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Whole Wheat Pizza Crust


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#1 weinoo

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Posted 16 January 2011 - 12:30 PM

So, in another effort (see my cleanse topic)to be sweeter to my body, I am trying to add a bit more whole wheat to my diet. It's not like I don't eat whole grains and plenty of fiber - I do; but I also eat lots of less-than-whole grains, as my love of all thing crusted is boundless.

Of course, when "adjusting" any recipe to sub some whole wheat flour for plain white flour, one should start slowly, and then see how much whole wheat may be used before the taste of the finished product sucks. See, with me, it also has to taste good, otherwise what's the point?

Anyway, the other day I made a batch of pizza crust, using the trusty Cook's Illustrated Foolproof Pizza Crust recipe, BUT substituting 10% of the flour with whole wheat. 10% - that is, 1.5 ounces of the flour was whole wheat. I probably added 1/2 ounce of water, imagining that would make up for the change in flour absorbability, and also because it doesn't alter the hydration materially.

Verdict - it sucked. Well not sucked so much as just wasn't, ummm, pizza-like enough for me. A little bit on the cracker-y side, and without the big holes in the cornicione. Looked good, but hey, looks aren't everything.

Anyone else try this strategy or have another, even better one? Or, I'll settle for a great whole-wheat pizza dough recipe.

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#2 AAQuesada

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Posted 16 January 2011 - 04:05 PM

I like this one called 'Country Pizza Dough' from P.R.

http://www.fornobrav...izza-dough.html

I've used spelt in place of the whole while and liked it quite a bit.

#3 CaliPoutine

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Posted 16 January 2011 - 10:08 PM

I just made a WW pizza dough the other day. Its from America's Test Kitchen Healthy Family cookbook. The dough was great, and we were able to roll it so thin. I used a very hearty wheat flour too(I think its graham flour by Hodgson Mills).

TO make 1 ball of dough
1- 1 1/8 c. bread flour
1 cup WW flour
1 and 1/8 tsp instant yeast
3/4tsp salt
1.5TBL evoo
1 1/4 c warm water

Make in Food processor. Pulse dry ingredients , then with processor running, add oil and water Blend 30-40 seconds. Let dough rest for 2 min. Then process 30 seconds more. Put in greased bowl( make a dough ball first). Let rise 1-1.5hrs.

Here is the pizza I made with it. Posted ImagePosted ImagePosted Image

#4 mgaretz

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Posted 17 January 2011 - 11:56 AM

My whole wheat pizza crust is 1.5 cups all purpose flour, 1.25 cups of whole wheat flour and .25 cups of vital wheat gluten (aka gluten flour), 1 tsp of salt and 2 tsp of yeast hydrated in 1 cup of warm water. All goes in the stand mixer, knead for 5-7 minutes. Let rise, punch down, rest for 30 minutes in fridge then stretch to shape. (There's a lot of gluten in this dough, so usually I have to stretch some, let it relax, stretch again, etc.)

This gives me a thin crust that is still crisp and chewy at the same time.

Makes enough for two large pizzas - I usually divide in half after the rise and freeze one half for later use.

#5 scott123

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Posted 18 January 2011 - 02:20 AM

Mitch, although the recipe you're working with has given you good results up until now, as far as pizza recipes go, it leaves a lot to be desired. While 40-70 seconds total processing time is pushing the gluten development envelope for cold fermented dough and balling just prior to forming is a massive pizzamaking no no, the true Achilles heel of this recipe is the extended baking time/one size fits all thermodynamics.

Magazines like CI and authors like Reinhart perpetuate this belief that anyone can make great pizza with any equipment as long as they have the right recipe. This is complete and utter garbage. Variations in stone thickness/materials/thermal mass/conductivity all produce different baking times. A 10 minute pizza will never have the oven spring of a 4 minute pie. No offense, but a 7.5 minute pie might, on the outside look mouthwatering and the crumb might appear relatively open, but it won't be as open as if it were baked for 4 minutes. Time is the enemy to good oven spring/great pizza.

