Author Topic: Hoping to take my pizzas to the next level; unsure how to proceed.  (Read 1019 times)

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Offline NodsToNothing

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I've been making reading the forums and making pizzas for a few years now. My goal is to make something that makes people say "I would pay for this," but I feel like I'm stuck on "this is pretty good for a home cook." I've mostly worked with NY style dough recipes, but over time I'm hoping to transition to more "artisan" style (like these: http://imgur.com/a/SUH9A)

My most recent attempt used this dough recipe:
Flour (100%), KABF, 13.6 oz.
Water (63%), 8.6 oz.
Salt (1.75%), 0.24 oz.
ADY (0.38%), 0.05 oz. (about 3/8 t.)

I mixed about half the flour with all of the water and all of the yeast, mixed, and rested for a few minutes. Then I added half of the remaining flour, mixed, and rested for a few minutes. Next, I added the salt, mixed, and rested a few minutes. Finally, I added the remaining flour, then turned it out and kneaded for a few minutes. I let the dough bulk rise for ~2 hours, formed into equal 2 balls, and stuck them both in the fridge to cold ferment.

I made the first pizza tonight, after ~48 hours of fermentation in the fridge. I pre-heated the oven at 500 for 1.5 hours with my pizza stone on the bottom-most rack (oven dial was between 500 and broil, as close to broiler setting as it could get, so possibly a little more than 500) and let the dough come to room temp during that period. I used a simple canned San Marzano sauce (w/ oregano, salt, pepper), fresh mozzarella , applewood bacon, minced garlic and white onion, and topped it with fresh arugula post-bake.

Here's a photo album with my results:
http://imgur.com/a/VMfT8

Here are the problems I have:
-Crust has no color. My toppings cook before the crust seems done. I'm not sure if I should be adding oil and/or sugar to the crust, or if this is simply a limitation of my oven.
-Crust has OK flavor & texture, but could use a lot more. Wondering if an autolyse/biga/etc. would help?
-At this point I can only hand-knead. I'm hoping to get a kitchen-aid eventually, but for now I'm limited to my meat hooks. I know this isn't a death sentence, but I can't help but feel its a pretty big limiting factor.

I could go on making pizzas like I made tonight forever and be happy with my apartment smelling amazing and eating decent pizza, but I want to do more. I know that there's a ton more to learn, and I could read this forum forever, I'm just not sure what specifically I should pursue next. I'm a boat at sea in need of a sail, and any help would be greatly appreciated.
« Last Edit: October 02, 2012, 09:15:47 PM by NodsToNothing »


Online Chicago Bob

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Re: Hoping to take my pizzas to the next level; unsure how to proceed.
« Reply #1 on: October 02, 2012, 09:37:34 PM »
Kevin,
Welcome to the forum, very nice to have such an informed newb. You have obviously been doing your homework.  ;)
Essentially, I would say that your limited heat is what is holding you back. You are doing so many things so correctly....your current pies do look quite good. But you will need more heat to take you over the top.
Scott123 is the man who can help you....do a forum search and take a look at how he helps people.

Bob
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Offline jeffereynelson

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Re: Hoping to take my pizzas to the next level; unsure how to proceed.
« Reply #2 on: October 02, 2012, 09:45:33 PM »
Hey welcome to the forum and good first post, and good pizza. I would just try two simple changes to see how they work for you. Add about 1.5% sugar to your dough recipe for next time. The other thing has to do with the placement of your stone. Is your broiler element directly exposed to the oven? With that bit of information I could help you switch your oven setup.

Offline TXCraig1

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Re: Hoping to take my pizzas to the next level; unsure how to proceed.
« Reply #3 on: October 02, 2012, 09:50:20 PM »
Increasing your salt to 2.5-2.7% will probably help with the flavor. Adding some sugar and oil will help with browning. I'd start with 2% sugar and 1% oil and work up from there if needed.
Pizza is not bread.

Offline atom

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Re: Hoping to take my pizzas to the next level; unsure how to proceed.
« Reply #4 on: October 02, 2012, 10:01:44 PM »
Some of my observations, suggestions, and ultimately opinions:

1) You are over-kneading your dough. Hand mixing can be just fine if you do it right. I might suggest doing half the flour at first like you have been. Add yeast to the paste and let it proof for just 10-15 minutes. Add the salt in this paste so that it dissolves in the water. Dump in the rest of your flour and stir the best you can, then dump out onto the counter. Hand knead on the counter, but rather gluten development focus on getting the flour mixed in. KABF can get very tough, and your dough looks like it was tight by the picture. Don't worry about your dough being smooth.

2) Continue using your bulk ferment in the fridge. I believe this helps the flour absorb better in the fridge. After 24 hours in the fridge you can separate and ball. This will make the dough tight and it should go back in the fridge to continue your ferment so it will relax.

2)Work on your shaping. Your dough looks very thick for posting in the new york section. This contributes to your crust not cooking fast enough. If your dough is tight when you stretch it it will spring right back. You will get poor rise as well.

