Whether you’re a pizza connoisseur or brand new to the pizza-making game, Neapolitan Poolish Pizza is often a term thrown about in the pizza world, but not many people know what it is.
Well, luckily, we’ve written this article to help you out.
Although it’s a slightly more advanced recipe and method than your average dough recipe, we believe that with the instructions we’ve provided, anyone will be able to be successful.
We’ve also included some history on the origins of the poolish, why you should use one, and how poolish pizza actually works, so you’ll be an expert in no time.
What Is Neapolitan Poolish Pizza?
Before we dive into how we make Neapolitan pizza with poolish, it may be worth recapping what the difference is between normal pizza and traditional Neapolitan pizza.
First created in 1735, the Neapolitan pizza is also known as the Naples-style pizza and comes from, you guessed it, Naples, Italy. It’s pizza in its most basic form and the original recipe included toppings of only mozzarella and tomato sauce.
Today it still only uses a basic dough recipe, raw tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, fresh basil, and olive oil and it has since flourished and gained popularity all over the world, making it a Traditional Speciality Guaranteed product in Europe.
The art of making Neapolitan pizza is even included on UNESCO’s list of intangible cultural heritage. So what makes it so unique?
Firstly, there is often more sauce than mozzarella, meaning the middle of the base gets soggy easily and it, therefore, cannot be served by the slice.
Because of this, the size of the pizzas usually ranges only from about 10-12 inches. They are also cooked at very high temperatures, as high as 800-900F, and for no longer than 90 seconds.
This makes the base crisp and bubble up to be charred in certain spots, which forms the perfect leopard print cornicione that Neapolitan pizzas are famous for.
Although only basic ingredients are allowed, the pizza can come in three different forms.
The Pizza Marinara is topped with tomatoes, oregano, garlic, and extra-virgin olive oil whereas the Pizza Margherita is topped with tomato, fresh sliced mozzarella, basil, and extra-virgin olive oil and the Pizza Margherita Extra is topped with tomatoes, mozzarella di Bufala, basil, and extra-virgin olive oil.
Although similar, each pizza has its own edge and everyone has their favorite.
So What Is Neapolitan Poolish Pizza?
Poolish pizza is an Italian secret that will take your pizza-making skills to the next level and although some say it is complicated, only requires a small amount of preparation.
It won’t take you much longer to prepare the dough but it will make a world of difference.
The Poolish also needs to rest overnight and prove for a few hours on most recipes and so it’s even perfect to prep the night before for those bakers on busy schedules but still fancy some of the best-tasting pizza after working all day.
Poolish on its own is a type of pre-ferment. If this term is new to you, it is very similar to a sourdough starter, which we all know and love. They are so similar because of their fermentation process.
They both need to ferment before cooking and both are made with flour and water. Poolish, however, also includes store-bought yeast. The difference between them is the proving time, or the time you have to leave the dough rise.
A sourdough starter must prove for at least a whole week as it has to culture yeast from the environment, whereas poolish already contains yeast and so only needs to rise for about 8-12 hours.
Although Poolish is only made of three simple ingredients, flour, water, and yeast, it is important to note that it always must have 100% hydration.
This intense hydration separates it from other pre-ferments like a biga, which is much drier, creating a light airy dough that ends up as a delicious loaf of Ciabatta.
In fact, pre-ferments are more common than you think when it comes to every other type of bread. Poolish is also used to make baguettes for example, as well as that delicious pizza dough you’re eager to find out how to make.
Before we dive into the recipe, one final thing to remember is that when using poolish or pre-ferment, you never should add the additional yeast to your dough as it already contains enough needed for the recipe.
Often, poolish and other pre-ferments are referred to as the ‘indirect method’ as you are indirectly adding yeast to the dough by putting it in the poolish instead of the dough itself.
Why Should I Use A Poolish?
Poolish is used to improve the flavor and texture of pizza dough. As it uses 100% hydration, lots of glucose and maltose is created and this becomes a huge feast for the yeast you are using.
The yeast becomes active and works its magic to create rich, dense, yet subtle flavors and as soon as you take that plastic wrap off of the mixture and see the bubbles start to form, you’ll begin to understand what we mean.
