Author Topic: Quality NY toppings & techniques  (Read 57797 times)

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Offline giotto

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Quality NY toppings & techniques
« on: August 17, 2004, 06:30:45 PM »
There's nothing like a topping that takes shape as a second thin layer to the crust, with a taste that says to you "you got it all right!"  I have spent as much time in search of quality toppings and techniques as any part of the pizza, because I thoroughly enjoy getting it all perfect.  

I'd like to hear first about experiences with cheeses, including those used for lactose intolerant reasons, since the texture and taste of cheese is essential to a great pizza experience.  They can start perfect or runny, remain excellent regardless of time out of the oven, or turn rubbery; some will stretch from two sides of the table, while others will melt at the bite or just refuse to melt.

Do you slice the cheese, dop it on, put it on first, last, and what textures and mixtures have worked and not worked (dry vs. fresh mozzarella, bufala vs. whole milk, mixing with cheddar, etc.)?

Here's a typical set of cheeses that have held up well to high heats, retained their texture even after cooling down, and provided great taste.  Some serve only as a complementary mixture.  

(http://home.comcast.net/~keck-foundation1/ctoppings1.JPG)

From left to right:

1) Grande whole milk mozzarella cheese, sliced or shredded as my base cheese (available at some Whole Foods).

2) Denmark's finest creamy Havarti cheese, used as a mixture (seen it around, got it while visiting Sonoma Cheese factory in CA wine country).

3) Edam, a dry cheese that I slice as a mixture (available at Trader Joe's).

4) fresh imported Pomella Rusticone buffala (buffalo) mozzarella (at some Whole Foods).

5) Aged goat and feta sheep over the peperoni (Whole Foods)

Grande is not real stringy; but holds well to heat and has a rich texture without being runny.  Bufalo mozzarella is light and has a great taste, and I do not run into problems with a runny nature.  

Regarding technique, the approach I take depends on whether I'm mixing or not.  When mixing, I always put the drier cheese down first, like EDAM, nearest the dough.  The rest depends on whether I feel like a Grandma's Long Island approach, where I follow slices of cheese with huge drops of sauce, or a more traditional approach.
 
On this recent pizza, I did a split.  The right hand side of this pizza was mixed with EDAM and Grande; and on the left side, I mixed Grande on the outside, followed by Di Bufala and Grande inside the center.  The blends were not overwhelming, just tasty.  It was a toss up on taste.
 
(http://home.comcast.net/~keck-foundation1/giustopizza1.jpg)
« Last Edit: August 26, 2004, 02:51:43 PM by giotto »


Offline Pete-zza

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Re:Quality cheese & NY topping techhniques
« Reply #1 on: August 17, 2004, 08:57:58 PM »
Giotto,

Ask and ye shall receive :).

Usually I try to get the best and freshest cheeses I can, whether it is mozzarella cheese (like buffalo mozzarella or a freshly-made or artisanal cow's mozzarella cheese), specialty cheeses (like Fontina, asiago, or Swiss), or hard aged cheeses (like Parmigiano-Reggiano, Romano and grana padano cheeses).  Since different pizzas call for different cheeses, I mix and match the cheeses as called for in recipes or as dictated by my imagination.  Sometimes I am left with primarily processed cheeses, particularly mozzarella cheeses.   Even then, I tend to work down the mozzarella food chain, trying to find the best form of the cheese and combine it with other cheeses to produce the desired end result.

As most experienced pizza makers know, processed mozzarella cheese come in many varieties, including full-fat whole milk (100%), part skim, and low-moisture/part-skim, each with its own qualities and attributes.  They are often combined together on pizzas (e.g., a 50/50 blend of whole milk mozzarella cheese and part-skim mozzarella cheese) or used with other types of cheeses, of which a mozzarella cheese/provolone cheese combination is one of the most popular (and one of my favorites) because the two cheeses have similar melting, flow and stretching characteristics (they are both stringy curd cheeses).  The provolone cheese (regular or smoked) also adds a distinctive flavor.  

While I haven't yet tried it or confirmed it, I understand that a popular cheese combination in the St. Louis area uses provolone cheese, white cheddar cheese and Swiss cheese. Other possibilities for combination with mozzarella cheese are Monterey Jack and orange or yellow cheddar cheeses. Where a buttery-rich flavor and good meltability is desired, I use whole milk mozzarella cheese. However, unlike its lower-fat cousins, it is subject to breaking down and releasing some of its fat during baking, producing an oily appearance which may not be visually pleasing (although New Yorkers love it, especially when the oil runs down their arm while eating :D).  The oiliness is one of the reasons why many professional pizza makers use whole milk mozzarella cheese in combination with part-skim mozzarella cheese or provolone cheese.  I avoid non-fat and imitation mozzarella cheeses altogether because they are the most inferior of all the mozzarella cheeses and there are much better choices from a quality and taste standpoint.

