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Recreating Italy's "OO" Flour for Pizza Dough


rgruby
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Hi,

I know there has been much discussion on pizza dough, and some of it concerning Italian flour, here on egullet. I have read a good many of them, although not all. If there has been a thread on trying to match Italian flour, and particularly "OO" using N American brands, I have not been able to find it.

So, here goes.

It is my understanding that Italian (I'm referring to the thin-crust Naples-style) pizza is generally made in Italy with what is called OO flour. I believe that it is "softer" than N American AP flour - ie that it has a lower protein content. I also understand that it has a lower ash content. Do I have this correct? (I'm also in Canada, where the AP flour has a bit more protein content than the American).

So, I tried mixing in some cake flour with my AP to lower the protein level to try and approximate the Italian flour. (No idea how ash levels are affected, or how they compare to the Italian flour, or what this matters to making a Napoli-style dough at home). As I increased the per cent of cake flour, not surprisingly, I found the dough to tear more easily (less gluten) and be harder to stretch as thin as I wanted. But, when I did get it thin, my crusts came out shatteringly hard. This I was not expecting. (I'm using a plain old home electric oven - max temp 500 or so, although I haven't tried measuring the actual temp - and the thickest pizza stone I could buy). Relatively thicker crusts - say about a third an inch or so - came out nice and chewy, more "North American" in style, but not the Naples thin crust I was looking for.

I've been thinking that maybe I should try and go the other direction - add some bread flour - even though this takes me away from the lower protein of the Italian flour. Or, should I back off the temp a bit with the AP and cake flour mixture? This also seem counterintuitive to me - those wood burning pizza ovens are freaking hot!

Has anyone else nailed a combination of N American flours that replicates Italian OO for making Naples-style thin crust pizzas (particularly for the home cook)?

Thanks,

Geoff Ruby

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"00" refers more to the level of refinement of the flour then the protein content. "00" flour has a very fine texture, low ash content and a dry gluten content that is a minimum of 7%. The last bit is important as it is a minimum figure and while most people equate % protein of the flour with gluten content, the dry gluten content is slightly different thing. So while by definition "00" flour as a minimum protein content, but this doesn't mean that all "00" flour have the same protein content or that the protein conten is a direct correlation with the gluten content.

So you can see from This Italian Mill that there is a huge range in the types of "00" flour produced. The same site has specific pizza flour and it helpfully mentions the gluten and protein content of the flour, so you should be able to recreat something similar.

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"00" refers more to the level of refinement of the flour then the protein content...

So you can see from This Italian Mill that there is a huge range in the types of "00" flour produced. The same site has specific pizza flour and it helpfully mentions the gluten and protein content of the flour, so you should be able to recreat something similar.

On the Molino Alimonti website, the flour specifications include Chopin Alveograph measurements, as well as the more immediately recognisable Gluten and Protein numbers.

Alveograph readings (as well as farinographs) are among the flour characterisations explained in this PDF which will hopefully provide some enlightenment!

Flours have a multiplicity of different measurable 'qualities' - and official 'headline' designations provide a very incomplete guide!

"If you wish to make an apple pie from scratch ... you must first invent the universe." - Carl Sagan

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I've done a lot of experimentation and have settled on our "house blend" being 50% AP (King Arthur Artisan or Arrowhead Mills), 30% white unbleached pastry flour (local co-op has a product in bulk that's good and I haven't asked them who makes it) and 20% whole wheat pastry flour (usually Arrowhead Mills). I've had excellent luck with it - you need to be a little careful, it doesn't stand up as well as 100% KA Artisan, for example, but it's still stretchable and the results have been toothsome and really excellent. We like the addition of 20% finely milled wheat (low-protein) flour, as it seems to provide a more robust, well, wheaty flavor than pure white flour.

The temperature impact is one I can't really address - we have a wood-fired brick oven, so I'm usually baking off at 700F +, but have not noticed anything close to a "shattering" consistency as you've mentioned; quite the opposite - on the edges, the outer crust is crisp but quickly yields to a puffy and soft interior.

Hope this helps.

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The temperature impact is one I can't really address - we have a wood-fired brick oven, so I'm usually baking off at 700F +, but have not noticed anything close to a "shattering" consistency as you've mentioned; quite the opposite - on the edges, the outer crust is crisp but quickly yields to a puffy and soft interior.

