Author Topic: Update on aluminum plate...my best results yet  (Read 1063 times)

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Offline Seven

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Update on aluminum plate...my best results yet
« on: April 02, 2014, 09:39:39 AM »
Insprired by Rinoxxx's results on his steel plate, and amazed at his level of crust coloration, I thought I'd show my latest bake on my 1/2 inch aluminum plate. The oven was preheated to 550 on convection and the pizza baked for a total of 4 minutes, including 2 under the broiler. I used FS flour and Foremost Farms whole milk mozz. The pizza was topped with pepperoni, half under the cheese (my wife's preference and how her family's pizza shop did it) and half on top of the cheese. This was, by far, the best pizza I've eaten in quite a long time. The pale tip in the underside shot was due to an air bubble under the skin, probably from blowing under it to get it off the peel  :-D

« Last Edit: April 03, 2014, 02:11:03 PM by Tampa »


Offline cylint

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Re: Update on aluminum plate...my best results yet
« Reply #1 on: April 02, 2014, 09:42:49 AM »
thats a great looking pizza!  do you have any tips on keeping the depth of crust small (from end of cheese to outer edge of pizza).  mine tends to grow in the oven.

Offline JD

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Re: Update on aluminum plate...my best results yet
« Reply #2 on: April 02, 2014, 09:43:56 AM »
I agree, that is your best from what I've seen. I'm surprised you go a full 4 minutes without the bottom burning significantly... I'm also a bit surprised you don't have explosive oven spring. What's your hydration?

Either way, those look great... nice work.
Josh

Offline Seven

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Re: Update on aluminum plate...my best results yet
« Reply #3 on: April 02, 2014, 10:16:40 AM »
Thanks, guys. I'm a big fan of Full Strength flour so far...I've only used it 2 or 3 times but, like Scott mentioned, it's more forgiving than All Trumps. Reheats taste better too.

cylint, I've been consciously pressing out a smaller rim on the edge stretch to make it more "authentic" NY. I probably press out all but half inch or so, then sauce to within an inch.

JD, I'm surprised on lack of burning too, especially since I've been pushing the sugar in my recipe. I'm currently at 1.7% but I've only recently started using a hotter plate. Hydration is 63%. I use about 18.1 ounces of dough for a 16-17 inch pizza. I've had springier results in the past, so perhaps I'm pushing out too much gas.

Here is the 2nd bake of the day, a plain pizza, same baking time and temp. As you can see by the undercrust, the plate cooled off a bit between bakes. The aluminum plate just doesn't have the mass of steel to knock out pizza after pizza, at least not without some recovery time.


scott123

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Re: Update on aluminum plate...my best results yet
« Reply #4 on: April 03, 2014, 01:37:48 PM »
Those are looking really good, John.

I like the smaller rim.

I'm curious, are you taking IR readings of the aluminum pre-bake?

While aluminum will give off relatively more of it's stored energy than steel when baking a pie, on the plus side, it's conductivity should allow it to replenish much faster, so, if, say, it takes steel 10 minutes to come back to temp, depending on the strength of your oven, you could recover in 5 minutes with aluminum. AL loses heat faster, but it also gains heat faster.

I cut my teeth on 1.25" soapstone, which had enough thermal mass to give me more back to back pizzas than I ever needed, so, for a long time, I turned the bottom element off during the bake and only turned the broiler on as needed.

For aluminum (and steel, depending on thickness and desired number of pies), in order to aid recovery as much as possible, I would never turn the oven off. In other words, when you're not broiling, use the bake setting. You obviously need to be careful not to exceed a probe temp that prevents the broiler going on (perhaps by cracking the door in a worst case scenario), but I would keep the bottom element going as much as possible.

I've sort of settled in on three variations of my pie. Give or take a few seconds, they're basically 3, 4, and 5 minute bakes.  The 3 minute bake is kind of a Neo-NY slant, with plenty of contrast on the undercrust and some char.  The 4 minute is my floppy NY, which is a bit more evenly browned on the undercrust (but still has some contrast), no real char and is almost always microblistered. The 5 minute is what I call my 'crispy' style, but it's only a tiny bit crispy. That's the most evenly colored/golden brown of the bunch.

The aluminum's propensity towards contrast seems to produce an undercrust in 4 minutes that looks a bit like my 3 minute pies.  It sounds like you enjoyed this tremendously, as you should, but I might try branching out into more even coloration- and not just by lowering the temp and extending the bake time either. A while back, I had spoken to Marc about 'aluminizing' his formula:

http://www.pizzamaking.com/forum/index.php?topic=21951.0

and I think you might benefit from experimenting along those same lines. I would try 61% hydration, and, then, after that, maybe a batch at 59%.  How much oil are you using right now? If you're below 3%, I'd bump it up to 3.

