked flour, it also feels somehow out of balance. Maybe if I tasted it on its own it would seem a little more palatable. But as a side-by-side comparison, it’s markedly much less pleasant. It’s as if a nice dough ball had died, and then came back to life as an awful, shambling zombie dough ball. Superficially you can see the resemblance, but the quintessence is absent.

The Verdict

Gah! Put the salt back in, you idiot! This was a stupid idea, and I can’t believe you all let me do this. No no no no no no no. Just wrong.

OK-but-what-about-halving-the-amount-of-salt-then-follow-up-experiment:

Standard dough:                                                   Reduced-salt dough:

500g strong white flour                                         500g strong white flour
330g water                                                            330g water
7g instant yeast                                                     7g instant yeast
10g salt                                                                  5g salt

Eyeball test: The two doughs looked alike. Only a fool would attempt to seek out differences in these two. No way, José. Same.

Pizza test: There is a slight but perceptible difference in the two pizzas. The regular dough has a nice flavour that pops out; the reduced-salt pizza is also good, but with close scrutiny, it does lack a certain something in comparison to the regular dough. The crunch and texture of both pizzas is comparably good, and when tasted in isolation I probably wouldn’t notice any difference between them. But in a side-by-side comparison with the regular dough, the reduced-salt variant is a little flatter and less exciting. That said, it has to be noted that picking up these differences did require a good amount of chewing, thinking, and multiple comparisons, so it’s a much less clear-cut difference than entirely omitting the salt.

Dough ball test: Perhaps more than any other experiment, this one has the closest accord between pizza test and dough ball test. Both dough balls looked and tasted fine, and if I’d been a bit drunk and unaware that there were two different doughs, I would happily have chomped through them blissfully unaware. But with close scrutiny, the 10g of salt in the regular dough produced a dough that was very slightly preferable to the 5g in the reduced-salt version. The difference is that the regular dough has a more rounded, and perhaps slightly sweeter, flavour.

The Verdict

Removing all the salt from a pizza dough is not something that I’d recommend, on grounds of flavour. If you have guests coming round who you really dislike, then by all means omit the salt, and snigger behind your hand as they have to chew through mouthful after mouthful of cheesy cardboard. And if you need to cut down on your salt for reasons of health, you might want to first try the lazy pragmatist’s option of just avoiding any kind of salty topping while keeping some salt in the dough. However, the intermediate step of halving the salt content (from 10g to 5g of salt per 500g of flour) happily yields an end product that’s still pretty good. It really wouldn’t be a terrible route to take if circumstances necessitated it. But if you want to make the best-tasting dough you can, I’d leave all the salt in. It’s remarkable how salt changes the way we perceive the other flavours in food. The bready, nutty taste of dough really benefits from an addition of salt; without it, otherwise pleasant flavours can seem much flatter and less interesting. It’s like beer at a works do. You could omit it, but you know you’ll regret it if you do.

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Experiment Four: Out With The New, In With The Old

Until 1954, all pizzas in North America were made in black and white.

If there was one life lesson that I’d wish to pass on to my descendants, it would be that eating old stuff that you happen to find lying around is a bad idea. Food that’s been sitting around tends to undergo a variety of decay-related processes, many of which lead to noxious odours and sometimes quite profound digestive infelicity. Eating a Mr Kipling French Fancy that was made, unwrapped and accidentally dropped behind a sofa in a previous calendar year is a decision that’s unlikely to end well. And we all remember the salutary lesson of Homer Simpson eating buckets of expired food from the Kwik-E-Mart. In the light of the culinary truism that fresher is better, we might even go so far as to ask ourselves what kind of depraved sickos would even want to eat smelly old food products that have been lying around going off for ages?

