Author Topic: Pizza screens  (Read 2581 times)

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Offline billneild

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Pizza screens
« on: March 15, 2006, 10:58:10 AM »
Something like 35 years ago when I made pizza for a living our shop used screens.  Usually just for the first few minutes and then we would remove them so the pizza could rest directly on the stone.  (We used a double decker Bakers Pride set up.)  I never asked the question, but I assume we did it that way to avoid a disaster in the transfer.  These days I have been using parchment paper to get the same result and there is no necessity to remove the paper in mid-bake, although one could.  Both methods work fine although I suspect the parchment paper method gives better contact with the stone.  Is there any thought over why one method would be superior to the other?  One thing I'm sure of they both beat the corn meal method hands down!

Bill


Offline Pete-zza

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Re: Pizza screens
« Reply #1 on: March 15, 2006, 12:35:33 PM »
Bill,

From what I can tell, there are many reasons why pizza operators use screens (and disks as well). A big reason--the one you mentioned--is that it is easier to load a pizza into an oven on a screen than from a peel and you also don't need to use cornmeal or any other release agent. Also, if you'd like, you can "deck" the pizza from the screen onto the stone to get the desired degree of bottom crust browning. Screens can also be used to keep the bottom crust soft, by raising the pizza above the deck surface by the thickness of the screen. If the dough has a lot of sugar in it, the screen will also serve to keep the bottom crust from browning prematurely. In a home setting, it is not necessary when using a screen to preheat the oven for an hour or more as you would with a pizza stone or tiles.

Once in a while you will hear of a pizza operator using parchment paper in an oven, but it its very uncommon and most likely used to address a unique problem with an oven. Most of the time, parchment paper is used by pizza operators either as separators for a stack of skins or for take-and-bake applications. I tried using parchment paper for some take-and-bake pizzas that I experimented with in my home oven and found that it did a good job. I was able to bake the pizza directly on an oven rack at normal oven temperatures (e.g., around 425 degrees F), with good results. In fact, the results were better than I thought they would be, with better bottom crust browning than I expected. But parchment paper for my use can be quite expensive, far more so than using a release agent on a peel or using a screen over time. I have also not been able to locate a source of parchment paper with dimensions big enough to allow me to make a 16-inch or larger pizza. Otherwise I would be able to use it on a large screen (as a carrier) or on my 20-inch wood peel to bake pizzas on an oven rack at normal oven temperatures. One negative that I have noticed with parchment paper is that it can disintegrate under baking, creating its own mess to clean up either in the oven or as it is being removed from the oven.

Peter

Offline billneild

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Re: Pizza screens
« Reply #2 on: March 15, 2006, 01:43:30 PM »
Peter, I haven't thought about the cost, but then this is just for home baking so that may not be much of a factor.  The rolls I buy are only 15", but my stone is just about the same size and the oven couldn't take anything much bigger.  Oddly enough, even at temps up to 580 degrees or so the paper browns but doesn't burn so it comes out in one piece.  I suppose that might be different if you have an oven that goes into the 650s.  I will have to look around for a pizza acreen and see if I can detect a difference.  The best NYC style pizza in my area uses nothing but some flour, but I suspect it takes some time to get the technique down.  Also, in a pizza oven you have some margin for error.  That isn't the case in most home ovens.  You're usually within an inch of the front and the back!

If I understand you correctly you are saying it is possible to bake on the screen on the oven rack, no stone.  Never tried that.  How does the crust come out?  How far off from a "stone" pizza is it?  I like the idea of stretching the skins in advance and keeping them apart with the parchment paper.  Do you then cover them with plastic to keep them from drying out?  How much in advance can you stretch them and still use them?  An hour or more?  I could use that technique for my next "dead of winter pizza party"

Offline Pete-zza

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Re: Pizza screens
« Reply #3 on: March 15, 2006, 02:26:13 PM »
Bill,

For most of the 16-inch pizzas I make, such as the Lehmann pizzas, I use a combination of screen (16-inch) and stone, and sometimes the broiler element if needed. Most of the large pizzas that I have made using only the screen have been Randy’s American style pizzas and my thinner versions of that style. If you go to http://www.pizzamaking.com/forum/index.php/topic,1707.0.html and look at the photos, you can judge for yourself on the crust characteristics. It helps that the Randy formulation calls for a fair amount of sugar and honey, which aid greatly in the crust coloration.