When you lower the water, the pizza will brown a bit faster, so, in order to keep the 4 minute bake, I'd probably pre-heat to 525.

Offline Tampa

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Re: Update on aluminum plate...my best results yet
« Reply #5 on: April 03, 2014, 02:20:24 PM »
Here is the 2nd bake of the day, a plain pizza, same baking time and temp. As you can see by the undercrust, the plate cooled off a bit between bakes. The aluminum plate just doesn't have the mass of steel to knock out pizza after pizza, at least not without some recovery time.
+1.  I like the look of that last underside photo - I think you got the bake temp just right (vs the earlier char).

FWIIW, a little birdie told me that we might be wise to think about AL as a viable baking surface for quick-bake pizza.  It took a while for steel to catch on, maybe we will have more members experimenting with AL going forward.

Dave

Offline Seven

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Re: Update on aluminum plate...my best results yet
« Reply #6 on: April 03, 2014, 04:17:52 PM »
Thanks, Scott. I took IR readings a few weeks ago and they varied from about 560-570 if I recall correctly. The plate has taken on a nice, dark patina which certainly helps. I know the level of browning on the underside is more than many people like but it didn't taste charred. I think a coal-style pie is very possible but that's an experiment for another day. As noted, I've increased my sugar in order to help with top browning but I've found that proper fermentation is the key...many of the pizzas I've made over the past couple years just haven't fermented enough. Here's my current recipe:

100% Full Strength flour
63% Water
2% Salt
2% Oil
1.7% Sugar
0.5% IDY

I'll bump the oil to 3%, drop hydration to 61% and try 525 this weekend.

What are your thoughts on the cheese in the 1st photo? Am I getting the right about of boiling? For reference, I'm using 8 ounces of cheese and roughly 7 ounces (by volume) of sauce per pizza.

Tampa, thanks for the compliment on the undercrust :)

scott123

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Re: Update on aluminum plate...my best results yet
« Reply #7 on: April 03, 2014, 08:52:23 PM »
John, fermentation produces sugar, so, from a sugar/browning perspective, fermenting longer (with less yeast) is the same as adding additional sugar to the formula.

Sugar promotes browning, but I don't think it promotes even browning, so, from a contrasty undercrust perspective, I'm not sure that sugar is buying you much. Extra sugar can't hurt, though. When it comes to even browning, I think oil is a bigger player. It's kind of like how the extra fat from the pepperoni helps the cheese from getting brown spots like you see on the plain pie. Fat seems to be a heat equalizer.

In terms of boiling/bubbling (and not browning), fat is a cheese's best friend, so the pepperoni goes a long way in helping the cheese melt properly.  Most of the better wholesale cheeses (Saputo, Grande, etc) are extremely difficult to curdle, but, occasionally, you'll see a pie with a slightly lower end cheese that comes out of the oven looking a tiny bit curdled, but firms up as it cools without any impact. It's hard to tell from the photo, but it looks like that might have happened here.  In order to get cheese to boil properly and oil off, it stresses the cheese considerably, so you're always going to be close to curdling, but as long as the curdling is minimal, I think it's perfectly fine. In fact, I really despise intense curdling/big puddles of whey, but sometimes a tiny bit of curdling produces a delicate moist nature to the cheese and an interesting complexity to the aesthetic. But I wouldn't go any further than what you see here.

In other words, I'm not necessarily recommending that you change cheese- at least not because of the curdling :)  The brown spots on the plain pie shouldn't really occur at that magnitude with a quality cheese. Not that I have another cheese I'd recommend. We're all sort of in the same boat here. It really seems like a good oily non spotting mozzarella is going the way of the dodo these days. Saputo's been looking bad as of late, and Grande may not produce brown spots, but it doesn't oil off well, and it's lacking flavor.  If this trend continues, we might need to start adding butter to plain pies so the cheese oils off properly.

One thing that might be contributing towards the slight curdling is the water content of the sauce. Are you adding a lot of water or using watery tomatoes?  If the sauce is on the watery side, it has a tendency to curdle and meld with the cheese.  The result is still pretty good, but aesthetically speaking, it's better to have as distinct of a layer of sauce and cheese as possible.  Again, it's hard to tell from the photo, but the side shot doesn't show much of a distinction. On an authentic slice, you should be able to cool it to room temp and then peel the cheese off and end up with a thin light pink layer of sauce.

Offline Seven

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Re: Update on aluminum plate...my best results yet
« Reply #8 on: April 04, 2014, 12:12:43 PM »
The sauce is straight-up 6 in 1 that was run through a food mill (my wife doesn't like skins or seeds). The sauce used this past weekend, though, was previously frozen...I can't say that I noticed any degradation in taste but perhaps the freezing process produces a sauce that waters off. Does added oil to sauce bring anything to the table (besides taste, of course) in terms of protecting the cheese? I didn't add much EVOO to this batch of sauce.