The answer to that question is, of course, “The French“. Smelly consumables really are their bag, whether it be eating a runny helping of stinky cheese, or eating a runny helping of a slightly different kind of stinky cheese. And why not? There are all kinds of delicious things that can only be made through controlled aging coupled with judicious use of yeasts or bacteria – delicious things such as beer and cheese, two of the key ingredients in beer cheese soup. In fact, I would go so far as to say that if there was one life lesson that I’d wish to pass on to my descendants, it would be that eating old stuff that you happen to find lying around is a really good idea. Thanks to what I imagine is either a long-running nationwide programme of systematic food experimentation, or a by-product of their inherent sloth, the French have acquired an expertise that’s second-to-none about what sorts of things are better to eat when they’ve been left lying around. Great work, guys. Great work.

Somewhat implausibly, Kim Jong-il claimed to have invented pâte fermentée in 1988, and ordered that 17 million recipe books containing the recipe be distributed among North Koreans. This move greatly angered the French; to this day, diplomatic relations between the two countries remain strained.

How is all this relevant for pizza making? Well, one of the things that the French have tried ageing for culinary reasons is bread – or to be more specific, bread dough. They even have a name for bread dough that’s been sitting around for a while – pâte fermentée, or fermented dough – which French bakers claim makes bread taste better, and also allows French bakers to charge a lot more than if they just called it “old dough”. Dough that’s allowed to age for a day or two undergoes some intriguing changes: by adding water to bread flour, enzymes in the flour become activated; they then begin to break down the long-chain carbohydrates in the flour into shorter, simpler sugars. We perceive taste when receptors on our tongue bind with the ends of molecules, and the more molecules there are in a dough, the more taste we perceive. So allowing the long-chain carbohydrates in the dough to be converted into more shorter-chain carbohydrates should lead to tastier baking. That’s the theory, anyway. But whether this is a purely technical difference that is imperceptible outside a laboratory, or whether it is a real difference that’ll make our pizzas tastier, remains to be determined. Bring on the experiment.

In this experiment, we want to find out whether ageing a portion of the pizza dough overnight will bring any noticeable benefits to our pizza making. We’re therefore going to make two doughs each containing exactly same amount of flour, water, yeast and salt, but with the sole difference that the prefermented dough (that’s “old dough”) contains an amount of dough that was made the day before. Note that the enzymatic process that breaks down carbohydrates is relatively slow-acting; for that reason, we don’t want to add much yeast to the preferment, for fear that the yeasties will consume the sugars before the enzymes have had a chance to go to work. That’d probably piss the enzymes off. And once an enzyme gets a sulk on, you can basically never cheer them up.

Prefermented dough:                                                   Standard dough:

350g strong white flour                                                500g strong white flour
200g water                                                                   335g water
2g instant yeast                                                            7g instant yeast
for the preferment, plus…                                        10g salt
150g strong white flour
135g water                                                                                                                                    5g instant yeast
10g salt

The ingredients for the preferment were mixed together, but not kneaded (that’s because we wanted to hydrate the flour, but not to develop gluten). The resulting dough (or “preferment”) was then wrapped in clingfilm and placed in a fridge overnight. The following day, the preferment was removed from the fridge and left to return to room temperature for an hour. It was torn into small pieces and mixed with the additional flour, water, salt and yeast. The dough was then kneaded for five minutes. (Note that if you do this yourself, it takes a little work to mix in the preferment – it’s a fairly firm dough, but after a little kneading it does merge quite well into the new “hybrid” dough). The standard dough was also made at this stage, and also kneaded for five minutes. Both doughs were then covered with a small amount of olive oil and left to prove at room temperature for an hour. They were then made into pizzas and dough balls.

Results:

The old dough is on the left, the young dough is on the right. Note the v-shaped notch in the control (i.e. young) pizza.

Eyeball test: The doughs looked very similar. The old dough rose slightly less, perhaps because it was slightly colder than the younger dough, from having been kept in the fridge overnight. Otherwise, the two doughs looked and smelled very similar.

Pizza test: This was a tough one. Given the faff involved in making the old dough, I was torn between expecting big things, and hoping it’d make no difference so I wouldn’t have to go through the bother in future. When tasted blind, I found it difficult to judge which pizza was which. Both were perfectly good pizzas, but next to the taste of the tomato sauce and the nicely cooked mozzarella, any difference between the doughs was slight. If pushed to make a judgement then I’d say the pizza made from prefermented dough tasted slightly better, with longer and complex bready notes. But to be honest, it was not a striking or obvious difference – I was trying hard to find a difference between the two, and compared to the more noticeable flavours that the toppings provided, together with the within-pizza differences attributable to the different degree of browning of each pizza’s crust, the dough didn’t seem to make a very obvious difference. Having said that…

The prefermented dough is on the left, standard dough on the right.

Dough ball test: Well, this was a surprise. All that blather about enzymes breaking down long-chain carbohydrates, yadda yadda yadda – there was, I confess, a part of me that thought all that was a load of old crazy talk. Yet when I made two dough balls, each weighing 50 grams, and each cooked in the centre of the same oven for the same duration, a couple of inches apart, one turned out slightly more golden than the other. When I did the same thing again a few minutes later, there was once again a noticeable difference between the two. In both cases, the prefermented dough ball came out slightly darker. It would appear that the prefermented dough has a higher rate of caramelisation than the standard dough, consistent with the idea that it contains a larger proportion of sugar, formed when enzymes break down long-chain carbohydrates (greater colour = more sugar molecules caramelised). In terms of taste, there was also a clear difference. The standard dough ball tasted fine. But the prefermented dough tasted of… more. I’m struggling to describe the taste exactly – it was slightly bready, perhaps with a hint of nuttiness, and a pleasant, slightly unctious texture (I had originally written “creamy mouthfeel” here, but rejected that wording to avoid disappointing the sort of people who might type those words into Google). The flavour also lasted longer – the regular dough’s taste died away after a second or so, whereas the prefermented dough’s taste was still noticeable after a few seconds.

The Verdict

“For best results, make an enormous amount of dough when you’re in your mid-twenties, and then whenever you feel like pizza, just break a bit off, every week, for the rest of your life.”

Normal pizza is fine, and if you just can’t face the faff of having to start making dinner the night before, you can look away now and live a happy and contented life. But if you want to make your dough as tasty as possible, I have to say that, annoyingly, making a preferment really does make a difference. It’s true that the difference is more noticeable when the dough is tasted on its own; if you top your pizza with strongly flavoured ingredients like olives, chillies or pepperoni, then the difference in the dough might well be masked. But if you wanted to make a simple margarita taste as good as you possibly can, using a preferment does make a noticeable difference. It seems to coax more flavour out of the dough. Given the simplicity of most dough recipes, containing as they do only four ingredients, that strikes me as pretty impressive. It’s also worth restating that when the two pizzas in this experiment were compared side by side, both were perfectly good, and the overall difference between the two was slight. But if we’re looking for small ways to make improvements, then prefermenting the dough fits the bill. Nice one, the French.

Experiment Two: Hydration

Like bad 1980s football, baking is a game of percentages. When listing bread recipes, it’s common to see them expressed not in absolute quantities, but written in baker’s percentages – with each ingredient expressed as a percentage of the total weight of flour. As an example, my standard pizza dough would be written as follows:

  • 100% strong white flour
  • 65% water
  • 2% salt
  • 1.5% yeast
You’ll notice that the total adds up to much more than 100%. This is always the case with baker’s percentages, and it’s just one of many things that people can find offputting about writing recipes like this. When I first saw a recipe set out in this way, I thought it was needlessly obscure – if you need 10g of salt to make a loaf, surely the simplest way of
Chris Waddle's pet mullet

1980s football was a game of percentages. And also mullets. Percentages and mullets.

writing that is to say “you need 10g of salt to make a loaf”? Stating that you need 2% of your total weight of flour in salt seemed deliberately obtuse. However, there are two big advantages with this notation. First, and of most use to bakers, is that it means you can easily make any amount of a particular bread: whether you want to make one loaf or a thousand loaves, the formula will let you figure out precise amounts for each ingredient easily. The second advantage is that it makes it very easy to compare different bread recipes at a glance. Once you’ve learned to interpret BP, you can quickly work out what sort of loaf a recipe will produce. (For more on baker’s percentages, see the excellent Wild Yeast blog.)