You will be hit with the aroma of sweet, yeasty flavors with a touch of sourness. This is because the active yeast will have started to produce such flavors in the bubbles it creates during the fermentation process.
When you add the poolish to your freshly prepared dough, it lightens it up and makes the whole pizza easier to digest. So not only will you experience the intense flavor poolish can add to the dough but you won’t feel as bloated either.
A poolish can also make your dough flexible which means you are less likely to experience any tearing in the dough when you start to stretch and shape the dough before adding your sauce and toppings to pop in the oven and bake.
Although poolish means there is an extra step of preparation when it comes to pizza dough, it can save you time in the long run as if you wanted to create a similar texture, you would need to leave your dough rise for up to 72 hours.
Not only is this is a long time, but by then, the flour would have lost its strength and the pizza will have become too thick and too stodgy to digest properly.
As poolish doughs only need to rise through the day, they can retain their strength for longer and leave you with that perfect textured base when you’ve finished baking.
Easy Poolish Pizza Dough Recipe
This recipe makes enough dough for four pizzas and requires only a basic understanding of how to make pizza, so is simple enough for bakers of all ages and levels of experience to follow.
- 330g all-purpose flour
- 70ml water
- 17g salt
- 300g all-purpose flour
- 300ml water
- 0.6g dried yeast
Before you begin, work out when you are going to be eating the pizza. This is because the dough needs to prove and so you’re going to need to make it around two days in advance.
On the first day, you’ll be making the poolish and leaving it on the countertop overnight. In the morning, you’re going to begin making your dough!
This will not take you long and can be done before you even start your day.
Once it is made, leave it to ferment for the rest of the day. Once you return home from work or whenever you have a chance in the evening, separate your dough into balls and bake.
- Weigh out your flour and pour it into a large mixing bowl.
- Measure your dried yeast and add this to the mixing bowl.
- Mix these until combined.
- Measure your water out, making sure it is lukewarm, and add it to the flour and yeast.
- Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and leave to ferment through the night.
Wherever you decide to leave your poolish to ferment, you need to make sure it’s left at room temperature (around 70F). If you live in a colder climate, however, simply add a little more yeast and vice versa.
If the room is warmer, lower the yeast quantity.
In the recipe above, 0.6 g means the yeast makes up around 0.2% of the flour content, whereas if you need to add more, you’ll need to up it to 0.3%, which is 0.9 g and if you need to lower the amount, bring it down to 0.1%, which stands at around 0.3 g.
You can also adjust the yeast quantity if you do not have time to let the dough ferment overnight.
You’ll have to increase the amount of yeast you use if this is the case, as the shorter you leave it to prove, the more yeast is required.
Is My Poolish Ready?
Before we tell you the recipe for the dough, you must know when your poolish is ready. Like any dough that has been left to prove, you’ll know when it is ready when it has doubled in size.
With poolish, however, you need to check that bubbles have been formed. These bubbles show the yeast has been active and has worked.
Yeast produces carbon dioxide as it eats through glucose and maltose, and the bubbles show this. A poolish that has formed lots of little bubbles is the remnant of carbon dioxide.
Some bakers like to make their poolish in a glass so that you can spot the bubbles all over the mixture, instead of just on the top.
Another tip is to place a rubber band around the glass level with the mixture and when you return, you can then easily see whether the poolish has doubled.
Bear in mind, however, that poolish does have a peak and you want to use the poolish before it reaches this peak. A peak simply means the maximum height your poolish should reach.
If you miss this, it’s not going to ruin the dough completely but aim to keep an eye or a timer on the poolish to judge how long it takes to reach the peak.
So how do I know when my poolish has reached this peak? It is simpler than you may think. As soon as it starts to fall back down, it has usually done its job.
You’ll notice a watermark above the edges and this suggests it has fallen already, so keep watch.
- Before you begin making your dough, take a look at the progress of your poolish. As we mentioned, it should have doubled in size through the night and the top should look bubbly.
- If this is the case, in a new mixing bowl, add the water and the flour before adding the poolish and mixing it together with a spoon. This mixture will be particularly sticky.
