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Vancouver water in pizza dough


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Okay, here's a weird one. On Friday I made pizzas. I do this every Friday, using a bread machine to make the dough then proofing it in a warm oven. The dough recipe I use is very simple: 1 1/2 cups of water; 3 1/2 cups of bread flour; 1 1/2 tsp yeast; 1 tsp salt; a splash of oil. I cook the pizzas on stones in a convection oven.

Now, here's the Vancouver question: because the tap water was not usable on Friday, I used bottled water. The pizza crusts were much crisper -- better! -- than normal. Could it be that our tap water is too soft (or something) to make brilliant pizza dough? Or was this a fluke?

Inquiring minds want to know.

Paul B

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Okay, here's a weird one.  On Friday I made pizzas.  I do this every Friday, using a bread machine to make the dough then proofing it in a warm oven.  The dough recipe I use is very simple: 1 1/2 cups of water; 3 1/2 cups of bread flour; 1 1/2 tsp yeast; 1 tsp salt; a splash of oil.  I cook the pizzas on stones in a convection oven.

Now, here's the Vancouver question: because the tap water was not usable on Friday, I used bottled water.  The pizza crusts were much crisper -- better!  -- than normal.  Could it be that our tap water is too soft (or something) to make brilliant pizza dough?  Or was this a fluke?

Inquiring minds want to know.

I remember posting awhile back in a similiar type thread here, a Vancouver area pizza place, RoundTable IIRC, they advertise the fact that they use bottled spring water to make their pizza dough, so I guess you were onto a good thing. :smile:

"If cookin' with tabasco makes me white trash, I don't wanna be recycled."

courtesy of jsolomon

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"Soft Water" means water with very little mineral content, mostly calcium and/or magnesium ions.

Is your water naturally soft, or is it too hard, and treatment renders it "too soft"?

Here's a good site with some technical jargon.

Soft water does weaken gluten during mixing and fermentation, although I don't know if the converse is true, ie: that hard water strenghtens it? If that's the case my bread should be great!

SB (lives in a VERY hard water area)

Edited by srhcb (log)
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Part of the water treatment upgrade works at all 3 watersheds will include addition of soda ash (sodium carbonate IIRC). The main purpose of this is to prevent copper pipe corrosion and leaching, but a side effect will be a slight hardening of the water, which perhaps will be pleasing to our local dough producers.

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Very interesting. I guess the question now is what sort of bottled water I should use until the new filtration plant is up and running. Does anyone know the relative hardness of the various bottled waters available? I think I used Aquafina on Friday.

Paul B

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if 'hardness' is related to mineral content, i would infer that by comparing labels one would be able to determine the 'hardest' water available.

i don't have the data to help though.

fascinating topic though.

i make pizza dough at work all the time, but had a huge stockpile prior to the boil water advisory.

i'll have to make it again soon, and will be monitoring my dough for any changes.

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Very interesting.  I guess the question now is what sort of bottled water I should use until the new filtration plant is up and running.  Does anyone know the relative hardness of the various bottled waters available?  I think I used Aquafina on Friday.

Isn't Aquafina just purifed (by filtering and reverse osmosis etc) tap water? Wouldn't it be even "softer" than our local tap water since almost all the dissolved solids are removed from it?

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Very interesting.  I guess the question now is what sort of bottled water I should use until the new filtration plant is up and running.  Does anyone know the relative hardness of the various bottled waters available?  I think I used Aquafina on Friday.

Isn't Aquafina just purifed (by filtering and reverse osmosis etc) tap water? Wouldn't it be even "softer" than our local tap water since almost all the dissolved solids are removed from it?

Aquafina is purified tap water by reverse osmosis and is de-mineralized - it is less than 10 ppm. About as soft as it gets, and not great for cooking, baking or brewing coffee. Water in the GVRD is also very soft, generally less than 30 ppm. PPM is mineral content in Parts Per Million.

Currently Canadian Springs spring water (Chilliwack source) is about 210ppm, very hard. If boiled alone it will calcify pots and kettles with a thin white film, and leave a build up of mineral salts in your water cooler. Tastes quite nice and I'm sure makes a great pizza crust.

Alistair Durie

Elysian Coffee

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Well, I guess I didn't use Aquafina. IThere are so many empty water bottles around the house right now that I've lost count.

'll try the recommended hard stuff this weekend and see what happens.

I wonder if imported Italian water would be the best?

Paul B

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Here's a good article discussing water hardness vis-a-vis dough: http://www.gftc.ca/articles/2001/baker08.cfm. Note that water that is too hard isn't ideal either, it tightens the dough too much.

I agree the water quality is a key factor, but feel the need to note that there are other important steps in dough preparation. For instance, cooler, slower, multiple risings; wetter dough; starting the night before with a sponge/poolish; or autolysing the flour/water mixture for an hour or two---all of these will likely improve your dough more than changing the water you use.

For instance, you might experiment with some easy modifications: try an autolyse, mixing the flour with about 90% of the water, letting it sit for 20 minutes, then adding the remaining water and other ingredients. Or, do essentially what you do now, but mix a wet poolish w/ a portion of the flour and about half of the yeast the day before, and add it to the bread machine w/ the rest when you start. Or do both. Follow with a slower rise in a cool rather than warm spot. Any of these techniques will greatly improve the end result.

You might also be interested in considering certain dough improvers. Ascorbic acid can be useful in small amounts. Another good dough improver is fava bean flour. _The Village Baker_ by Joe Ortiz has a good discussion of the use of dough improvers in artisinal breads.

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When it comes to any of your baking or dough making, gelatinizing, or autolyzing, your dough can yield an improvement. What this means is that the flour in your recipe will benefit from just sitting with some of the liquid in the recipe for a little while. Gives it a bit of a head start.

-- Matt.

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