3)If your toppings still cook too fast, simply keep them in the fridge right until you put them on the pie then directly into the oven. This can gain you another full minute before they burn.

4) Color? Add a small amount of sugar, 1-2%. I recommend honey personally. A small amount of oil usually goes well with the sugar to tenderize the dough. If you still can't get color try moving your stone upwards in the oven. All your hot air is going up into the oven, not over the top of your pie.

63% hydration is great for KABF, IMO.

Offline Giggliato

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Re: Hoping to take my pizzas to the next level; unsure how to proceed.
« Reply #5 on: October 02, 2012, 10:12:29 PM »
I would suggest forgoing the fridge, in the beginning there was no refrigeration. (I of course use the freezer) But why not do what you do and let the dough balls sit on the counter in transparent containers so you can see how they behave. With your formula I would expect you could have a decent pie in about 5 hours.

As far as temperature goes, I get good results superheating my stone as close to my broiler as I can get it for about ten minutes after preheating, sliding the pizza in can be a bit tricky, easier if you slide the stone out a bit first.

Online Pete-zza

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Re: Hoping to take my pizzas to the next level; unsure how to proceed.
« Reply #6 on: October 03, 2012, 10:14:29 AM »
NodsToNothing,

I will confine my remarks and suggestions to the dough formulation and methods that you used. If in due course you find that you have exhausted what you can do with your dough formulation and would like to do better, then that would be a good time to explore other possibilities. You will also be better able to define exactly what you are looking for so that future solutions meet your particular needs as much as possible.

To begin with, your dough formulation is basically a Lehmann NY style dough formulation but without oil or sugar (which is always optional). But when you are using only flour, water, salt and yeast, there will naturally be limitations on what you can get in the way of finished crust flavors. Those flavors are more likely to accrue from the type of flour used and the use of long fermentation periods. Most NY style dough formulations include some oil, although some of the so-called "elite" NY style pizzas may forgo the use of oil (and also sugar). But oil does add some flavor, as well as improving the extensibility of the dough and maybe contributing a bit to final crust coloration. A typical range of oil for the NY style is about 1-3%. To the extent that you decide to add some oil, you will perhaps want to reduce the formula hydration by an equal percent since oil does have a "wetting" effect on the dough.

I agree with Craig that increasing the amount of salt is a very good way of getting more flavor into a finished crust, even though it is not a complex flavor such as you would get from fermentation byproducts. However, if you go above 2% salt, I think I would increase the amount of yeast a bit since salt regulates the fermentation process by its inhibiting effect on yeast and yeast performance.

With respect to the crust coloration, I'd like to suggest that you forgo the two hour room temperature fermentation in your next experiment. You did not indicate the room temperature at which the dough fermented for the initial two-hour period, but it might have been substantial. As such, it might have resultled in reduced residual sugar after the 48-hour cold fermentation and the ensuing rise at room temperature before using. It is mainly the residual sugar (and other related factors) at the time of baking that dictates the final crust coloration, especially in the absence of any added sugar in the dough. BTW, when tempering the dough prior to using, you really don't want to let the dough "come TO room temperature" (my emphasis). Rather, you want the dough to temper AT room temperature. You did not specify that room temperature but usually a temper time of about 1-2 hours is adequate. The actual time will depend on the room temperature (e.g., it will be shorter in summer than in winter).

Sugar can also be added to your dough to get increased crust coloration. Usually it is not needed when a small amount of yeast is used in conjunction with a cold fermentation that does not exceed about 48 hours. If you are absolutely wedded to keeping the two-hour initial room temperature fermentation and the 48-hour cold fermentation for any reason, I suggest that you add about 1-2% sugar to your dough.

No matter what you do or what dough formulation you use, you always have the option of moving the pizza from its position on the pizza stone to a higher oven rack position toward the end of the bake, as atom noted. You don't need to use the broiler element. Moving the pizza to a higher oven position will expose your pizza to more top heat and result in more top crust coloration. However, you may need to be careful as not to overcook the toppings. One solution is to use toppings that are cool before adding, as atom also noted. However, eventually you want to achieve the desired final crust coloration without having to resort to pre-cooling your cheese, sauce and toppings.

BTW, I do not think that you need to preheat your pizza stone for an hour and a half. In my standard electric home oven, I find that 45 minutes to an hour is sufficient.

Good luck with your next try. Please keep us informed as to your progress, or lack thereof.

Peter


scott123

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Re: Hoping to take my pizzas to the next level; unsure how to proceed.
« Reply #7 on: October 03, 2012, 10:46:41 AM »
Kevin, what is your current bake time?  For NY style, the most important ingredient is a fast bake, which comes from a proper oven setup.

Offline NodsToNothing

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Re: Hoping to take my pizzas to the next level; unsure how to proceed.
« Reply #8 on: October 03, 2012, 05:47:50 PM »
I will definitely try adding some combination of oil/additional salt/sugar as many have suggested. I've used recipes that included sugar and oil in the past, and had even less flavorful, but slightly more visually appealing crusts than last night (example: http://i.imgur.com/MX2CB). Then again, I've also started using longer fermentation periods and more resting while mixing my ingredients. It could be that further refining of those techniques AND adding a few more ingredients will make for a big improvement.

