Author Topic: Crust is always too hard  (Read 3383 times)

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Offline Lido

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Crust is always too hard
« on: February 19, 2006, 12:21:24 AM »
I've been making my own pizza for years.  It always looks and tastes great, but I can never get the crust to come out like bread.  It always comes out hard like a cracker.  I always use a pizza stone and have tried the oven at 425F and now use 500F (which is the highest it goes). My oven is a low-end Frigidaire gas oven. I recently surrounded the stone with a tin foil "baffle" which covers the area of the oven shelf around the stone (from a suggestion in Paul DeAngelis' book).

I've been using all purpose flour, water, dry yeast and a little olive oil and salt to make the dough.  After reading a few sites and the book mentioned in the previous paragraph, I tried high gluten bread flour (or more accurately, King Arthur bread flour with a tablespoon or three of wheat gluten added).  That didn't seem to help, though the pizza continued to be tasty, it's just that the crust was still coming out like a cracker rather than bread.

Recently after going to a great restaurant that served what seemed to me to be authentic Neapolitan style pizza I've been reading up on that and decided to try some 00 flour.  I couldn't find any so I read about the method of mixing some pastry flour into regular flour.  That made the dough easier to work, but it also tended to break easier so I did some more searching and found some 00 flour which I will try next.

I've always tried to only use the rolling pin in the beginning of the forming process and then toss it to get it the rest of the way.  Maybe I'm just making the crust too thin.  I use 3 cups of flour and one cup of water and usually make two 14" pizzas out of it.

Any help would be great.  Thanks.
« Last Edit: February 19, 2006, 12:29:08 AM by Lido »
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Offline chiguy

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Re: Crust is always too hard
« Reply #1 on: February 19, 2006, 12:38:06 AM »
 Hi ledo,
 We would need to see you're recipe and method of formulation in order to better diagnose you're crust problem. A rolling pin usually will make for a tougher crust, i would try to hand stretch if possible. When you have a soild recipe and dough procedure, hand forming should not be a problem. You may be using a recipe intended to produce a more cracker crust. You should searched around here at the forum for some different recipe's to try.   Chiguy

Offline Lido

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Re: Crust is always too hard
« Reply #2 on: February 19, 2006, 12:48:37 AM »
Here's my recipe/method:
3 cups of flour
1 cup water
3/4 packet of yeast
pinch of salt
dribble of oil

turn breadmaker on to "french dough" setting which seems to mix for somewhere between 30 and 40 minutes and then lets it rise for another 40 minutes.  Then I either let it sit at room temp for about 12 hours or put in the fridge for 24 - 72 hours before using.

Hi ledo,
 We would need to see you're recipe and method of formulation in order to better diagnose you're crust problem. A rolling pin usually will make for a tougher crust, i would try to hand stretch if possible. When you have a soild recipe and dough procedure, hand forming should not be a problem. You may be using a recipe intended to produce a more cracker crust. You should searched around here at the forum for some different recipe's to try.   Chiguy
- Lido

Offline chiguy

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Re: Crust is always too hard
« Reply #3 on: February 19, 2006, 01:22:22 AM »
 Hi Ledo,
 I use bakers percentages, so I have took the liberty to calculate the hydration of you're recipe. It seems to be about 54-55%, although cup measurements can vary. This is probably not the problem. I also do not have alot of expeience with bread machines. The thing that stands out is the mixing time that could really increase the finished dough temperature and the length of fermentation seems to be way too high. Especially that you have no added sugar and only a pinch of salt. These are both used to control the fermentation. I assume you are using a ADY which is activated at a warmer temperature. By taking the dough out at 24,48,72hours, you will probably have a different experience everytime. A dough that is to be retarded in the refridgerator overnight should have a finished dough temp of 72F-84F and go to the cooler almost immediately after mixing. You would also use IDY to achieve these lower finished dough temperature. The IDY is activated with room temperature water, no need to heat or hydrate in water. I would start by chaging to IDY and going straight to the cooler with a mixed dough.  The dough toughness can be from a over worked and over fermented dough, which i am sure you are experiencing from time to time. Also someone here may also give you some advice about pizza dough in you're bread machine. Is the recipe you are using from the bread machine manufactuer?   Chiguy
« Last Edit: February 19, 2006, 01:26:15 AM by chiguy »

Online Pete-zza

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Re: Crust is always too hard
« Reply #4 on: February 19, 2006, 07:28:59 AM »
Lido,

Welcome to the forum.