I haven't personally found a need to pre-make skins in large numbers, but I know from my own experiences with take-and-bake pizzas that it is possible to make skins in advance, refrigerate them, and use them the next day. If I were to make skins for same-day use, I would follow Tom Lehmann's basic advice on how to do this, adapting the procedures for home use. Here is an excerpt on that advice, taken from http://www.pmq.com/cgi-bin/tt/index.cgi/noframes/read/2543:

This is what I like to do when I need to pre-form the skins. Shape the skins and put them on flat trays in the cooler to chill for 20 to 30 minutes (you can do this in the morning). As the skins cool, stack them on a tray with a light application of oil and a sheet of parchment paper between each crust. Don't stack more than 10 skins high. Cover each stack with plastic to prevent drying. In preparation for a rush, begin traying up some of the refrigerated skins and put them on a covered tree rack near the prep area. This will allow the skins to warm for 10 or 15 minutes before you use them. Every chance you get, tray up more skins from the cooler to replace the ones you've used. By doing this the dough will have a chance to warm up a bit, you don't need to make any adjustments to your baking conditions with a conveyor oven, and bubbling will be minimized (I'd still dock the crusts though just to be safe).

Along similar lines, if you are planning on making the dough and using it promptly thereafter, without an overnight cold fermentation, you may find Tom Lehmann's advice on this useful, at http://www.pmq.com/cgi-bin/tt/index.cgi/noframes/read/8503. Again, you would adapt the advice for home use.

Peter

Offline Randy

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Re: Pizza screens
« Reply #4 on: March 15, 2006, 03:04:04 PM »
One point I would like to make about using a screen without a stone is the timing of placing the pizza in the oven on the bottom rack of an electric oven.  Without a stone wait until the light comes back on indicating the element is on, then wait for it to glow then put the pizza on the bottom rack.  very close to stone baking without having a long oven preheat.
This weekend will probadly be the last week I use the stone for the summer.

Randy

Offline billneild

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Re: Pizza screens
« Reply #5 on: March 16, 2006, 11:19:05 AM »
Peter and Randy - thanks for the info.  Randy, I was thinking about how hot the kitchen was going to get if I use the stone in the summer.  This sounds like a good compromise.  Now where do I get some screens?

Bill

Offline Pete-zza

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Re: Pizza screens
« Reply #6 on: March 16, 2006, 11:38:06 AM »
Bill,

Pizza screens are sold in many places, including restaurant supply stores and at online sites such as http://www.instawares.com/powersearch.asp?sessionID=1321897224141480BF5D0110&mySearchTerm=pizza+screens&site=, and http://www.abestkitchen.com/store/screens-pizza.html. If you do a Google search, you will find many others. You can’t go wrong with the American Metalcraft or Adcraft brands.

Pizzatools also makes a very good product, but their prices are higher, http://www.pizzatools.com/productdisplay.aspx?catid=57.

Peter
« Last Edit: March 16, 2006, 11:40:45 AM by Pete-zza »

Offline billneild

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Re: Pizza screens
« Reply #7 on: March 17, 2006, 08:51:11 AM »
Thanks Peter.  On a different topic I called my local megamart in search of IDY, but they weren't sure if they carried it.  Online sources appear plentiful.  Is one better than another?  Any ideas for where to look locally other than supermarkets?

Offline Pete-zza

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Re: Pizza screens
« Reply #8 on: March 17, 2006, 09:20:25 AM »
Bill,

I personally like the SAF Red instant dry yeast (IDY). The Fleischmann's IDY as sold in one-pound bags at places like Costco's and Sam's is also a good choice. There are also several online sources of IDY, including the King Arthur Baker's Catalogue site (bakerscatalogue.com), Amazon.com, and pennmac.com (look under the Pizza Makers tab), among others. If you can find the above products locally, so much the better because you will save on shipping costs.

Peter

Offline Randy

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Re: Pizza screens
« Reply #9 on: March 17, 2006, 09:53:26 AM »
Look for breadmachine yeast, i,e, instant, in a small brown jar, same, same.  It is pricey but every grocery store and wally world carries bread machine yeast in differant brands.

Should get you started.