As between the various processed forms, I prefer mozzarella cheese that is freshly sliced from a large block or brick of cheese, usually at the deli counters of supermarkets and food specialty stores.  If I could get the Grande cheese in that form, that would be my first choice.  However, I have noticed that the "generic" mozzarella cheeses sold at the deli counter often have good parentage--some of the better known brands available.  If the deli mozzarella cheese is not available for any reason, then I use the packaged mozzarella balls, of which three well-known brands, the Polly-O (a Kraft Foods product), Stella (which also comes in a deli style and in a coarsely shredded form) and Calabro brands, appear to be among the better ones in that category that I have been able to find.  Pre-packaged mozzarella slices are also acceptable provided they are free of chemical additives.  As much as possible, or unless I have no other choice, I avoid the very finely shredded, finely diced, or minced forms of mozzarella cheese (which usually come in plastic bags) since the cheese tends to cook too quickly and brown prematurely when used on pizzas baked at high oven temperatures.  They are also highly processed with a multitude of additives to prevent caking, inhibit mold and prolong shelf life (usually measured in weeks).  

I tend to distribute meltable cheeses like mozzarella and provolone cheeses in small pieces or chunks, large dice or shreds, or as thin slices over a pizza rather than using a finely shredded, diced or minced form (although the roughly shredded versions are an improvement over the other shredded forms). In these forms, the pieces or slices of meltable cheese will melt in "puddles" and stay soft and chewy, rather than turning brown.  Alternatively, I withhold the meltable cheeses until a couple of minutes or so before the pizza is completely baked-- something I quite frequently do with Margherita pizzas and other pizzas with few toppings--or a pizza round can be baked without toppings until it sets, and then add the toppings, including the cheeses, and finish baking.  If I suspect a particular cheese I plan to use may be prone to premature browning, I will either use thicker slices or put it in the refrigerator to keep it cool and take it out of the refrigerator at the last minute just as I am ready to use it. Sometimes I will freeze the cheese for a few minutes to get it cold.

To the extent that other cheeses are available for use on pizzas, such as fresh ricotta cheese or goat cheese, I take advantage of that freshness.  I add such cheeses to pizzas by teaspoon or tablespoonful.  These cheeses tend not to have similar melting characteristics as the other cheeses described and, thus, will tend to stay in place on pizzas and not flow into the other toppings used. Since ricotta and goat cheeses are soft cheeses, they can also be combined with herbs or garlic (or bought as such) and lend additional flavor components to pizzas.  They should be used somewhat sparingly, however, so as not to overtake other flavors of the pizza (unless the pizza is built primarily around such cheeses).

As for the hard aged cheeses, like the "Big Three" Italian cheeses mentioned above, I prefer to grate them freshly and add them to the finished pizzas.  This is to maintain the sharpness and freshness of their taste.  Otherwise, they tend to "disappear" into the pizza.  I have also used one or more of the Big Three cheeses in sauces, and even in the dough itself (but in small quantity so as not to interfere with the various chemical and biological activities that take place within the dough).

All of the cheeses mentioned above are dairy products.  It is also possible to use a non-dairy, soy-based "mozzarella" on pizzas.  I have done this on several occasions with surprisingly good results considering that it is not dairy based.  Soy-based mozzarella is a firm, mild (but pleasant) tasting, vegetable form of mozzarella cheese made principally from soybeans.  It looks very much like regular mozzarella cheese, shreds and slices just like regular mozzarella cheese, and can be used on a pizza just like regular mozzarella cheese.  It will melt without any significant browning and it will be chewy and almost indistinguishable on a baked pizza from regular mozzarella cheese.  However, it will not be as flavorful as regular mozzarella cheese (although some will argue that it should have a neutral taste and serve a secondary role to the sauce and other toppings), and certainly not as tasty or flavorful as fresh mozzarella cheese.  But it is lactose- and cholesterol-free, so it offers clear advantages to persons who are lactose intolerant or are on low-fat or low-cholesterol diets.  Combined with a high-quality pizza crust and toppings, the soy mozzarella cheese allows those on restricted diets to be able to enjoy pizza along with everyone else.  While I have never done this before, sometime I would like to make and serve a pizza using the soy mozzarella cheese to friends or family just to see if they can tell the difference.  Soy mozzarella cheese tends to be sold at health food and organic food stores, such as Whole Foods and Wild Oats, which is where I have found it.

Peter


« Last Edit: January 13, 2005, 06:26:43 PM by Pete-zza »

Offline giotto

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Re: Quality NY toppings & techniques
« Reply #2 on: August 17, 2004, 09:43:32 PM »
Pete-zza:

It's always good to see the different experiences.  I have not had the same luck with soy-based cheeses as you.  I tried a soy based mozz from Trader Joes and it did not melt well.  I have not tried the Whole Foods brand; any particular one?