I agree with everything that chiguy has said, although I calculate a higher hydration ratio than chiguy. If you are using a standard 4.2-ounce cup size specified by King Arthur and other flour producers for all-purpose flour, along with an 8.1-8.2-ounce cup of water, the hydration will be close to 64%. Of course, in your particular case, depending on how heavy or light a hand you use to measure out flour and water, your actual hydration level can vary from the 64% figure I calculated using standard numbers. In any event, I don't think that the hydration level is the real source of your problems.

I am fairly confident that the source of your problem is excessive dough temperature from using the bread machine coupled with your dough management thereafter. While there are some models of bread machines that have dough cycles and programs designed specifically for making pizza doughs, most bread machines use standard bread dough cycles and programs. With preheat cycles and typically long knead times, they can cause excessive buildup of heat in the dough. This can have the effect of speeding up the rate of fermentation and shortening the useful life of the dough. Allowing the dough to remain at room temperature for 12 hours after making the dough or under refrigeration for up to 72 hours can also foreshorten the useful life of the dough. This is because the yeast starts to run out of food (sugars extracted from the flour by the actions of enzymes) and there may be too little yeast left at the time of baking to produce good oven spring. Typically what you will get is a flat, cracker-like crust, often with poor coloration because the residual sugars in the dough at the time of baking have been used up by the yeast and are therefore unavailable to provide a nice brown coloration in the crust. Sometimes, this result can be prevented or alleviated by adding sugar to the dough at the outset. In your case, the situation might be further aggravated because you are making two 14-inch pizzas with what I estimate to be around 21 ounces of dough. That translates to a thickness factor of around 0.07 for your dough/crust. That contrasts with around 0.10-0.105 for a typical NY street style pizza. It is closer to a Patsy's NY style, which is considered super-thin. It is possible to get a soft, thin crust with a thickness factor of 0.07, but everything has to be properly in place to achieve that result.

I have found that when using a bread machine to make pizza dough, I have to defeat or mitigate the effects of several of the features of the machine, particularly the propensity to produce high levels of heat in the dough. This may run counter to the experiences of others who use bread machines to make pizza dough, but I have a Zojirushi machine, which I am told is one of the best available, yet I think it does a sub-par job when it comes to making a good pizza dough. I have written on this subject on several occasions and rather than detail here the "problems" I have identified and my proposed solutions, I would rather refer you to the following posts: Reply # 51 at http://www.pizzamaking.com/forum/index.php/topic,576.40.html, and Reply # 260 at http://www.pizzamaking.com/forum/index.php/topic,576.260.html. Maybe what I have said there will resonate with your own personal experiences and allow to get on the right track to improving your results.

Good luck.

Peter

Offline Lido

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Re: Crust is always too hard
« Reply #5 on: February 19, 2006, 01:55:32 PM »
Thanks Chiguy and Pete-zza.

The machine does seem to warm up the dough a bit.  I've been using warmer water recently and maybe that's making the problem worse.  The thing is that I get the crackery crust whether I use the dough straight out of the machine, or after several hours or after 24 or 48 or more. Also, I looked at Pete's pizza at post 51 and 260 mentioned above (where a bread machine was used for the dough) and my crust never rises like that.  I've gotten it to brown a bit, but I don't know that I've ever gotten it that brown.  It's usually white and brittle and hard.  Maybe I need to increase the thickness and try using ice water. The only thing I use my oven for is pizza so if getting a mixer to make the dough is going to solve the problem, I'd happily do that. I assume there's a thread on what the best mixer is and how to use it to mix the dough.

Back to Chiguy, yes I use active dry yeast and sometimes fast acting active dry yeast (or maybe it's all fast acting and sometimes I use "Rapid Rise" - which also from reading another Pete post I find may be adding to the problem).  I don't know that I've ever seen instant dry yeast, but I'll take a look around.  I live in Southern CA so I can usually find most things in this sprawl of stores, fast food chains and gas stations.