I made 2 dough balls last night using your recommendations (3% oil, 61% hydration) for Sunday's bake. I'll post pictures to see if there is any discernable difference.

Regarding the cheese, this batch of Foremost Farms whole milk is less prone to browning than the block I bought previously. I have another 6 pound block in the fridge that I will shred this weekend. The new one feels more firm so hopefully the lower water content helps.

scott123

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Re: Update on aluminum plate...my best results yet
« Reply #9 on: April 04, 2014, 12:44:38 PM »
Firmer cheese is definitely a good sign. Firm cheeses tend to resist curdling and melding much better than softer loaves.

A tomato, even a milled tomato, contains liquid that's trapped by membranes, and, when frozen, these membranes burst and the liquid is released, so, yes, by freezing sauce, you are increasing the available water.

That's probably why the cheese curdled a tiny bit, and, if the sauce and cheese melded, that's most likely the cause there as well.  Honestly, as far as faults go, these are incredibly trivial, but if you wanted to avoid them, I'd try to avoid freezing the sauce, if possible.

As far as adding evoo to the sauce... fat tends to inhibit curdling, but it could be part of the melding issue (if there is one). If you want to talk about authenticity, though, I think evoo in sauce is outside of the style.  Coal places might top the pizza with oil last, like Neapolitan- which makes perfect sense since coal is the bridge between NP and NY.  But for traditional non coal NY, evoo has never been part of the picture- and that's anywhere in the recipe. Not in the sauce, not in the dough, not on top of the cheese. Evoo's price point has always made it cost prohibitive.
« Last Edit: April 04, 2014, 12:48:07 PM by scott123 »


Offline Seven

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Re: Update on aluminum plate...my best results yet
« Reply #10 on: April 07, 2014, 10:12:56 PM »
Update to my update. Following Scott's recommendations, I upped oil to 3%, lowered hydration to 61% and used a 525 degree oven.  The results? A much more evenly browned under crust and a more perfectly baked pizza! I still had some issues with the previously frozen sauce watering off, particularly on the mushroom pizza, but that's another issue for another day. First up is pepperoni with jalapenos, followed by the previously mentioned mushroom pie, which tore slightly from rotating too early.


scott123

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Re: Update on aluminum plate...my best results yet
« Reply #11 on: April 08, 2014, 08:01:20 PM »
Nice work John!

I'm really liking the microblisters near the rim. Very pizza town-ish. Those are sharp. I'm a little baffled by the increase in contrast as you move towards the center of the undercrust, but I don't think it's all that big of a deal.

Are you ready for 59% hydration?  You might end up coming back to 61%, but I would see what it does. Also, try 4% oil. 4% is my line of demarcation for NY/non NY.

What was the bake time?

A few nitpicky things. The rim thickness could be a little more consistent. I'm really liking the thinner areas, but that's a bit personal.  Whatever you go with, try to make it consistent.  The darker bubbles in the rim are another subjective area.  Since these are generally not something you see on NY pies, past or present, I usually pop them as I'm forming the rim- at least, I do with the larger bubbles. I've actually come to enjoy the flattened, slightly creased areas on the rim where bubbles used to be.

But this is really splitting hairs.  That first pie is looking fantastic. I've seen slightly better looking pies on steel plate, so I'm not ready to say that aluminum is better than steel, but for someone with an oven that only goes to 500... aluminum kicks steel's butt, imo.
« Last Edit: April 08, 2014, 08:06:09 PM by scott123 »

Offline Seven

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Re: Update on aluminum plate...my best results yet
« Reply #12 on: April 08, 2014, 08:48:25 PM »
Thanks Scott! I'm very happy with this latest round and even have my wife pointing out the micro blisters. I think the inconsistent bottom is due to my peel and poor launching. I will occasionally have to blow under the skin to float it and I think parts aren't making contact with the plate. Bake time was a hair over 4 minutes.

I'll work up a recipe for 59% hydration and 4% oil and bake them off this weekend. All in the name of science of course ;-)

I still struggle with getting consistent thickness but only doing 2 pies per weekend doesn't give me a lot of practice. Part of it may be my balling technique too. I'm a bubble guy and reach for those slices first but I can understand people who pop them, as weird as I think they are :-)

As you know, I was initially looking for steel but was able to source the aluminum plate for free. As someone who considers free samples at the food court a God given right, I couldn't turn out down!

Offline Teddy Ballgame

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Re: Update on aluminum plate...my best results yet
« Reply #13 on: April 20, 2014, 06:52:37 PM »
Seven,

I used your dough formula with great results on a 1/2" Baking Steel. I only did a 36 hour ferment but the dough was tasty and easy to handle (59% hydration with Robin Hood bromated and bleached flour) - 550 degrees with convection roast at about a 4 minute bake: