Author Topic: Dynamics of Good Pizza Crust  (Read 4102 times)

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Offline paul260426

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Dynamics of Good Pizza Crust
« on: August 29, 2005, 08:37:33 PM »
When trying to get a good crust with pockets of air and crispy....how do the following factors contribute and work together....yeast, flour, oven temperature, kneading?  What is the main factor for getting this pockets of air, crispy texture in crust?  My crust often is flat and soggy in some places.  I can't seem to get consistency.


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Re: Dynamics of Good Pizza Crust
« Reply #1 on: August 29, 2005, 10:23:06 PM »
Paul,

Your question is a good one. It is one that many have asked before, and it is a tough one and hard to generalize. All of the factors you mentioned--yeast, flour, oven temperature and kneading--play a role in the final outcome, much like each instrument in an orchestra contributes to the musical experience. A mistake here or there, or a lack of synchronicity, and you have cacophany.

However, if I were to try to identify the factors that play the greatest role in achieving a light and open and airy structure, I would put the flour, hydration (the ratio of the weight of water to the weight of flour), and kneading at the front of the pack. To get the best crumb--one that is open and airy with holes of irregular size and shape--you will do far better using a high-protein, high-gluten flour than a weaker flour (such as an all-purpose flour). High gluten flours (a good example of which is the King Arthur Sir Lancelot flour) develop better gluten structures that can trap and hold more gasses during kneading. High-gluten flours also can absorb more water (hydration) than weaker flours. One of the best examples I can think of to illustrate the value of high hydration is a focaccia dough or a ciabatta dough. Both have hydration percents of over 70%. They are so wet that they are usually handled by using a bench scraper rather than the hands. Yet, the crumb of the breads made from these dough exhibits very large, irregular-shaped and sized holes (sometimes called "voids"). It's hard to get the same results in a pizza dough, since it would be highly unusual to use a 70+% hydration percent with a pizza dough and be able to handle and shape the dough. It will be very wet and stick to your fingers and be virtually unmanageable. A more typical hydration for a pizza dough, such as a NY style dough, is around 58-65%. At those levels, you won't get the same hole structure as a focaccia dough or a ciabatta dough but you will at least be able to handle the dough. An added benefit of a high hydration percent is a crispier crust.

Even if you use a high-gluten flour with a high hydration percent, you can still fail in the objective of achieving a light and open and airy crumb in the crust. If you overknead the dough, you will end up with a crust that has a tight crumb with small, tight, regular-shaped holes. The character of the crumb will resemble bread rather than a pizza crust. So, it is important not to overknead. Once the dough comes together into a smooth, cohesive ball, you should stop kneading and resist the urge to continue kneading. I think this is one of the hardest lessons to learn, but once you learn what a good dough looks and feels like, you will be set for life.

Yeast is a tougher question. Many believe that using large amounts of yeast and warm water will yield a more open and airy crust. Yet I have made large pizzas (e.g., 16-inch) using as little as 1/8 teaspoon yeast (instant dry yeast) and cool water and achieved a large rim with an open and airy crust. I think the answer lies in part on the condition of the dough when the time comes to shape it into a skin and make the pizza. It's important to understand that yeast needs sugar to survive and continue to produce carbon dioxide gas that causes the dough to rise. The sugar can come from the natural sugars extracted from the flour or from any added sugars. Once the yeast runs out of food, the dough will start to head south, i.e., overferment. Once this happens, everything that you did well and properly prior to this point will be for naught. You will generally end up with an inferior crust and pizza. So, it is very important that you not let the dough overferment.

Oven temperature is important because of the concept of oven spring--that burst of yeast activity once the pizza hits the oven, whether on a pizza stone or tiles or on a pan or pizza screen. If a pizza is put in a cold oven and the oven is then turned on, there will be too little heat to cause the dough to rise quickly. You need a hot oven. A hot oven, or a hot stone or tiles, will cause the yeast to exert its final effort before it expires (at around 140 degrees F) and produce the final burst of carbon dioxide that causes the dough to rise as it starts its bake. Yeast is important at this point because if there is too little of it, of if the dough had overfermented, there will be little oven spring. That will usually translate into a crust that is flat and with a poor crumb structure. So, if you did everything exactly right up to this point, you can still fail and end up scratching your head wondering what happened.