I spoke with Andrew Janigian, the author of the CI piece, about thermodynamics while he was researching the article, and, while he agreed with what I was saying, his hands were basically tied by editors that wanted to appeal to the widest number of readers. Since mediocre pizza, like mediocre sex, is still pretty good, I'm sure there are scores of CI readers that are happy with the results they're seeing from this recipe. I am deeply saddened, though, that CI, with their, imo, smarter than average membership, had the opportunity to push the pizzamaking knowledge envelope further than it's ever gone in a mainstream publication, but, instead, catered to a very small percentage of their readership who are uncomfortable ordering merchandise online or going through the trouble of finding hard to source materials locally.

Anyway, back to your oven spring issue. Basically you're using an equipment-agnostic process that isn't optimized for volume and adding an anti-oven spring ingredient. The bran in the whole wheat has sharp edges that slice through the gluten framework whenever the dough is manipulated, which, in turn, produces a denser end product. I've never tested this myself personally, but I believe that whole wheat flour with a finer grind will produce a crust with bigger voids. I would give a coffee/spice grinder a shot, making sure to monitor the temperature closely so as to not overheat the flour.

If you can, going with a higher protein flour should also help a little bit. If, say, you're using 12%ish flour (KABF), then track down some 14% protein from a restaurant supplier. And, although more protein helps, the type of protein matters. Imo, vital wheat gluten is not the solution to your problem. VWG is damaged gluten and never achieves the full extensibility of the virgin product. It will give you increased chewiness, if that's what you're looking for, but I wouldn't depend on it for volume.

This may not be something you want to hear during a cleanse, but bromated flour is a proven oven spring enhancer. The parts per million in which it's added to flour and parts per billion that end up in the final product make it harmless, though. The added volume may not be all that dramatic with bromated flour, but when you're working with whole wheat, every little bit helps.

Higher protein bread flour, bromate and a more finely ground WW flour are just a drop in the oven spring bucket when compared to the effects of improved oven thermodynamics. When water converts to steam, it expands 1600 times. The goal with pizza is to generate as much steam expansion in the shortest time possible with high heat and thick, conductive materials. If you really want to send your crust soaring (with or without WW), get a thicker more conductive stone and trim that baking time to as far as the style will take it (about 3-4 minutes for NY style).

Sam Kinsey turned me on to soapstone a couple years back. From a perspective of conductivity and thermal mass, 1.25" soapstone slab completely conquers every stone in the retail market. Preheated to 550, it has no problem pumping out a 3 minute pizza. It can be hard to track down and expensive, though, and doesn't really provide enough conductivity for weaker (<525) ovens, so I've taken to recommending 1/2" steel plate. I've seen some half decent Heston Blumenthal inspired cast iron pan pies produced, but the gauge is just too thin to store enough energy. 1/2" steel plate is a cast iron pan pushed up to 11 :biggrin:

There's also oven tricks and mods, and while those have quite a few devoted fans, I tend to feel a bit safer trimming bake times with thick conductive stones. Cordierite is the stone of choice for most commercial pizza ovens, and, while the 5/8" or less cordierite you see in retail baking stones (pampered chef, old stone, etc.) is pretty much worthless at 550 or below, as you increase the thickness to 1" your chances improve dramatically at hitting that magic 4 minute bake time mark. 1" cordierite kiln shelves can be found at local and online ceramic suppliers. Even if 1" cordierite doesn't doesn't quite cut it, you're still talking about a substantially easier oven mod. It's a lot easier/safer pushing an oven 50 degrees above it's peak temp than a 150 or more degree shove.

Summing up, I recommend

Balling BEFORE fermentation
Kneading for less time (maybe 40 seconds total, not 40-70)
14% bread flour (All Trumps is the pizzeria favorite)
Bromated flour
Finer grind of WW flour

but, most importantly, I highly recommend a thicker more conductive stone. In the land of the best NY style pies, it's a race against the clock- a race with no more formidable of an ally than the right stone- and no more formidable of an enemy than the wrong one.

