I recently decided to see if I could make a crispy and cracker-style pizza without using any machine to make the dough (that is, I would hand knead the dough), and without using a proofing box, a cutter pan (or other pan, screen or disk), or even a pizza stone, and without needing a dough docker. Although using a scale would be useful, and recommended, even that would not be necessary. I was hoping also to avoid having to use a peel to deposit and remove the pizza (and pre-baked skin) from the oven but concluded that doing so would create more problems than it would solve and increase the risk of a mishap. Of course, using a rolling pin was a necessity. It is not possible in a home setting to roll out a dough with a hydration of around 36% without it (although some members who have a pasta maker at their disposal may have a measure of success using that machine).
As will be noted below, other than the peel, the pizza equipment and gear necessary to make the pizza are ordinary everyday items found in just about every kitchen, and almost certainly in the homes of most of our members.
To conduct the latest test, I decided to make a 14” pizza. Using the previously described variation of DKM’s basic cracker-style dough recipe, I came up with the following dough formulation as produced by the expanded dough calculating tool at http://www.pizzamaking.com/expanded_calculator.html
Vegetable (Soybean) Oil (3.5%):
|244.47 g | 8.62 oz | 0.54 lbs (2 cups)|
88.01 g | 3.1 oz | 0.19 lbs (a bit more than 3/8 cup, viewed at eye level)
2.44 g | 0.09 oz | 0.01 lbs | 0.81 tsp | 0.27 tbsp
4.28 g | 0.15 oz | 0.01 lbs | 0.77 tsp | 0.26 tbsp
8.56 g | 0.3 oz | 0.02 lbs | 1.88 tsp | 0.63 tbsp
2.93 g | 0.1 oz | 0.01 lbs | 0.74 tsp | 0.25 tbsp
350.69 g | 12.37 oz | 0.77 lbs | TF = 0.07
(Note: No bowl residue compensation used)
In using the dough calculating tool, I entered a thickness factor of 0.07 and a pizza size of 15”, or one inch greater than the final desired pizza size of 14”. The difference would be scrap. It will also be noted (in italics) that I converted the flour and water used in the dough formulation to volume measurements for those who do not have a scale or do not wish to use one. To convert the weight of flour to a volume measurement, I used member November’s Mass-Volume Conversion Calculator at http://foodsim.unclesalmon.com/
. In so doing, I selected the flour I planned to use, Harvest King flour, in the pull-down menu. The conversion was about 2 cups. To measure out the flour, I stirred the Harvest King flour in the bag to loosen it, and lifted the flour from the bag into my one-cup metal measuring cup using an ordinary kitchen tablespoon. The measuring cup was filled to slightly overflowing and then leveled off using the flat back edge of an ordinary kitchen butter knife. I did this two times with the one-cup measuring cup. When I reweighed the flour after measuring it out, I found that I was very close to the weight produced using November’s calculator.
I would normally use November’s calculator to do a weight-to-volume conversion for the formula water, but I have discovered that my one-cup glass Pyrex measuring cup does not produce the same results as given by the calculator. So, I used a conversion factor of 8.1 fluid ounces of water per cup (instead of 8.345 oz.).
To prepare the dough, I followed the steps previously described in Reply 61 at http://www.pizzamaking.com/forum/index.php/topic,5762.msg49722.html#msg49722
. To spare readers from having to jump back and forth between that post and this one, I will describe here the steps I used to make the latest dough.
To prepare the dough, I started by adding the IDY to the flour (Harvest King, unsifted), which I then stirred to uniformly incorporate the IDY. The formula water, which was plain tap water at room temperature (about 72 degrees F), was then placed into a large mixing bowl, and the salt and sugar were added to the water and stirred until dissolved, about 30 seconds. The flour/IDY was then added at about two tablespoons at a time into the water in the bowl, and I used an ordinary kitchen fork to incorporate the ingredients. I continued this until approximately two-thirds of the flour had been added and a rough dough mass had formed around the fork. The reason I used the fork was to minimize gluten development, which could make the finished dough elastic and more difficult to roll out. After combining the ingredients in the bowl to this point, I covered the bowl with a towel and let the dough rest for about 15 minutes, to allow for better hydration of the flour.
At the end of the 15-minute rest period, I added the remaining flour to the bowl, along with the oil. I combined the ingredients in the bowl by gently kneading them right in the bowl using my hands. The contents of the bowl were then emptied onto a work surface. I realized at this point that the dough would not be wet enough to form into a cohesive dough ball because of the natural shortcomings of trying to make a dough ball by hand with a dough hydration of only 36%. This is one place where a machine does a better job. So, I took the dough ball as it had been formed to this point and tore it into small pieces, or scraps, about the size a nickel. I then spread the dough pieces and flour over the work surface into a fairly thin layer. The first photo below shows the results of that exercise. Using a simple, inexpensive spray bottle (as described in the post referenced above), I then sprayed the dough materials on the work surface with water from the spray bottle. I estimate that it took about 40-45 sprays to sufficiently cover everything. Since spray bottles come in many forms, the actual number of sprays is not particularly critical. What is important is that the dough scraps be wetted enough to be able to adhere to each other and form a dough ball that will not fall apart.
I formed the dough scraps into a dough ball by gathering and pressing the dough scraps and loose flour together until I had a dough ball that held together. This turned out to be a fairly easy task. I pressed the dough tightly between my cupped hands but I did not knead the dough ball because I did not want to overly develop the gluten structure. The second photo below shows the dough ball at this stage. I later estimated that adding the additional water by way of the spray bottle increased the hydration of the dough from its starting value of 36% to about 38.7%. So, the dough was still a low-hydration dough. Once the dough was prepared, I put it into a lidded Rubbermaid plastic storage container.
