Author Topic: Proper Neapolitan Dough in a home oven  (Read 826 times)

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Offline dithb

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Proper Neapolitan Dough in a home oven
« on: June 25, 2015, 11:23:58 PM »
Hey everyone!

So I've been seeing a bunch of posts on here of people saying that they were able to make pies using a classic Neapolitan dough formulation with no sugar or any sort of browning agent and that they were able to accomplish this in an electric oven at 550 deg F. I'm wondering how this is possible.

Currently, to make my pies, I've been having to cheat by adding sugar to my dough in order to get proper browning. Leopard spotting seems a bit far-fetched for now. This seems to work OK, but I'd like to see if I can get the classic recipe to work.

I've been baking my pizzas by preheating a NerdChef pizza steel to 550 deg F for an hour and then switching the oven to broiling on High about 5 minutes before I slide my pizza in. If I don't use sugar in my formulation, the crust comes out almost completely white. Is there something I can do?

Currently, my formulation uses about ~62% hydration with KA bread flour, 0.5 tsp IDY per pie (I know, I should really get a scale), and 2/3 tsp sugar along with 1 tsp sea salt per pie. I do a bulk ferment for one night in the fridge before I divide the dough and let it rise for another 2 days in the fridge.

Any help you guys could offer would be great!

--dithb

P.S. Does neapolitan dough actually taste better with no sugar, or are people just obsessed with doing it this way because of the standard that VPN applies?


Offline TXCraig1

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Re: Proper Neapolitan Dough in a home oven
« Reply #1 on: June 26, 2015, 12:06:08 AM »
It doesn't matter what you put in your dough or don't put in your dough, you can't make Neapolitan or anything close to it in a 550F oven. High heat (>850F) and fast bake time (<90 seconds) is every bit as important as the formula if not more so. There is a ton of great pizza you can make in a 550F oven. Neapolitan simply isn't one of them.



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Offline David Esq.

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Re: Proper Neapolitan Dough in a home oven
« Reply #2 on: June 26, 2015, 06:58:26 AM »
I don't see why your crust would be coming out so pale though. Maybe your oven temp is off?

Offline dithb

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Re: Proper Neapolitan Dough in a home oven
« Reply #3 on: June 26, 2015, 04:40:15 PM »
Craig,

When I say "Neapolitan" I didn't mean to say that I was expecting the sort of quality that one might expect from a wood fired stone oven. I simply meant to say that the crusts and corniciones I've been getting with sugar are somewhat reminiscent of what one might expect from such an oven (not quite where I'd like it to be though), but that I'd like to be able to achieve the same sort of browning without sugar, just so I can say that I was able to succeed at using the "official" ingredients. That's why the second part of my question was whether or not there is any point in trying to do this and whether or not it actually yields a better tasting pizza.

David,

I don't think the oven temp is the issue, because with sugar, my pizzas are finishing in about 3 minutes or so, and I'm getting good texture. Without sugar, I'm getting no browning and I'm having to take the pizzas out after 6-7 minutes, when all the moisture has been sucked out of the dough and I'm left with the equivalent of civil war hard tack.

Thanks for the initial feedback guys!

Offline TXCraig1

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Re: Proper Neapolitan Dough in a home oven
« Reply #4 on: June 26, 2015, 05:10:10 PM »
When I say "Neapolitan" I didn't mean to say that I was expecting the sort of quality that one might expect from a wood fired stone oven. I simply meant to say that the crusts and corniciones I've been getting with sugar are somewhat reminiscent of what one might expect from such an oven (not quite where I'd like it to be though), but that I'd like to be able to achieve the same sort of browning without sugar, just so I can say that I was able to succeed at using the "official" ingredients. That's why the second part of my question was whether or not there is any point in trying to do this and whether or not it actually yields a better tasting pizza.

With Neapolitan, ingredients are only half the story. The oven has to be capable as well. It's not the type of oven per-se, but rather the high temperature which allows for a short bake time. There is just no good way without a very powerful broiler (highly uncommon) to produce Neapolitan characteristics such as a very soft and tender crust in a home oven. You can add a small amount of sugar without tasting it and it will help your browning, but it's not going to get you anything close to a sub-2 minute bake time, let alone sub-90 seconds. Color is certainly important, but brown is not the definition of Neapolitan - nor is leoparded for that matter. The longer bake is going to create very different characteristics in the crumb and toppings no matter what ingredients you use. This is not to say the pizza will be bad; it's just not going to be very similar to Neapolitan.
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Offline dithb

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Re: Proper Neapolitan Dough in a home oven
« Reply #5 on: June 26, 2015, 06:46:08 PM »
Thanks a lot, Craig! I suppose I'll stick to using a bit of sugar in my doughs for now. Btw, I saw some of your pizzas on Serious Eats and those look legit!