Arguably the most informative line of a recipe is the percentage of water a loaf contains. Changing the hydration of a dough – that is, how much water it contains – can have major effects on the crust and the crumb; wetter doughs tend to give a more open texture with bigger holes, whereas drier doughs tend to have a tighter crumb structure. Drier doughs are generally easy to work with, whereas very wet doughs can tend to spread, slowly and menacingly, like a horrifying yet delicious B-movie monster. What all this means for the pizza maker isn’t immediately obvious. Pizzas, being flat, aren’t really noted for their crumb, so aiming for a ciabatta-like dough would seem to be a bit of a waste – if your pizza rises sufficiently high to show off your wonderful lattice of large air-holes, it’ll be much too bready to be a decent pizza. Nevertheless, changing the hydration of the dough will change the final product, somehow. Precisely how it changes it will be what we set out to discover in Experiment Two.

Hydration

It's important to get the amount of water exactly right

Given the rather arbitrary amount of water in the baseline pizza recipe, a useful first question to explore the effect of changing the amount of water would be to compare two doughs with different hydration. One dough, which I am going to call the “Wetter Dough” includes 70% water. The other dough, which I am going to call “Dame Margaret Harrington”, includes 60% water*. Both amounts feature in plenty of bread recipes, so both should give perfectly edible pizzas. The aim of this experiment is to put down a marker to show how different hydration affects the final products: our experimental question is “Which is preferable for pizza – a wetter dough or a drier dough?”.

[*On second thoughts, I’m not going to call this dough “Dame Margaret Harrington”. I’m going to call it the “Drier Dough”, as this may be slightly clearer for some readers. You may, if you wish, continue to call it Dame Margaret Harrington.]

Wetter dough:                                                              Dame Margaret Harrington:

500g strong white flour                                                500g strong white flour
350g water                                                                   300g water
7g instant yeast                                                            7g instant yeast
10g salt                                                                        10g salt

The doughs were made up by hand, kneaded for five minutes, covered with oil and left to prove for two hours. They were then made into pizzas, flatbreads, and dough balls.

Results:

Eyeball test: There was a striking visible difference between the doughs. The wetter dough had risen more, felt a little cooler, and looked more glossy. Although the surface of both doughs was relatively dry after proving for two hours, the wetter dough was noticeably stickier under the surface than the drier dough. It had also risen more, and had more obvious air pockets inside. The drier dough felt more putty-like, and tighter – when it was pushed, it had much less give. With the wet dough, in contrast, when it was pushed, the whole top of the dough moved, not just the part of the dough immediately local to the prodding. In other respects, the doughs look identical. This difference was so obvious that even when I accidentally mixed up two dough balls I made from these doughs, it was easy to work out which was which.

70% vs 60%

From the air, the two pizzas looked almost alike. (70% water on left, 60% water on right.)

Pizza Test: When making the pizzas, the wetter dough was noticeably more stretchy. The drier dough did stretch a little bit, but tightened up after it had been rolled. But the difference between them was most noticeable when I tried to roll out the pizzas: the drier dough was easy enough to form into a flat disc, whereas the wetter dough was too sticky to roll properly. However, the wetter dough was supple enough to be pulled out into a pizza shape without using a rolling pin. My skills as a pizzaiola are non-existent, but I still managed to form a decent-looking pizza – it had a raised outer crust (what Peter Reinhart assures me is called a cornicione), and generally looked cool. My impression from forming the pizzas is that the wetter dough was much more alive. It’s much more responsive and fun to work with. The dry dough is like Ed Miliband. It’s prim, and dull, and you want to try to like it, but it’s a struggle.

Whatchoo talking about, Willis?

My pizza-shaping skills are so refined that the differences between the two pizzas are barely perceptible to the naked eye. Ahem.

After baking, the pizzas were visibly different. The wetter dough pizza had risen more (partly because my shabby efforts in shaping it by hand meant that it was much thicker than the drier dough pizza, but partly too because it showed more oven-spring). It tasted a little bready, chewy, almost naan-like, because of its thickness. It had risen nicely, and I liked the shape of the pronounced cornicione, though I think it would have been better if I’d managed to make it thinner. The drier pizza was flatter, and because the edges were thinner, they had browned more. It had a crunchier texture, and I liked the flavour added by the slight caramelisation of the crust. This aside, the pizzas tested very similar. The major differences were in the texture and thickness.

