Author Topic: Hydration vs. Temperature - What's the ratio?  (Read 7040 times)

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Offline UnConundrum

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Hydration vs. Temperature - What's the ratio?
« on: November 12, 2005, 09:02:19 PM »
Hi.  Congratulations on a great forum  :)

Obviously, I'm new here, so a little bit about myself first.  I live in Pennsylvania Dutch country, and thus, virtually no access to really great pizza;  I don't have anything to compare to.  That being said, about 20 years ago, I owned a pizza shop in the Reading, Pennsylvania area and made what I believe to have been the best pizza in the area.  I'm prejudiced.  We retired from the restaurant biz when it became impossible to find good help.  I've continued to cook, and bake, and have even taken some courses, but none in the pizza arena.  However, I have taken some professional baking courses, focusing on baguettes, and I've learned some really great techniques from James McGuire that I have recently tried to apply to my pizza making (inspired by this forum).

I've read many posts here about the use of 00 flour, and the comments that it probably needs higher hydration for the home user due to the lower oven temps.  What I haven't read is why the higher hydration is bad for hotter ovens.  I bake my pizzas on a Big Green Egg (http://www.biggreenegg.com) where I cook over charcoal and have a temperature range from about 180 to triple digits :)  The dough I want to use actually has a 72% hydration, well beyond anything I've seen discussed here.  What are the ramifications?  I'd expect that the moisture would add to oven spring, no?


Offline Bill/SFNM

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Re: Hydration vs. Temperature - What's the ratio?
« Reply #1 on: November 12, 2005, 10:28:39 PM »
What I haven't read is why the higher hydration is bad for hotter ovens.

Welcome, UC.

In my experience, the higher the hydration and the hotter the oven, the better the results.

Bill/SFNM

Online Pete-zza

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Re: Hydration vs. Temperature - What's the ratio?
« Reply #2 on: November 12, 2005, 10:57:29 PM »
UC,

It wasn't clear to me from your post what the temperature range is for your Green Egg, especially the maximum temperature you can get out of it during baking. It's that upper limit that may be critical in your case.

What Bill says is consistent with my understanding. If you have a very high temperature oven, such as a wood-fired oven that can get to around 800 degrees F, you can use a very high hydration. Unless you have a lot of experience handling very wet doughs, you may have problems handling a dough with over 70% hydration, but the hydration per se won't be a problem and the oven will be able to handle it. In a home oven setting, you will need a higher hydration than is usually recommended, but if you go too high it can backfire and you can end up with a crust that is more cracker-like because of the longer required bake time. One of our members, pizzanapoletana, an expert on Neapolitan pizzas, discussed this point at Reply # 21 at http://www.pizzamaking.com/forum/index.php/topic,1298.msg11838.html#msg11838. In a home setting, it is also usually a good idea to use some oil in the dough, which pizzanapoletana has also recommended in the past for home oven settings.

Peter








Offline UnConundrum

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Re: Hydration vs. Temperature - What's the ratio?
« Reply #3 on: November 13, 2005, 08:22:28 AM »
I'm sorry Peter, I just re-read my post, and it wasn't clear.  I can reach well over 1000 F, and yes, I have handled doughs with such high hydration in the past, just not for pizza.
     I tried my high hydration dough last night, at about 750 F, and ended up with burn marks on the bottom that were not very appetizing.  Just flour, water, salt, yeast and a little olive oil in the dough, no milk or sugar.  Also, the dough, while very tasty, was pale and not crisp.  I attributed this to the high hydration....  ???  It baked for about a minute, and the bottom was to the point it had to come out if it was even going to be tasted.
     Ultimately, I lowered the temp to about 550 - 600 and was able to get a nice bottom (I had made 5 doughs to play with) but they were still pale white, and not crisp after about 6 minutes.

Offline Bill/SFNM

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Re: Hydration vs. Temperature - What's the ratio?
« Reply #4 on: November 13, 2005, 11:01:21 AM »
UC,

How long are you fermenting and proofing the dough?

Bill/SFNM

Offline UnConundrum

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Re: Hydration vs. Temperature - What's the ratio?
« Reply #5 on: November 13, 2005, 12:20:14 PM »
Well, that's where I'm making a substantial digression from what the other recipes here suggest.  I wanted to check results and report on the method, only if successful...... :-[  , not wanting to spark a debate over a procedure that fails....  It's an extension of a project James McGuire is working on for baguettes.

Offline Bill/SFNM

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Re: Hydration vs. Temperature - What's the ratio?
« Reply #6 on: November 13, 2005, 01:15:24 PM »
The dough methods I use for baguettes and the ones I use for Neapolitan pizzas are very different. Well, I guess they both have the same ingredients (I don't use olive oil in either) but I use a fairly dry dough for baguettes and a very wet one for pizzas. Kneading, fermenting, retarding, proofing, and, of course, baking temp and time also vary.