This is a problem with baking pizza in regular home ovens. Unless you have a very thick pizza stone on the floor of a gas oven that you preheat for a long time on the highest heat setting, the pizza cooks too slowly and by the time the pizza is cooked all the moisture has cooked out of the thin dough, any initial oven spring has collapsed and you are left with a hard, cracker-like crust. This is especially problematic if the pizza is burdened with too much topping. In my experience, this is about as much topping as a home pizza can sustain and still have a good crust:

gallery_8505_1169_18550.jpg

Shitakii mushrooms, guanciale, tomato, fresh mozzarella

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The temperature impact is one I can't really address - we have a wood-fired brick oven, so I'm usually baking off at 700F +, but have not noticed anything close to a "shattering" consistency as you've mentioned; quite the opposite - on the edges, the outer crust is crisp but quickly yields to a puffy and soft interior.

This is a problem with baking pizza in regular home ovens. Unless you have a very thick pizza stone on the floor of a gas oven that you preheat for a long time on the highest heat setting, the pizza cooks too slowly and by the time the pizza is cooked all the moisture has cooked out of the thin dough, any initial oven spring has collapsed and you are left with a hard, cracker-like crust. This is especially problematic if the pizza is burdened with too much topping.

I agree wholeheartedly on not over-burdening your pie.... since we got the oven up and running I've been on a downward trajectory in my ratio of toppings:crust and results have continually improved.

For that reason, and also because frankly I'm a little anal, I've not repeated the "make your own pie" party. Pizzas sticking to the peel because someone ripped a hole in the crust as they were spreading the quart of sauce they threw down, or pies coming out a glopping mess of a pound of cheese... no thanks.

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I just last week made pizza with 00 flour, aged overnight, and then cooked on a pizza stone in an electric oven set to the highest possible temp. I was underwhelmed with the results; they were the same borderline "cracker" consistency you mention, and hardly overdressed: one was just olive oil, prosciutto, and mushrooms.

The previous batch of pizza I'd made was with a little bread flour worked in and, while I make no claims to Neapolitan authenticity, it was perhaps one of my favorite pizza making attempts.

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Kevin, I think it's hard to get the temperature high enough with an electric oven. With gas, you have the advantage that you can put the stone on the oven floor so the gas jets fire directly up into the stone. After preheating a gas oven to 550F for an hour, the pizza stone should be significantly hotter than 550F. That said, even with the massive stones I use (I've been using a heavy piece of slate) there is some temperature and performance loss after the first few pizzas. All that opening of the oven door combined with the thermal energy conducted into each pizza means that the fourth pizza can never be as good as the first, unless you program 15 or 30 minutes between each pizza. There's a reason real retained heat pizza ovens are so massive. :smile:

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Yeah, I've learned to tone down my expectations and have a category for "Good enough for an electric oven". It was hard not to ramp things into overdrive after eating Lombardi's version in NY last fall, though.

Thankfully I read Steingarten's chapter on his quest for perfect pizza right when I was considering the possibilities of throwing the stone on my grill . . .

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The temperature impact is one I can't really address - we have a wood-fired brick oven, so I'm usually baking off at 700F +, but have not noticed anything close to a "shattering" consistency as you've mentioned; quite the opposite - on the edges, the outer crust is crisp but quickly yields to a puffy and soft interior.

This is a problem with baking pizza in regular home ovens. Unless you have a very thick pizza stone on the floor of a gas oven that you preheat for a long time on the highest heat setting, the pizza cooks too slowly and by the time the pizza is cooked all the moisture has cooked out of the thin dough, any initial oven spring has collapsed and you are left with a hard, cracker-like crust. This is especially problematic if the pizza is burdened with too much topping.

First, thanks to everyone for the great info. Perhaps concentrating on protein content is not the way to go here. At the very least, there are a few more variables in play.

And the description "hard, cracker-like crust" pretty much nails my experience when adding more than a touch (say more than 10%-ish) of pastry flour. Perhaps my description of "shatteringly hard" was a tad overblown. Nevertheless, pretty damn crispy right through, and not what I was aiming for. I do find that settling for a slightly thicker crust turns out quite nicely with an AP/ pastry flour mixture. Again, just not the thin-crust style I would like.

And yeah, I overburden my pies. Pretty much every time. I'm working on it.

