Puntata, Staglio and Appretto

The process of making and shaping the dough has 3 keystone steps!

Leggi la versione italiana: Italian version

Regardless of whether you are making pizza, focaccia, or bread, the dough-making process involves what I call the “3 keystone steps of dough making.” Skipping any of these steps can be risky, so be sure not to miss any of them 😉 .

What if we all started making bread with the exact same initial ingredients – the same amount and quality of flour, yeast, water, same weather, temperature, mixer, and tools? Do you think we would all end up with the same final product? My answer is doubtful.

So, what’s the secret?
What does grandma do in her recipe that we can’t replicate in ours?
It all comes down to balance, and achieving balance requires taking the right actions at the right time.

Intro

To define the actions and times I just talked about, Neapolitan pizzaioli invented three words: Puntata, Staglio, and Appretto.
Interestingly, these words have nothing to do with baking. They come from different fields and have been adapted to fit into the world of baking.

I call them the 3 keystone steps of dough making. I like this bombastic way of defining them because I believe that by deeply understanding these steps, anyone’s baking skills can improve. Additionally, by knowing them, you can easily communicate with a pizza chef and describe your dough-making process in a short sentence and understand theirs.

Let’s take a closer look at each one of them!

Puntata

So, here you are. You’ve added everything you need into the mixer and followed the recipe step-by-step.
…Now, it’s time to take out your dough. The puntata step starts at the very moment when you press the mixer’s off button, whether you leave the dough in the mixer bowl, move it onto the table, or put it in a box.

Puntata Teglia Romana dough
Puntata Teglia Romana dough

“Puntata” is a term derived from the pointer dog. Just as the pointer dog pauses before chasing its prey, your dough “pauses” and gently orients the gluten in one direction, while also being prepared to take the shape that you give it.

In English, this is commonly referred to as bulk fermentation.

During this process, three main things occur:

  1. The yeast converts the sugar into carbon dioxide. The gluten network traps the latter, so the dough increases its volume (leavening). This is the most evident process.
  2. The PH level reduces—the acidity increases.
  3. Long resting time activates the autolysis that weakens the gluten network. Resulting in a more extensible dough.

The purpose of this step is to give the dough its best plastic characteristics, so that it can be easily handled and shaped in the next step.

in short

Puntata is the bulk fermentation resting time.

If a pizzaiolo says something like:
“My dough has 24 hours Puntata at CF.”
It means
“I put all the dough into a refrigerator for 24 hours.”

“CF” stands for “cold fermentation,” which is the process of fermenting the dough at a cooler temperature (around 4-10°C/40-50°F) for a longer time, typically 24-72 hours

Staglio

Once the Puntata time is over, it’s time to cut and shape the dough.

Staglio refers to cutting the dough and shaping it into balls called Panetti or Panielli. The word is a combination of two Italian words, STrappo (tear) + tAGLIO (cut) = STAGLIO. When shaping the dough mass into Panetti, you’re not cutting it nor tearing it; you’re doing something in between. Using a dough cutter, the dough is cut into strips, from which pieces are torn off and then shaped into balls. The formation of the Panetti is done by hand, even though many machines can provide a good result. This technique is called “STAGLIO a mano” (dough cut/shaped by hand) and is reminiscent of the technique used in the preparation of mozzarella, which is called MOZZATURA, also done by hand.

Staglio pizza traditional
Staglio for Traditional pizza

In short

Staglio is the creation of the dough ball.

If a pizzaiolo says something like
My dough has 2 hours of Puntata at RT, then Staglio and CF
It means that he let the dough rest, covered, for 2 hours at room temperature, then cut it into pieces and shaped them before storing them in a refrigerator.

Appretto

I don’t know the exact translation of Appretto (It could mean starch or something stiff, or someone might say polish… I’m brainstorming!). Appretto is a substance used on fabrics to give them certain properties like softness, thickness, impermeability, etc. It’s the starch you spray on your shirt collar to make it rigid. (If you know a good translation for it, let me know in the comments, and I’ll use it. Thanks in advance!)

So, what does this have to do with pizza dough? Once again, I need you to use your imagination. As I said, Appretto is the spray you put on your shirt collar when you iron it. Then you hang your shirt in the wardrobe until the day you wear it.

In the pizza business (and baking too), Appretto refers to the resting time of the pizza dough ball in the container. This time starts at the end of Staglio and ends when the pizza dough ball is ready to be shaped for baking.

During the Appretto, the pizza dough ball increases in volume. The yeast produces gas, and the gas is trapped in the gluten network

Appretto pizza dough NeoNeapolitan
NeoNeapolitan dough appretto

In short

Appretto is the final resting time of the dough before it is used to make the pizza.
During this time, the dough ball is allowed to rest and continue to ferment, which helps to develop the flavour and texture of the pizza crust.

If a pizzaiolo says something like:
“My dough has 1-hour Puntata at RT, then Staglio at 250g and Appretto 24 hours at CF + 3 RT”.
It means
“I let the whole dough mass rest for 1 hour at room temperature.
Then, I cut it into pieces, 250 g each, and shaped them.
Next, I store them in a refrigerator for 24 hours, and I took them out, at room temperature, 3 hours before starting to work.”