I get the Grande in 1 lb or larger slabs and then slice or shred it as needed.  I mostly use sheep cheese in the form of a dry pecorino, and do the same with sheep cheese, as shown on the pepperoni.  I normally like to add it toward the end, as a light topping for reasons you mention.  
« Last Edit: August 18, 2004, 02:56:24 PM by giotto »

Offline Pete-zza

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Re:Quality cheese & NY topping techhniques
« Reply #3 on: August 17, 2004, 10:38:40 PM »
Giotto,

I don't remember the name of the brand of soy mozzarella cheese I tried.   When I looked for it again at Whole Foods, it was no longer offered.  So I picked up another brand, Soy-Sation (Lite), Mozzarella Style.  I haven't tried it yet, but the label says it "Shreds, Melts and Tastes Great".   I hope the new brand will be as good as the last one.  I liked it a lot considering that it is not really a cheese.

I have observed that home pizza bakers are quite enterprising when it comes to devising solutions to problems they encounter.  And individual tastes and preferences vary so much that there are no really right or wrong answers, only choices.  It's no different with pizzas than anything else.  Otherwise there would be only one kind of pizza--most likely it would be pepperoni which alone accounts for over two-hundred fifty million dollars in sales annually.  

Peter

Offline giotto

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Re: Quality NY toppings & techniques
« Reply #4 on: August 17, 2004, 11:40:10 PM »
No wonder I like pepperoni so much; I'm always contributing!

I do find though that despite the differences in taste, it's a matter of awareness.  And sales are not always about saving a buck-- they can represent consensus.  That's what these forums are all about-- becoming aware of what is out there, and discerning how that applies to you.  

And if your lucky enough to learn some techniques as well, you're likely to save yourself an incredible amount of time, and end up with a better result.  

I'd be interested in a soy that melts properly, and as you said, is hard to differ in a blind test from other acceptable milk-based mozz cheese.
« Last Edit: August 18, 2004, 02:56:56 PM by giotto »

Offline giotto

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Re: Quality NY toppings & techniques
« Reply #5 on: August 17, 2004, 11:47:58 PM »
Pete-zza:

I tried the Giusto's high gluten tonight.  It held the toppings with no problem, including the buffalo mozz; but without the stiffness of a vital gluten.  I added more oil.  It still needs some adjustments.

Now to find out if there is a decent soy-based mozz for all the people I know that are missing out on my pizza because their bodies are lactose intolerant.
« Last Edit: August 18, 2004, 02:56:06 PM by giotto »

Offline Pete-zza

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Re:Quality cheese & NY topping techhniques
« Reply #6 on: August 18, 2004, 11:02:13 AM »
Giotto,

I assume the Giusto flour you are referring to was the Giusto high-gluten flour in its au naturel state, that is, without fortification by the vital wheat gluten.  If so, can you tell us the differences between the two doughs and also if you made the rest of the second pizza like the previous one with the vital wheat gluten so that you would be comparing otherwise identical or nearly identical products?

Peter

Offline giotto

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Re:Quality NY toppings & techniques
« Reply #7 on: August 18, 2004, 02:50:50 PM »
Yep, I've made the crust with Giusto's flour in 2 different forms.  

Some background for readers:  Pete-zza brought to my attention that Chris Bianco, an incredibly passionate and intense pizza maker, originally from NY, trained in Naples, and praised by many for his endeavor to make the best pizza in the world, uses Giusto's flour.  Bianco goes to the extreme in everything he does, from selecting natural ingredients (sometimes from the garden) to mixing his dough by hand... Yes, by hand with no commercial Hobart, because he believes it is all in the feel.  For those of you that have made dough without a mixer, try to imagine doing this professionally with 50+ pounds of flour for 100's of people a day.  

High-gluten flour (over 13% protein according to manufacturer) can be difficult to get, and is expensive with some vendors to ship.  Getting it from your local pizzeria is a good choice.  Like many, I have had better success with high gluten flours to achieve NY Pizza crust than with lower gluten flours from the likes of Bob's Red Mill, Gold Medal Specialty, King Arthur, Arrowhead, etc.  Since Giusto's flour in San Francisco is accessible though the BULK BINS of "some" Whole Foods stores, I thought I'd give it a try.  

Flours tested: First, I tried a mix between Giusto's 70% vital gluten (just under 1 TBL) with Giusto's 11.7% Baker's bread flour (2 cups less 1TBL), resulting in about 13.5% protein.  Then I did a special order from Whole Foods for Giusto's ultimate performer (13 - 13.5% protein) and used 2 cups of it as well.  In both cases, they weighed close to 8.5 oz (240g).  

Differences: I only used 1 tsp of olive oil and NO sugar when mixing with Vital Gluten.  I used over 1 1/2 TBL olive oil and 3/4 tsp sugar with the Ultimate Performer.  In both cases, I started with 1/3 cup of water per cup of flour and mixed in additional fluid to reach a moist dough that is not sticky like glue when you touch it.  So slight differences may occur in water as well.  Both weighed just over 16 oz in dough.  I left each in the refrigerator for 12 hours, and warmed them for an hour before preparing them for the oven.

The vital gluten mixture gave me a stiffer crust that hid that slightly chewy texture that I look for in a NY style crust.  Both had elastic qualities beyond even the better pro doughs that I have tossed.  There were no noticable differences in the browing of the crusts using a flat pizza screen, with temperatures at about 530 F.  The tastes of both were similar; but I was able to enjoy the Giusto's ultimate crust more, because of its chewier and un-board like texture, which I contribute to the extra oil.  I plan on making some adjustments to the water content, and will show pictures later.
« Last Edit: August 18, 2004, 02:55:39 PM by giotto »

Offline Pete-zza

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Re:Quality NY toppings & techniques
« Reply #8 on: August 18, 2004, 04:35:59 PM »
Giotto,

Sometimes when I have a crust that seems a little too "cardboardy", I play around with the formulation of the dough to try to improve the extensibility and structure of the dough so that the crust is softer and maybe even a bit more "bready" but not overly so.  To do this, I have tried several things.  These include the use of olive oil, honey, dry milk (heat treated or regular mixed with water, scalded, and cooled), lecithin granules, and a long rise period, including a period of 18-24 hours in the refrigerator.  The lecithin, which is available in dry or liquid form from King Arthur, serves to improve the fermentation behavior of the dough, increase its volume and improve its structure.  It can also be substituted for all or some of the oil in the dough, on a volume for volume basis.  If lecithin is unavailable for any reason, it can be omitted.  

In addition to helping increase the extensibility of the dough, the olive oil, honey (which also provides additional food for the yeast and tenderizes the dough by delaying the coagulation of the gluten and the gelatinization of starches during baking), and the dry milk serve to promote additional browning of the baked crust beyond the browning provided by the Maillard reactions.  The lactose in the milk is a "reducing" sugar and, as such, contributes to browning of the crust through the Maillard reactions without itself contributing much in the way of flavor (since lactose has a low sweetness value).  What is unique about lactose is that it is the only reducing sugar that does not feed yeast.  So, it's a good choice if you don't want to feed the yeast yet get browning of the crust.  In that sense, it can be substituted for sugar or other sweeteners used in the dough ingredients.

If the milk takes the form of a dry milk powder (preferably a high-heat or bakery grade dry milk) combined with water, the recommended use of the dry milk powder is about 2 tablespoons per half-cup water.  Since the fat in milk can impede the proofing of yeast (unless a non-fat version of milk is used), it is better to proof the yeast in a small amount of water first (if active dry yeast is used), and then add the milk.  Most milk these days is pasteurized, but if it isn't for some reason, for best results it should be scalded and cooled before using with the yeast, to prevent certain enzymes in the milk from attacking the gluten in the dough and result in a gummy texture.  

Peter


Offline giotto

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Re:Quality NY toppings & techniques
« Reply #9 on: August 18, 2004, 06:02:57 PM »
Pete-zza:

This certainly makes sense, and I've found that many of these techniques in the past improve doughs, especially when working with higher glutens.  As I mentioned with the 13.7% protein in Giusto's high gluten flour, the addition of oils made a significant difference for me.   I've found the increased retention of moisture that results from adding olive oil and/or milk is even useful when working with the higher protein levels of bread flours.

When I mentioned additional adjustments with Giusto's high gluten flours, these are some key areas that I was planning to focus on.  It's good to see validity of these things.
« Last Edit: August 18, 2004, 06:04:13 PM by giotto »

Offline giotto

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Re:Quality NY toppings & techniques
« Reply #10 on: August 19, 2004, 01:01:39 AM »
Pete-zza:

I've been thinking about your comment regardng whole milk and yeast.

You mentioned once that instant yeast is more tolerant with salt than active yeast.  Is this true also of milk-- is instant yeast more tolerant of milk than active yeast?  

Also, I can't get this one process out of my mind, where I saw someone once add active yeast as the last step at the very end of his mixing time... several minutes after he had added the 50 lbs of high gluten flour to hot water-- and he did not proof the yeast.  His dough rises fine, with great texture, taste, etc.  This reminded me of people I had seen make bread in a machine, where they start with water, salt, etc, then put in the flour, and add Active Yeast (dry & not proofed) on top of it all-- the goal is to keep the active yeast away from the water initially.  And when bread is done like this, it rises big time.  I tend to either let it proof in an initial water/flour mix, or I proof it separately with fine results. Once I added Active Yeast dry at the end, and it came out fine.  Not sure why someone would not use instant in these cases.  Any explanations?
« Last Edit: August 26, 2004, 02:50:18 PM by giotto »

Offline Pete-zza

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Re:Quality NY toppings & techniques
« Reply #11 on: August 19, 2004, 09:22:48 AM »
Giotto,

I don't know if there is a particular correlation between milk and active dry yeast versus instant dry yeast.  Whole milk is mostly water but it also includes protein, fat, lactose (milk sugar) and various minerals.  I don't recall ever reading anything about a milk/yeast relationship per se, which I think I would have remembered since I tend to pay attention to that sort of thing and would have noted it in my personal writings.   Also, water is what is normally used in pizza dough recipes, so not much thought is directed to milk.  I have seen pizza dough recipes used in Italy that call for milk, but they are not anywhere near as common as those calling for water and, in any event, the yeast usually was a wet yeast, like a beer yeast.  