Thanks again,

Geoff Ruby

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http://www.ovencrafters.net/

Life is a lot more fun with several tons of masonry in the yard... I highly recommend it.

While I've been tempted, I have not one atom of a handyman in me. If I tried this, look for reports on the news either of my city being burned to the ground or some idiot going on a rampage after realizing they'd have to start a building project over from scratch for the third time.

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This month's Cook's Illustrated has an interesting article on making neapolitan style pizza at home. They use a 2:1 ratio of AP to cake flour, and further adapt the recipe quite a bit to make it work in a home oven. They claim the results are similar to those of a traditional dough in an 800 degree oven. I haven't tried it to judge, but I did find their explanations of some of the changes they made reasonable.

Do you suffer from Acute Culinary Syndrome? Maybe it's time to get help...

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This month's Cook's Illustrated has an interesting article on making neapolitan style pizza at home.  They use a 2:1 ratio of AP to cake flour, and further adapt the recipe quite a bit to make it work in a home oven.  They claim the results are similar to those of a traditional dough in an 800 degree oven.  I haven't tried it to judge, but I did find their explanations of some of the changes they made reasonable.

That's funny - I was going to mention that this would be a good topic for Cook's Illustrated (or Alton Brown) to look into. I'll have to have a look at the Cook's Illustrated.

Cheers,

Geoff Ruby

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Yesterday I did a quick tour around Little Italy in Toronto searching for 00 flour (and the Cook's Illustrated mentioned above) and couldn't find either. So a quick question: is Italian 00 flour readily available in your area?

So I made a couple of pizzas tonight with regular Canadian AP flour. But I made a couple of changes. First, I used a very wet dough. I hadn't intended to, but I added a bit too much water and I thought, well, why not try it and see what happens. Second, I cooked it on my gas barbeque (using my pizza stone). Coincidentally the Cook's Illustrated on the shelves that I saw yesterday had an article on grilling pizzas. I don't think it is the article referred to earlier regarding recreating Naples-style thin crust pizzas, however.

By far my best results yet. And I don't think my bbq is particularly hot, although I suspect a bit hotter than my electric oven. I guess I'll have to try a wet dough in the regular oven some time to see what effect that has, but for the summer at least I think I'll be using the bbq as my pizza oven.

Cheers,

Geoff Ruby

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Yesterday I did a quick tour around Little Italy in Toronto searching for 00 flour (and the Cook's Illustrated mentioned above) and couldn't find either. So a quick question: is Italian 00 flour readily available in your area?

So I made a couple of pizzas tonight with regular Canadian AP flour. But I made a couple of changes. First, I used a very wet dough. I hadn't intended to, but I added a bit too much water and I thought, well, why not try it and see what happens. Second, I cooked it on my gas barbeque (using my pizza stone). Coincidentally the Cook's Illustrated on the shelves that I saw yesterday had an article on grilling pizzas. I don't think it is the article referred to earlier regarding recreating Naples-style thin crust pizzas, however.

By far my best results yet. And I don't think my bbq is particularly hot, although I suspect a bit hotter than my electric oven. I guess I'll have to try a wet dough in the regular oven some time to see what effect that has, but for the summer at least I think I'll be using the bbq as my pizza oven.

Cheers,

Geoff Ruby

It is interesting that you wrote this. My latest attempt at pizza was very similar to yours. I was following Peter Reinhart's recipe for Neopolitan pizza. I inadvertenly created a very wet dough that was especially difficult to handle (very soft). We had planned on using the grill only because it is already hot here in Charlotte and I did not want to heat my oven to 550 degrees.

We used a pizza stone and turned the grill to high. The pizzas were the best I have ever made - the crust was soft and chewy. We went very light on the toppings - a brush of olive oil, some fresh mozzarella and then topped post-grill with fresh arugula dressed in oil and some chopped pancetta. Excellent. I tried one with a sauce, but it was way too soggy.

My pizzas looked silly because the dough was too soft to shape properly - but that's okay, right?

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Coincidentally the Cook's Illustrated on the shelves that I saw yesterday had an article on grilling pizzas. I don't think it is the article referred to earlier regarding recreating Naples-style thin crust pizzas, however.

I think that's the June issue. the Pizza Margherita is in the July/August issue. As a subscriber I seem to get them notably earlier than the news-stands...

Do you suffer from Acute Culinary Syndrome? Maybe it's time to get help...

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