What technique(s) from baguettes are you trying to apply to pizza?


Bill/SFNM

Offline scott r

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Re: Hydration vs. Temperature - What's the ratio?
« Reply #7 on: November 13, 2005, 04:35:47 PM »
Hi.  Congratulations on a great forum  :)



I've read many posts here about the use of 00 flour, and the comments that it probably needs higher hydration for the home user due to the lower oven temps.  What I haven't read is why the higher hydration is bad for hotter ovens.  I bake my pizzas on a Big Green Egg (http://www.biggreenegg.com) where I cook over charcoal and have a temperature range from about 180 to triple digits :)  The dough I want to use actually has a 72% hydration, well beyond anything I've seen discussed here.  What are the ramifications?  I'd expect that the moisture would add to oven spring, no?


I agree totally with Bill that the higher the temp of the oven and the higher the hydration of the dough, the more I seem to like the pizza crust texture.  I do feel strongly, though, that a high hydration caputo based dough (over 60%) really needs an extremely hot oven to cook properly.  If my oven is at say 700 on the stone, and 800 ambient, a 65% hydration dough will retain too much moisture and the texture of the finished pizza will suffer.  I have tried leaving the pies in longer in hopes of getting the excess moisture out, but the pies get too stiff doing that.  I am pretty sure that if your oven can really get up to  850 stone 950 ambient the high hydration dough will be unbelievable.  I think that it is really important to match your hydration % with your particular oven, and experimentation is the absolute best way to figure this stuff out.  I have on occasion had a high hydration pie turn out magical in my oven (roughly 700/800), even going up as high as 67%, but to get a consistant crust every time I need to drop my hydration.

I must admit that my experiences on this subject are using a modified home oven, and that in a real Neapolitan oven there is much more convection of hot air going on.  This would help to dry out the dough better than my oven could.  If I understand the Big Green Egg correctly, it is designed to retain moisture as much as possible, so advice from me or someone with a wood burning pizza oven might not apply to your situation exactly.

Offline Bill/SFNM

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Re: Hydration vs. Temperature - What's the ratio?
« Reply #8 on: November 13, 2005, 04:55:05 PM »
I think talking about hydration without considering how the water is incorporated and bound up into the dough is a mistake. I can bake up two pizzas with exactly the same percentage of water (and other ingredients) and get two vastly different results. Figuring this out is one of the biggest barriers I have right now to reproducibly excellent results. This is what I've figured out so far:

1. Marco's method of holding back 25% of the flour until the rest is fully combined and then slowly sprinkling it in while kneading seems to be important.
2. Long, slow kneading until the dough is smooth and elastic. This can take quite some time with really wet dough.
3. Letting the dough rest for 20 minutes (Marco's riposo) seems to make some difference. 
4. I'm sure there are lots of other factors

I think #2 is the one I'm struggling with the most - knowing just how to recognize when to stop kneading.

Bill/SFNM

Offline UnConundrum

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Re: Hydration vs. Temperature - What's the ratio?
« Reply #9 on: November 13, 2005, 05:43:23 PM »
So, why am I getting burn spots in less than a minute, if you want me to go to 850?  Yes, I can reach that temperature, but... I didn't think of this before, as Scott R pointed out, the egg IS designed to retain moisture for long low temperature meat cooks.

As to my method, well....  James is researching his theory that years and years ago, bakers didn't have the advantage of spiral mixers (or fork mixers for that matter) nor refridgeration for retarding the dough.  He showed me a method where all the ingredients are mixed, by hand, in a dough box, and left to sit for 20 minutes.  After 20 minutes, the dough is stretched.  This is repeated twice more, and then the dough is allowed to ferment for 2.5 hours; followed by preshaping, shaping, and the final proof. 

I can hear you guys yelling already  :o  The results (for a baguette) were astonishing.  We did side by side comparisons of baguettes done with a biga, poolish, and pate fermente.  The "James" method was as good or better than all of the others.  I've since extended this method to a Vienna type loaf that works very well for me.  As I said earlier, this forum inspired me to try the method with pizza dough. 

So....  I'm willing to try a hotter "egg", and I could back the hydration down some due to the moisture retaining nature of the BGE.  But, I'd really like some advice on the burn spots.  I'm not experienced at baking at such high temps, and don't know what to look for.


Offline scott r

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Re: Hydration vs. Temperature - What's the ratio?
« Reply #10 on: November 13, 2005, 06:02:47 PM »
un conudrum,   I think the key thing you need to get happening is the balance of temperature between the hot air rushing over the pizza, and the actual stone temp.   The way that works best for me in my oven is to let it heat up for at least an hour, then put in the stone (opening the door as little, and as quickly as possible).  I wait only about five minutes with my thin stone preheating, and the pie goes in.  This makes sure that the bottom of the pie and the top of the pie get done at the same time. That is how I get my 700/800 top to bottom temperature. 

