18 hours ago, &roid said:
For my next try I think I’ll go back to cuoco and a longer fermentation. Do you have a preferred method at the moment?
For about a decade, I was a huge proponent of long cold ferments. I've always been at the forefront of the time = flavor philosophy and that less time = flavor compromised pizza, which, if you look at the online pizza making community, is pretty much universally adhered to. Even you exhibited a little short ferment shame in your earlier post Like many, it wasn't a case of "I set out to make an emergency dough, because that's what I like," but, rather, you felt like you were forced to compromise because of your impatience.
But I'm finding myself moving away from some of that dogma. One thing that helped me to perceive this a little differently was coming to grips with understanding the chemistry. The flavor you get with long fermentation is basically amino acids/umami via proteolysis. It's fundamentally just process derived msg. Now, I'm not necessarily telling people that a 2 day dough can be recreated in 2 hours with the addition of some Accent (not yet), but, I am confident that the extra 'flavor' people respond so favorably to in long fermented dough is umami. Instead of looking at long fermentation as this mysterious, magical, inherently better process, I now look at it as a means of adding more or less umami to dough- and, while sometimes I want to ramp up those amino acids, sometimes I don't.
Don't get me wrong, I not necessarily "Yay, 1-2 hour doughs!" I think, for most styles, you want at least a tiny bit of time derived umami, not to mention I believe it can take longer than 1-2 hours for the flour in dough to fully hydrate for optimum texture (temperature can play a role). But I don't think that Neapolitan needs to be an umami bomb. I think that the magic of Neapolitan pizza comes from the super puffy and soft texture and char, not a super flavorful crumb. While, in the past, I might have bristled at the loss of flavor in a shorter ferment, I can now see the benefits of a blanker canvas.
Pardon the pun, but I also find myself cooling on refrigeration. At least, I do for shorter ferments. You never want to bake cold dough, and, depending on your container, it can easily take 6+ hours to reach room temp in the center of your dough balls. Once you get into minimum warm up times, refrigeration can push the clock too far. And when you add bulks to the mix (which I'm very much warming on), it's an added layer of complexity. There's also a camp who believes that refrigeration comprises texture. I'm not completely sold on this concept, but, since warm up times can be problematic for shorter ferments anyway, if cold is compromising texture, it's just one more reason to avoid it. Now... am I going to freak out if I encounter someone tossing their dough balls in the fridge overnight and then letting them warm up 6 hours the next day? Of course not. But I think the traditional same day room temp Neapolitan approach deserves more respect than it's been getting. Like most people, I thought that this tradition was born out of spacial limitations- or possibly even corner cutting/greed, but, in recent years, that stigma has faded.
TL;DR? This has been a very long winded way of saying that I resonate very strongly with the VPN specs- but not because I'm blindly following them, but rather, that I started off believing that I knew better- that I could basically take bread baking knowledge and somehow improve upon the original, but I've now reached a point where I can see that keeping it simple isn't necessarily a compromise. For me, the sweet spot is anywhere between 8 and 24 hours total time, with a portion of that being a bulk. I've also reached the same traditional place with water. Pizza is not bread.
This is my best attempt at narrowing down some of the parameters in the official VPN specs: