Author Topic: High-altitude, cold and dry challenge for a decent pie  (Read 571 times)

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Offline c4lin

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High-altitude, cold and dry challenge for a decent pie
« on: October 28, 2013, 09:35:24 PM »
Hey all, my situation is:

- Live in Bogota, Colombia at 8600 ft, way high altitude and dry cold weather (60degrees F)
- Home oven kinda sucks, reaches 580F max.
- Have 2 thin broken stones (could still work)
- Can't find 00 flour here, have to try with all purpose instead. Will be importing some Caputo 00 soon.

I guess that by not having 00 flour, I cannot get your results, but I want to try and have the best possible pizza at home with what I have, Im a perfectionist (like most here? lol). I would like to learn good techniques for the home oven and the weber One Touch with the kettlepizza attachment, specially having the dough on the spot and then figure out the temperature thing in each situation. Thing is I usually use all purpose flour with about 66% hydration, salt and instant dry yeast. I mix dry ingreds, then add water in a Kitchen Aid Mixer in slowest speed possible, let it mix until it starts to stick to the mixer and then stop. I leave it at room temp (68F) for 8-12h or straight to fridge, then fridge for 24h more (at least). What I usually
see is that I don't get much rise (even though it is supposed to proof better at high altitude). I take it out 3h before baking time and preheat oven at full (570-590F -max temp). Recently I increased the IDY % and added lukewarm water, and the rise improved a lot.

Im not happy with the results, I dont know if my thing is the flour, the low rise, the low oven temp, or my pie-stretching method. Should I try with more hydration, less? I have tried Chau's broil method, with dense dough results link: PIZZA I am not getting that shiny crumb you can get, I guess the flour is not good enough? Here is a test from last night in the weber:

As you can see, the dough improved, flavor was good, but I didn't get any leoparding, am I missing something on the dough shaping? should I leave the cornicione thinner?

Thanks in advance everyone, I will really appreciate your advice.


« Last Edit: October 28, 2013, 09:58:03 PM by c4lin »

Offline TXCraig1

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Re: High-altitude, cold and dry challenge for a decent pie
« Reply #1 on: October 28, 2013, 10:15:13 PM »
Carlos, here is pretty much how I do everything that I do:,20479.0.html

A couple initial comments:
- I live at 21 ft and hot humid weather though it will be a little cooler for the next couple months. I have never tried to make pizza at a high elevation. I don't know what changes are necessary. Chau could tell you a lot more about that than I. I suspect that given the lower pressure, you will get more rise. Perhaps you need a little stronger dough to keep the crumb from pulling apart too much. That's just a guess though.
- You don't need 00. In fact, it will probably be a handicap. It does not brown well at lower temperatures. If you think you have trouble getting the top to brown now, wait until you try Caputo. Before I got a WFO, this is how I baked pizza in my BBQ:,9614.0.html I always used AP. 00 did not give good results.
- There are some Kettle pizza threads at that discuss some relatively simple mods. If you have not read them, you should search them out. At a minimum, I think you want to use some sheet metal or something to isolate the dome from the kettle insert. You don't want to have to heat all that air up there. It is going to lose heat really fast without insulation. You will notice how much insulation I needed on my BBQ before I could even begin to get a decent pie. It's hard to appreciate just how hot the air above the pie needs to be (and just how hard it is to get that kind of heat) until you do it.
- Leoparding is going to be tough. There are no two ways about it. It takes such intense top heat - not just convection from the air, but also radiant from the dome and walls. With almost no mass in the dome and walls of the kettle and given that the thin metal loses heat so fast to the exterior environment, it's just not going to be hot enough to radiate the necessary IR. Unless you have a really powerful broiler, Chau's broiler method won't give you much, if any, leoparding. I've not been able to get it in my home oven though I have not tried very hard.
- I don't use cold fermentation. I'm not a fan. I don't think it does anything good for the dough. Unless you need to make dough 3-5 days in advance, I don't see any point.
- I think you might want to go down a little on your hydration. You might try 64% and 62% and see how they compare. I'd also give bread flour a try.
- You have to experiment. The elevation and humidity are not the only differences. Literally everything is different from your situation and mine and anyone else's. Some things matter more than others, but everything matters to some extent, and some things compound others. Some of the things I do may work just as they are for you and others might not work at all. Some may work with adjustments. The bottom line is you have to experiment, tweak, experiment some more, tweak some more, etc... Learning to make great pizza is not easy, but once you figure it out, it is a whole lot easier.

Here is what I'd suggest you try as a starting point:

100% AP flour
64% water
2.8% salt
0.04% IDY* (for a 18C room temp, if your room temp is closer to 21C, decrease this to 0.03%, if it's colder like maybe 16F, increase it to 0.05%)

Take out about 1/4C of the formula water and dissolve the yeast*. In your mixer bowl, dissolve the salt in the rest of the water. Add the yeast solution and mix. Add about 3/4 the flour and mix in. With the mixer running on a slow speed, add the rest of the flour in large spoonfuls - waiting between each until incorporated. When all the flour is in, let it mix for 3-5 minutes until it is homogeneous. It will probably still have a rough look, and will not be smooth.

Let the dough rest for 15 minutes. Put it in the counter and give it a dozen or so kneads until it feels really stiff. It will probably start tearing a little at the end. Let it rest for 10-15 minutes. Give it 3-4 stretch and folds. It will be looking a lot smoother now. Let it rest for another 10 minutes and then give it another 2-3 stretch and folds. It should be quite smooth now. For the stretch and fold - literally grab half the pile of dough, stretch it out towards you, and then fold it back over the top. Turn the dough 90 degrees and repeat. By the 3rd or 4th, the dough will get pretty stiff. The rests give the dough time to develop gluten and relax the gluten that is developed.

Let it rest in bulk for 2-3 hours then divide into balls and then give it another 24 hours +/-. Here is where the first experimenting comes in, for the last 8-10 hours, keep an eye on it. You may need to warm it up if it doesn't look like it will be ready when you expect or cool it down if things are going too fast. Based on what happens, you will also know if you need to adjust your yeast up or down next time.

You want balls that are ~2X risen, 1.7X would be the minimum you want. Too much is better than too little. 

Use your kettle pizza with the dome isolated somehow or try your oven with the stoned preheated for an hour and then with the broiler on - keep in mind that the broiler won't come on in some ovens if they are already at their max temp. Read up on the kettle mods or the broiler method first to see if you can pick up any tips. I really can't give you any.

*to measure yeast quantities this small, you can use a scale that measures to 0.01g precision or if you don't have one, you can take 1g yeast and dissolve it in 99g water. Then each g of the solution will have 0.01g yeast. Say you need 0.2g yeast, you would use 20g of the solution and lower your formula water by 19.8g.

Let me know how it comes out, the problems or difficulties you have, etc. and we'll go from there.

« Last Edit: October 28, 2013, 10:46:11 PM by TXCraig1 »
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Offline c4lin

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Re: High-altitude, cold and dry challenge for a decent pie
« Reply #2 on: October 28, 2013, 10:31:00 PM »
Ok, so updates:
Did a dough with your recommendations at a 64% hydration, measured:
- 500g AP flour
- 300g luke (87˚F) water
- 14 g kosher salt
- 21 g yeast solution (had to mix for a 0.04% IDY, 0.2g yeast)
It is now resting for the 1st 2h in bulk. Here are 3 shots, 1-at the mixer, 2-right after putting on the counter for kneading, 3-final after stretched and kneading, leaving to rest for 2h (just now)
Measured 2 oven temps, I have 2 ovens inside my house (an old mix with gas on the bottom and electric broiler on top, and other electric). Temps can go to 570F on the stone at the mix oven, and to almost 610F on the other after 2 cycles with the broiler (since it goes red at 2-3 mins and lowers after 4).
Not bad, is it? I mean I think I can make a decent pie at 580-600F, right?
Let me know what you think. thx!

Offline pdog

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Re: High-altitude, cold and dry challenge for a decent pie
« Reply #3 on: November 06, 2013, 09:00:58 PM »

High altitude is going to have some effect on your dough efforts.

1) Dough rises 20-50% quicker at higher altitude due to the lowered atmospheric pressure the expansion gases are under.   

2) Flour will absorb more water at that altitude. 

Are you attempting to create a neapolitan pizza, New york style, Deep dish etc?

For a neapolitan pizza your over temp is going to be a challenge to overcome.  However, with those temps you are pulling out of the oven you can still make a very good pizza.

Check out the link above.

A decent pizza recipe that could work for your temps and altitude is as follows: (big note here..... these are starting points.  The altitude adjustments will need to be played with to work for you)

15 inch pizza (38.1 cm)
Thickness Factor 0.08

Flour - 100% ( bread flour - 12% protein or higher)
Water - 65% (if dough is sticky go down from here, or up from here if the dough is overly dry)
Salt - 1.75%
Sugar - 1.25%
Oil - 2.75% (less if your protein is not 12% or higher)
ADY - 0.125%. (48 hr ferment at 38 degrees F or 3.3 C)

Mix all dry ingredients in a bowl.

Mix ADY, Water (warm), and oil.  Stir in roughly 1/2 a cup  of dry mix into the solution.  Stir to turn into a paste, and to re-hydrate the yeast. 

Mix wet into dry ingredients.  Knead by hand for 10-15 minutes.  This time frame really depends on an individuals dough handling skill level.  I was teaching friends how to mix pizza dough recently, and when I kneaded my dough I had it almost smooth in 6 minutes, and their dough still looked like they had mixed it with a spoon.  A visual would be to knead until the dough looks between cotton cheese and smooth.   

For Kitchen Aid mixer.... mix roughly 6 minutes with c hook until the dough reaches a visual appearance as described above. 

Let the dough ball rest 15 minutes.  Complete 2 stretch and folds.  Let rest 15 minutes, and complete 2 more stretch and folds. 

Let rest 15 minutes.  Ball, and place in lightly oiled containers.  Cover and place in the fridge for roughly 48 hrs.  Remove 1.5 to 2 hrs prior to baking.

Due to the effect of the altitude this recipe may be ready in only 18 hrs, or not ready for 60 hrs.  Yeast production, and effects begin being effected at 3000 ft so 8600 ft will definitely need to be addressed in the recipe. 

This dough should liked to be baked on a stone at 590 for 5-6 minutes, and still be tender with a egg shell crunch. 

« Last Edit: November 06, 2013, 09:06:11 PM by pdog »