Kevin, what is your current bake time?  For NY style, the most important ingredient is a fast bake, which comes from a proper oven setup.

To be honest I haven't been keeping strict time, even though I've known in the back of my mind that I should. My rough estimate is between 8-10 minutes. Going forward I plan to keep records of recipes, bake times, and results.

Regarding questions about my broiler, I have a below-oven setup with a rack that is on the precarious side, so I've been hesitant to put a pizza down there mid-bake.

BTW, when tempering the dough prior to using, you really don't want to let the dough "come TO room temperature" (my emphasis). Rather, you want the dough to temper AT room temperature. You did not specify that room temperature but usually a temper time of about 1-2 hours is adequate. The actual time will depend on the room temperature (e.g., it will be shorter in summer than in winter).

With this specific dough, I moved it from the main fridge compartment to a lower produce drawer at about 7:30am in hopes that it would be closer to room temperature after work. I pulled it out at about 5:30 and left it on the counter until i put it in the oven around 7. Maybe this aspect was handled incorrectly. Unfortunately I don't currently have a way to measure room temperature or dough temperature.

Thanks for the replies everyone. This is the best online community I have seen.
« Last Edit: October 03, 2012, 05:49:24 PM by NodsToNothing »

scott123

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Re: Hoping to take my pizzas to the next level; unsure how to proceed.
« Reply #9 on: October 03, 2012, 08:35:34 PM »
Kevin, I can't, from the photos you've posted, tell you exactly how long the pizza you're aspiring to is baked for, but I can guarantee you that it's less than 8 minutes.  It is only when pizza is baked for less than 8 minutes that it takes on that craggly, rustic, puffy, artisan quality. Out of every possible recipe permutation, nothing will take you to a higher level than shaving off a considerable amount of that bake time.

Let me be completely blunt about this, though- it won't be easy.  At least, not if you're setup is what I think it is.  By 'below-oven setup' do you mean that you have a single burner gas oven with a separate broiler underneath? If that's the case, you can work around it, but it's one of the hardest configurations to get quick bake times out of.
« Last Edit: October 03, 2012, 08:42:13 PM by scott123 »


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Re: Hoping to take my pizzas to the next level; unsure how to proceed.
« Reply #10 on: October 03, 2012, 08:54:41 PM »
Kevin, I can't, from the photos you've posted, tell you exactly how long the pizza you're aspiring to is baked for, but I can guarantee you that it's less than 8 minutes.  It is only when pizza is baked for less than 8 minutes that it takes on that craggly, rustic, puffy, artisan quality. Out of every possible recipe permutation, nothing will take you to a higher level than shaving off a considerable amount of that bake time.

Let me be completely blunt about this, though- it won't be easy.  At least, not if you're setup is what I think it is.  By 'below-oven setup' do you mean that you have a single burner gas oven with a separate broiler underneath? If that's the case, you can work around it, but it's one of the hardest configurations to get quick bake times out of.
I'm all ears Scott...this is the type of oven I have.
With a stupid 'lil 3/8 thick 12in diameter stone laying right on the deck that thing can get scary hot. 650 in like 40 min. no problem and that is with dial at 500. Dial reads further..."550,then broil".
I have just recently been trying my hand at NY pizza. I taper the stone back to around 620 (seems to be sweet spot) for under 4 min bake. Obviously, top is not browned correctly.
Last time I preheated stone in oven an moved it to broiler drawer for entire bake....still too fast bake on bottom.
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Offline NodsToNothing

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Re: Hoping to take my pizzas to the next level; unsure how to proceed.
« Reply #11 on: October 03, 2012, 11:01:25 PM »
Kevin, I can't, from the photos you've posted, tell you exactly how long the pizza you're aspiring to is baked for, but I can guarantee you that it's less than 8 minutes.  It is only when pizza is baked for less than 8 minutes that it takes on that craggly, rustic, puffy, artisan quality. Out of every possible recipe permutation, nothing will take you to a higher level than shaving off a considerable amount of that bake time.

Let me be completely blunt about this, though- it won't be easy.  At least, not if you're setup is what I think it is.  By 'below-oven setup' do you mean that you have a single burner gas oven with a separate broiler underneath? If that's the case, you can work around it, but it's one of the hardest configurations to get quick bake times out of.

Yep, my broiler is underneath the oven with a separate door.

Offline pizzaneer

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Re: Hoping to take my pizzas to the next level; unsure how to proceed.
« Reply #12 on: October 03, 2012, 11:12:08 PM »
I hate to suggest it, but with this type of setup, you are really going to have to do some things differently than others do to get the results you want.

How about parbaking your crust (in the oven, on the stone) to the point you get spring, pulling it, topping it, then broiling it down below on a rack for a minute or two to get the top browning and cupped crispy pepperoni you like?

I know, it's not kosher, but this type of oven... what can you do?
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