Small black spots are normal on the top and bottom on a high temp Neapolitan style pizza.  If you have a REALLY hot oven you can actually get many many of these spots (look at Da Michelle pictures) and the pies will look "burned" but not taste like they are burned.  In a cooler oven like mine you will end up with less of these spots with a pie that is properly cooked.  If I let my pies get as spotty as the ones I have seen at some places in Naples they can be too dry regardless of the hydration percentage of my dough. How fermented your dough is will also play a large role in these crust coloration issues.  My best pies usually have a good amount of raised blackened bubbles on top of the crust, and the better I have gotten at making the dough, the more of these I have seen (and the darker they have become).

Offline UnConundrum

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Re: Hydration vs. Temperature - What's the ratio?
« Reply #11 on: November 13, 2005, 06:11:53 PM »
Interesting, so you are actually using a pretty cool stone.  I use a thing we call a "plate setter" to stop direct heat on my stone.  This is a hunk of ceramic that sits about 4 - 5 inches below my pizza stone.  I probably had a good 2 hour pre-heat, but I heated my stone at the same time.  My pizza stone is about 1/2 inch thick.... maybe 5/8, but none the less, it was pretty darn hot.  I understand that some black spots are OK.... but this had way too many.  One night this week, I'll try adding the stone shortly before the pizza goes in the oven...  Thanks for the tip.

Offline AKSteve

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Re: Hydration vs. Temperature - What's the ratio?
« Reply #12 on: November 13, 2005, 07:58:40 PM »
What type of pizza stone are you using? I dont have a Big Green Egg, but I sometimes cook pizzas on a Kamado. They're similar enough that it shouldn't make a difference. The only pizza stone I've been able to use at high temps without scorching the bottom of my pies is the Kamado brand pizza stone. When I use an Old Stone Oven brand pizza stone, it seems to give more of a "bright" heat than the Kamado stone if that makes sense. The only problem I get with the Kamado pizza stones, is that they always seem to crack after a while. I've been meaning to order a Fibrament-D stone to try out, so I'll let you know how that works if I get one. My current set-up is to use my thicker (they make 2 kinds) Kamado pizza stone in the lower bracket as a heat deflector. Then on my main grill I have my Old Stone Oven pizza stone as a 2nd deflector, with my Kamado pizza stone on top of that as my cooking surface. I usually cook at around 750 degrees and I let everything warm up for about an hour. My pies cook in about 3-4 minutes at this temp.

One thing I've heard of that's supposed to keep the bottom of your pies from burning is to wipe your pizza stone down with a damp cloth right before sliding your pizza onto it.

Steve
« Last Edit: November 13, 2005, 08:00:30 PM by AKSteve »

Offline UnConundrum

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Re: Hydration vs. Temperature - What's the ratio?
« Reply #13 on: November 13, 2005, 08:13:03 PM »
Evening Steve.   Tried the cloth last night.... didn't help :(

I'm using the BGE stone... haven't heard any complaints about it from anyone, and I don't use it for anything other than pizza so there "shouldn't" be anything on the stone to transfer.  But you're right.  We should have similar experiences.

Offline scott r

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Re: Hydration vs. Temperature - What's the ratio?
« Reply #14 on: November 14, 2005, 12:43:08 AM »
Unconudrum, if your pizza has too many black spots you just need to take the pie out sooner.  If there are too many black spots on the bottom, but the top of the pie seems good, your stone is too hot and you need to get your ambient temp up higher.

In case you guys haven't found his posts or website our fellow member varasano uses the reflective side of aluminum foil placed underneath and on top of his stone.  He then pulls the foil off the top, waits for a little bit, then drops the pies on. This is another method you might want to experiment with.  I have tried this a number of times and it does work, but my stone in after preheat method really seems to work best in my oven.  I am guessing that no matter what type of heat deflector you put in there the stone is always going to heat up too much in an egg/kamodo because the walls of the oven are designed to retain so much heat.  Those suckers seem really efficient.  Also, the stone in after the preheat is much more exact.  What if you preheat for a little longer than the optimum time because you are entertaining at your party, or get a phone call or something.  I have a feeling that eventually the temperature of the stone/kamodo is going to equalize no matter what you put in there to deflect heat away from the stone.

Another idea,  how about letting your kamodo/BGE preheat, then you open up the air flow a little more right when the pie goes in?  That should jump the temp of the air rushing over the pizza up above the temp where the oven was just preheating.