As for the proofing of active dry yeast, as you know, the classical approach is to proof active dry yeast in water, preferably warm water.  I think what has happened is that yeast producers have continued to develop new new yeast  formulations that don't require the same degree of proofing.  For example, this morning I looked at the packaging for SAF Traditional Active Dry (Perfect Rise) yeast.  A "traditional baking method" is recited in which the SAF active dry yeast is mixed with half of the flour and other dry igreadients.  The liquid used is heated to 120-130 degrees F and added to the dry ingredients.  Alternatively, the SAF active dry yeast can be dissolved in 110-115 degrees F liquids before adding to other recipe ingredients.  SAF's "bread machine method" simply refers the user to the bread machine manufacturer's directions as to the use of the yeast, but recommends room temperature liquids.  I also looked at the operating instructions for my Zo machine this morning, and, as you correctly noted, the dough recipes call for keeping the yeast away from the liquid.  This is consistent with what SAF gives as instructions for using its yeast, and it also looks like what the professional you observed was doing.

Peter
« Last Edit: September 18, 2005, 10:13:58 PM by Pete-zza »

Offline giotto

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Re:Quality NY toppings & techniques
« Reply #12 on: August 19, 2004, 01:23:37 PM »
Pete-zza:

Well, I'm happy to know that it's not my imagination.  Thanks for checking the instructions on your zo machine (a very highly-regarded bread machine I might add).  By the way, is it effective for mixing your pizza dough?  

Your point regarding the changes that manufacturers are making with active yeast is very well taken.  It reminds me, on the one hand, why this strategy which I much prefer works so well; but it also indicates that its effect may vary between manufacturers.  He used Dry Star in brick form; whereas I used Dry Star crumbled in a jar.  I followed this procedure last night and it seems to rise just fine.  The up side of proofing is that if the yeast is bad, I will know before I add it to my mix-- saving much grief.  But it sure does rise nicely when not proofed first in 110 F water.

Regarding the effect of milk on yeast, I was making a reference to a point that you made earlier in this session "Since the fat in milk can impede the proofing of yeast..."  I did not know that fat can impede yeast in any way, and was not sure if this was specific to milk fat vs. oil fat in a liquid.
« Last Edit: August 19, 2004, 01:50:33 PM by giotto »

Offline Pete-zza

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Re:Quality NY toppings & techniques
« Reply #13 on: August 19, 2004, 04:23:11 PM »
Giotto,

My comment about milk and yeast was based on the notion that it is a good idea to keep everything away from the yeast until it has been proofed (directly or indirectly) and ready to go when it is combined with the other dough ingredients.  I know that there are a lot of different theories and opinions about how and in what sequence dough ingredients should be mixed and combined, but I tend to follow the practice of isolating the various ingredients and adding them to the "process" at times and in ways that will not interfere with individual functions.  

As for yeast, this means not adding salt directly to the yeast (particularly active dry yeast and wet yeasts), not adding sugar (or any other sweetener) to the yeast (although a pinch might be OK as part of a proofing process), and not adding fat to the yeast--whether it is oil, a solid fat, or fat that might be in milk.  I know some people just throw everything into a bowl at the same time and just mix and knead.  The way I do it, if I am using active dry yeast, I proof it all by itself, then add it--along with the rest of the water--to all the dry ingredients except salt.   After an initial period of mixing and kneading, I then add the oil or solid fat (if I am using any) and knead it into the other ingredients (I do this so that the oil or fat doesn't impede hydration of the flour), and finally I add the salt and knead it into the existing dough mass until it is fully incorporated.  If I am using instant dry yeast, I add it to the other dry ingredients, although sometimes even then I keep the salt separated from the instant yeast.  To some I am sure this seems like a case of overkill, but I have been doing it that way for so long that it's second nature to me by now.