On the matter of consistency, the best advice I can offer you is to use a good scale (a digital one) for weighing the flour and water for those recipes, of which there are many on this forum, that specify flour and water by weight. Otherwise, you will be hard pressed to achieve consistency in your doughs. Worse yet, in most cases you won't even know it. You will go from one poor or failed dough to another, and you will end up with a lousy batting average.

So, if your objective is to achieve an open an airy crust, my advice is to choose a good, high-gluten flour, use a relatively high hydration level (at least 60%, and preferably higher), don't overknead the dough, don't let the dough overferment before baking, use a high oven temperature or hot stones or tiles, and use a scale to weigh things. If these steps don't work, take a few aspirins and call me.

Peter

« Last Edit: August 29, 2005, 10:35:09 PM by Pete-zza »

Offline paul260426

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Re: Dynamics of Good Pizza Crust
« Reply #2 on: August 29, 2005, 11:23:06 PM »
Hi Pete,

I appreciate the effort you put into that.  That puts a new perspective on the matter.  I have to get more exact with my ingredients and process.

Let me follow with another question as I iron this out.  If I add Vital Wheat Gluten to regular all purpose flour will I get the same results as a King Arthur flour?  Reason I ask is that I live in an area where high-gluten flour does not exist.  I have searched and searched and it is not here. 

Another question...on overfermenting...does retarding the dough in the fridge stop the overfermenting process?  Can you talk more about controlling this.

And finally...when you are making dough in bulk for a restaurant...you make your dough in a mixer...then you let all the dough rise together....and then do you separate the dough into sizes for one pizza and store these in a fridge?  Is that the way it is normally done?

I am thinking I will return to the USA and work in a pizzeria for a while.  This should give me the experience I need.

Thank You.

Offline TimEggers

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Re: Dynamics of Good Pizza Crust
« Reply #3 on: August 30, 2005, 02:14:00 AM »
Peter,

You are a wealth of knowledge my friend!

I too have a question for you.  You stated that kneading should be stopped as soon as the dough forms a cohesive ball.  I knead my dough in my Kitchen Aid mixer and have made some observations.  First for the first 5-10 minutes of kneading some of the dough sticks to the bottom of the mixer bowl (I call this the contact patch) and it is about 2-3 inches across.  However as I knead it slowly gets smaller.  Then the dough will lift completely off the bowl.  Is that the moment that I should stop kneading?  I assume the flour is absorbing the water in the dough as kneading occurs to the point that the dough ball dries enough to come together.  Then again I am no scientist!  I hate to under-knead as the dough tears so easily when forming.  I have experimented with no kneading and the results are not too great in my opinion.  My crumb however know is very tight like bread as you describe, I don't hate it by any means however I'd like to achieve the "super crumb" you describe.

You help is greatly appreciated by me and the others who benefit from you lengthy detailed responses!  Thank you!

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Re: Dynamics of Good Pizza Crust
« Reply #4 on: August 30, 2005, 03:53:10 AM »
You know what TimEggers?
Sometimes you have to forget sience and get back to basic of good flour,water,salt and yeat to achive what you want just have agood feel for what you're doing that is the secret recipe for success
faith in yourself!

Offline TimEggers

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Re: Dynamics of Good Pizza Crust
« Reply #5 on: August 30, 2005, 10:26:09 AM »
There is a lot of truth to that.  It is just my nature to approach things from a "scientific" angle.  I guess that's what makes me such a geek!

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Re: Dynamics of Good Pizza Crust
« Reply #6 on: August 30, 2005, 11:11:26 AM »
Paul,

If you supplement all-purpose flour with vital wheat gluten, you will not get the same end result as using the flour (e.g., bread flour or high-gluten flour) you are trying to replicate. I use this approach only when I am trying to make a dough that calls for bread flour or high-gluten flour but have only all-purpose flour. In those instances, the vital wheat gluten will increase the protein and gluten content of the dough you are making and will cause it to have greater volume and will contribute to a chewier, browner, tastier (in my opinion) crust. I have written on this subject in greater detail before, even as recently as a week or so ago. If you are interested, you can go to the Lehmann thread, at http://www.pizzamaking.com/forum/index.php/topic,576.0.html, and look at Replies # 65 (p.4), #67 (p.4), # 204 (p.11) and # 205 (p.11).

