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Pizza Dough Dilemma


phaelon56
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I received a pizza baking stone for X-Mas a few years ago and have finally gotten into using it after it sat gathering dust for awhile. It's one of the rectangular jobs - my daughter picked it up at Williams-Sonoma and it's fairly thick - better than the cheap ones I've seen in so many stores more recently.

I have a bottled sauce that I'm happy with and a good blend of fresh cheeses (Asiago, Fontina, a bit of Parmsean Reggiano and also some slices of fresh whole milk mozzarella). Toppings are completed with caramelized red onions and my favorite brand of Italian style turkey sausage (Gianelli's from G&L Davis Sausage Company in Syracuse NY - the only turkey sausage I've ever tried that compares favorably to Italian style pork sausage - I wish I could buy it here in NJ).

The dough is the issue. A few winters ago after first getting the stone, I experimented with dough and once - only once - really got it right. i achieved a dough that made a thin crust pizza that browned reasonably well on the bottom and had the chewiness/texture of a pizza like John's from NYC (the Bleecker Street John's). Now, after a long layoff, I'm back into it and don't recall the exact formula that achieved success. I do know that semolina flour was involved.

Here's my current recipe and results:

1/2 cup warm water with a teaspoon of sugar dissolved in it (about 110 degree F) and sprinkled with yeast. Wait five minutes, add two tsp of coarse salt and three tsp olive oil.

Mix 2 1/2 cups each of white flour and semolina flour. Add gradually to water/yeast mixture, stirring in an additional 1 1/2 cups warm water in the process to achieve a flexible and moderately sticky dough mixture. Knead for ten minutes on floured surface unti pliable and then cover in warm place (85 degrees F or so) and allow to rise for 30 minutes. Cut in two pieces (each for one crust), punch down, stretch, and toppings and bake for 10-12 minutes in 475 degree oven.

It's good but not good enough. The dough seems a bit crispy when baked to appropriate doneness level - almost stiff but not overcooked. It seems to lack the flexibility and mouthfeel of a good pizzeria dough. I also notice that when it's adequately cooked it's not really browned at all on the bottom (I am, of course, sprinkling a bit of cornmeal on the peel before stretching the dough and baking. I tried placing one half of the dough in the fridge overnight, then letting it return (covered) to room temp the next day before doing the punchdown, stretching and baking. It was better but still not good enough.

Help! Suggestions and ideas appreciated, including an entirely different dough recipe. Inever got even close to what I wanted until I began including semolina flour but perhaps I need less of it or maybe more yeast?

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I third this plea.

I suspect that part of the problem is that we don't have pizza ovens. I base this on the qualitative difference between pizza that has been baked in a real pizza oven and pizza that has been baked on one of those conveyor belts. The latter work at higher, more stable temperatures.

Dave Scantland
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dscantland@eGstaff.org
eG Ethics signatory

Eat more chicken skin.

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Here's how I make my dough.

Fill a measuring cup w/ with a little less than 1 cup of luke warm water.(about 1 Tbls. less) add a package of active dry yeast, a tsp. of salt and a Tbls. of olive oil. Mix with a wisk for a minute to acivate yeast, and mix in oil.

Pour 2 cups of all purpose flour on the counter and make a gravy pool as you would for making pasta. Pour the water/yeast mixture into the center and stir w/ a fork slowly bringing the dry into the wet. Be careful not to break the walls till the end or else you'll have a mess.

When combined I usually knead it for about 3 minutes. Let it double in size and its all set.

Some people say to knock it down and let it rise a second time. I've tried it both ways and haven't noticed a difference.

Another tip is to get a good crisp brown bottom you must preheat your stone. Some stones don't recommend doing this due to there structural integrity. I have a very thin clay, handmade stone which is glazed on one side. I heat it up to as high as my oven will go and slide the pizza on. It takes about 8 minutes for a medium thick pizza to cook.

Putting you pizza on a cool stone and then throwing it in the oven, caused too much moisture to be trapped between the stone and the dough. You have to get the pores of the stone open prior to get good results.

Masonary bricks work as a fine substitute for a stone as long as you slowly bake out the trapped moisture out on a low temp grill first. Or else they will burst as a result of the steam trying to escape too rapidly.

