Author Topic: Baking a Varasano pizza on 250c/480f oven  (Read 4945 times)

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Offline almog

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Baking a Varasano pizza on 250c/480f oven
« on: August 06, 2010, 06:34:48 AM »
Hi, this week I've been experimenting with the Varasano recipe.
Although the dough isn't perfect yet, I seem to have a bigger problem: neither the rim nor the pie's bottom doesn't get browned.
I suspect it's my oven max temperature (250c) to cause that.
Is it too low for a relatively wet dough such as the Varasano?

Here is how it looks like:
picasaweb.google.com/akurtser/DropBox#5502241544901163778


Offline jever4321

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Re: Baking a Varasano pizza on 250c/480f oven
« Reply #1 on: August 06, 2010, 07:39:22 AM »
Hi, this week I've been experimenting with the Varasano recipe.
Although the dough isn't perfect yet, I seem to have a bigger problem: neither the rim nor the pie's bottom doesn't get browned.
I suspect it's my oven max temperature (250c) to cause that.
Is it too low for a relatively wet dough such as the Varasano?

Here is how it looks like:
picasaweb.google.com/akurtser/DropBox#5502241544901163778

I'm pretty sure he says in his recipe page on his website that it requires temps above 700F. From what I can recall, the dough has too high of a hydration level to brown at 450.
-Jay

Offline Matthew

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Re: Baking a Varasano pizza on 250c/480f oven
« Reply #2 on: August 06, 2010, 07:45:58 AM »
From what I can recall, the dough has too high of a hydration level to brown at 450.

Browning has nothing to do with the hydration level.

Offline almog

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Re: Baking a Varasano pizza on 250c/480f oven
« Reply #3 on: August 06, 2010, 08:25:19 AM »
I'm pretty sure he says in his recipe page on his website that it requires temps above 700F. From what I can recall, the dough has too high of a hydration level to brown at 450.

You're right, I must have missed this paragraph when I read it.

Will Lehmann recipe work better on low temperature?

Offline jever4321

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Re: Baking a Varasano pizza on 250c/480f oven
« Reply #4 on: August 06, 2010, 09:09:04 AM »
You're right, I must have missed this paragraph when I read it.

Will Lehmann recipe work better on low temperature?
I'm still a newbie myself, but I have been having some success with Lehmann's recipe. On the home page of this site, click the Dough Tools tab, then go to Lehmann's recipe. It will walk you through every aspect of the dough proportions.
-Jay

scott123

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Re: Baking a Varasano pizza on 250c/480f oven
« Reply #5 on: August 06, 2010, 01:22:15 PM »
Will Lehmann recipe work better on low temperature?

Not really, no.  NY Style as a whole just doesn't lend itself to low temperature baking.  Normally, when I run across people with lower temp ovens, I recommend a thicker, more conductive baking stone, but for a 480 degree oven, I think you're going to need to do more than just a better stone. 

The first thing I would recommend would be to acquire an infrared thermometer, so you know exactly what temps you're actually working with.

Then I'd read through the following threads:

Last night's dough w/tricked oven
Nearlypolitan
750-850F in home oven WITHOUT cutting lock
hit 750 in my home oven
Cleaning cycle oven hackers - a question and picture for you!

I've repaired oven wiring before, and, although it's heat resistant, once it goes above a certain temp, it's toast.  This is why I'm generally not a huge fan of cleaning cycle hacks- I don't think ovens are made to do cleaning cycles as frequently as once a week.  Although I haven't tried the frozen towel technique myself, I think it shows a little more promise.  You could probably take your oven to 650 (and maybe even higher) with the frozen towel, but I would probably play it safe and go to 550 and combine that temp with a thicker, more conductive stone.  I generally recommend either 1" cordierite or 1.25" soapstone. An oven built to withstand 480 temps should have absolutely no problem going to 550.

Is this oven gas or electric? Does it have a broiler element in the main compartment or is the broiler separate?

Offline almog

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Re: Baking a Varasano pizza on 250c/480f oven
« Reply #6 on: August 07, 2010, 06:23:59 AM »
Not really, no.  NY Style as a whole just doesn't lend itself to low temperature baking.  Normally, when I run across people with lower temp ovens, I recommend a thicker, more conductive baking stone, but for a 480 degree oven, I think you're going to need to do more than just a better stone. 

The first thing I would recommend would be to acquire an infrared thermometer, so you know exactly what temps you're actually working with.

Then I'd read through the following threads:

Last night's dough w/tricked oven
Nearlypolitan
750-850F in home oven WITHOUT cutting lock
hit 750 in my home oven
Cleaning cycle oven hackers - a question and picture for you!

I've repaired oven wiring before, and, although it's heat resistant, once it goes above a certain temp, it's toast.  This is why I'm generally not a huge fan of cleaning cycle hacks- I don't think ovens are made to do cleaning cycles as frequently as once a week.  Although I haven't tried the frozen towel technique myself, I think it shows a little more promise.  You could probably take your oven to 650 (and maybe even higher) with the frozen towel, but I would probably play it safe and go to 550 and combine that temp with a thicker, more conductive stone.  I generally recommend either 1" cordierite or 1.25" soapstone. An oven built to withstand 480 temps should have absolutely no problem going to 550.

Is this oven gas or electric? Does it have a broiler element in the main compartment or is the broiler separate?


Hi Scott, thank you for your comprehensive answer.
I have an electric oven, with a thick stone, but unfortunately without a broiler.
Buying an thermo-gun is a good idea, not just for my oven but also for my new hobby: roasting coffee in the popcorn machine:)
The frozen towel sounds interesting, how did you locate the thermometer sensor?
Here is a picture of my oven internal surface:
http://picasaweb.google.com/akurtser/DropBox#5502388365614269938


Offline apizza

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Re: Baking a Varasano pizza on 250c/480f oven
« Reply #7 on: August 07, 2010, 07:11:08 AM »
almog, in the picture it looks like there is a broiler coil/element at the top of the oven. What is that element for?

Offline almog

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Re: Baking a Varasano pizza on 250c/480f oven
« Reply #8 on: August 07, 2010, 08:16:54 AM »
almog, in the picture it looks like there is a broiler coil/element at the top of the oven. What is that element for?

Oh, sorry, my bad, my English needs some polishing, I was sure the term broiler referred to a coil located in the oven's bottom.
Hurray to my newly discovered broiler then. ;D

scott123

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Re: Baking a Varasano pizza on 250c/480f oven
« Reply #9 on: August 07, 2010, 11:02:48 AM »
Almog, normally the oven thermostat is a probe like rod that's suspended at the top of the oven. Here's a photo of one:

http://www.partwizard.net/enlarge/22260/

In the photo you provided, the ceiling seems to be blocked by shelves. Could you take another photo with the shelves removed? I think that will give us a better view.

That is a thick stone.  What is it made out of?


Offline sconosciuto

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Re: Baking a Varasano pizza on 250c/480f oven
« Reply #10 on: August 07, 2010, 01:14:57 PM »
I may be crazy but I think there are two major items of importance that are being overlooked here.

First off, Almog, could you give us more information about your oven (brand, model, type).  Looking at those photos I'd almost suspect the oven is convectional instead of conventional as you can see there is a fan directly at the back.  If this is in fact a convectional oven which I think it is, then I believe that 480F would actually translate into a higher equivalent number for a conventional oven that most of us use.  I don't use convectional so I may be completely wrong here, someone else might be able to elaborate.

The second point is that although the subject mentions the oven temp, the issues Almog is having may not be entirely related to the oven itself.  As per the original post he is desiring more browning in the crust and bottom.  I looked through the OP's photos on Picasaweb (I'm nosy) and noticed that he probably is not located in the U.S., bringing into question the type of flour he may be using.  If he's not using a flour that is appropriate for pizza or the particular oven temps then this may be a greater problem than the oven itself.

Almog, your pizzas actually look pretty good. ;)  Could you tell us more about the flour you are using?  I'd be curious to know the brand, type and origin. 

Offline almog

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Re: Baking a Varasano pizza on 250c/480f oven
« Reply #11 on: August 08, 2010, 02:27:28 PM »
Almog, normally the oven thermostat is a probe like rod that's suspended at the top of the oven. Here's a photo of one:

http://www.partwizard.net/enlarge/22260/

In the photo you provided, the ceiling seems to be blocked by shelves. Could you take another photo with the shelves removed? I think that will give us a better view.