On the retardation matter, yes, putting the dough in the refrigerator or cooler will slow down the fermentation process. However, it won't stop it. The fermentation process continues, along with many other activities of an enzymatic nature that produce byproducts of fermentation (acids, etc.) that also affect the dough and gluten structure and act to foreshorten its useful life. How long the dough will last will depend on many factors, including the amount of yeast used, the hydration percent, the water temperature used, the refrigerator/cooler temperature during retardation, amount of salt/sugar, and, in general, the finished dough temperature as it comes off the hook. If everything is done properly, one can expect a useful dough life of around 2 to 3 days under retardation. It is possible under certain circumstances to extend that (some of our members have gotten up to 5-6 days), but for most pizza operators, 2-3 days seems to be good enough for their production cycles. If you'd like, I'd be happy to expand on this aspect of dough management more.

I am not a pizza operator so I don't know all of their dough management practices. But as I understand them, most operators use mainly two approaches to how they handle the dough once it comes out of the mixer. Some will divide, scale (weigh), lightly coat with oil, and place the individual dough balls into proofing boxes. The proofing boxes are then cross-stacked to let the dough balls dry out a bit (so that moisture doesn't get trapped in the proofing boxes), and then down stacked to go into a cooler. The dough using this approach will usually use little yeast and cool temperatures so that the dough balls don't rise much while in the cooler. Otherwise, the dough balls can rise too quickly, use too much real estate in the proofing boxes, and run into each other. The dough balls are used within the next day or so, depending on the planned production cycle built into the dough by the recipe and dough processing techniques used. Other pizza operators divide the dough into dough balls as needed. I suspect this latter approach is used for a same-day, room-temperature fermented dough. Otherwise, I would think that it would be difficult and cumbersome to retard such a dough in bulk in a cooler and control its temperature. I also suspect that the dough formulation will be different for this application, using more yeast and possibly warmer water temperatures (depending on the time of year and ambient room temperature) so that the dough is usable in the relatively short time frame required by the pizza operator.

Peter

« Last Edit: August 30, 2005, 11:25:04 AM by Pete-zza »

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Re: Dynamics of Good Pizza Crust
« Reply #7 on: August 30, 2005, 11:33:57 AM »
Tim,

From the way you describe your results, I would say that your dough has been kneaded enough. This is one of those instances where it is far easier to show someone how a dough should look and feel than to explain it in words (and even with photos). I keep trying, however, to find ways to explain the process. The last time I did this in a definitive way was at the Lehmann thread, at Reply # 190, at http://www.pizzamaking.com/forum/index.php/topic,576.180.html. For that discussion, I used a 12-inch pizza as the benchmark. You might want to take a look at that post. You may also want to take a look at the post referenced in Reply # 190. It discusses, inter alia, the tearing problem you mention. As you will see, there isn't a lot of science involved.

Peter

Offline paul260426

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Re: Dynamics of Good Pizza Crust
« Reply #8 on: August 30, 2005, 02:42:37 PM »
Okay Pete...I understand you to say that you actually achieved a nice crust using Vital Wheat Gluten and All Purpose Flour?  By importing to here Vital Wheat Gluten instead of High Gluten Flour my import cost would be much less expensive per pizza created.  That is why I am interested in this approach.  I will order a pound of Vital Wheat Gluten and do some testing.

Thank You.

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Re: Dynamics of Good Pizza Crust
« Reply #9 on: August 30, 2005, 03:30:05 PM »
Paul,

Yes, I thought the crust was quite good under the circumstances. I noticed the difference more in the supplemented all-purpose flour than the supplemented bread flour. The best results still come with the high-gluten flour. But if that is not an option, then I think using the vital wheat gluten is a good way to go. You might also consider using some dried dairy whey if you can locate some. It does a good job of enhancing the browning of a crust, especially one based on all-purpose flour which has several percentage points less protein than a high-gluten flour.

Please let us know what results you achieve if you decide to try the vital wheat gluten enhancement.

Peter


Offline weaverpizza

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Re: Dynamics of Good Pizza Crust
« Reply #10 on: August 30, 2005, 03:45:17 PM »
Hi all,

May I take this in an add'l direction....

The original post also says 'crispy'.  Perhaps this is too large to cover here but I need to understand more about the crispy part.

In baking, could those pizza caesars weigh in on how to get a crisp shell on the crust, yet tender inside?

Not looking for neopolitan or even a too thin sometimes standard NY.  There has got to be a way to get a crisp medium crust like that which comes from a conveyor oven from a home oven.