Offline David Esq.

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Re: Proper Neapolitan Dough in a home oven
« Reply #6 on: June 26, 2015, 06:51:58 PM »
Try some whole wheat flour for darker crust.

Offline Jersey Pie Boy

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Re: Proper Neapolitan Dough in a home oven
« Reply #7 on: June 26, 2015, 09:07:43 PM »
Can't go with you on that, David..adding whole wheat will make an entirely different pizza in taste, texture and handling. Mind you, I am a seriously whole wheat guy..but when it comes to pizza, it's far my my go-to choice. Don't get me wrong..I think the Villa Roma recipe..and thanks Barryvabeach..is great.   For a darker crust, if some sugar or DMP in the formula isn't getting it, a little oil l brushed on the rim pre-bake will do the job.

Online mitchjg

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Re: Proper Neapolitan Dough in a home oven
« Reply #8 on: June 26, 2015, 09:57:54 PM »
Can't go with you on that, David..adding whole wheat will make an entirely different pizza in taste, texture and handling. Mind you, I am a seriously whole wheat guy..but when it comes to pizza, it's far my my go-to choice. Don't get me wrong..I think the Villa Roma recipe..and thanks Barryvabeach..is great.   For a darker crust, if some sugar or DMP in the formula isn't getting it, a little oil l brushed on the rim pre-bake will do the job.

+1

I do not think that this is just about getting a color.  When a bread (or pizza dough) "browns", you are getting the Maillard reaction - which is a process that creates great flavor.
Mitch


Offline David Esq.

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Proper Neapolitan Dough in a home oven
« Reply #9 on: June 26, 2015, 10:07:38 PM »
Autolyse the dough. Add some whole grain and you make a perfect environment for the yeast to feed when you add it, and this will get you a brown crust without having to add sugar.

Even without an Autolyse my pies seem to brown in my home oven using 50% white whole wheat and no sugar. Unless we have different ideas of browning.  See my pies at the bottom of the link pizza posts
« Last Edit: June 26, 2015, 10:16:52 PM by David Esq. »

Online mitchjg

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Re: Proper Neapolitan Dough in a home oven
« Reply #10 on: June 26, 2015, 11:05:07 PM »
Autolyse the dough. Add some whole grain and you make a perfect environment for the yeast to feed when you add it, and this will get you a brown crust without having to add sugar.

Even without an Autolyse my pies seem to brown in my home oven using 50% white whole wheat and no sugar. Unless we have different ideas of browning.  See my pies at the bottom of the link pizza posts

Sigh, we are back to Jersey Pie Boy's remarks.  50% whole wheat may (or may not) make a good pie that is brown and may, indeed, experience a Maillard reaction.  But, it is a very different pizza.


Back to the OP, dither:

It will probably be helpful to have your entire recipe if you really want a diagnosis.  And, a great place is to ask "The Dough Doctor", especially since, as you have learned, Neapolitan Pizza does not happen in a conventional oven.

Flour - grams
Water - grams
Sugar
yeast,
etc.

It is difficult to figure out what is wrong without the full recipe and process.  For example, you mention in your opening post that you are using a 0.5 teaspoon of IDY (about 1.5 grams) per pie.  But, I do not think we know how big the pie is / how much flour / how much dough.  If, for example, you are making a dough with around 160 grams of flour (a 12 inch pie with a 0.08 thickness factor and 62% hydration), then you are using about 1% IDY in your recipe. That is way too much for a 3 day ferment.  So, your dough may be running out of sugar and unable to brown by the end of the 3 days.

So, your issue may not be sugar vs no sugar, it may be too much yeast.

