Recently, with temperatures hovering in the 90s in the Dallas area, I decided to attempt my first “summertime” version of the Lehmann NY style pizza. By “summertime version”, I mean a Lehmann NY style pizza that is baked entirely on a pizza screen rather than on a stone that requires a long preheat. As regular followers of this thread know, the Lehmann NY style pizza is intended to be baked on a hearth-like refractory (stone) surface, which is fairly standard for a NY style. However, when outside temperatures are in the 90s, I am not particularly anxious to preheat my oven and pizza stone for an hour at around 500-550 degrees F, and keep my kitchen hot for another hour or so as the stone cools down after the pizza has been baked. With a pizza screen, I only need to preheat the oven to the desired temperature (in my case, around 500-550 degrees F) and then bake the pizza. That preheat time comes to around 10 minutes with my standard kitchen oven. And once the pizza is baked, the oven cools down quickly (at roughly the same rate as it was heated).
With the above objective in mind, I took the following steps. First, as indicated above, I used only a pizza screen and a normal oven preheat. Second, I used a bit of sugar in the dough. Except where a dough is to last beyond 48 hours, sugar is not normally included in the basic Lehmann NY style dough formulation. The reason for this exclusion is because a dough with sugar baked directly on a very hot stone surface can prematurely brown or char on the bottom before the rest of the pizza has finished baking. However, even Tom L. acknowledges that this is not a problem when screens are used, particularly in a home setting, and, in addition, the presence of the sugar will facilitate and enhance browning of the finished crust, which is a desirable contribution. So, I decided to use 1% sugar. Third, I decided to pre-bake the crust before dressing it and finishing the baking. I took this step in the hopes of achieving a more crispy crust--which is difficult to do when a screen is used--by effectively extending the total bake time, allowing the crust to bake longer without fear that it will be done before the cheeses and toppings are finished baking. As part of the pre-bake step, I also docked the undressed pizza skin with a docking tool to minimize the formation of bubbles in the crust during baking. For those not familiar with what such a tool looks like, see the first photo below. I might add that it is not necessary to use a docking tool per se. The same effect can be achieved using a simple kitchen fork.
The final dough formulation I used, for a 16-inch pizza, was as follows:
100%, High-gluten flour (KASL), 12.65 oz. (358.39 g.), 3 c. plus 2 t. (spoon, scoop and level technique)
63%, Water*, 7.96 oz. (225.79 g.), a bit less than 1 c.
1%, Sugar, 0.13 oz. (3.58 g.), a bit less than 1 t.
1%, Oil, 0.13 oz. (3.58 g.), a bit more than 3/4 t.
1.75%, Salt, 0.22 oz. (6.27 g.), 1 1/8 t.
0.25%, Instant dry yeast (IDY), 0.03 oz. (0.90 g.), a bit less than 1/3 t.
* Temperature adjusted to achieve a finished dough temperature of 75-80 degrees F
Total dough weight = 21.11 oz. (598.51 g)
Thickness factor (TF) = 0.105
Note: all measurements are standard U.S./metric
The processing of the dough was accomplished using a standard KitchenAid stand mixer and the following basic sequence: Salt and sugar dissolved in the water in the bowl of the mixer; IDY mixed in with the flour and gradually added to the salt/sugar brine and mixed/kneaded at Stir speed until a rough dough ball is formed; oil added and kneaded in (about 2 minutes at Stir speed); dough kneaded for about an additional 6 minutes at 2 speed; a final minute of hand kneading; coat the dough ball with a bit of oil and place in a container (covered) and directly into the refrigerator. (Note: for beginning pizza makers, the procedures I followed are essentially those described at this thread: http://www.pizzamaking.com/forum/index.php/topic,2223.0.html
The dough remained in the refrigerator for about 24 hours. It was then removed, placed on a lightly floured work surface, covered with a bit of bench flour and a sheet of plastic wrap, and allowed to warm up at room temperature for about 2 hours. The dough was then stretched and shaped into a 16-inch round, docked with the docking tool, and placed onto the 16-inch pizza screen. Note that the docking is done before placing the skin onto the screen. Otherwise, the skin might stick to the screen by being forced into the crevices and/or scratch the screen itself. After 24 hours, the dough handled very easily, with a nice balance between extensibility and elasticity. The undressed/docked skin was placed in the oven, which had been preheated to around 500-550 degrees F for about 10-15 minutes. The higher temperature was selected on the theory that some of the oven heat would be lost once I opened the oven door to place the undressed skin into the oven. The skin was baked until it became firm and the rim of the dough expanded to the normal size, a period of almost two minutes. For purposes of the pre-bake, I used the lowest oven rack position.
I then removed the pre-baked skin, dressed it (with sauce, cheeses and pepperoni), and placed it back in the oven--without the screen this time--to finish baking. That took about 5-6 minutes, also on the lowest oven rack position. By the end of that time, the bottom of the crust had browned but the cheeses and the top crust needed additional bake time. So, I removed the pizza to the top oven rack position and exposed the pizza to about a minute or two of direct heat from the broiler element. That step also helped further brown the top crust at the rim.
The photos below show the finished results. I would describe the effort as a success, especially for an initial effort, although I believe that improvement is possible by modifying the basic dough formulation a bit and making a few changes to the baking methodology, as discussed below. The pizza itself was very tasty, with a nice open and airy crumb, and with the usual softness and chewiness characteristic of the NY style. I would have liked a bit more crispiness of the crust although there was some at the rim. Overall, however, I would say that the results were very good, and the total oven time, from start to finish, was less than a half hour. As an interesting side note, I might mention that I couldn’t tell from the finished pizza that the crust was pre-baked. The finished pizza looked and tasted like any other prepared in the standard way.
For my next “summertime” Lehmann NY style pizza, I plan to do the following: 1) reduce or eliminate the sugar, 2) use a lower thickness factor (e.g., 0.10), and 3) use the middle oven rack position and/or use a lower oven temperature (to allow a longer and slower overall bake and improve the chances of getting a crispier crust). I might even extend the fermentation time to 48 hours or more. The other steps would essentially remain the same.