Some background.  I would like to have a medium thick pizza with a nice small crisp layer on the bottom of the pizza.  Like Sbarro (when done right).  It crunches but is soft in the middle.  I own screen, anondized pans, and have quarry tiles but don't seem to be happy with what I can create.

Perhaps my downside is that from some past perfection on pans, I use 2 eggs in my mix instead of some water which provides an interesting twist on my dough--browns and crisps up nice but not like sbarro.  Also in my dough recipe which is very similar to some here, I use 2 T of sugar in 3 cups of high gluten flour.  I also put 2T of oil in my dough.  Typically bake in a home elec oven on a middle rack on annondized pan at 485, but I would like to perfect the crust.

If I should start another thread, let me know.

Mike

Offline paul260426

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Re: Dynamics of Good Pizza Crust
« Reply #11 on: August 30, 2005, 03:53:52 PM »
If you are using High Gluten Flour then you should have the chewy inside part solved.  To get the crispy on bottom part...you might try spraying the pan with oil before cooking or at some point in the cooking process.  I have waited until the pizza was almost done and then lifted the pizza from pan and sprayed the pan and sat the pizza back on it and let it cook a few minutes more.  That has given me a crispy on bottom but chewy inside.  That is when I was in the USA and had acces to KA flour.  Of course I am sure there is a better way and the way the pros do it.

Offline paul260426

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Re: Dynamics of Good Pizza Crust
« Reply #12 on: August 30, 2005, 05:17:14 PM »
I just made a pizza.  I am experimenting and after getting some great feedback from pete I tried something.  I only have bread dough to work with.  Here is what I did.  I mixed more than I usually do of yeast with water and a little sugar.  Waited until the yeast began to ferment and then put it in the flour to mix.  Mixed it and then let set for one hour.  Then punched down.  I then used more flour to decrease hydration and make dough easy to work with.  I was not happy with the dough breaking apart several times...but expected it as this is not high gluten flour.  Once on pan I let it rise again.  This time I made sure my oven was hot and then put the pizza in the oven.  I got a good pizza.  I was so surprised that the bread dough would make that good of a pizza.  It was not near as good as a high gluten flour pizza but it was airy with bubbles throughout.  So this is what I did different.

1. Added more yeast
2. Mixed and Kneaded the dough (In past I did not pay much attention to kneading)
3. Let the dough rise a second time on the pan.
4. Pre-heated the oven before cooking the pizza.

The point in sharing this is that all factors add up.   What you think may not be so important may very well be important.

You have to have some way to record what you do when experimenting.  You should measure out with an electronic scale.  Pay attention to every detail.  I'm going looking for a scale and some other items.

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Re: Dynamics of Good Pizza Crust
« Reply #13 on: August 30, 2005, 06:08:06 PM »
In my first post on this thread, I alluded to crispiness but didn't expand on it. Achieving crispiness is a topic in itself.

However, using a high-gluten flour will, in itself, yield a more crispy crust, simply because of the higher protein content. Although somewhat counterintuitive, using a higher hydration will also usually yield a crispier crust. This is because of the increased porosity of the dough. You will usually need at least 55-60% hydration to achieve a crispy crust (e.g., for a NY style crust).

You can also achieve greater crispiness in a crust by using a lower bake temperature and a longer bake time. This allows the crust to dry out more and become more crispy as a result.

A few members have reported in the past that they have achieved greater crispiness in the crust by simply removing the pizza from the oven toward the end of its bake, letting the pizza cool for a few minutes, and then returning the pizza for a final few minutes. I don't fully understand what happens, but it seems to work. Maybe the stone has a chance to get back up to temperature and provide a final hot burst to the crust. This may be an approach that Mike may want to consider, possibly using a recipe such as Randy's American style recipe. I have used the basic technique many times for reheating pizza slices and it works very well. It should also work well for an entire pizza, along the lines mentioned above.

Another way to increase crispiness is to minimize the use of sugars in the dough, especially if the pizza is to be baked on a hearth-like surface, such as a preheated pizza stone or tiles. Sugar promotes browning, and the more of it there is, the more and faster browning you will get. The pizza will look done, but in reality it is not. The crust will look done because of the browing but the inside may still be soft. You may get better chewiness but not better crispiness.