Good luck,

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I know that Fine Cooking's web site had a great article about this topic. I followed their advice and the pizza came out very thin and crispy (my goal) and very tasty. The article is worth a read at least. www.finecooking.com

Good luck. It's a worthy pursuit!

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Here is my tried and true advice with some help from Alton Brown. You are not doing anything wrong really, just some tweeking is needed. Check out my homemade pizza (I use the same dough for calzones as well):

mypizza.jpg

The trick to get a wonderfull thin crispy/chewy crust is to do 2 things:

1- after incorporating the water and yeast, knead the dough for about 30 minutes if you are doing it by hand (that's what I do) or about 15 minutes if you have an electric mixer with a dough hook. This will get the gluten worked up and the dough will become very flexible and "stertchable".

2- instead of letting ity rise in a warm place, place it in the fridge for about 5 hours or even better over night. Trust me this makes all the diffrence (I used to do the warm place rise for a while but never did it again after trying this one). the dough will not rise as much of course but the taste and the texture are divine.

So with out further a due (sp?), here is the basic recipe that I use (only now I do it from memory). Please let us know how it turns out for you:

Alton Brown's Pizza

Good Luck

FM

E. Nassar
Houston, TX

My Blog
contact: enassar(AT)gmail(DOT)com

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Another tip is to get a good crisp brown bottom you must preheat your stone.  Some stones don't recommend doing this due to there structural integrity.  I have a very thin clay, handmade stone which is glazed on one side.  I heat it up to as high as my oven will go and slide the pizza on.  It takes about 8 minutes for a medium thick pizza to cook. 

Putting you pizza on a cool stone and then throwing it in the oven, caused too much moisture to be trapped between the stone and the dough.  You have to get the pores of the stone open prior to get good results. 

Masonary bricks work as a fine substitute for a stone as long as you slowly bake out the trapped moisture out on a low temp grill first.  Or else they will burst as a result of the steam trying to escape too rapidly.

Good luck,

Extremely important advice! Thanks for sharing.

I'll usually run my oven to 550 degrees for at least 20 minutes to get the stone good and hot (and vanquish any moisture which may have collected).

When the crust goes on the corn meal dusted stone, it typically blisters immediately

I typically do the same warm up routine for bread, then drop the temperature to 400 or as required. With bread, I'll throw a few ice cubes onto the old cast iron pan on the lower shelf to create some steam to set the crumb.

Prob not a purist technique, but it works for me

Apparently it's easier still to dictate the conversation and in effect, kill the conversation.

rancho gordo

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Even though commercial pizza bakers use high protein flour, which, when developed vigorously either by hand or in a machine, will produce a very tight web of gluten, their dough is still stretchy. Bakers call this extensibility, and it is achieved through a combination of rest and turning.

During the period that your dough is fermenting, whether in the refirgerator or not, try taking it out three times at evenly spaced intervals and gently degassing and turning it over on itself. If you do the last of these turns at room temperature, you will find that you have a very stretchy dough. If you've used a high protein flour, you should be able to stretch the turned and well-rested dough in the pizza shop manner, tossing and all.

A fast bake at the highest temperature your oven will allow will help this dough to come out chewy and flexible. The stone should be as thick as possible, and should be preheated for at least 45 minutes. An hour is better.

Bear in mind that most commercial pizza ovens are at about 750 degrees, and many use coal or wood, so a close approximation is the best you can hope for. It can get pretty close, though.

Who said "There are no three star restaurants, only three star meals"?

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One of the things I like about putting the dough in the fridge is that you can usually use less yeast (notice the Alton Brown recipe has 1 t., not one pkg. which I think is over 2 t.)

I'm not sure why dough is better with less yeast, but it is. And, doesn't the fridge thing give gluten more time to develop? This may be a question for a premiere bread baker (and I know there are several here).

Susan Fahning aka "snowangel"
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I'm not sure why dough is better with less yeast, but it is.

It's better because the yeast "eats" the complex carbohydtrates in the flour. That's the fermentation process. The slower this happens, the more time the dough has to develop its flavor before it runs out of rising power, and the yeast need to be fed again. If you want the actual science, there are plenty of sites that can inform you, including some on cereal chemistry, but for the average home baker, that's the idea. Sourdough bakers use no commercial yeast at all. The taste of bread - and pizza dough - made this way is like nothing else.

Who said "There are no three star restaurants, only three star meals"?

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a kind of summing up:

getting a stretchable dough seems to be a recurring problem. i think the solution is to remember that it should be quite "wet", even though this is not the way our mothers told us to make a dough. a good dough is rather sticky, really, and can only be worked if sprinkled with flour.

the right structure and good taste will be achieved with little yeast/slow resting, high proteine flour and high baking temperature. bricks or a pizza stone helps a lot, too. a biga is good and easy, sourdough even better and not so easy...

christianh@geol.ku.dk. just in case.

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  • 1 year later...

I felt it appropriate to resurrect this thread and offer a long overdue follow-up. Several months ago I replaced my pizza stone with a thicker one (3/4" rather than 1/2") and just this week finally got around to testing it.

Sam Kinsey (aka slkinsey) had some good suggestions in the

Pizza Peel Thread

He describes using a lesser amount if yeast and a long fermentation in the fridge with a "take it out, punch it down and turn it over when you think of it" technique. This technique calls for no more than 3 - 5 minutes of kneading but, according to Sam, the lengthy fermentation and mechanical action of the process provides the cross linking that the gluten needs.

I'm here to say that it really works! I'll tweak my recipe a bit as I go along - I see suggestions ranging from all bread machine flour to some of that with some regular flour thrown in and also the notion that adding 20% pastry flour is the best idea. I'm sure they all work but here's what I did:

About 2 1/4 cups bread machine flour, 2 1/4 cups extra fine durum flour and a bit less than a half cup of gluten (I will cut back on gluten next time). Threw the yeast into 110 degree water but used only 1/3 of a standard package. Whisked it into the water after it bubbled for a minute and added a few spoons of EVOO, some fine sea salt and a teaspoon of honey. Worked it into a pile of the flour and added a bit of water and oil. Kneaded for about 10 minutes. Let it sit at room temp and punched down several times - repeated the process in the evening.

The following day I baked my first pies but the dough had only been out of the fridge for 90 minutes or so - I think it was too cold - did not stretch the way I had hoped but it was not fragile - good news. It was good that day but the dough was too puffy and thick.

This morning I left it out at cool room temp (58 degrees or so - I leave my house cold in the daytime) and preheated the stone at 550 degrees for about one hour. It had risen again during the day - I punched it down again and it stretched nicely this time. Could have been just a tad more pliable but I think it's because I added too much gluten. I could get it so thin in places that it was translucent but it never tore and never got too sticky - nice! Soooo.... with some dried crushed Herbes de Provence, a bit of Fontina and whole milk Mozzarella, some spicy marinara with fresh tomato chunks and a generous sprinkling of Italian hot turkey sausage.... in it went.

Six minutes in the oven and then another sixty seconds under a high broil (my gas oven has a top broiler inside the oven). I'll cook it for about another 30 seconds next time but this was damn close to perfect. Now I can't wait to get the 800 degree gas grill fired up and outfitted with 2" thick firebrick! :biggrin:

i5362.jpg

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Owen, I hope you won't save that stone just for pizza (as it appears you did with your first one)! For goodness' sake, bake bread!

"I don't mean to brag, I don't mean to boast;

but we like hot butter on our breakfast toast!"

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I'm here to say that it really works!  I'll tweak my recipe a bit as I go along - I see suggestions ranging from all bread machine flour to some of that with some regular flour thrown in and also the notion that adding 20% pastry flour is the best idea. I'm sure they all work but here's what I did:

About 2 1/4 cups bread machine flour, 2 1/4 cups extra fine durum flour and a bit less than a half cup of gluten (I will cut back on gluten next time).

I'm a big fan of experimentation. I also tend to lean towards increasingly complex ingredients and procedures. In this case, though, if a John's (Bleeker) crust is what you are striving for, it doesn't have to be that complicated. Good quality high protein bread flour is all you need (13%). Adding gluten to durum flour will approximate bread flour, but, because of the extra processing to extract the gluten, the taste will be impaired.

The following day I baked my first pies but the dough had only been out of the fridge for 90 minutes or so - I think it was too cold - did not stretch the way I had hoped but it was not fragile - good news.

Sear that feeling of unmanageability into your memory. When you start working with bread flour, that memory will return and the hallejuh chorus will erupt. At least that's what happened to me when I started using the right flour.

It's good to see your pizza journey continues unabated :) I'm still on sabbatical for a few more weeks.

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I recently made pizza at home using the recipe from The Bread Baker's Apprentice: Mastering the Art of Extraordinary Bread (The Bread Baker's Apprentice). I have made many homemade pizzas at home, but this was the first crust that I've made that had that crispy-chewy quality I have been always been aiming for. I don't have the recipe here (I'm at at work) but it is the kind that has an overnight rest after the initial kneading. The other difference this recipe had from most others was a higher amount of olive oil. I followed the recipe almost as written. It calls for unbleached all-purpose flour and I think what I had in the canister was bleached, and it still worked well. I think the extra olive oil and the long rest were the key factors in the good result. I loved that it used regular flour.

The impetus for this pizza session was watching the World Pizza Challenge on the Food Network with my 12-year-old daughter. She wanted to throw the dough like we saw on the pizza dough throwing contest (very athletic!). In the show they said that the dough for throwing had to rest overnight, so that's what I searched for in my cookbooks. The Bread Baker's apprentice was the only one that talked about throwing dough, even with a photograph. For the record, I let her play with a portion of the dough, but I made the actual pizzas we ate myself. That's what she wanted to do anyway. I didn't throw the dough, I wanted to eat!

My oven goes to (only) 550 F and it took a looong time to heat the HearthKit stone insert--but worth it.

I got this book as a freeby when I bought the HearthKit oven insert from The Baker's Catalog. I have used stones in the past with good result. I splurged on this insert specifically for pizza and pies.

Edited to add this: I forgot to say that this crust was very thin.

Edited by achevres (log)
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I make this dough in my bread machine at least twice a week- it's easy, tasty and you can make a thick or a thin crust with it. This is for a 1 1/2 lb. machine.

3 tsp. dry yeast

2 tbsp. sugar

3 cups all- purpose flour

1 tsp. salt

2tsp. olive oil

1 cup warm water

Add the above to the machine and process using the dough, or pizza dough setting on your machine. When it's done, roll it in some flour and let it sit on the counter for about 20 minutes. I find this dough very easy to work with and the crust browns nicely.

I put my pizza stone in the oven set at 500 for at least an hour before I bake anything. The dough recipe above takes about 1 1/2 hours from start to finish so I have time to make the sauce too which I always do unless I have some already made and frozen.

Melissa

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Back in the day, i spent a little time in the test kitchens of those nice folks at Little Caesars.

We were trying to re-create that NYC style with the ovens we had in the stores, and we never got it right, which is why you've never seen it.

Anyway, what I learned is hotter is better, we'd crank them all the way up to 800, and let the it go for a couple hours before we'd use the oven.

More time for the dough to rest. When I left (quit and fired are such ugly words), we were holding dough for at least 2 days.

the only way we could come close to what we were looking for was to heat a stone in one of the deck ovens (yep, they have deck, conveyers, wood, the whole schmeer) for an hour, put the pizza on the stone, and run it through the conveyer.

Worked great, but not for cooking the volume of pizza we needed.

What was my point? Oh, yeah. Heat. lots of it.

time for the dough.

and remember to have the courage to do something new and different to see if it's better than it was before.

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I recently made pizza at home using the recipe from The Bread Baker's Apprentice: Mastering the Art of Extraordinary Bread.

I have the utmost respect for Peter Reinhart when it comes to bread. When it comes to pizzas or bagels, though, he is not in a New York state of mind. There may be a handful of exceptions, but typical NY Vulcan Pizza is:

1. A relatively lean if not completely lean dough.

2. Made from high protein bread flour.

I'll bet my life on it.

The overnight thing is excellent for developing a more flavorful dough but a two hour dough made with the right flour is just as manageable/stretchable/throwable as a 24 hour dough.

He describes using a lesser amount if yeast and a long fermentation in the fridge with a "take it out, punch it down and turn it over when you think of it" technique.

Unless Shirley Corriher is talking out of her ass, yeast loses a portion of it's leavening punch during long (overnight) refrigeration, so more yeast is need for overnight doughs, not less. She actually recommends kneading in fresh yeast the following day.

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I used way less yeast than the posted recipe indicates - about one half of what comes in a standard package fo Fleischmann's yeast. I also worked a fair amount of olive oil into the dough over and above the two teaspoons or so that went in with the original water. The flavor of the dough is one of the things I don't seem to find with the shorter rising times. I left mine out at room temp for the day on a weekend and punched down repeatedly. It was then refrigerated overnight. I did find myself getting better results when it was subsequently allowed to warm up for several hours before stretching rather than working with it in a relatively cold state.

What's the deal with durum semolina flour? I'm using it in my mix because the pizzeria I loved years ago in my old neighborhood used durum semolina flour in their dough (not sure whether they mixed it with anything else) and it was my favorite crust of all time.

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What's the deal with durum semolina flour? I'm using it in my mix because the pizzeria I loved years ago in my old neighborhood used durum semolina flour in their dough (not sure whether they mixed it with anything else) and it was my favorite crust of all time.

There is a little confusion about this. Durum is a strain of wheat. Semolina is a grind of wheat. However, the twu names have become interchangeable to a certain extent.

Semolina, strictly speaking, is a coarse, gritty milling of wheat (usually durum). It is not, in my opinion, particularly useful for pizza dough other than as lubrication on the peel.

Durum wheat is an especially high protein strain of hard wheat, mostly grown in the US and Canada. Not only does it have a higher gluten content than other strains of wheat, but the gluten is especially strong. Interestingly, the chemical properties of the gluten seem to be somewhat different as well. I say this because I am a long time sourdough baker, and I have noticed that durum wheat doughs are not as fragile as those made with regular wheat at a similar protein level. Sourdough bread can be tricky because certain fractions of gluten are dissolved by acid. These same fractions are responsible for most of the good leavening properties in the dough. Durum sourdoughs don't seem to experience the effects that would indicate that the gluten fractions responsible for good leavening were being broken up by acid.

--

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slkinsey--thanks for the durum/semolina explanation. I learned this the hard way when, late one night of bread baking, realized recipe called for durum flour, didn't have any, found the semolina, decided "hey, they're the same thing, right?" and promptly ruined a lovely recipe.

I keep trying to find the "perfect pizza dough" recipe and have consequently tried many in my search. Current favorite is Mario Batali's (on foodtv.com as "pizza margharita") which uses only unbleached all purpose. Here's one from last week's bake:

i5309.jpg

(prosciutto, basil, garlic, kalmata olives, lotsa red pepper, mozzarella/provolone mix)

I use a Hearthkit, crank the oven up as high as it will go, heat it for at least an hour. This 10" (6 oz. of dough) pizza cooked in about 7 minutes.

The all purpose dough seems to make a slightly softer pie, which I like, but it still bakes up with a crispy bottom crust. With enough rising and gently stretch-and-folding, it makes a dough that you can fling if you want to and bakes up crisp/crunchy.

But I'm always looking for a better recipe...

By the way, a number of the recipes above throw the salt in with the yeast mixture. It was my impression salt will kill the yeast, and should be added later or to the dry ingredients. Anyone have an opinion?

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By the way, a number of the recipes above throw the salt in with the yeast mixture. It was my impression salt will kill the yeast, and should be added later or to the dry ingredients. Anyone have an opinion?

I was taught to keep the salt away from the yeast. Especially fresh yeast.

This whole thread is making my head throb. It's a Zen thing..make the pizza. Eat the pizza.

I'll admit to being a huge pizza snob.

I also have a 5 ton brick oven in my backyard that bakes a pizza in under three minutes.

I'm a big Reinhart fan, use his foccacia formula from Crust and Crumb for pizza, and in this case, maybe Shirley is talking out of her butt. Knead more yeast into a retarded dough? No way. If you have to do that, there's something wrong with the formula.

Edited by McDuff (log)
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