The next step was perhaps the most important. As I have previously reported, I use a proofing box to warm up a low-hydration dough to make it roll out much more easily and quickly using an ordinary rolling pin. I still believe that the proofing box is the best device to use for dough warming purposes because of its low cost and simplicity of design and use, and efficient temperature control. However, I realize that not all members are prepared to construct such a device. So, this time, I used a variation of the method described by Jackitup (Jon) in which I heated a standard stockpot filled about two-thirds with water to about 135 degrees F (as measured by a simple analog thermometer) and submerged the dough storage container into the stockpot. To keep the dough container submerged, I put a brick on top of it, and then covered the pot to keep the water from cooling down too quickly.
The dough container remained in the stockpot for one hour. At the end of the hour, the water temperature in the stockpot had dropped to around 105 degrees F. In retrospect, I might have added more hot water to the stock pot and allowed the dough container to remain in the stock pot for about another half hour or so in order to allow the dough to expand more. That is what I would suggest that others do. After one hour, the dough rose but only by about 25%. I concluded that the stockpot method was not as efficient as the proofing box. However, it is a simple and reasonable alternative. An even better alternative would be to use a prewarmed oven provided that there is a way of monitoring the temperature of the oven (as with a digital display) so as to prevent overheating the dough and possibly killing some of the yeast. Most other alternatives I could think of, including a ThermoKool unit, would entail a sizable expenditure.
Once the dough container was removed from the stockpot, I placed the dough ball on a lightly floured work surface. I then flattened the dough ball gently by hand and rolled it out with a rolling pin to 15”. This was done without much difficulty but not quite as easily as the previous hand kneaded dough that I made that was warmed up for about two hours in my proofing box. From the 15” skin, I cut a 14” skin using a 14” pizza screen as a template. The third photo below (without flash) shows the 15” skin. I calculated that the thickness factor for the skin was 0.06594 based on a dough weight of 10.15 ounces. That value was within the normal range I have been using. In the same manner as I have described many times before in this thread, I dusted the skin with a bit of flour, folded it into quarters, encased it in plastic wrap (as shown in the fourth photo below), and put it into the refrigerator. The dough remained in the refrigerator for about one day. For those who are in no hurry, I would recommend two or three days. It should also be possible to use a one-day room temperature fermentation and use the dough warming method at the end of that fermentation.
After I removed the dough skin from the refrigerator and let it warm up (uncovered) at room temperature for about an hour and a half, I rolled it out a bit more with the rolling pin to compensate for minor shrinkage while the dough skin was in the refrigerator. I then docked the skin with the kitchen fork, oiled the dough skin using an ordinary pastry brush, and then flipped the skin over onto a sheet of aluminum foil (I actually used two sheets joined together to form a single sheet large enough to use with the 15” skin). The idea to use the aluminum foil came from Jackitup. I then docked the other side (top) of the skin using the kitchen fork. The dough skin on the aluminum foil then went into the oven, which had been preheated for about 12 minutes to 475 degrees F. The dough skin (on the foil) went onto the lowest oven rack position and was allowed to pre-bake for about 6 minutes, or until the pre-baked skin started to turn light brown. There were a lot of small bubbles but not large ones. The fifth photo below (without flash) shows the pre-baked skin at this point.
After the pre-baked skin was removed from the oven, it was dressed using, in sequence, slices of low-moisture part skim mozzarella cheese (Best Choice brand), Wal-Mart crushed tomatoes with puree (straight out of the can and placed in dollops over the slices of cheese), dried Italian basil and Italian oregano (originally grown in my garden), raw pieces of sausage (one-half link of Texas wild boar sausage), a mixture of diced red and green peppers, onions and sliced fresh mushrooms, and pepperoni (Hormel) slices. The pizza, still on the aluminum foil, was then put back into the oven and baked for about 7 minutes at 475 degrees F on the lowest oven rack position, at which time I removed the aluminum foil and allowed the pizza to bake for about 5 more minutes so that the bottom of the crust would dry out more and form a crispy bottom. I then moved the pizza to the uppermost oven rack position for about a minute or two to finish baking the top of the pizza.
It was the above movements and manipulations of the pizza within the oven that I used a peel--in my case, a metal peel. It would have been significantly more difficult to conduct these maneuvers solely by hand (although I did try to do some of this) or by using a baking sheet or similar contrivance. If I had one, a take-and-bake tray such as available from Pactiv and others and intended to be used without a peel or stone in an ordinary home oven might have been a good alternative. If one is careful, using a pizza screen or disk as a transfer mechanism, along with a good set of oven gloves, might also work.
The remaining photos show the finished pizza. The pizza turned out very well and was crispy and crackery and with good crust flavor and color. I still believe that using a cutter pan or a pizza stone is a better choice but for those who have neither and still want to be able to make a decent crispy and crackery pizza, it can be done without using either of those items. I did notice, however, that when baking directly on the oven racks without a cutter pan or stone, it took several minutes longer for the pizza to bake to the point where the crust was crispy and cracker-like. That is actually consistent with the times used to bake most take-and-bake pizzas. So, that means that one will have to experiment with the rack positions and bake times to achieve the desired results. But these aspects are manageable with some practice and experimentation.
I welcome any suggestions for making the process even easier and simpler.
EDIT (3/4/13): Replaced Calculator link with the current link.