Edited by scott123, 18 January 2011 - 02:25 AM.


#6 Ciao Ling

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Posted 18 January 2011 - 04:38 AM

The world village of pizza making experts over at the forums of Pizzamaking.com are constantly tweaking their formulas. One poster in Germany, Villa Roma, seems to have perfected a 100% whole grain recipe. His keys are 1) very high hydration, 2) small amount of leaven/yeast with long room temperature fermentation times, 3) very high temperature oven (in his case 650 degrees which is not achievable with many home ovens). The thread with great pics is here.

#7 weinoo

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Posted 18 January 2011 - 05:43 AM

Scott, you bring up many great points...obviously most home cooks (maybe just me?) are limited by our ovens and the temps they can achieve without defeating the built-in safety features. I'm sure you've seen what Jeff Varasano has achieved at home - perhaps the holy-grail of home pizza making, and his house is still standing! But I'm not willing to go with that method.

I am willing, however, to try and find an oven insert which will help with the baking. My pizza stone, after an hour of preheating, gets up to 531 degrees F - so I'll be looking for the soapstone Kinsey recommends or that 1/2 inch steel plate you do - do you have a link?

As for balling the dough before fermentation, it's what I do - once again, following Varasano's advice as well as Reinhart's from another of his recipes.
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#8 aschall

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Posted 19 January 2011 - 09:31 AM

All great information! I make pizza at home almost every Friday. I can get my oven to 550 and have found waiting for the 550 mark versus 500 greatly improves the results. I have two regular pizza stones, so I put one above the pizza about 2 inches to try and achieve a better effect. Not sure if it really helps though. On the dough, I have found creating a recipe and measuring ingredients by weight has always given me more consistent results.
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#9 scott123

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Posted 19 January 2011 - 09:36 AM

Mitch, I'm familiar with cleaning cycle hacks. Like I said before, though, while Varasano-ish approaches could end up being a safety hazard, there are ways to squeeze another 50 degrees out of your oven without any threat to the oven or the house. But if you've got the right stone, you can avoid all that silliness completely.

531 degrees is a little tight for soapstone. My oven goes to 560, but I pre-heat my soapstone slab to 530 so my broiler turns on during the bake. If I preheat the oven to 560, my broiler won't kick in and the top doesn't brown sufficiently. I guess you could crack the door, but the pizza will bake unevenly and you'll need to rotate it mid bake. I don't know where Sam got his soapstone from, but if you've got transportation and are willing to cross the Hudson, M. Teixeira (www.soapstones.com) has soapstone remnants for $10/sq. foot. That's the best price for remnants in all of the U.S.- by a very wide margin (I've priced soapstone for countless friends outside of this area). You have to be careful shopping for soapstone, though, as not all varieties are suitable for oven applications.

As much as I like soapstone, though, I really think, with a 531 peak temp, you'll be much better off with steel plate. With 1/2" thick steel plate, you might be able to go as low as 475 and achieve a 4 minute bake. This place here seems to have the best prices on steel, although if you found a local metal supplier, you'll save a lot on shipping.

http://www.onlinemet...Steel_Plate.cfm

Both soapstone and 1/2 plate are heavy guys. With all that mass they store a ton of energy, but the weight also makes them very expensive to ship.

Re; re-balling. Are you certain Varasano recommends it? I found this on his site (bold mine):

I cut it and put it into these easy to find Glad containers. They cost about $1 each at the supermarket..
I've got like 15 of them. They are perfectly sized for individual dough's. I strongly prefer these to plastic bags. They are sealable and that keeps in the moisture. They stack easily in the fridge, and the dough comes out easily and without deflating the dough in the process.


I just saw a photo of the inside of his Atlanta pizzeria last week and he's still using glad containers for individual dough proofing.