Offline AKSteve

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Re: Hydration vs. Temperature - What's the ratio?
« Reply #15 on: November 14, 2005, 09:38:49 AM »
You can try it the way I do it just to see what kind of results you get. Get everything set up and then lock your Egg in at 750 degrees. Have a Grill Surface Thermometer on your pizza stone. As soon as it hits 650 degrees, start cooking.

I have yet to try a true Neapolitan dough in my Kamado at 900 degrees. I've been meaning to, but I don't like to get my cooker up to such high temps when the outside air is so cold (currently 11 degrees in Alaska). Lately, I've just been cooking in my oven but if it ever warms up outside, I'll give it a shot.

Steve

Offline AKSteve

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Re: Hydration vs. Temperature - What's the ratio?
« Reply #16 on: November 14, 2005, 10:05:37 AM »
You said you were thinking of putting your pizza stone in right before you start to cook. I think this is a bad idea. Going from room temperature to 800 degrees is some pretty serious thermal shock and I'd be surprised if your stone didn't crack.

I think if you really were preheating your Egg at 800 degrees for 2 hours, you were probably pretty close to running out of fuel by the time you put your pizzas in to cook.

Steve

Offline David

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Re: Hydration vs. Temperature - What's the ratio?
« Reply #17 on: November 14, 2005, 10:39:32 AM »
"The dough I want to use actually has a 72% hydration"

Why?Even if you are competent and experienced enough to handle a dough that is already considered by many to be awkward.You posted this in the Neapolitan thread,so I presume that is what you are aiming for and as such is not really relevent to baking  (such things as Ciabatta or Baguettes).I believe a 60-64% Hydration is the parameter used for a Neapolitan Dough.People I know already think Scicillian is Neapolitan and true Focaccia is......... I accept experimentation and pushing boundaries,but as a novice I question at what point does a recognised and tested formula cease to be what it has been established as? If a classic time honored "Recipe" is available,why screw with it?O.K your equiptment may or not not be ideal for what you want to create but I believe these are limitations that we need to accept for the purpose of authenticity.I swear i'll scream the next time I go into a Restaurant advertising  Wood Fired Pizza and I see the lightbulb flickering in the Oven!
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Offline scott r

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Re: Hydration vs. Temperature - What's the ratio?
« Reply #18 on: November 14, 2005, 11:12:46 AM »
I'm with David on the hydration issue for sure.  There is no need to go any higher with the hydration than 65 or so.   You will find that if you are using Caputo pizzeria flour that a 65% hydration dough looks, feels, cooks and handles like a 70% hydration dough made with typical American flour anyhow.

AK Steve, maybe you are right and the room temp to hot oven thing is going to shorten the life of my stone, but at this point I have done this method well over 200 times.  I have used up 2 1/2 55lb bags of flour since I modified my oven, and I tend to make smaller Neapolitan sized pizzas.  So far I have not had my stone break.  My stone is made out of an unusual material that claims to be safe to wash with soapy water, so maybe that is why it has lasted.  If anybody is intrested it is made by Artstone and is just as thin as a pizzas pan.  It also happens to be quite inexpensive, has dead even heat distribution, and works great at 550 degrees as well.

Offline UnConundrum

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Re: Hydration vs. Temperature - What's the ratio?
« Reply #19 on: November 14, 2005, 05:20:58 PM »
David,
I believe that my original question was an attempt to understand the ramifications of using greater hydration in a pizza dough.  I understand that there are several recipes available on the site, but that's the great thing about recipes, there's always room for one more.  The advantage of this method is that you can easily make 8 doughs without equipment or killing yourself kneading.  Personally, I also like the flavor results from a pre-ferment, but after tasting the bread that results from this method, I learned that there are other ways to handle a dough, and still obtain great results.  I can, and probably will, reduce the hydration to 60 - 62 %, as a test, but I believe that the higher hydration actually makes this dough easier to handle. 

Scott and Steve, I think you guys have hit on my problem.  While the BGE (and Kamado) are great for developing the heat we're looking for, a lot IS lost when we open it up.  So... if I have my 2 hour preheated 800 degree egg, and stone, I'm putting my pizza on a 800 F stone, but the surrounding air is dropping to ... say 400 F or so.  In the minute or less it takes for the bottom to get done, the egg is still recovering and I have reached no where near 800 air temp in the dome.  Thinking this through, I'm concluding that the egg, as much as I love it, is not the right tool for a Neapolitan style pizza as it is affected too greatly by opening the dome.  Using Scott's idea, I would think a perfect American style could be obtained by pre-heating the egg to about 700 (without the stone) and then putting the stone in long enough to reach a surface temp of about 450 - 500....   This would slow down the cooking of the bottom long enough to give the temp in the dome enough time to stabilize again....  Guess there's just no substitute for a good oven....