- When the mixture comes together, add the salt.
- When most of the flour has been mixed in properly, turn the dough out and onto a flat surface ready to knead.
- Knead the dough with your hands until it becomes elastic but not sticky. If the dough stays wet, add in more flour as needed.
- Once the dough is elastic, pop it back into the mixing bowl and cover it with plastic wrap. Now it’s done for the day and you can come back to it later.
- Divide the dough and shape it into four balls in the evening. Then shape and stretch before adding your toppings and popping it in the oven to bake!
And that’s all there is to it. You might think how will flour, water, and yeast add anything to my pizza? Well, try it for yourself and find out.
The extra preparation, planning, and proving time may seem like a hassle at first, but once you’ve tasted the difference in the dough, you’ll never return to making normal pizza again.
The good thing about the recipe we have included above is that it is also adaptable. You can make more, or less dough to suit the number of pizzas you want to make.
You could even adapt the recipe if you wanted to change the proving time or if the room temperature was not ideal by simply adjusting the yeast quantity.
Adapting any pizza recipe all comes down to baker’s percentages, which is simply a way of measuring the yeast or other ingredient against the flour content.
To give an example, if a recipe called for 300g of flour, 300ml of water, and 0.6g of yeast, the baker’s percentage would be 100% flour and water and 0.2% yeast.
This means that as long as you have the amount of flour required, we can always work out the amount of water and yeast we need to accompany it.
It also means, as we’ve explained above, that we can change the amount of yeast we use based on the room temperature or proving time.
The Importance Of A Pizza Oven
Although you’ve now got the tools to make a poolish pizza, to make an authentic Neapolitan pizza, you might want to consider investing in a pizza oven.
Although only true pizza enthusiasts may take this step, we promise it is worth it.
You’ll often find pizza ovens are much more accessible than you think and you won’t need an entire brick oven built out your back garden.
Cooking your pizza in a pizza oven ensures it will be cooked at the highest temperatures possible, up to 900F, which means you’ll be able to recreate that perfect texture of an authentic Neapolitan pizza in seconds.
History Of Poolish
As we mentioned earlier, poolish and sourdough are very similar starters, and the history of poolish actually begins with sourdough starters. Sourdough starters were used to leaven bread for centuries.
The oldest example of sourdough traces back to Switzerland and dated all the way back to 3700s BCE, yet it’s even thought that sourdough originated even earlier than this traditional Swiss bread!
They used sourdough starters to leaven bread until the middle ages when at this point, they discovered the foam and scum that formed whilst brewing beer actually can help the dough rise.
From this, the beer barm was born and used to leaven bread, speeding up the entire baking process.
In the 19th century, yeast was cultivated for the baking process, and this replaced beer barm as the most used leavening agent, completely surpassing the sourdough method.
The story of poolish however comes slightly later. The word poolish is said to be a bastardized form of Polish used by the French.
A Polish nobleman named Baron Zang was attempting a sourdough starter using yeast. Austrian bakers picked up the method and shared it across Vienna and Paris.
The French loved the ‘Polish method’ and used it for many other forms of bread. It became a popular method of making baguettes too as it was less sour than sourdough.
Today, artisan bakeries and bread factories all over the world use poolish in their bread.
It’s also common to use in artisan pizza making as it helps create a dough with a lighter, fluffier texture without the sour taste of sourdough.
Finally, the Neapolitan Pizza Poolish was born as the practice was adopted in many Italian restaurants and pizzerias all over Naples and this is what influenced bakers at home to start making poolish for their personal pizzas after work, homemade pizza parties, or big family nights in.
We hope, that even if you started reading this article as a pizza-making newbie with no idea what poolish or pre-ferments were, you are now all prepped on the knowledge of what it is, where it came from, its history, and are even ready to try making it yourself to experience the real difference in flavor it can have on your dough and overall pizza quality.
After all, it is only three ingredients and if it’s the proving time you’re worried about, think of it as an opportunity to simply be organized.
By making it in advance, you’ll thank yourself when it comes to dinnertime after working all day long and you’ve got a perfect pizza to add your toppings to and pop in the oven.
So we suggest you go for it! We promise you won’t look back.