Author Topic: High Hydration Troubles  (Read 1916 times)

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Offline pizzadoc

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High Hydration Troubles
« on: June 21, 2005, 06:31:02 AM »
Hello All,

I have been lurking here for a few months, and making pizza for about 7-8 yrs.  I began with Evelyne Slomon's Pizza Book and had lots of good years of delicious pizza.  But this site got me interested in New York Style.  I have had good luck with Solomon's recipe and with the Neopolitan recipe from Reinhart's American Pie.  (Although my Kitchen Aid strains at his large recipe).

Last week I tried the Tom Lehmann 65% hydration recipe (per Pete-zaa).  I used an autolyse and the other instructions on varasano (the king's) website.  I used KA AP flour.
It was much wetter than any dough I had ever worked with, and was actually pretty unworkable.  But I gamely put it in the fridge overnight and ended up waiting 3 days before I was able to make it.  It was still fairly unworkable and sticky.  I was able to stretch it out on a floured surface and got it onto my slide (prepped with lots more than usual corn meal on top of flour).

My wife won't let me "ruin our oven" -LOL- (cleaning cycle method), so I'm stuck at 550 F.  Anyway, when I slid that puppy off the slide, it stuck and crumpled into a huge mess.  It ended up kinda like a stromboli, and did still taste good, but I was irate that my experiment went so horribly.  I tried again with the second batch (made the same night with the same recipe), being a bit more vigorous with the flour on the board and the same f-ing thing happened. 

So, sorry for that lengthy diatribe, but how-oh-how do you guys work with those high hydration doughs?

-Pizzadoc
« Last Edit: June 21, 2005, 06:41:55 AM by pizzadoc »


Offline Randy

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Re: High Hydration Troubles
« Reply #1 on: June 21, 2005, 07:27:13 AM »
These wet doughs they should have a final knead and shaping on a floured board even if you use a mixer.  You can see how that helps with the sticky problem.  You should be able to handle the dough easily after that.  AP flour is okay but try High Gluten flour.
As a point PR's recipes are always very wet but again he expects to pick up flour from hand kneading.  Id you do not weigh your ingredients think about getting an electronic scale.  A good way to tell how close you are is to look at what size patch is under the dough ball while the mixer is running.  shot for a silver dollar size.

Randy

Online Pete-zza

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Re: High Hydration Troubles
« Reply #2 on: June 21, 2005, 10:02:42 AM »
pizzadoc,

Welcome to the forum.

The Lehmann recipe you chose (and modified) calls for a very high hydration (amount of water relative to the amount of flour) to begin with--at the very top of the hydration range for that recipe (around 58-65%). Maybe you didn't realize it at the time, but when you used rest periods as advocated by varasano and others, you actually increased the hydration of the dough because of the improved absorption of the water by the flour. When you used the KA AP flour, you further aggravated the situation because the KA AP flour, as good as it is, cannot absorb the amount of water called for by the recipe. The reason for this is that the KA AP flour has less protein and less gluten than the KA Sir Lancelot flour called for in the recipe--11.7% protein versus 14.2%. (As a generalization, the higher the protein and gluten content of a flour, the more water the flour can absorb). If you used volume measurements rather than weight measurements, depending on how you measure things out you might also have raised the hydration level of the dough.

I suspect your dough would have turned out much better had you followed the Lehmann recipe as it was set forth. However, when you find yourself in a situation as you did, it is best to just forget the recipe and pay very close attention to the dough. What you want is a dough that is smooth, silky, elastic, and a bit tacky--not wet or dry. If it's really wet, as it was in your case, just add more flour--a teaspoon or tablespoon at a time--and work it into the dough. If the dough is dry, add water--also a bit at a time--and work it into the dough. I carefully weigh the amounts of flour and water I need, and even I have to make minor adjustments to flour and water to get the dough just right.

Since I posted the recipe you used, I have modified it to lower its hydration by a few percentage points. If you go to the thread I recently posted at http://www.pizzamaking.com/forum/index.php/topic,1453.0.html you will find several possible Lehmann NY style recipes to choose from. If you want to use autolyse or other rest periods and other procedures, you should feel free to do so but keep in mind that making those kinds of changes will alter the dough somewhat and change its finished characteristics. I suspect that you will likely have to make other adjustments, such as to flour and water, and to take other measures, to achieve the end results you are looking for.

I'm sure that in due course you will master the techniques of making good high-hydration pizza doughs, whether it is a Lehmann NY style dough or any other. The principles involved are pretty much the same.