That is a thick stone.  What is it made out of?

The stone is made out of Schamotte.
Here are two pictures of the oven with the shelf removed:
http://picasaweb.google.com/akurtser/DropBox#5502748016673568258
http://picasaweb.google.com/akurtser/DropBox#5502748370125057442


I wonder where that elusive thermostat is hiding.:)




I may be crazy but I think there are two major items of importance that are being overlooked here.

First off, Almog, could you give us more information about your oven (brand, model, type).  Looking at those photos I'd almost suspect the oven is convectional instead of conventional as you can see there is a fan directly at the back.  If this is in fact a convectional oven which I think it is, then I believe that 480F would actually translate into a higher equivalent number for a conventional oven that most of us use.  I don't use convectional so I may be completely wrong here, someone else might be able to elaborate.

The second point is that although the subject mentions the oven temp, the issues Almog is having may not be entirely related to the oven itself.  As per the original post he is desiring more browning in the crust and bottom.  I looked through the OP's photos on Picasaweb (I'm nosy) and noticed that he probably is not located in the U.S., bringing into question the type of flour he may be using.  If he's not using a flour that is appropriate for pizza or the particular oven temps then this may be a greater problem than the oven itself.

Almog, your pizzas actually look pretty good. ;)  Could you tell us more about the flour you are using?  I'd be curious to know the brand, type and origin. 


Hi sconosciuto, both your guesses were correct: it is a Siemens hm 745210 convectional oven, but unfortunately I can't find its manual online.
There are coils both near the fan and in the oven's ceiling.
Until I get an IR thermometer, I'll just let it warm up for little longer.

And in fact, I don't live in the states but in Israel.
So far I've been using an 11% protein bread-flour, but today I found one that's 12%, which is not as high as King Arthur, but I'll give it a try.
Is the protein level really the main factor in flour?

And thanks, the pizza in fact tasted better than any pizza I made before, but still lacks those big bubbles and crust.


Offline sconosciuto

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Re: Baking a Varasano pizza on 250c/480f oven
« Reply #12 on: August 08, 2010, 04:01:49 PM »
Almog,

I'm not familiar with the oven and couldn't find instructions in english.  Many of these ovens have the option to run as a normal conventional oven or in "convection" mode.  Are you running your oven in convection mode (ie. the fan is turned on)?

My main concern with the flour is not that of protein content.  If your flour is in the range of 11-12% you should be OK.  Different flours are designed for their appropriate baking environments.  Most if not all all-purpose, bread, or high gluten flours in the US contain small portions of barley malt which aids in coloration/browning especially at lower temperatures (below 700-750F).  On the other hand these malted flours tend to burn more easily at higher temperature.  Unmalted flours such as Caputo 00 for example are designed for higher temperatures (+750F) and do not brown well at all at lower temperatures such as yours.  If you do a search on Caputo 00 and browning you will find several threads discussing inability to brown this particular unmalted flour in a home oven.  Scott123 made a rather well explanation of malted/unmalted flours and their browning ability in a recent response that I would encourage you to read http://www.pizzamaking.com/forum/index.php/topic,10024.msg101191.html#msg101191 .  Look at the ingredient list on your flour bag, does it list barley malt or diastic malt as an ingredient?  Do you have more specific brand information on the flour or the mill it originates?

For your reference, a bag of King Arthur Bread Flour lists the following ingredients:  Unbleached hard spring wheat flour, malted barley flour, niacin, reduced iron, thiamin mononitrate, riboflavin, folic acid.

Another thought in regards to browning.  It is probably a non-issue with a convectional oven but you could try moving your stone to a higher rack in the oven.  Heat will vary at different levels of an oven.
« Last Edit: August 08, 2010, 04:13:53 PM by sconosciuto »

scott123

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Re: Baking a Varasano pizza on 250c/480f oven
« Reply #13 on: August 08, 2010, 06:13:07 PM »
Almog, I've attached a photo of what I believe is your thermostat below.

