Hard Water in Pizza Dough
Very hard water is defined as a water that contains a mineral content higher than 180 mg/L , although not harmful you will know you have hard water if you often have a buildup of minerals, limescale, in kettles, around your faucet and your soaps won’t create a good foamy lather. All hard water is bad but water with an excessive amount of calcium carbonate is especially bad for creating pizza dough or any yeast risen dough as it impedes the fermentation process that causes the dough to rise.
Solutions when you have hard water
Use 100% or a ratio of bottled spring or artesian water as it should have the ideal amount of mineral content. Avoid any reverse osmosis waters which are the majority of inexpensive bottled water brands, their added minerals are primarily for flavor enhancement and may or may not be ideal for pizza.
Another solution is to mix half distilled water and half local tap water. This effectively reduces the amount of minerals in your water by half. Avoid using too much or all distilled water as it has its own set of drawbacks as this is essentially the softest of soft waters.
Skim milk for part or all of the liquid as a last option.The skim milk variety is key as it will not be adding milk fat to the dough which would affect the flavor and texture of the dough.
Soft Water in Pizza Dough
Soft water is a water is defined as water that contains a mineral content between 0-60 mg/L. Distilled water is an example of very soft water essentially containing 0 mg/L of minerals. Soft water may taste very bland or even slightly salty and opposite of hard water soap easily make lots of foamy suds easily but is difficult to rinse those suds off.
In dough making a soft water will make the dough always seem sticky and harder to work with. This gives the impression that you need to continually add flour to the dough. The result may end up in you adding too much flour and having a dry dough. When using a digital kitchen scales for ingredient measurement you should never need to add more than a light dusting of flour into a dough when working with it. Minerals also provide the yeast with trace nutrients just like in any other species, so a yeast colony will not be as vigorous in very soft water.
Solutions when you have soft water
Use a bottled spring or artesian water as just with combating hard water the natural water sources used typically have the ideal balance of minerals. Avoid reverse osmosis water though.
In a pinch skim milk can be used. It does add a bit of lactose sugar sweetness to the dough which is good to keep in mind when using a recipe that calls for sugar. Depending on the severity of your soft water issue you can opt to use a ratio of skim milk to water. Clearly milk will change the flavor of the dough, but depending on your view / taste it may not be a negative thing.
If the dough stickiness is your only issue you can keep your hands damp with water when dealing with a dough to alleviate this situation. Dough doesn’t stick to wet hands as easily as it does dry ones and when you place your dough on any surface use semolina flour or yellow cornmeal as opposed to flour for dusting as they hold the dough off the surface more than standard flour would.