As far as Reinhart goes... well... there's no one on this planet that I revere more when it comes to bread knowledge, but with pizza... he just doesn't get it. The bubbles formed during extended fermentation are doughmaking treasure. The last thing you want to do is deflate the dough by re-balling so close to the form. In addition, you activate the gluten and end up with a skin that fights you during forming and a potentially tough crust. Extremely slack doughs (75%+ hydration) sometimes need a little more gluten development on the back end, but even then you want at least 3 hours between the re-ball and the form.

This isn't some far out or controversial topic here. Every NY style pizzeria on this planet mixes the dough, balls it, then proofs the dough balls individually. For Reinhart/CI to be unaware of this completely ubiquitous practice shows how clueless/out of touch they really are.

Edited by scott123, 19 January 2011 - 09:42 AM.


#10 cbread

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Posted 19 January 2011 - 11:15 AM

Scott123's commentary touches on something I have wondered about, the apparent thermal superiority of very thick aluminum in some cooking applications. In this case, pizza. Aluminum plate or slab somewhere between two to three times as thick as the steel Scott123 mentions would have about the same heat or greater capacity as the steel, and far better conductivity, leading to - and here's my theory - presumably way better heat transfer to the bottom of a pizza.

I keep wondering if really, really thick (like 1" or more) aluminum plate would make a top notch pizza stone. It would admittedly look clownishly over-sized. And cost? It would be far from cheap or reasonable; I don't even want to think about the price, but the specs for heat storage and heat transfer for roughly equivalent mass, not thickness, of aluminum and steel make me wonder about finding or even DIY home casting a honking big slab. Just one of those daydreams - like building a beehive oven by the deck. Unlikely to really happen but....

Has anyone ever done this?

#11 Joe Blowe

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Posted 19 January 2011 - 11:50 AM

I keep wondering if really, really thick (like 1" or more) aluminum plate would make a top notch pizza stone. It would admittedly look clownishly over-sized. And cost? It would be far from cheap or reasonable; I don't even want to think about the price...

You're right... you don't want to think about the price!

I just used the Online Metal Store link provided by Scott, and checked the price for aluminum plate. You're looking at close to five to TEN TIMES the cost of steel.

If you could find some scrap, now you're talkin'...
So we finish the eighteenth and he's gonna stiff me. And I say, "Hey, Lama, hey, how about a little something, you know, for the effort, you know." And he says, "Oh, uh, there won't be any money. But when you die, on your deathbed, you will receive total consciousness."

So I got that goin' for me, which is nice.

#12 scott123

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Posted 19 January 2011 - 11:57 AM

Cbread, like almost everything else in the breadmaking universe (hydration, yeast, kneading, fermentation time, salt), some conductivity is good, but a lot is counterproductive. Traditional cordierite baking stones have a conductivity of 3 W/(m·K), mild steel is around 50 W/(m·K) and Aluminum is 250 W/(m·K). As it is, a mild steel plate is conductive enough to transfer a small amount of energy to the ambient air when the oven door is opened- enough to lower the temperature of the stone a degree or two. When the ambient air hits aluminum, even thick aluminum, the temperature will plummet.

#13 weinoo

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Posted 19 January 2011 - 12:00 PM

As far as Reinhart goes... well... there's no one on this planet that I revere more when it comes to bread knowledge, but with pizza... he just doesn't get it. The bubbles formed during extended fermentation are doughmaking treasure. The last thing you want to do is deflate the dough by re-balling so close to the form. In addition, you activate the gluten and end up with a skin that fights you during forming and a potentially tough crust. Extremely slack doughs (75%+ hydration) sometimes need a little more gluten development on the back end, but even then you want at least 3 hours between the re-ball and the form.

This isn't some far out or controversial topic here. Every NY style pizzeria on this planet mixes the dough, balls it, then proofs the dough balls individually. For Reinhart/CI to be unaware of this completely ubiquitous practice shows how clueless/out of touch they really are.