Peter, About measurements, I use the suggested way of measuring flour - scoop into cup, no tamping or shaking to get more in, scrape level with finger or back of knife.  For water I just use a liquid measuring cup and fill it to the line and I favor slightly above the line to slightly below the line, but I try to just get it right on.  I figure that I'm probably going slightly light on the flour since I do no tamping, so I don't need to add excess water.  You mentioned adding sugar as a possible way to make the rise better later.  Do you have any links or info about amounts to use and results?  I could easily just toss in a spoon of it and see what happens next time, but I'd be worried that the dough's rise would just peak higher and not last any longer.  By the way, how did you fit an 18" pizza in your oven?

I'm attaching an image of a typical pizza I make.  This one is the "after" version of the pizza in my profile photo (at least the one I am using at the time I'm posting this).  To recap from above, I'm cooking at 500F in a low-end home gas oven on a stone that's been preheated at least an hour at 500F (my oven's max) with a foil baffle covering the shelf area that the stone is not covering by itself.
« Last Edit: February 19, 2006, 02:29:24 PM by Lido »
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Offline buzz

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Re: Crust is always too hard
« Reply #6 on: February 19, 2006, 03:11:19 PM »
I use my bread machine to make thin crust all the time--it comes out perfectly!

Three tips for you!

First increase the amount of oil in your recipe (use the formula 1 TBS oil: 1 cup flour to start)--if this isn't pliable enough, then you can increase the oil in increments (1.5., 2, etc.) until you reach your desired texture.

Second, start with a bit less water than you think you'll need, then after the machine starts to mix, keep adding more, a little at a time, until the dough starts to come together. I find that humidity can affect the hydration need, so I've learned to do it this way--and this way you don't have to worry about weighing, etc., as you can hydrate for the amount of flour you have used.

Third--I find that I have better success with proofing if I keep the dough in the oven, and t give it a short shot of 250 degree heat once every hour or so (especially in the winter).

And yes, a little sugar (I use .50 tsp per cup of flour) will help to feed the yeasties!

Offline Lido

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Re: Crust is always too hard
« Reply #7 on: February 19, 2006, 03:29:24 PM »
Thanks buzz,  One thing I don't like is oily crust though (e.g. Domino's, Pizza Hut or ZPizza).  Will adding that much oil make the crust seem oily?
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Online Pete-zza

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Re: Crust is always too hard
« Reply #8 on: February 19, 2006, 03:31:35 PM »
Lido,

Pretty much any dough that is shaped, dressed and baked right out of the bread machine will have a cardboard-like character. And the crust will very often be very light in color because it takes quite a while for the enzymes in flour to break down the starches in the flour into sugars usable by the yeast. (There is a small amount of usable sugar in the flour to begin with but it only amounts to around 1-2%). And if the dough is really thin, as is yours, I can see how it might become cracker-like.

The description of your results after a fairly long fermentation period suggests overfermentation, for all the reasons described earlier. If there is little crust color after all that time, the villain is most likely lack of sugar because the yeast has consumed most or all of it. If the yeast then starts to die because of starvation, there isn't enough yeast left to get good oven spring when the pizza is put into the oven. So you will often end up with a white, hard crust.  And if it is thin, it can easily be cracker like.

Before abandoning your bread machine in favor of a stand mixer, I would try using colder water and possibly some of the other measures I described in the referenced posts if they are applicable to your particular bread machine. If you want to add sugar, you can use 1 to 2 percent by weight of flour. For the amount of flour I estimate you used, 1% would be around 7/8 teaspoon. You can go up to around 4-5% sugar before the crust will taste sweet, which you may or may not like. With anything above about 1-2% sugar, you shouldn't have any problems with overfermentation.

If you can overcome the problems you have experienced, you can then decide whether you want to try a thicker crust. The crust thickness per se is not the cause of your problem. It just exacerbated it.

As far as yeast is concerned, you should follow the recommendations for your particular machine. Typical recommendations are to use bread machine yeast, which in most cases is simply a form of IDY yeast, or you can use IDY that is sold as such. A good source of IDY is the yeast sold by some of the big box stores like Costco's and Sam's in one-pound bags. A common brand there is the Fleischmann's IDY. King Arthur also sells IDY at its website, a good example being the SAF Red IDY. SAF also sells a Perfect Rise yeast in the three-pack form at the supermarkets which can be used for bread machine purposes. If you plan to make many pizzas, you should definitely look for the one-pound IDY bags.

It sounds like you are OK on the flour/water balance but the only way to know for sure is to use a scale. FYI, the recommended way of reading the water level is to use the lower part of the meniscus. With water, there isn't much difference between the upper and lower menisci so I wouldn't worry about it. Just be sure to read the water mark at eye level.

You asked how I got the 18-inch pizza into my oven. I used an 18-inch pizza screen and it just about made it into my oven. In fact, it was just a tad too big and I had to press against the oven door to keep the screen from pushing back out. That pizza was one of the most impressive looking pizzas I ever made. It was a monster.

Please let us know how things work out. The feedback is one of the best teaching tools.

Peter
« Last Edit: February 19, 2006, 03:34:30 PM by Pete-zza »

Offline buzz

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Re: Crust is always too hard
« Reply #9 on: February 20, 2006, 03:07:08 PM »
I've had very good luck with the bread machine for thin crust--not cardboard at all (but then I usually let the dough rise for at least 4 hours). I made a thin crust for a friend the other night and she said, "How did you do this? I've got to have this recipe." I just used the ratio of 1 cup AP: 1 TBS canola oil and let the machine do all the work!

This ratio of oil to flour does not make the dough oily--but if you increase the oil level to 1.5, for example, the resulting crust is softer and more pliable, but still not oily.


Offline cocoabean

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Re: Crust is always too hard
« Reply #10 on: February 24, 2006, 12:21:16 PM »
I've had very good luck with the bread machine for thin crust--not cardboard at all (but then I usually let the dough rise for at least 4 hours). I made a thin crust for a friend the other night and she said, "How did you do this? I've got to have this recipe." I just used the ratio of 1 cup AP: 1 TBS canola oil and let the machine do all the work!

This ratio of oil to flour does not make the dough oily--but if you increase the oil level to 1.5, for example, the resulting crust is softer and more pliable, but still not oily.

That was my first thought about the dough.  Oil will create a softer more moist mouthfeel.  Water will evaporate, but oil will not, basically.

As far as a oil taste the OP was talking about, that's more of the oil in the pan and toppings at PH, D, etc, I'd bet.  Since you are baking it on a stone, you won't get that.  If you use a canola oil like buzz suggested, it has little taste and at those amounts won't create a greasy taste.

I know I don't have much cred points here, but I have to agree with buzz that oil sounds like a possible fix and at least a place to experiment.

Offline cheese

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Re: Crust is always too hard
« Reply #11 on: March 01, 2006, 05:37:17 PM »
I know I started making pizza 1 year ago in NY and it looks perfect but with a twist the crust taste awful if you actually bit it is hard :chef:

Offline eric22

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Re: Crust is always too hard
« Reply #12 on: March 26, 2006, 03:41:31 AM »
I use to make BRICKS just like you LIDO.   ;D

-You don't even need any oil in your pizza. Ok that might make some people angry here.

-Maybe Your dough isn't hydrated enough.  Little sticky is good.  Dry dough  = Brick .

-Use the whole yeast pack.   American style like Papa Johns - Use 2 packs and 2 tbsp. sugur. Makes  all those good bubbles for a good rise.

Work on your technique on dough.   I like the site below.

http://www.think2020.com/jv/Recipe.htm

Offline TheShaner

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Re: Crust is always too hard
« Reply #13 on: May 29, 2006, 04:47:05 PM »
I have been making dough by hand for about 6 months now and have never really had a problem with things coming out too stiff.  As a matter of fact the problem I have been having is that I dont stretch out the dough enough and it is bready throughout.  It's a good problem to have because it is still quite yummy.

I guess the question is, why use a bread maker when doing it by hand works great?


 

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