The simple yet amazing mixture of flour, water, and fat is the basis of many delicious recipes. From crunchy bread, airy, mouth-watering pizza dough to pasta and biscuits. While the basic ingredients are usually the same (water, flour, butter, salt or sugar, yeast), the methods differ from one recipe to the other.
There are different ways to make dough, depending on what you are making. In this post, we’ll talk about the various types of dough and how to make it.
- 1 What are the Basic Types of Dough?
- 2 Fermented (Leavened) Dough
- 3 Non-Fermented (Unleavened) Dough
What are the Basic Types of Dough?
Many bakers will simply divide dough into two categories: fermented (leavened) and non-fermented (unleavened). But each of these categories contains various types of dough.
Now, you might be a little confused because the words dough and batter are sometimes (mistakenly) used interchangeably but they do not refer to the same thing. We’ll tell you how to easily make the distinction.
Dough is thicker and can be kneaded with your hands (for example, bread dough, pizza dough, etc). Also, the main ingredient of dough is flour so there is a greater amount of it in a dough than in a batter.
Batter is much thinner and can’t be kneaded with your hands. They typically contain more liquid ingredients and we usually use an electrical mixer to mix the batter.
Fermented (Leavened) Dough
Fermented or leavened dough contains some sort of a leavening agent: yeast, baking soda or baking powder. Leavening agents are what causes the dough to rise and create those wonderful bubbles. As a result, the dough is tastier, chewier, and more airy.
The process of fermentation is crucial for the quality of the dough, especially if you’re making bread or pizza. If you ever wondered how those artisan loaves of bread get their lovely crust, the answer is fermentation.
When fermenting the dough, it’s important to consider a few important factors such as temperature. If you’re not careful, you can end up with over fermented dough that collapses in the oven. So how can you tell if your dough is over fermented?
By monitoring the temperature as well as how quickly the dough develops. The hotter the environment, the more quickly the yeast works. Yeast acts faster in warm environments but this is tricky because dough that has risen so fast can collapse once it’s in the oven so you end up with a deflated loaf of bread.
This is also why bread deflates in bread machines. So temperature is the key. Also, if the environment is too cold, your dough won’t develop properly which causes the loaf to be dense and not very tasty.
You’ve probably heard about cold fermented dough before but if you haven’t quite figured out what it is, here’s an explanation. Cold fermented dough is the dough that ferments in the refrigerator. The process is also known as slow fermentation or retarding the dough.
The coolness of the fridge slows down the yeast action but it doesn’t stop it.
After it’s kneaded, the dough is usually left to ferment for at least 6 hours (preferably more) during which time those beautiful airy bubbles form.
We’ve found that fermenting the dough in the fridge for 24h gives a satisfactory result. The bubbles are there, the crust is chewy, and the dough tastes amazing.
However, you can leave your dough to ferment in the fridge for days. Some professional bakers prefer using the dough that’s been cold fermented for at least 36 hours or up to 5 days. But this depends on your preferences as well as your schedule.
How to make cold fermented dough?
Mix the ingredients and knead the dough. Place the dough in a large bowl (so as the dough has enough space to rise), cover with a kitchen towel or plastic wrap, and leave it in the fridge. Before you bake the dough, take it out of the fridge and leave it on the counter for a while to rest. Shape and bake.
Many bakers prefer to cold ferment their bread dough so as to develop the bubbles and achieve a similar result we see in artisan bakeries.
Making cold fermented bread dough is rather simple. After you mix the ingredients (flour, water, yeast, and salt), you knead the dough, cover it with plastic wrap or a kitchen towel, and place it in the fridge.
Retarding the bread dough is usually the second rising which is purposefully slowed down in order to add more flavor. That means that you leave the dough at room temperature for the first rise before you transfer it to the fridge. This also allows you to bake bread later, whenever you want actually.
Before you bake your slow fermented bread, allow it to rest at room temperature for a while.
To make bread dough, you can use all-purpose flour since most of us have it at hand.
If you’re using a bread maker, we suggest using bread flour.
Of course, you can substitute bread flour with regular flour (all-purpose flour) if that’s the one you have at hand.
The reason we use one of these two types of flour is the high protein level which allows gluten to develop which then results in a beautifully risen loaf of bread.
Tip: Using too much or too little flour can affect the quality of the dough. Don’t forget to measure the flour properly using dry measuring cups.
You can cold ferment pizza dough too. In fact, once you try it, you’ll find that cold fermented pizza dough tastes better than regular dough. Most professional pizza restaurants nowadays use the cold fermentation technique to enhance the flavor and texture of their pizzas.
The result is a rich flavor and chewy crust.
To make cold fermented pizza dough, repeat the process we mentioned above (mixing and kneading). Cover the dough and place it in the fridge. After an hour, take the bowl out and punch the dough. Cover again and return to the fridge.