Scott - maybe I'm not communicating it properly, but Reinhart does recommend balling the dough prior to fermentation - in some of his recipes. The problem is that Reinhart has probably published a dozen pizza dough recipes and he doesn't always say the same thing!

And yes, I know that Varasano does not recommend re-balling the dough - I follow his method with the individual containers...works perfectly for me.

I just ordered a couple of 1" slabs of the cordierite that you recommended above. Shipping cost as much as the slabs, but they still came in at around $45 per slab, so I'm looking forward to see how they work.

Do you recommend heating them up with the broiler as well as the oven?
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#14 Big Mike

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Posted 19 January 2011 - 12:56 PM

Two topics here: whole wheat crust and baking stones.

For crust, has anyone experimented with no knead methods? I've done a few and they've turned out well, nothing codified into a recipe yet but promising. The long time period for gluten devlopment and rise means you can have more sharp grains in the dough without the worry of them shredding glutens during kneading. I'm going to try a few experiments this weekend and maybe report the findings.

For baking, you guys are way out of my league. That said, I've experimented with stones a lot in my home oven and I've had better luck just cooking pizza directly in a sheet pan. It makes a different style of pizza, a little puffier, but is that bad? If you'll never be able to get your oven to the ridiculous temperatures needed to make a thin crust, why not make a pizza that actually works well with normal temps? I like both styles, I prefer the thinner crust of a fast cooked pizza in high temp but I know it's futile in my oven.

Of course, I'm building a pizza oven in my backyard so I can cook both styles, but that's beside the point ;)

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#15 weinoo

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Posted 19 January 2011 - 01:11 PM

You could probably GROW wheat in that back yard.
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#16 scott123

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Posted 19 January 2011 - 02:04 PM

I just ordered a couple of 1" slabs of the cordierite that you recommended above. Shipping cost as much as the slabs, but they still came in at around $45 per slab, so I'm looking forward to see how they work.

Do you recommend heating them up with the broiler as well as the oven?


Mitch, it sounds like there was some sort of mixup and that we are both on the same page when it comes to balling, but I'm a little confused about the cordierite. Wasn't cordierite out of the running?

My apologies for not being clearer, but 1" cordierite is a maybe at 550 (a pretty good maybe), but at 530, it's a definite no go.

Here's a list of materials and the minimum temps required to hit that magic 4 minute NY style sweet spot

1/2" steel plate- 475
1 1/2" cordierite (commercial deck oven) 500
1 1/4" soapstone - 525
1" cordierite kiln shelves - 550
1 1/8" split firebrick - 600
1/2" cordierite (with feet/old stone/pampered chef, etc) - 625
1/2" dense quarry tiles* - 625
3/4" fibrament - 625
1/4" porous quarry tiles* - 650

*Quarry tiles can vary in composition (as can firebrick, but that varies less).


So... 1" cordierite might give you 5 minutes, maybe, so that will give you an idea of the bump in quality from a faster baked pie, but you're going to want to do some sort of trick. I think the easiest and most suitable oven trick for a tiny temp bump would the to unclip the thermostat and relocate it on the shelf below the stone. That way you can put the stone close to the broiler and broil the heck out of it and the thermostat won't turn the broiler off too quickly.

The broiler is very inefficient for the initial whole stone pre-heat, but after the bottom element has preheated the stone to the peak oven temp, as long as the thermostat is not in the line of sight, you can crank the broiler and rev up the stone a few extra degrees. In order to be effective, though, the stone has to be close to the broiler- no farther than 3". That can be kind of tight quarters to work with.

Unlclipping the thermostat from it's mount is really simple. And as long as the thermostat is somewhere in the oven, the oven will never get hot enough to burn the house down. It's an easy way to get that 25 or 50 degree bump that you'll need with cordierite.

Edited by scott123, 19 January 2011 - 02:07 PM.


#17 Joe Blowe

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Posted 19 January 2011 - 02:51 PM

Scott, I like that table!