Paul has also offered up some useful ideas for increasing the crispiness of a finished crust. What he proposes is similar to what is often done for pan pizzas. A lot of oil or other fat (e.g., a hydrogenated fat) is placed in the pan before the dough is put in. When the pizza bakes, the dough basically "fries" in the oil or fat, giving it a very crispy exterior, yet a soft interior. Of course, this cannot be done with a pizza that is to be baked on a stone or tiles or on a screen.

Peter


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Re: Dynamics of Good Pizza Crust
« Reply #14 on: August 30, 2005, 06:42:01 PM »
On flours and protein levels I can add the following
In technical discussions in the last few month here in OZ with various Australian millers they said to me that there is no way to improve quality of a low grade flour by adding any gluten flour the quality won't be the same either. They also added that is much easier for a baker to buy good bread flour and to mix it down with other ingredients such as corn flour than to go up from an APF to a high strenght flour.
After all discussions I've had with various millers I have found an average of a good quality flour starts about 12.5% with an upper guaranteed limit of 13.3-13.5%(never mind what bag labels say mine reads 14.5%) or otherwise fall into premixes which will cost you a pretty penny and hard to find because it is flour specially made for trade only bulk direct delivery to specialty bakers or others not distributors.
Of course there is always and invariably a variation on protein levels tolerance in their mixes  this is why no miller will guarantee a fixed protein strenght flour unless under special contract agreement and this is what I am seeking to negotiate with current miller's supplies.
This batch I just taken delivery of has the following
Enriched protein flour
Protein 13.3 13.5%
Moisture 14%
Ash% .60 max
water asborption 64-68%
Extensograph 45 min pull H350-480
It is also ISO900 certified

It should be great for pizza as per ash level no relly important in itself but it is always good indicator of constant quality and I can deduct from the figures that little yeast will go a long way
« Last Edit: August 30, 2005, 07:22:20 PM by piroshok »

Offline weaverpizza

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Re: Dynamics of Good Pizza Crust
« Reply #15 on: August 30, 2005, 07:21:44 PM »
Thank Paul for the comment on high gluten.

Thank you so much Peter for the concise description of the issue with sugar and likely the fat in eggs.  Both cause browning, I understand.

I will have to experiment with the dough recipe much more and see.

Another piece, is a crispier crust possible on a screen or pan?  Without frying in oil.

Mike

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Re: Dynamics of Good Pizza Crust
« Reply #16 on: August 30, 2005, 07:33:15 PM »
piroshok,

I remember having a conversation with a technical person at Bay State Milling in which I posed the specific question of supplementing all-purpose flour or bread flour with vital wheat gluten and, in particular, whether the two flours--the supplemented and the non-supplemented--would be about the same. I was told that they would be. Having researched how vital wheat gluten is made, I had my doubts. That is why I have never stated that they would be the same--only that I liked a crust based on the non-supplemented dough better than one based on the supplemented dough.

But your additional comments about cornmeal raises another possibility of improving an all-purpose flour, and that is to add semolina flour. That will definitely make the crust chewier. I think I might give that a try, using about 25% semolina. Maybe I will also add some vital wheat gluten and dairy whey while I am at it and see what comes of it.

Looking at the specs for the flour you recently took delivery of I would say that you are well on your way to making some mighty fine pizzas.

Peter
« Last Edit: March 05, 2007, 08:07:37 PM by Pete-zza »

Offline paul260426

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Re: Dynamics of Good Pizza Crust
« Reply #17 on: August 30, 2005, 08:02:11 PM »
I put together a spreadsheet to track my pizza experiments.  I am sure it is not complete and you may want to modify it to meet your specific needs...but if you want a copy and you have Excel then I will be happy to give it to you.  Just let me know.

Offline paul260426

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Re: Dynamics of Good Pizza Crust
« Reply #18 on: August 30, 2005, 08:07:39 PM »
I was watching them at Dominoes the other day and they take the dough disk and as they spread it out they add cornmeal to it.  I have also seen this at several other pizza shops.  I do like the cornmeal on the outside effect...but it appeared that Dominoes was working the cornmeal into the dough as they shape it.

Offline paul260426

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Re: Dynamics of Good Pizza Crust
« Reply #19 on: August 30, 2005, 08:20:19 PM »
Hey Pete...

Semolina Flour....I thought I saw that in the store the other day.  If I were to add it to All Purpose Flour or Bread Flour what would that do...give me a chewier texture than just all purpose of bread flour.  Do you believe the crust would be better?

I will have to try that.