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Author Topic: Why do Italian pizzaiolo's prefer stiff sourdough starters?  (Read 426 times)

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Offline DoouBall

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Why do Italian pizzaiolo's prefer stiff sourdough starters?
« on: March 14, 2019, 02:15:33 PM »
In watching videos of Italian pizzaiolo's and reading some of their books and recipes, I noticed a consistent pattern where many prefer stiff sourdough starters (Lievito Madre). I was wondering if anyone could please explain if there is any benefit to keeping and using a stiff starter over a liquid one for Neapolitan pizza? I've always kept a 100% hydration starter because of ease of maintenance and feeding, not to mention ease of incorporation into dough. I recently switched to about 90% because I find it easier to keep the jar clean when it's not overly liquid. However, it seems that Italian pizzaiolo's keep theirs pretty much as a stiff dough, in the 60's. This seems like a lot more work, so what's the benefit that would make it worth it? Thanks!


« Last Edit: March 14, 2019, 02:17:25 PM by DoouBall »

Offline TXCraig1

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Re: Why do Italian pizzaiolo's prefer stiff sourdough starters?
« Reply #1 on: March 14, 2019, 03:09:39 PM »
Things that makes life harder for the lactic acid bacteria in the dough (low hydration being one of them) tend to swing the ratio of acetic to lactic acid produced towards acetic which is generally perceived as more flavorful.
"We make great pizza, with sourdough when we can, baker's yeast when we must, but always great pizza."  
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Offline DoouBall

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Re: Why do Italian pizzaiolo's prefer stiff sourdough starters?
« Reply #2 on: March 14, 2019, 03:51:49 PM »
Got it. What’s your preference?

Offline TXCraig1

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Re: Why do Italian pizzaiolo's prefer stiff sourdough starters?
« Reply #3 on: March 14, 2019, 05:34:37 PM »
I've only tried stiff a couple times. I didn't notice a difference and wet is easier, so I never messed with it again.
"We make great pizza, with sourdough when we can, baker's yeast when we must, but always great pizza."  
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Offline pizzainthe6ix

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Re: Why do Italian pizzaiolo's prefer stiff sourdough starters?
« Reply #4 on: May 22, 2019, 04:49:12 PM »
Can you elaborate on what a "stiffer" starter is? 

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Offline HansB

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Re: Why do Italian pizzaiolo's prefer stiff sourdough starters?
« Reply #5 on: May 22, 2019, 05:35:14 PM »
Stiff starter is generally 65% hydration or less.
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Offline pizzainthe6ix

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Re: Why do Italian pizzaiolo's prefer stiff sourdough starters?
« Reply #6 on: May 22, 2019, 07:27:26 PM »
Stiff starter is generally 65% hydration or less.
So a BIGA?  A Poolish at 100% would not be stifg

Offline HansB

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Re: Why do Italian pizzaiolo's prefer stiff sourdough starters?
« Reply #7 on: May 22, 2019, 07:51:05 PM »
Sort of. Biga and poolish are preferments but not sourdough.
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Offline Heikjo

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Re: Why do Italian pizzaiolo's prefer stiff sourdough starters?
« Reply #8 on: May 23, 2019, 06:46:15 AM »
So a BIGA?  A Poolish at 100% would not be stiff
No. A sourdough starter with lower hydration. 100% hydration is typically used and called wet, while a stiff starter can be anything below that. Some use 80%, some 65% etc.
-Heine. Mostly Neapolitan sourdough pizzas in an electric Effeuno P134H.

Online Yael

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Re: Why do Italian pizzaiolo's prefer stiff sourdough starters?
« Reply #9 on: May 23, 2019, 06:53:39 AM »
In mill's production, I think stiff SD can be made so it dries more easily. That would make sense... As most of flour companies sell dry SD products (Naturkraft @5 Stagioni; Enerpizza @Italmill; Criscito @Caputo...). Then maybe pizza makers try to reproduce what the SD mills are doing...
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Offline pizzainthe6ix

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Re: Why do Italian pizzaiolo's prefer stiff sourdough starters?
« Reply #10 on: May 23, 2019, 07:57:45 AM »
In mill's production, I think stiff SD can be made so it dries more easily. That would make sense... As most of flour companies sell dry SD products (Naturkraft @5 Stagioni; Enerpizza @Italmill; Criscito @Caputo...). Then maybe pizza makers try to reproduce what the SD mills are doing...
So when making a SD starter (I have an Ischia starter waiting) what do I need to consider to keep it a bit stiffer?

Instructions:
Mix well all of the dried culture with 105 grams of flour (¾ cup) and 225 grams of warm water (1 cup)

At the end of the first 24 hours a few bubbles may
appear as the first sign of growth and activity. Subsequent feedings should be140 grams of flour (1cup) and 170 grams water (¾ cup) at approximately 12 hour intervals with the temperature reduced to around 21oC (70oF) which favors the growth and activity of the wild yeast. Each feeding
will require discarding some of the mixture or the jar will overflow. This is an opportunity to start a
second jar to serve as a backup if required. Activation is complete when the foam and bubbles of
the mixture increase the volume in the small jar by 2 to 3 inches within 2 to 4 hours of the last
feeding. Now the culture is ready for baking or it can be refrigerated until needed. During
refrigeration a clear light brown liquid (hooch) forms a layer on the surface. This is normal and is
stirred back in when the culture is used.

Offline TXCraig1

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Re: Why do Italian pizzaiolo's prefer stiff sourdough starters?
« Reply #11 on: May 23, 2019, 08:14:46 AM »
If you're doing an extended rise, this is likely a non-issue as flavor is developed in the dough over time - not from the tiny amount of flavor in the tiny amount of preferment used to seed the dough. It's the direct/indirect use of sourdough. With indirect methods where a large amount of preferment is used to allow for a short rise time, it matters because the bulk of fermentation flavors are created during the pre-ferment and mechanically added to the dough. In the direct use of sourdough, you're simply seeding the dough with the culture and the flavor develops in the dough over a long fermentation period. As such, the stiffness of the starter is largely irrelevant to flavor though it may affect the amount required to some extent as it may have less activity as compared to a wetter starter.
"We make great pizza, with sourdough when we can, baker's yeast when we must, but always great pizza."  
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Offline andytiedye

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Re: Why do Italian pizzaiolo's prefer stiff sourdough starters?
« Reply #12 on: May 23, 2019, 02:54:26 PM »
We use the"extra" sourdough to make pancakes, waffles, etc.

Blueberry sourdough pancakes for breakfast this morning

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