Peter

Offline scott r

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Re: High Hydration Troubles
« Reply #3 on: June 21, 2005, 12:43:47 PM »
Pizzadoc,
I could be wrong, but I don't think the Lehmann dough needs a rest period.  Anyone please feel free to correct me if I am wrong, but I think one end result of the autolyse could be more puff and air to the crust.  When I have made the Raquel doughs, this was needed, and I came out with a really great crust texture, not too airy or puffy.  When I have made the Lehmann dough, It has almost been too puffy (but amazing).  So amazing that I could really just stop here and be done with my dough experiments if I really wanted to .  I recently made a Lehmann batch without an autolyse and it really didn't seem that much different at all.  If pressed to make a decision I would have to say that the non autyolyse Lehmann had a slight edge over the version I made with the rest periods.  I am pretty sure my mixing techniques and times were exactly the same except for the rest periods.  Now, this was a dough made with instant yeast.  From messing around with preferments I think that doughs leavened with these natural starters could benefit more from the autolyse.  Again, this is probably why they work so well for Raquel. Also remember that every starter is different, so this could just be the one that I am using.  I am still testing these theories, so I will get back to you if I find out that I am wrong.

Online Pete-zza

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Re: High Hydration Troubles
« Reply #4 on: June 21, 2005, 02:06:59 PM »
For the basic Lehmann NY style recipe I tend to be neutral on the use of autolyse or similar rest periods, especially in light of the feedback on this forum that suggests that many members like the rest periods. I tend not to like crusts or rims that are too bready, so I don't use autolyse or similar rest periods for my own Lehmann doughs using the basic recipe. However, I have made some of the finest Lehmann doughs and pizzas when I used autolyse in conjunction with natural preferments. In one case, the autolysed dough was refrigerated, and in another case it was fermented entirely at room temperature. The pizzas were among the best I have ever made.

For 00 doughs, I have had little success thus far using autolyse or similar rest periods. And, the higher the hydration, the less effective they seem to me to be. I think they may be more effective for a refrigerated 00 dough, perhaps along the lines of pftaylor's Sophia dough, but I have only recently started experimenting more with refrigerated 00 doughs, so the jury is still out on that for me.

Peter
« Last Edit: June 21, 2005, 02:13:25 PM by Pete-zza »

Offline pizzadoc

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Re: High Hydration Troubles
« Reply #5 on: June 22, 2005, 02:52:29 AM »
Thanks to everyone for all the quick replies.  I will try all of your suggestions, and make several doughs later this week.  You guys are the greatest, and I really appreciate it.

I think that one major mistake was not looking at the dough, and blindly following a recipe.  But I'd never made that high of a hydration before and figured, "Hey, what do I know, maybe it's supposed to look like thick soup." ;)

Again, you guys rock.

-Pizzadoc

Offline pizzadoc

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Re: High Hydration Troubles
« Reply #6 on: July 04, 2005, 08:25:20 AM »
Hello All,

       Finally got some time off work to make several new batches a couple nights ago.  I used KA Bread Flour.  (We can't get KASL here).  I used IDY instead of brick form.  I did a 48 hour cold rise (didn't have time to make the pies after 24 hours).  Skipped the autolyse,  and performed the final kneed on all 3 batches. 

Making so many changes at once was probably stupid as it makes it hard to pinpoint which variable was the one that made the pies better or worse.  However, I didn't have time to do each experiment individually, and luckily, all were better than my stromboli disaster (see first post).

I made TL recipe post #1, and #29 and Reinhart's New Yorker style.  All were delicious, but I changed each recipe slightly (I wasn't a slave to the amounts of flour).

I do think the highest hydration recipe (TL #1) was the best tasting.  And funnily, the lower hydration TL (TL post #29) was the hardest to work with.  But I may have kneeded in more flour to TL#1, not sure.

At any rate, I tried most of the suggestions (short of buying a scale) and they all worked well.  Does everybody use a scale?  That seems so engineer-like.  I guess it would make the results more reproducible. 

Anyway, thanks -- you guys are a national treasure;)

-pizzadoc

« Last Edit: July 04, 2005, 08:32:04 AM by pizzadoc »

Online Pete-zza

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Re: High Hydration Troubles
« Reply #7 on: July 04, 2005, 12:00:27 PM »
pizzadoc,

Congratulations on achieving good results with your three pizzas. The changes you made were all within the normal parameters for the recipes you used.

If you wish to achieve consistency from one dough to the next, then having a scale available--preferably a digital one--will be a great help. I have conducted several weight tests on my digital scale of flour and water, using different scooping/leveling/shaking techniques for flour and using both a heavy hand and a light hand in measuring out flour--and using eyeballing techniques to measure water--and I can easily swing the hydration levels by several percentage points. That alone can lead to inconsistent results. There are professionals who do not weigh their ingredients (Dom DeMarco at DiFara's is prominent among them), but they are usually people who have been making dough day in and day out over a course of many years and are basically on auto-pilot. You might be able to do the same thing in a home setting with a particular dough recipe that you use a lot, but if you make many different styles and varieties, or if you take long breaks from your pizza making, then it is difficult to stay in the groove. Using a scale forces you to stay within the lines. That's not for everyone, and for some it can even take the fun out of pizza making. It's entirely up to you which way you chose to go. There's room for all of us in the pizza making universe.

Peter