A problem I have are the bubbles that keep popping up on my pizzas when baking. They tear easily. Another problem is my pizzas sometimes refuse to rotate on oven floor either clockwise or counterclockwise. Very frustrating
How do you open your dough balls? This question, in relation to the above-referenced problems, deserves careful considerations. To the best of my knowledge, formation of the bubbles (which cause upward protrusion(s) on the face of a pizza being baked, hence, causing a wide gap/space between the oven floor and the protruded area(s) of the pizza base) is generally related to three factors that are often, but not always, interrelated. And, your second problem (i.e., arrested rotative movement of your pizzas on the turning peel) stems from one of the factors. But, before moving forward, let us regress as the previous stages of dough-making have lasting impressions on how your dough balls open and bake.
Indeed, various stages of producing Neapolitan dough and pizza are interconnected, meaning that the outcome of one stage substantially depends on the consequences of antecedent stages. Throughout the process, from the formation of the dough to molding and baking it into a Neapolitan pizza, the "dough strength" (along with other vital properties that will not be dealt with here) is of pivotal importance. (By "dough strength" I do not mean to maximize the gluten development/strength, but, briefly put, to procure an apropos/purposeful balance
between "dough elasticity" and "dough extensibility" achieved through time as results of the proteolytic and fermentative reactions in a dough that had reached a proper degree of homogeneity, hence a proper degree of gluten development, after mixing.)
Without adequate strength, a Neapolitan dough can prove to be disastrous on the bancone and/or oven floor, especially in a high-volume pizzeria that uses high dough hydration and long warm fermentation. Even low-volume pizzerias that use lower hydration rates and cold fermentation often have problems with dough strength. If a Neapolitan dough batch does not have adequate strength after conclusion of the initial fermentation, it may not be conducive to formation of wholesome dough balls. If the formed dough balls do not have sufficient strength, they may not be able to properly withstand the proteolytic and fermentative reactions during the final fermentation to reach proper dough maturation. If the dough balls are of poor strength when it comes to draft dough discs and garnish them with toppings, then the pizzaiolo may run into a host of problems. If the garnished dough discs are, let’s say, too weak, then uncertainties will arise as to whether or not they will make it undamaged from the bancone to the pizza peel and from the pizza peel to the oven floor. At last, imagine simultaneously baking multiple pizzas that are too weak to carry their own weights. How is the fornaio supposed to simultaneously juggle multiple pizzas without burning and/or breaking them?
As indicated above, it is of foundational importance to have healthy dough balls of proper strength in order to pave the way
for producing quality pizzas. I stated "pave the way" because healthy dough balls alone do not guarantee outstanding pizzas. From this point onward, it all depends on:
1. How skillfully the pizzaiolo can draft dough discs out of dough balls,
2. How skillfully the pizzaiolo can garnish the dough discs,
3. How skillfully the garnished dough discs are transferred onto the pizza peel and then onto the oven floor, and
4. How skillfully the pizzas are baked in a well-managed wood-fired oven.
In this undertaking, both the banconista and fornaio work in tandem like a pilot and copilot. The better the banconista performs his tasks of forming and garnishing dough discs, the better the fornaio will be able to fulfill his tasks of launching and baking the pizzas on the oven floor. Again, if, in this whole undertaking, the dough balls are of unfit quality, both the banconista and fornaio may find themselves struggling to keep their heads above the water during rush times.
Several factors (of which the banconista is in charge) commonly contribute to pizzas being difficult to handle on the oven floor, making the job of the fornaio strenuous. Some of the common factors are as follows:
1. In drafting a dough disc, the banconista neglects to uniformly smooth out the margin/region between the fleshy base of the dough ball and the dough skin encircling/bordering the fleshy base. (See the 1st picture below.) This assumes that the bottom surface of the dough ball will be used as the bottom of the pizza. Basically, when the division between the dough flesh and dough skin is not properly smoothed out throughout the circular perimeter of the dough disc, it may form pockets/folds/dents/obstructions below the pizza cornicione while being baked on the oven floor. If so, the curved edges of the turning peel can get caught, while rotating the pizza on the oven floor, inside the pocket(s), possibly causing tears or damages to the pizza. Alternatively, sometimes a rough, non-smoothed out margin turns into an obstruction of some sort that can bring to a halt the clockwise or counterclockwise rotation of the pizza on the turning peel. In the process of opening a dough ball, sometimes the dough skin may overlap the dough flesh. If excessive amount of bench flour is caught inside the gap, then it might be almost impossible to seal it. As you can imagine, these problems can frustrate the efforts of the fornaio to bake multiple pizzas simultaneously. Using wooden, as opposed to plastic, dough boxes may have a mitigating effect on these problems.
2. In drafting a dough disc, the banconista unduly over-stresses, hence overstretches, some surface areas more than other surface areas on the dough disc. Consequently, there will be a lack of uniform density throughout the disc, which causes some surface areas to become thinner and weaker. In turn, during baking, the thinner and weaker areas may trap the generated steam below the dough disc and protrude upward, making the task of rotating the pizza difficult or risky. There is a chance that the turning peel may tear through the bubbles or weak areas.
3. In launching a raw pizza on the oven floor, the fornaio repeatedly shakes the pizza peel forward and backward in a manner that the front edge of the peel causes dents or folds under the dough disc. If the turning peel gets caught inside the fold, it may tear the pizza on the oven floor.
4. The banconista neglects to clear the workbench surface of foreign objects such as cheese. If a piece of cheese somehow ends up on the bottom of a pizza being baked on the oven floor, it may act like a glue, gluing the pizza to the oven floor. Detaching the pizza from the floor may cause the base to break. Alternatively, sometimes a piece of cheese may fall off a pizza during the launch and land on the sideline, possibly gluing the pizza rim to the oven floor. At last, depending on the state of your dough and how hot the oven floor is, excess flour under a pizza may have nearly the same effect, besides making the turning peel sticky.
As I mentioned above, the protruding bubbles on the face of your pizzas during baking are usually related to three factors that are often, but not always, interrelated:
1. Poorly drafting/stretching a dough ball into a dough disc,
2. Lack of enough strength in the gluten matrix and/or over-maturation of dough balls,
3. Excessively hot oven floor
In many cases, factor No. 1 is probably responsible for the bubbles, and this problem is further aggravated when it is accompanied by factors No. 2 and 3. Basically, when some areas of a dough disc unduly receive more physical force/stress/thrust than the rest of the areas in the process of stretching, the over-stressed areas (which are usually thinner and weaker) are more likely to trap the steam generated below the pizza base and expand upward. The protruded areas of the crust may easily break when rotating your pizzas on the oven floor.
My assumption is that, when you open your dough ball, you treat it as though it were a New York-style pizza dough, which is akin to treating a katana like a French foil, or a classical guitar like an electric guitar. A New York-style pizza dough can endure much more stress than Neapolitan dough because it is a much stronger dough. Moreover, the former is not manipulated and baked on the oven floor the same way as the latter. If opening a dough ball on your knuckles is your method, then you need to perform it with more finesse. The better a dough ball is opened and topped with toppings, the easier it will be handled on the oven floor. Good day!