Ed Miliband is 60% water

A picture is worth a thousand words. In this case, seven hundred of them are "Noooooo!".

Flatbread Test: As with the pizzas, the drier dough was much easier to work with. It behaved itself, held its shape, and didn’t stick. The wetter dough was much more delicate – it took a good spray of olive oil on the work surface and rolling pin before I was able to roll it into a disc. During baking, the drier dough puffed up and was more pitta-like, whereas the wetter dough was a little tighter and less puffy. As a result, the drier dough was a little more crunchy. The wet dough had a softer texture, a little like untoasted pitta. That aside, there was no great difference in taste, and only a slight difference in texture.

Dough Ball Test: The wetter dough was easier to shape into a boule than the drier dough; the extra stickiness helped when trying to seal the base of the dough balls. After proving, the wetter dough seemed to have risen a little more. It was more airy, with a little more give when you squeeze it. Both looked and tasted fine after baking, though the wetter dough had risen a little more, and had a little more airiness to it. The dry dough was a little tighter, and more claggy due to the tighter crumb. Both tasted good though, and any differences between the two doughs were pretty minor.

The Verdict

The Verdict

"Mr Waddle, you have been found guilty of crimes against hair. Also, 'Diamond Lights' was shite."

Changing the amount of water in the dough doesn’t seem to make much difference to the taste. It does, however, change the physical qualities of the dough a lot. The wetter dough, with 70% water, rose more during proving, and was stickier and more elastic during shaping. The drier dough, with 60% water, was stiffer, less adhesive, and could be rolled out more easily. Because of this, there were some interesting incidental differences in flavour between the two pizzas: the drier-dough pizza had a thinner crust, and so it caramelised more, was more crunchy, and had a more varied mouthfeel. The wetter-dough pizza had a thicker, raised crust. This tasted quite bready, which wasn’t unpleasant but didn’t seem so appropriate for a pizza. For the purposes of these side-by-side experiments, a drier dough actually has the advantage that it’s easier to make into two identical pizzas, using a rolling pin – the wetter dough is harder to shape consistently (at least with my shaping skills), as it needs to be formed by hand. But I think that if you were able to shape the wetter dough into a thinner pizza, that’d be the best of both worlds – it’d give you a crunchier raised crust, and would be easier to shape into the classic raised-crust pizza shape than the drier dough.

Experiment One: To Olive Oil, Or Not To Olive Oil?

Something that struck me in my surveying of various pizza dough recipes is that there’s no consensus about the inclusion of olive oil. Jamie Oliver says we should include it, Heston says we shouldn’t. Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall says we should, Felicity Cloake says we shouldn’t. Delia says we should, the Associazione Verace Pizza Napoletana not only says we shouldn’t, but that they’ll come round our houses and shout at us if we even attempt it. I have half a mind to exclude HFW’s opinion because he thinks putting kale on a pizza is acceptable – but if we overlook that, the basic head-count is level at three-all. Sarah, the originator of the recipe I’ve been using, didn’t include olive oil, though that may have been because of an admirable desire to keep the recipe simple. So in our quest to make better pizza, there is an obvious first question: would our pizzas be better if we included olive oil? There’s only one way to find out!*

[*There are in fact many ways to find this out. But the one I chose was to do an experiment.]