Being so far back in the oven, I'm not sure it's going to work for the frozen towel technique.  You could, in theory, probably take it out of it's holder and set in on a shelf to make it more accessible*, but I'm not sure that's the ideal scenario.  I would try some broiling.  Move the stone to the second shelf from the top, pre-heat it to 480 (using the convection feature), crack the door and turn the broiler on for a few minutes and see where you can get the stone.  If you can hit 550, I think that should do it. 

And Sconosciuto is correct about making sure that you're using flour that contains malted barley flour.

*You might also, depending on how much extra wire is there, place the thermostat on a shelf below the stone, allowing you to broil the top of the stone to your hearts content, but, in order for the oven to work for other baking needs, you'd have to return the thermostat to it's bracket after baking pizza.

Offline james456

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Re: Baking a Varasano pizza on 250c/480f oven
« Reply #14 on: August 09, 2010, 01:02:30 PM »
Can someone explain this 'broiling' (called 'grilling' in the UK) technique?

I have a similar oven, with a max temp. of 250c/482f.

As I understand it, to get a stone temp. of >482f I'd have to move the stone (in my case, a rack of quarry tiles) to the top portion of the oven and switch to convectional broil from convectional oven mode, then once the stone temp is >482f, move the rack back to the lowest part of the oven and switch back to convectional oven mode to bake the pizza.

Is this right?
« Last Edit: August 09, 2010, 01:05:08 PM by james456 »

scott123

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Re: Baking a Varasano pizza on 250c/480f oven
« Reply #15 on: August 09, 2010, 01:35:22 PM »
James, there's actually two ways to use the top broiler (grill) element with pizza. 

1. You can use the broiler to bake the top of pizza while the pie is baking and/or

2. You can place the stone close to the broiler and use the top element to pre-heat it to a higher temp than the oven will normally go.  The broiler pre-heat is what I'm talking about here.  It's the premise for the Nearlypolitan thread found here:

http://www.pizzamaking.com/forum/index.php/topic,10024.0.html

In that thread, Toby (Infoodel) moves his stone around during the pre-heat, but with a convection oven, there's no need to move the stone. You want to place the stone as close to the broiler as you can comfortably work with (2.5" is ideal), turn the oven on as high as it will go (482) and use the convection mode to pre-heat the stone as fast as possible.  With a thick stone, that's likely an hour or more.  Once the stone is fully pre-heated, turn on the broiler for 15-20 minutes.  Toby says that his broiler will turn off and on during this time.  If your broiler will not turn on, then you'll want to crack open the door. Toby was able to hit temps in the traditional Neapolitan realm of 800+ deg, but for NY, you're shooting for between 550 and 600, so it shouldn't be too difficult. You will definitely want to make use of an infrared thermometer so you know where you're at.

One thing to be aware of is that broiling is hard on stones.  You really only want to use the broiling pre-heat technique with thermally strong materials, such as cordierite or soapstone- not quarry tiles.
« Last Edit: August 09, 2010, 02:57:46 PM by scott123 »

Offline almog

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Re: Baking a Varasano pizza on 250c/480f oven
« Reply #16 on: August 10, 2010, 06:04:36 AM »
Almog,

I'm not familiar with the oven and couldn't find instructions in english.  Many of these ovens have the option to run as a normal conventional oven or in "convection" mode.  Are you running your oven in convection mode (ie. the fan is turned on)?

My main concern with the flour is not that of protein content.  If your flour is in the range of 11-12% you should be OK.  Different flours are designed for their appropriate baking environments.  Most if not all all-purpose, bread, or high gluten flours in the US contain small portions of barley malt which aids in coloration/browning especially at lower temperatures (below 700-750F).  On the other hand these malted flours tend to burn more easily at higher temperature.  Unmalted flours such as Caputo 00 for example are designed for higher temperatures (+750F) and do not brown well at all at lower temperatures such as yours.  If you do a search on Caputo 00 and browning you will find several threads discussing inability to brown this particular unmalted flour in a home oven.  Scott123 made a rather well explanation of malted/unmalted flours and their browning ability in a recent response that I would encourage you to read http://www.pizzamaking.com/forum/index.php/topic,10024.msg101191.html#msg101191 .  Look at the ingredient list on your flour bag, does it list barley malt or diastic malt as an ingredient?  Do you have more specific brand information on the flour or the mill it originates?

For your reference, a bag of King Arthur Bread Flour lists the following ingredients:  Unbleached hard spring wheat flour, malted barley flour, niacin, reduced iron, thiamin mononitrate, riboflavin, folic acid.

Another thought in regards to browning.  It is probably a non-issue with a convectional oven but you could try moving your stone to a higher rack in the oven.  Heat will vary at different levels of an oven.

Yesterday I tested some of the options in my ovens, now I finally know how to control the broiler.
Until now, I've been using it in either convectional mode, or one of the broiler modes that hits only the outer coil (there are two on the top) and the bottom coil, which is hidden, and until yesterday, I wasn't aware of its existence.
I'll try moving the stone close to the fan, together with the strategy Scott has suggested, and when I'll get a Raytek thermometer I'll experiment it.

I'm so glad you noticed that the problem might be related to the flour content, and indeed, none of the flours I've been using contained malted barley.
Moreover, I'm not sure any of the standard flours in Israel contain malted barley, but I'll check to be sure of that.
If it's true, I thought about getting one of those: malt powder from a beer supplies store, malted barley to grind with my coffee grind meal, or the last and most tedious option-buy unmalted barley and malt it at home (I found few guides for that).
Do you know how much malted barley is there on King Arthur Flour?

Almog, I've attached a photo of what I believe is your thermostat below.

Being so far back in the oven, I'm not sure it's going to work for the frozen towel technique.  You could, in theory, probably take it out of it's holder and set in on a shelf to make it more accessible*, but I'm not sure that's the ideal scenario.  I would try some broiling.  Move the stone to the second shelf from the top, pre-heat it to 480 (using the convection feature), crack the door and turn the broiler on for a few minutes and see where you can get the stone.  If you can hit 550, I think that should do it. 

And Sconosciuto is correct about making sure that you're using flour that contains malted barley flour.

*You might also, depending on how much extra wire is there, place the thermostat on a shelf below the stone, allowing you to broil the top of the stone to your hearts content, but, in order for the oven to work for other baking needs, you'd have to return the thermostat to it's bracket after baking pizza.

Thanks!  I believe you're right about the thermostat.
Yesterday I tested the temperature with my BBQ thermometr, which can't measure the stone temperature, but since I used it with the oven's door half open and got up to 490f in convectional mode, I believe the stone might hit it much higher.
I'll test it more accurately when I get an IR thermometer.

Hopefully, adding a malted barley to my flour and using better heating strategy will give me good result. Then I'll continue with changing the thermometer's position.


Online Pete-zza

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Re: Baking a Varasano pizza on 250c/480f oven
« Reply #17 on: August 10, 2010, 08:35:08 AM »
For the King Arthur barley malt information, see http://www.kingarthurflour.com/professional/nutritional-analysis-bakery-flour.html.

Peter

scott123

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Re: Baking a Varasano pizza on 250c/480f oven
« Reply #18 on: August 10, 2010, 11:36:45 AM »
Almog, the fan/circulating air will do nothing in regards to the peak temperature of the oven/stone. As far as the stone is concerned, circulating 490ish degree air will bring it to the exact same temp as still 490ish degree air.  All the convection feature will do is help you pre-heat the stone faster (as well as giving you a little more top browning of the pizza during the bake).

In order to take the stone to a higher temp than 490 using the broiling pre-heat technique, you have to get it close to the broiler- very close.  Radiative heat is distance specific.  Placing the stone on the top shelf may not give you enough room to work with, so you might want to go with the second from the top- but no lower.

As you leave the U.S., it seems like flour labeling changes.  In England, for instance, they seem to add malted barley to flour (from the browning that is achieved during baking), and yet they don't list malted barley on the label.  Just because your flour may have an ingredient list as simple as 'Ingredients: Flour', doesn't necessarily mean that there is no malted barley in it. I would try contacting the manufacturer, and, if that doesn't work, we should be able to discern if it's malted from photos- based upon baking times.

Offline Kenny

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Re: Baking a Varasano pizza on 250c/480f oven
« Reply #19 on: August 10, 2010, 04:10:18 PM »
Your pizza looks under baked. I have no trouble browning crusts it just takes longer. As an option you can add some oil onto that dough. I would think Varasano's percentages have changed especially at his pizza place.