I've been mulling over this steel plate issue for a while now (trying to avoid building an oven in the backyard!), and now I think I'll go ahead and buy a 16" x 16" piece of .5" plate for my BlueStar (which I only mention because the racks can handle quite a bit of weight).

As you pointed out above, "some conductivity is good, but a lot is counterproductive." Would that rule out .75" steel plate? And, do you have any recs on sizing: Should it cover a certain amount of rack area, or just enough to make pizza on? 16x16 seems perfect to me...
So we finish the eighteenth and he's gonna stiff me. And I say, "Hey, Lama, hey, how about a little something, you know, for the effort, you know." And he says, "Oh, uh, there won't be any money. But when you die, on your deathbed, you will receive total consciousness."

So I got that goin' for me, which is nice.

#18 mgaretz

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Posted 20 January 2011 - 12:34 AM

For baking, you guys are way out of my league. That said, I've experimented with stones a lot in my home oven and I've had better luck just cooking pizza directly in a sheet pan. It makes a different style of pizza, a little puffier, but is that bad? If you'll never be able to get your oven to the ridiculous temperatures needed to make a thin crust, why not make a pizza that actually works well with normal temps? I like both styles, I prefer the thinner crust of a fast cooked pizza in high temp but I know it's futile in my oven.


I agree. I've played with stones and high oven temps, but found that while the crust came out good, the rest of the ingredients were undercooked (for lack of a better phrase). Maybe it's because we like lots of toppings and I also like my pepperoni or sausage kinda crispy. In any case I've had better luck on a perforated pizza pan in a 400 degree oven and a 9-10 minute bake. Heresy I know, but what works, works.

Edited to add that I do keep a stone in my oven at all times on the oven floor - but the pizza goes on the bottom rack on the pan.

Edited by mgaretz, 20 January 2011 - 12:37 AM.


#19 scott123

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Posted 20 January 2011 - 09:42 AM

As you pointed out above, "some conductivity is good, but a lot is counterproductive." Would that rule out .75" steel plate? And, do you have any recs on sizing: Should it cover a certain amount of rack area, or just enough to make pizza on? 16x16 seems perfect to me...


Joe, steel will always have the same conductivity, regardless of the quantity/thickness of steel you might have. As you increase the thickness, you increase the thermal mass, and, as long as your oven shelves can handle it, more thermal mass is better. 16 x 16 x .5 steel plate is 36 lb. and 16 x 16 x .75 is 54 lb. I've come across quite a few oven shelves that would struggle with 54. Not yours obviously, but that's one of the reasons I recommend .5". Another reason is that, as you go thicker, both the price of the plate and the shipping charges increase- pretty dramatically. If you're fine with the extra weight/extra expense, then by all means, go thicker.

As far as the overall dimensions go, it seems like a lot of home pizza bakers tend to have this strange fascination with small NY style pizzas- even if they're making them for a group. I can completely understand Neapolitan aficionados baking small pies, but the traditional diameter for NY style pizza is either 16" or 18"- any smaller and it really messes with the aesthetics as well as the cheese to crust proportions. Many NY slice places may have smaller pies on the menu, but no self respecting NYer would ever actually buy one. If you're not hungry enough for a large pie, you get slices.

18" is, imo, where NY style really shines. In a perfect pizza making world, everyone's oven would be at least 18" on all dimensions. Unfortunately a lot of ovens are smaller. Mine is barely 17" on the back wall to door dimension and it makes me very sad that I can't bake 18" pizzas. I generally recommend that people purchase as big a square stone as they can fit in their oven. Since most ovens are wider than deeper, this translates into have a stone touching the back wall and the front door. As long as the door closes, you're good. The gaps on the sides will provide plenty of air flow. When you're working with a peel, a bigger target is always better. It's easier to get a 16" pie on a 17" stone than a 16" one.

#20 Joe Blowe

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Posted 20 January 2011 - 10:41 AM

Thanks for the input, Scott.

I did some research last night, and slowly came to grips with conductivity and mass :laugh:, and also read a few of your posts over at pizzamaking.com. Pulling an 18" pie out of a home oven would be very impressive indeed!

My oven measures 20.5" front to back, but with the convection fan cover in the way, I think the maximum depth I could achieve is 18". Still, nothing to be ashamed at!

Apologies, Mitch, for hijacking the thread...

ETA: I just called BlueStar to get an official weight rating for the shelves... 100 pounds, w00t!

Edited by Joe Blowe, 20 January 2011 - 10:50 AM.

So we finish the eighteenth and he's gonna stiff me. And I say, "Hey, Lama, hey, how about a little something, you know, for the effort, you know." And he says, "Oh, uh, there won't be any money. But when you die, on your deathbed, you will receive total consciousness."

So I got that goin' for me, which is nice.

#21 scott123

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Posted 20 January 2011 - 11:46 AM

Joe, it sounds like you've got it all worked out, but if you haven't seen the tutorial on Understanding Stovetop Cookware, it's imo, the best place to learn about baking material thermodynamics. That's where I cut my teeth on the subject.

It doesn't get into traditional baking stone materials, but the specs on these are pretty widely available, and, once you know the basics, the new numbers just plug right in.

Edited by scott123, 20 January 2011 - 11:46 AM.


#22 Wholemeal Crank

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Posted 22 December 2012 - 10:04 AM

My new oven's convection fan takes up enough space that my old sets of baking bricks won't fit on the shallower oven racks. Investigating metal plate options as discussed here, I see that stainless steel sheets are 3 times the cost of non-stainless. For those of you who use non-stainless steel sheets for lining baking racks, how do you keep them clean? Self-cleaning cycle in the oven? Season like cast iron?

#23 Wholemeal Crank

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Posted 22 December 2012 - 10:50 AM

I'm thinking about weight, and the safety of handling it when fully heated--which I've done more often with the bricks than is probably wise--I've never been really good with any version of a peel I've tried.

So....pondering another option--how much do I lose if I break it up by getting two sheets at 1/4 inch apiece and stacking them vs a single 1/2 inch sheet, so that I could remove, unload/load a single 1/4 inch sheet, and returning that to the oven?

#24 HungryC

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Posted 22 December 2012 - 10:53 AM

My new oven's convection fan takes up enough space that my old sets of baking bricks won't fit on the shallower oven racks. Investigating metal plate options as discussed here, I see that stainless steel sheets are 3 times the cost of non-stainless. For those of you who use non-stainless steel sheets for lining baking racks, how do you keep them clean? Self-cleaning cycle in the oven? Season like cast iron?

I treat my steel sheet like cast iron...ie, brush it clean and hit it with bar keepers friend if it gets rusty. Then again, mine is ordinary plate steel, so many OCD types would insist it isn't food grade and is a threat to health and safety. No stainless, no polish, just a big ugly plate.

#25 Wholemeal Crank

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Posted 24 December 2012 - 12:46 AM

mine is ordinary plate steel, so many OCD types would insist it isn't food grade and is a threat to health and safety. No stainless, no polish, just a big ugly plate.


Just not seeing a lot of danger in non-food-grade steel here--it would have to be something toxic, not removed by washing, not destroyed by oven temperatures, and likely to leach out into bread & other foods in contact with it for short periods of time.

#26 Syzygies

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Posted 25 December 2012 - 02:07 AM

Just not seeing a lot of danger in non-food-grade steel here-

I'm a mathematician, and we have a pretty harsh standard for proof. Not being able to imagine an alternative does not rule out the alternative. So, not to pick on your sentence but it sent me involuntarily reeling.

In BBQ circles anything galvanized is a no-no, because it off-gases zinc which is a poison. I don't know what "plate steel" is. Surely, aluminum, copper or cast iron it's not. But all steel is iron plus other stuff, there are many, many different recipes for steel and "plating" in use, and many, many choices for what constitutes the "other stuff." Isn't amateur hour metal work the biggest danger, drinking moonshine? I see many ways to poison oneself here without seeing it coming.