Kale munchers

Kale gives you bright eyes and a glossy coat

Experimental dough:                                                   Standard dough:
500g strong white flour                                                500g strong white flour
325g water                                                                   325g water
7g instant yeast                                                            7g instant yeast
10g salt                                                                        10g salt
20g olive oil                                                                  [No olive oil]

The doughs were made up by hand and each kneaded for five minutes. They were then covered and left to prove for two hours. For this experiment, there were three means of assessing the difference between the doughs:

1. The Pizza Test: two pizzas were made with dough, tomato sauce and mozzarella, and baked at 250C for 14 minutes. They were then tasted side by side. Given that this project is about pizza, this seems the most important test – if there’s no detectable difference here, then the difference between doughs probably isn’t worth worrying about. However, tomato sauce and mozzarella on their own are pretty tasty, so just eating pizza on its own may not allow us to notice more subtle differences in the dough itself. For that reason, we also ran…

2. The Flatbread Test, which you might also call the “untopped pizza test”. Dough was rolled out and baked until it was lightly golden in colour. This allows for a comparison of the two doughs, without any interference from the flavour of the toppings. However, only having two tests seems somehow less complicated than it could be. If we’re really obsessing about the trivial minutiae of making pizza, we might as well push the boat out. It is for that reason alone that we included…

3. The Dough Ball Test: for each dough we made a dough ball weighing 50g, and left this to prove for 20 minutes, before baking it until lightly golden. Having a larger, rounder mass of dough allows us to study any differences in how the dough rises, as well as giving a better sense of how the crumb structure of the two doughs compare. Also, I like dough balls, and this way I get to eat two. It’s win-win.

Results:

Eyeball test: perhaps surprisingly, the doughs looked almost identical. I had assumed the dough with the oil would look visibly more yellow. But that wasn’t the case. It did have a smell of olive oil, which I would probably attribute to the olive oil I’d put in it. But visually, there was little difference.

Olive oil pizza, left, and standard pizza, right

Olive oil pizza, left, and standard pizza, right

Pizza test: there were two differences that were noticeable in the pizzas themselves. The first was that the crust of the olive oil dough was softer, whereas the standard pizza had more of a crunch to it. The second difference – and in terms of shock value, this is right up there with news about where bears defaecate – was that the pizza with olive oil tasted a little bit of olive oil. It wasn’t a very strong taste, and compared to the taste of the toppings, it didn’t really stand out. But it was there, and it was pleasant enough. The texture differences were more pronounced. Both pizzas were good, and I’d have been happy to eat either. Indeed, to demonstrate that point, I ate both, in the name of science. But the differences between the doughs were relatively small: I had a very slight preference for the flavour of the olive oil dough, and a slight preference for the texture of the standard dough.

Flatbread test: without any toppings to distract from the sheer, brazen misery of eating dry pizza base, the taste difference between the doughs was more apparent. The taste of olive oil came through more strongly than with the comparison of pizzas. Visually, there were no obvious differences between the two doughs, and texture was similar – both were crisp. If I was really forced to choose one flatbread over the other, I would probably cry, and wonder why someone was forcing me to make such a miserable choice. The only thing worse than eating dry pizza base is eating dry pizza base with kale.

Dough ball test: this was interesting: when shaped into tiny boules, the difference between the dough was accentuated. The two dough balls looked identical, but felt noticeably different. The olive oil dough ball had a softer outer crust in comparison to the standard dough ball, which felt firmer and more crisp. Both had very similar crumb structure, but the mouthfeel of the olive oil dough ball was less satisfying and less well-defined – the crust disappeared into the crumb when I ate it. In contrast, there was a nice and more distinct mix of crunch and softness with the standard dough ball. If I had to make dough balls, I’d go for the standard dough. I would also include a lot of garlic butter. And lots of wine as an accompaniment. That’ll basically be what my retirement will look like. Dough balls, garlic and booze.

The Verdict:

The Verdict

Our experimental question was “Should we include olive oil in our pizza dough recipe?”. From this experiment, it seems that adding olive oil to the standard dough recipe imparts extra flavour. This is pleasant but quite subtle, and could potentially get lost entirely in any pizza with strongly flavoured toppings. However, olive oil also seems to reduce the crunch of the crust, and makes for a softer bake. That changes the experience of eating the pizza, and gives it a more homogenous mouthfeel – there’s less noticeable difference between the dough in the middle and the dough at the edge. I like the crunch that the standard dough has, and think that the extra flavour of the oil in the dough doesn’t compensate enough for the loss of texture. So, with this recipe at least, the verdict is a no to olive oil. If you decide you really like the taste of olive oil, you can always drizzle some on at the end. Mmmm.