Once you’re ready to bake pizza, take the dough out of the fridge and leave it to rest for a little while. Shape and bake.
Tip: Make sure the bowl you use is big enough as the dough will rise significantly.
Fermenting the Dough at Room Temperature
This is the most commonly made type of dough and it’s really simple to make. Depending on what you’re making as well as on how warm the environment is, the dough can rest anywhere between 1-3 hours.
How to make fermented dough?
Mix all the ingredients and knead the dough. Cover the dough with a clean kitchen towel and leave it at a warm place to rest for a couple of hours. But be careful not to leave the dough somewhere that is too warm. As we previously explained, if the environment is too hot, the dough will rise too quickly.
If you live in a colder climate, you can place the bowl with the dough on top of a warm (but turned off!) stove. Similarly, if you live in a hot, humid climate, try to find a cooler spot for the dough to rest.
Tip: Check on the dough occasionally to see how well it develops. Once it’s doubled in size, it’s ready to be shaped and transferred to the oven.
Sourdough might sound as the most complicated type of dough and most amateur bakers steer clear of it. The difference between regular bread dough and sourdough is in the yeast. While for regular bread we use instant or active-dry yeast, for sourdough we use sourdough starter.
Sourdough starter is also a live culture (yeast) but made at home using flour and water. It can also be purchased at the store.
How to make sourdough starter at home?
To make a sourdough starter, all you need is a bit of flour and water. However, once you make the mixture, it needs to be “fed” at regular intervals.
In order to keep the mixture alive, you need to add equal amounts of flour and water and this process can take several hours or even days. Pour some of the mixture off and then add equal amounts of flour and water.
If the spot where you keep the starter is cold, it will take longer to develop (up to 12 hours or more).
Whisk it well and make sure it’s lump-free. The starter should be left at a warm place so that it doubles in size and develops bubbles on the surface.
Once you’ve achieved this, you can use the starter to make bread.
Tip: You can keep the starter in the fridge and feed it on a weekly basis. In this way, whenever you decide you want to bake bread, the starter will be ready.
Non-Fermented (Unleavened) Dough
Unleavened dough is what we use for making various baked goods (such as pies, tortillas, pasta) that do not rise. This type of dough stays flat and thin. They usually contain large amounts of fat and sometimes sugar.
Homemade pasta dough might sound like a lot of work, which is why most of us use store-bought pasta. However, it’s one of the simplest doughs to make. It’s only the shaping that might take some time.
How to make pasta dough?
Making pasta dough at home is very simple. The ingredients you need to make it are: flour, eggs, oil, and salt.
Mix all the ingredients and knead the dough. You can use a stand mixer or mix by hand. Leave it to rest for about 30 minutes. Shape and cut into desired form.
Pasta dough can also be made ahead. Once you knead the dough, wrap it using plastic wrap and leave it in the fridge.
Pie dough is also unleavened dough (we use no leavening agents) and it is easily made at home. The recipes may vary but pie dough is usually made with butter.
How to make pie dough?
To make pie crust, ingredients required are flour, 2 sticks of butter, salt, sugar, and ice cold water (quantity of the ingredients may vary according to the recipe).
Once you mix flour, sugar, and salt, you then add butter cut into small cubes. You can either use a food processor for these steps or you can simply incorporate the butter into the flour mixture using your hands.
Gradually add cold water and mix well using your fingers (or food processor). The dough should be crumbly but when you press it, it should stick together.
Tip: You can also use vegetable oil to make pie crust or a mixture of butter and shortening (any fat that is solid at room temperature).
Puff Pastry Dough
Puff pastry is another kind of unleavened dough and we use it to make all kinds of delicious sweet and salty pastry. Most of us purchase ready-made puff pastry, then roll it at home and add the desired fillings.
However, making puff pastry at home is not that complicated. Besides, using quality, fresh dough is always better than store-bought varieties.
How to make puff pastry?
You start by mixing flour and salt. Slice butter into small pieces and toss them in the flour mixture. The pieces of butter should be evenly coated in flour.
Pour cold water and mix everything together. Form a ball of dough. Wrap the dough using plastic wrap and place it in the fridge to cool for an hour.
Now comes the slightly complicated step, one that troubles many new bakers.
Take the dough out of the fridge. Flour the working surface and start rolling the dough. You need to shape the dough into a rough rectangle and then fold it into thirds. Repeat the process multiple times.
The goal is to fold the dough as many times as possible. The more you fold it, the nicer and flakier your puff pastry will be. Try to roll it at least 4 times. Return the dough to the fridge until you’re ready to bake.
Tip: Make sure the oven is hot enough before you place the pastry in it. This will help create all those gorgeous layers.