(For comparison, the theory that lead poisoning partly caused the fall of Rome is controversial. And some people will use any plastic for sous vide. I just like to err on the side of caution.)

I've always used FibraMent-D baking stones. I know they've tuned the thermal transfer rate, as others have for similar products. In their view, even soapstone has the wrong thermal transfer rate; I didn't ask about metals. Is it the underlying assumption of this discussion that pizza professionals have chosen the wrong value?

We always grind our own flour for everything, but we sieve out the bran. Still, our dough is denser than dough made with white flour, making pizza more challenging. We just don't like the taste of white flour.

I took a pizza class with Rosetta Costantino, the author of My Calabria. (http://cookingwithro....com/index.html) Her first career was as an engineer. She traveled around Italy with an infrared "shooter" thermometer, listening to people describing the extraordinary temperatures at which they baked pizza. Then she'd shoot the cooking surface. It never read over 650 F.
Per la strada incontro un passero che disse "Fratello cane, perche sei cosi triste?"
Ripose il cane: "Ho fame e non ho nulla da mangiare."

#27 HungryC

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Posted 25 December 2012 - 06:23 AM

Just not seeing a lot of danger in non-food-grade steel here-

I'm a mathematician, and we have a pretty harsh standard for proof. Not being able to imagine an alternative does not rule out the alternative. So, not to pick on your sentence but it sent me involuntarily reeling.

In BBQ circles anything galvanized is a no-no, because it off-gases zinc which is a poison. I don't know what "plate steel" is. Surely, aluminum, copper or cast iron it's not. But all steel is iron plus other stuff, there are many, many different recipes for steel and "plating" in use, and many, many choices for what constitutes the "other stuff." Isn't amateur hour metal work the biggest danger, drinking moonshine? I see many ways to poison oneself here without seeing it coming.

Obviously, it is not galvanized. It's hot rolled a36 carbon steel plate. It is made of the same stuff as the inside of my oven, just thicker and not enameled. Though I have the steel plate, I've been using an unglazed baking stone most frequently....preheated at 500, then 10 minuteds with the broiler on high. Lahey details this procedure in his My Pizza, and it works fairly well for my standard crust recipe.

#28 qrn

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Posted 25 December 2012 - 02:19 PM

Scott, you bring up many great points...obviously most home cooks (maybe just me?) are limited by our ovens and the temps they can achieve without defeating the built-in safety features. I'm sure you've seen what Jeff Varasano has achieved at home - perhaps the holy-grail of home pizza making, and his house is still standing! But I'm not willing to go with that method.

I am willing, however, to try and find an oven insert which will help with the baking. My pizza stone, after an hour of preheating, gets up to 531 degrees F - so I'll be looking for the soapstone Kinsey recommends or that 1/2 inch steel plate you do - do you have a link?

As for balling the dough before fermentation, it's what I do - once again, following Varasano's advice as well as Reinhart's from another of his recipes.

I stopped using a stone for pizza,and went to a suitable sized 1/4inch thick steel plate,which goes on the bottom rack in the oven it is about 4 inches above the lower heating elements,by the time the oven gets to 550deg,the plate is 750deg,I always get nice crisp crust that way...I also do the crust using Canada Daves recipe and letting it age in the veg tray in the reefer for at least 6or 7daysbefore using,Ialso use an infrared thermometer to measure the plate temp,by the way...Bud

#29 Wholemeal Crank

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Posted 25 December 2012 - 11:57 PM

Glad to hear some praise for quarter-inch steel, because that's about as thick as I think I can handle, for a 12 x 21 inch piece to line my oven racks. I can always double it up if I want to get really fancy and am feeling strong.

Going to ask my mechanic buddy to ask his machinist friend for an estimate for three of them, one per rack, but making sure I know what's in the steel. Thanks for all the replies.