As for the Zo machine, I have done very little with it for making pizza doughs, although it has been my intention to explore using it more fully for dough production at some future date.  I know that others do use their machines quite successfully to make pizza doughs (including one member of this forum who specializes in doing this), but, for me, bread machines take away a lot of the control over the dough making process, from types of ingredients, sequencing of the use of ingredients, processing times, temperature control, etc.   I suspect that some of the loss of control can be compensated for by using the machine's programming functions, but doing so successfully would most likely take a fair amount of experimentation and trial and error.  A particular disadvantage of bread machines from my perspective is that they don't really let you make a single small pizza dough ball for one pizza.  The kneading elements of the machine are spaced too far apart to allow this. This, of course, is also a problem with most stand mixers, where it is almost impossible to knead a small amount of dough around the dough hook.  That is one of the reasons why I also have a food processor, which permits producing small amounts of dough.  Otherwise, I would make the dough by hand.

Peter

Offline giotto

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Re:Quality NY toppings & techniques
« Reply #14 on: August 19, 2004, 04:42:03 PM »
That's an excellent point concerning mixers and their inability to properly work with smaller portions.  Fortunately, some mixers are starting to come with 2 bowl sizes, recognizing that not everyone works with the same old formula time and again where bigger batches are the norm.  I do avoid food processors with steel blades though, which are known to cut the very fibers that I am trying to put together.  

I follow a similar process to you when making the dough. Sometimes I add the yeast at the end as an alternative.  
« Last Edit: August 19, 2004, 05:04:15 PM by giotto »

Offline Pete-zza

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Re:Quality NY toppings & techniques
« Reply #15 on: August 19, 2004, 07:39:10 PM »
Giotto,

I have a Cuisinart food processor which comes with both a metal blade and a plastic blade. I have tried both types of blades but have not detected any significant difference in the doughs prepared using the two different blades.  However, from a strictly technical standpoint, it would appear that the plastic blade, with its straighter-blade design as opposed to the serpentine S-shaped design of the metal blade, should be easier on the gluten in the dough and produce less frictional heat, which can cause the dough to ferment too quickly.  Because of my faith in science--which I admit may possibly be misguided--more recently I have gone exclusively to the plastic blade.

It may be of interest to some on this forum that one of the more recent Cuisinart models of food processors even has a separate dough cycle and a special metal dough blade with blunt edges and a curved surface to precisely incorporate and knead doughs intended to be used to make pizzas and other bread products.  For this model, the speed of the unit is reduced by 400 rpm during the dough cycle to prevent overheating of the dough.  I bought one of these models for my daughter-in-law (the 11-cup model) and she loves it.  Even my son, who for years suffered through my efforts to make pizzas that he would eat and actually like, says that my daughter-in-law's pizzas are just about perfect.  Having taught my daughter-in-law how to make pizzas, my son finally admitted that I have learned something about pizza after all these years.  I told him that I was pleased to get his approval of my pizzas at least once before I died  :).  

Peter

 

Offline giotto

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Re:Quality NY toppings & techniques
« Reply #16 on: August 20, 2004, 01:37:28 AM »
Pete-zza:

Isn't life strange... this song title comes to mind as I think about the need for children to look upon us for approval; only in time for the opposite to take place.  And now you can rest knowing he has good taste after all!


Offline giotto

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Re:Quality NY toppings & techniques
« Reply #17 on: August 21, 2004, 05:13:21 PM »
The Giusto's high gluten flour is very dry and is creating a fairly light crust for me.  It holds up pretty well; but I'm not getting the chewy texture.  I'm using my usual 1/3 cup of water per cup of flour and a TBL of olive oil.  I've tried more water, and it doesn't matter much.  This flour is very dry, that's for sure.  

Offline giotto

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Re:Quality NY toppings & techniques
« Reply #18 on: August 21, 2004, 09:13:10 PM »
The things we have to complain about... I prefer a chewier crust, while other's prefer this softer and lighter crust from Giusto's flour.  

Serving it with spinach & herb leaves:

(http://home.comcast.net/~keck-foundation1/slice-it-up.JPG)

Trying it out:

(http://home.comcast.net/~keck-foundation1/for-me.JPG)

Time to let the other's know it's ready:

(http://home.comcast.net/~keck-foundation1/for-others.JPG)
« Last Edit: August 26, 2004, 02:52:41 PM by giotto »

Offline giotto

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Re:Quality NY toppings & techniques
« Reply #19 on: August 22, 2004, 12:33:00 AM »
Less is more when it comes to NY style pizza.

Offline giotto

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Re:Quality NY toppings & techniques
« Reply #20 on: August 25, 2004, 12:14:08 AM »
WHEN THINGS DON"T WORK OUT...

There are times when the dough just doesn't work out...

I can tell whether or not the dough is right as soon as I take it out of the refrigerator and place my fingers into it.  And when the dough doesn't feel right, I don't even bother with it...

Instead, I grab me a big ol' loaf of San Francisco Sourdough, slice it horizontally, remove some of the inside bread, lay down my sauce, mozzarella, seasoned olive oil, and pepperoni.  Then I put it on a screen and cook it at 425 F for 3 minutes, 6" from the top of the oven...

AND when I hear that crispy sound as I bite into it, I know that I'm still eating better than frozen pizza, and I'm doing it for under $5-- it helps knowing that the night is not shot after all.

