Author Topic: Pizza virgin needs help to make first experience enjoyable  (Read 1382 times)

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Offline northexposure

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Pizza virgin needs help to make first experience enjoyable
« on: June 05, 2013, 02:42:22 PM »
I grew up on NY city pizza, have enjoyed pizza in Naples and smaller towns in Southern Italy and have an Italian mother-in-law who makes what I would describe as something between a Sicilian and Grandmother/square pizza (and also a killer lardo pizza). But while I love to cook, I have done next to no baking.

So in the last month I decided to set out to make great pizza, an activity I thought would be fun for our family, and bought a 1/2" baking steel, peel and cutting wheel and began to research various types of pizzas and doughs, focusing first on NY-style and the quasi-Neapolitan style that home bakers seek at temperatures less than true Neapolitan oven.

I had a few questions and would welcome suggestions from all you seasoned pizza-makers.

(1) Would you suggest first trying a NY-style dough? My oven gets to 550 degrees, my grill to 700%, and I'd be using the steel for better/quicker transfer of heat?
(2) My inclination is to try a slow rise, starting at room temperature for 8-12 hours and then continuing in the fridge for 3 days. Is this a reasonable way t o start? Should it influence which dough I make?
(3) I have Red Star active dry yeast (original) but many recipes call for instant dry yeast. I know the former requires proofing in the right temperature range but what is the conversion from IDY to ADY based on weight? (I have an accurate scale)
(4) Are there any specific dough recipes you would suggest? Right now I have recipes pulled off slice.  http://slice.seriouseats.com/archives/2012/07/the-pizza-lab-three-doughs-to-know.html?ref=excerpt_readmore.
(5) The only topping that is locked in are the jarred tomato sauce made by my mother-in-law each fall that only requires me to reduce it first to the desired thickness. My general approach to eating pizza is purely Italian in the sense that I tend to prefer pizza with few ingredients, all of excellent quality, to compliment and not overwhelm the crust.

As a veteran cook I know it doesn't always go as expected the first time or even later but I'd like to stack the odds in my favor. Thanks for any and all suggestions.


Offline northexposure

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Re: Pizza virgin needs help to make first experience enjoyable
« Reply #1 on: June 05, 2013, 02:47:30 PM »
I should add that as far as ingredients I have both high-protein bread flour from KA and Gold Medal and OO flour from Antimo Caputo (in the small red bags).

As far as equipment I have a Cuisinart with dough blade.

Offline dylandylan

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Re: Pizza virgin needs help to make first experience enjoyable
« Reply #2 on: June 05, 2013, 03:57:25 PM »
Hi there, welcome to the forum!

I'm probably not the best person to comment on the specifics of your dough formula and method - there are others here that might contribute some insight.  You instincts all seem good to me.  I wouldn't usually go for a 'reduced' sauce personally, but you might find that it works well for you.

As for stacking the odds in your favor, what I would suggest in addition to the points you've asked about, is that the dough handling/stretching technique can make or break an otherwise good formula.  You may well already have this under control, but for most styles of pizza it's a no-rolling-pins-allowed affair, and good hand stretching technique really does make all the difference.  I don't know about you - but my first attempts at hand stretching were not great, but they did improve with some persistance.   There are countless video examples of stretching technique if you google for it, here's but one example:     - this is obviously a guy with plenty of experience!

Anyway hopefully someone with more experience can chime in with some comment on the formula/fermentation approach.

Dylan




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Offline northexposure

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Re: Pizza virgin needs help to make first experience enjoyable
« Reply #3 on: June 05, 2013, 05:34:35 PM »
@Dylan
Thanks for the warm welcome, the suggestion about hand stretching and the link to the video. While I know enough not to use a rolling pin, my manual dexterity is hardly a strength (my mother-in-law can attest to that - when I've helped shaping fresh pasta, i do about 2 bad ones in the time it taker her to do 10 good ones). So that video is excellent. I literally need a hand.

Offline Tscarborough

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Re: Pizza virgin needs help to make first experience enjoyable
« Reply #4 on: June 05, 2013, 08:52:00 PM »
Keep it simple.  Pick one of the emergency NY doughs and make a same day dough.  It will be pliable and easy to work with, and while it make not be the ultimate in pizza, it will still be a major improvement over most commercial pizza. Buy a pizza pan and screen and use it for the first half of the bake.

The only other advice I would give is to use less sauce, cheese, and toppings than you think it will require.  Less really is more when making good pizza.

scott123

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Re: Pizza virgin needs help to make first experience enjoyable
« Reply #5 on: June 06, 2013, 12:18:24 AM »
Jon, while you won't find this sentiment much on slice, there are some of us this forum who strongly believe that quasi-Neapolita (Neapolitan dough baked at lower than Neapolitan temps) is far inferior to either authentic Neapolitan or New York.  In other words, if you don't have the right oven for Neapolitan, by all means, strive to attain that environment, but, until then, stick to NY- with NY temp specific flour (not Caputo).

Maybe someone will chime in with a conversion, but, no offense, if you're willing to spend $110 on steel, you probably can afford to toss the ADY and buy a $5 jar of IDY.  It just makes things so much simpler in regards to temperature windows and conversions.

Unless the logistics favor it, or unless you're getting into bulk fermentation (pretty advanced stuff, imo), there's no real benefit to combining an 8-12 room temp rise with a 3 day cold one. The cold one is where the flavor is achieved, and makes dialing in yeast quantities so much easier.   Mix/knead the dough, form dough balls, refrigerate. No fuss, no muss.

2 and 3 days are a good number for fermentation. They're the sweet spot- not too much, not too little.

As long as your oven has a broiler in the main compartment, use the steel in the oven.  Don't use the steel on the grill. Steel is a bottom browning accelerator and non rotisserie burner grills have bottom heat sources, so steel makes an already imbalanced setup far worse (think burned bottoms and white, uncooked tops).

I'm not knocking your mother-in-law's sauce- I'm sure it's absolutely phenomenal, but if you happen to be striving to recreate your NY experience from years past, don't cook the tomatoes.

I'm always working on my recipe and refining it, but, you could do worse as far as NY style recipes go. My most recent version is here:

http://www.pizzamaking.com/forum/index.php/topic,20732.msg206639.html#msg206639

Being in Canada, you won't have access to bromated flour (unless you cross the border to get some  >:D ) but you should be fine with one of your strong Canadian flours you guys have up there (or KABF).  Just shoot for around 13% protein.
« Last Edit: June 06, 2013, 12:22:01 AM by scott123 »

Offline northexposure

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Re: Pizza virgin needs help to make first experience enjoyable
« Reply #6 on: June 06, 2013, 11:12:02 AM »
@Tscarborough -- Thanks for your suggestion. We share a similar approach to pizza. The dough should really shine on its own and not be overwhelmed by toppings. Are doughs that cold-ferment that much more difficult to work with than those that rise in a day at room temperature?


@Scott - Thanks so much for the great advice. I'm too much of a give to give a view on the neo-Neopolitan debate but I think I will start with a New York pie, in part because it's been a long time since I had one.  I'll use the bread flour which I believe have a protein count of between 13% and 14%.

As for  the yeast, it's not an issue of costs but availability. I know we have ADY in our pantry; we also have some small packets of instant marked fast-rising. I can and will order stuff by mail order but in the meantime I have to make do with what I have access to. Not sure yet of what's available in stores.

My oven (gas) has a broiler in the main compartment of the oven so the steel should would well there. As for the grill, I knowsome have come up with products that essentially radiate the heat down but I will leave that for another day.

Thanks for your link to your recipe. I plan to try several over time and yours will be at or near the top of my list to try.

I'm an hour from the Michigan border and cross frequently for shopping (prices here are generally ridiculous). Any bromated flour you especially recommend? In the meantime I will try the KABF an find out about protein levels in Canadian flour brands.


scott123

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Re: Pizza virgin needs help to make first experience enjoyable
« Reply #7 on: June 07, 2013, 12:06:10 AM »
Jon, I'm not Canadian, so I can't say, for certain, where to get yeast, but I would be shocked if Walmart didn't carry jars of IDY, most likely Fleischmann (with the 'bread machine' label).

If you strike out at Walmart, there's always this:

http://www.vanillafoodcompany.ca/Yeast-s/86.htm

but I'm a much bigger fan of the smaller jar, as finding air tight glass jars to refrigerate a pound of yeast can be a bit of hassle.

The flours to look for in Michigan are:

Full Strength
Spring King
Occident
Pillsbury xxxx patent flour
King Midas Special
Superlative
Commander
Majestic
Springup
Perfect Diamond (I think this is 12.5%ish, but not sure)

These are all in the 13% realm, which, as I said, is ideal.

14% bromated flours tend to be a bit easier to find.  Those include:

All Trumps
Kyrol
Balancer

If you can find one of those and blend it with all purpose, it's better than a completely unbromated flour.
« Last Edit: June 07, 2013, 12:44:58 AM by scott123 »

Offline northexposure

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Re: Pizza virgin needs help to make first experience enjoyable
« Reply #8 on: June 07, 2013, 12:02:40 PM »
Scott --

Thanks for all of that! The link you provided is great (nice to find a Canadian company).  I make the rounds this weekend to see what's available locally.

I appreciate you listing the different options for bromated flour since I'm not sure yet which will be most accessible. Do you have a preference among them or do they all produce similar results under similar conditions?

What are the benefits you see with bromated flour?

scott123

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Re: Pizza virgin needs help to make first experience enjoyable
« Reply #9 on: June 07, 2013, 01:04:48 PM »
This is how King Arthur describes the benefits of bromate:

Quote
Potassium bromate (KBrO3), is a flour “improver” that strengthens dough and allows for greater oven spring and higher rising in the oven.

There's some who feel that unbromated flour can match the oven spring of bromated, if you dial it in perfectly, and that bromate is only ideal for beginners who are looking for a dough that will perform well with little effort and that can hide mistakes. I've spent some time in this camp, but I think I'm slowly gravitating towards the belief that, regardless of doughmaking experience or how perfectly a dough is dialed in, bromated flour produces better oven spring than unbromated.

I might subscribe to the idea that as you get better at making dough, you can narrow the margin of improvement to a point where the differences are somewhat marginal, but there's always going to be a slight edge with the bromate.

Regardless, for you, since you seem to be somewhat new to pizza, this is all pretty much moot as the bromate or not to bromate argument only kicks in for advance dough making. For where you are, you want bromate, if you can get it.

I'm a big fan of Spring King, but that can be a little harder to find than Full Strength. Full Strength is General Mills and is All Trump's lower protein sibling. Anything off the 13% protein list would be great finds, though.
« Last Edit: June 07, 2013, 01:06:20 PM by scott123 »