(https://home.comcast.net/~keck-foundation1/pizza-bread.JPG)

« Last Edit: August 25, 2004, 12:26:01 AM by giotto »

Offline Pete-zza

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Re:Quality NY toppings & techniques
« Reply #21 on: August 25, 2004, 12:25:06 PM »
Giotto,

I know exactly what you mean about things not going right sometimes.  

Several days ago, I decided to try out Peter Reinhart's recipe for New York style pizza dough.  I scaled the ingredients to get the size of dough ball I wanted and carefully followed the steps laid out in the recipe.  I didn't want to play around with the ingredients or the processing techniques (which are different than mine) so that I would have a fair basis of comparison of the pizza made following the Reinhart recipe with my own.  Where I messed up was putting in salt measured in tablespoons rather than teaspoons.   I discovered my error as soon as the salt dropped into the bowl and I tried to scoop out some of it, but I wasn't sure whether I succeeded.  

As soon as the dough was finished and ready to be used the next day (after a 24-hour refrigeration period), I could tell right away that the dough wasn't right.  It had hardly risen and looked dead. (I usually put a 1/4-inch deep cross in the middle of my dough and when the dough expands and the cross starts to look more like petals of a flower, I know the dough is OK--a technique borrowed from Italian pizza makers).  I decided nonetheless to see if this lifeless dough could be shaped and stretched and tossed.  To my surprise, it could and I decided to forge ahead and make a pizza out of it anyway, even though the dough didn't have the usual characteristics I look for in the New York style dough, such as glossiness and percolating bubbles.  It wasn't one of my best efforts.  The crust was rather thin, harder and less flexible than usual and with few bubbles or blisters.  And it was very, very salty, with the salt overtaking just about all of the other flavors in the crust.  It was then that I knew I had failed to retrieve a good part of the salt I had placed into the mixing bowl.  

I don't mind sometimes making mistakes, and in this case it was no different.  I try to learn from my mistakes.  In this case, I learned first hand what happens when you use too much salt.  Ordinarily, people think about salt as something to give taste to their pizza crusts.  But it has a much more important function--as a regulator of fermentation.  An excessive amount of salt (above 2% by weight of flour) will hinder the activity of the yeast by pulling water from the yeast by osmosis and slowing down fermentation, and will make the dough too hard and result in a poor quality crust.  Too much salt can also inhibit the decomposition of the starch, through the action of enzymes to convert starch to sugar for the yeast to feed upon.  Consequently, the yeast will have less to eat and will not do as good a job with fermentation and you won't get the desired rise or the flavors from fermentation by-products.  Too little salt (below about 1.5% by weight of flour) and the dough may rise too fast (because fermentation is not restrained) and possibly collapse (due to the escape of carbon dioxide gas produced in excessive quantity), or result in a crust that will be flat tasting, yeasty, or sour or acid tasting (because of the overfermentation).   In my case, of course, it was the excess of salt that was my undoing.  And the results I achieved went exactly by the playbook.  It was a lesson well learned.  Which reminds me of Cher, who once said that she didn't learn from her mistakes.  She just made new ones :).

Peter

Offline giotto

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Re:Quality NY toppings & techniques
« Reply #22 on: August 25, 2004, 05:31:23 PM »
Oh, the differences between tsp and TBL.  His ratio of sugar is higher than salt, as is mine-- good thing you didn't follow suit, you would have had a sweet brick.  I use salt very effectively as a delay mechanism in the fermentation process.  I once dumped a salt container right into a long stewing dinner I was making; so I started to crack up when I saw your error.  Like Emeril once said, taking out a seasoning isn't the same as putting it in.

As for me, there's just certain flours that I just plain don't like for pizza or even focaccia bread, regardless of their availability.  One is a bread flour that's going off my list.
« Last Edit: August 25, 2004, 05:46:21 PM by giotto »

Offline giotto

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Re:Quality NY toppings & techniques
« Reply #23 on: August 26, 2004, 05:46:17 AM »
There are certain considerations that I honor when making NY style pizza dough:

1) Keep the percentage of water very close to 60% of the flour weight, which will likely give just under 40% total weight of the finished dough.  When oil is added, I will keep it close to this factor.  With the high gluten flours from Smart & Final (LaRomanella), Costco (Conagra unbleached Full Power) and Whole Foods in the San Francisco area (Giusto's unbleached High Performer), I've found that anything more is too watery.  So for each cup of flour, I tend to work close to the ever so standard 1/3 cup of water (2.67 oz) + oil per cup of flour (approx. 4.5 oz).

2) Larger amounts of flour knead better when working with dough hooks and bowls, so when I work with less than 18 oz of flour, I get less consistency in the NY dough.  

3) Kneading for 4 minutes, resting to rehydrate, and then finishing after another 2 minutes doesn't fly.  Anything less than 12 - 15 minutes of kneading is not going to give me the type of chewy results that I have come to expect in NY dough.

4) Dough that twirls around the bottom of the bowl and sticks to your hands like paste is not okay.  The dough is supposed to be smooth.  I have yet to witness a respectable professional with dough stuck to his hands like glue.  It may stick to the bowl a little when you try to pick it up; but this is different than paste, where it is unable to move around the bowl with the mixer.

5) b]When I first pinch and then slowly tug at the dough[/b], I can pretty well tell whether the glutency is where it is supposed to be.  I have found that there are 3 distinct results that can occur:

a) The dough just breaks off, like your pulling on a piece of dry bread.  This can occur when the dough is overly dry, and in some cases, it can even occur when certain grades of flour contain the right amount of water (in which case, I do away with that flour because it's just not going to give me the pliable results I look for in a NY pizza).

b) The dough stretches like taffy, with almost zero difficulty, and it may or may not tear.  I've had my share of doughs like this, and when it doesn't tear, it can make for some good pizza.  This type of pizza can really simplify your job if you like to stretch your pizza into place when working on a flat surface.

c) The dough stretches, but tugs back like a fish that doesn't want to come out of the water.  If you like to toss your pizza like I do, or maybe hang a pizza horizontally with two hands and work it slowly along the edges, then you'll understand why this is my favorite style of pizza.  I can definitely form this pizza into a multi-dimensional thickness, where it starts with a medium thickness near the crust, and slims down and droops in the front even when heating it into a crispy crust.  The picture earlier reveals this point quite clearly.

6) I then validate the glutency with a final windowpane test, where I take the piece of dough that I pulled away, and with a dab of flour in my fingers, I turn it and gently pull it from side to side, testing for a dough that will remain in tact, and a thin middle that will form.

6) The dough will weigh about 16.5 - 17.5 oz  to give me a 14" pizza with a respectable outside crust.  Sometimes, the dough will weigh less when I want an even thinner crust.
« Last Edit: August 26, 2004, 02:57:51 PM by giotto »

Offline Pete-zza

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Re:Quality NY toppings & techniques
« Reply #24 on: August 26, 2004, 12:07:17 PM »
Giotto,

Your observations about technique for making your favorite New York style dough, and your recent commentary on "feel", together with Foccaciaman's recent comments about the unreliabillity of recipes in someone else's hands, come together nicely I think to make the point that you cannot slavishly follow recipes and expect to come out with consistent results time after time.  You have to have that added component of feel, and I think that this is especially true when working with dough, which is subject to so many variables.  Weighing the major ingredients, like flour and water, helps eliminate some variables but most people either don't have scales or don't want to be bothered and prefer volume measurements.  Also, many recipes try to be too helpful, I think, by including times for doing things, like knead times and cooking times.  If the recipe you are following is one used by professionals, the times specified will be different from what you might use in your own home with your own machines and kitchen equipment, and the results will differ accordingly if you slavishly follow those specified times.  And if you decide to scale down a recipe, say, by half, the times won't scale down in half too.  It's not linear.  You are on your own as to what the proper scaling is as far as times are concerned.

As Foccaciaman astutely pointed out, the same recipe in the hands of two different people will produce different results.  I don't have any solution to that problem, because what skills and knowledge people bring to the exercise is unpredictable or unknowable.   Julia Child once made some unflattering comments about a cookbook put out by Emeril Lagasse, saying that people apparently were having problems making the recipes in Emeril's book.   My recollection is that Emeril responded to the criticism by just sending her some flowers.  Since then, I have noted criticisms of some of Emeril's recipes posted on foodnetwork.com.  In one instance, FoodNetwork simply said that Emeril was not responsible for errors in recipes posted at their website.  Because of the proliferation of recipes on the Internet and their dubious origins and unreliablility, the food magazine Cook's Illustrated goes to great lengths to tell prospective subscribers that the recipes in their publications are thoroughly tested in their kitchens before putting them into their magazines and cookbooks.

In some of my own dough recipes, I have started to omit many of the times for doing certain things and, instead, try to give guidelines as to when something is at the right stage, like using the windowpane test, carefully describing what the dough should look and feel like, and measuring finished dough temperatures, to cite a few examples.  Sometimes I will give estimated times in relation to the specific machine I am using, including speeds, since people don't want to be left completely in the dark about how long they should be doing things.  The reality is that people use different machines and different speeds, and any times I might specify will most likely be wrong, even if I stand there with a stopwatch while I am following my own recipe and note the precise times.  I have also been trying to come up with food processor versions of some of my recipes, for use when a stand mixer is not available, in which case the times will be altogether different.  Using guidelines there obviates the need to specify times with precision.  With experience, people get to determine how long to do things and, if they take good notes, they are good to go the next time they decide to make the same thing.  If they are lucky and you are there by their side to teach and guide them to a successful landing, so much the better.

Peter