As an aside, the use of sugar to aid browning is very prevalent and mainstream.  Here is a post by Tom Lehman, our resident Dough Doctor, on the impact of various ingredients.  It may prove useful to you.

http://www.pizzamaking.com/forum/index.php?topic=31802.msg315760#msg315760



« Last Edit: June 26, 2015, 11:17:59 PM by mitchjg »
Mitch

Offline Jersey Pie Boy

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Re: Proper Neapolitan Dough in a home oven
« Reply #11 on: June 27, 2015, 01:44:04 AM »
Thanks Mitch; I'm glad you mentioned the yeast because I was thinking that seemed very high. As you mention, we don't  know the exact formula or size of the pie, but the yeast is the only thing that sticks out as an issue. The sugar doesn't seem high, in fact, seems very modest (if I did my calculations correctly). Based on a DB weight of  let's say 300 gms, it has  approximately 1% sugar.  Your Maillard note is also a good one. I've certainly noticed the difference that makes when , for example, I don't get enough bottom color.

 As far as NP, it's possible that dithb  was thinking more along the lines of NP-ish, since as Craig noted, a true NP isn't possible in this scenario..If that's the case, then he should be able to get a nicely browned  very tender pie with his setup  (non-Civil War hardtack, though I love the reference  :)), using the steel on the top shelf (assuming top broiler) and leaving the broiler on during the entire bake. Since he mentioned a 3 minute bake, he may already be doing exactly this.  When I've done this , not only did they brown very nicely  but I had to watch carefully so they didn't burn. Most often I'm using neither sugar nor oil in these.

It's going to be interesting to learn more about dithb's formula because it sounds like he's doing most things right.

Offline TrionaKi

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Re: Proper Neapolitan Dough in a home oven
« Reply #12 on: June 27, 2015, 04:11:12 AM »
Hey Dith B

Without much more info on the actual recipe and method I have one guess. You don't mention how long you leave the dough balls out of the refrigerator prior to opening them out. This could be part of the problem if they are not warm enough the natural sugars formed during fermentation do not have enough time to "Carmelize" during the cooking process to give you the browning you want. I use the skillet and broiler method with a very heavy base cast iron pan and I always get great spring and leopardising. Have heart With a lot of tweaking is possible to create a tasty NP pie without all the gear

Best of luck

Offline dithb

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Re: Proper Neapolitan Dough in a home oven
« Reply #13 on: June 29, 2015, 10:43:35 AM »
TrionaKi, Jersey Pie Boy, and Mitch,

The pies I make are usually 12-13 inches in diameter. I usually use 1.25 cups of flour per pizza, 1/2 tsp of IDY per pizza and 1/2 tsp of sea salt per pizza along with enough water for 62% hydration. My formulation is pretty much the same as the formulation used by J. Kenji Lopez-Alt. Again, I realize I'm not using a scale, but being in undergrad kinda puts me in a difficult situation as far as spending money on kitchen tools (my pizza steel and pizza peel were gifts).

My entire process involves doing autolyse for 30 minutes with all the ingredients but only 75% of the flour. At that point, I slowly work in the remaining flour, shape my dough, and stick it in the fridge. When adding the remaining flour, I usually aim for 62% hydration, but I basically just add flour until the dough is at the correct viscosity (kind of in the way that Jeff Varasano does it). Once I'm done adding flour, I shape the dough in bulk, cover in saran wrap, and stick in the fridge After the first day in the fridge, I take the dough out, beat it down, divide into my individual dough balls, and put it back in the fridge for another two days. This essentially serves as a bulk fermentation process that, according to Tony Gemignani, gives the dough a bit more flavor.

After the dough is done rising in the fridge, I take it out 1.5 to 2 hours before bake time, depending on how much the dough has risen in the fridge. It usually has enough plasticity that I'm able to work it quite easily without getting any tears, by the time I end up stretching and shaping it.

For the baking, I place the steel about as close to the top broiler as I can get it, while still giving myself enough room to maneuver. After preheating to 550F, I turn the broiler on high about 5 minutes before I stick the pizza in and leave it on for the entire bake.

Despite all this, I'm not able to get much browning when I don't use sugar, but if I reduce the amount of IDY slightly and add 1/2 tsp of sugar per pie, it turns out fine.

Let me know if you guys need any more info about my technique. Thanks guys!

Offline Jersey Pie Boy

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Re: Proper Neapolitan Dough in a home oven
« Reply #14 on: June 29, 2015, 11:04:36 AM »
Is it possible to see some pix? That might help..

Also, just saying..it sounds like you have the answer to getting the pies you want..by reducing the IDY and adding the sugar. Unless you don't like the idea of adding sugar..but 1/2 tsp per pie? That's really a tiny amount. Let's  say that 12 inch pie makes 4 generous slices..they'd each contain 1/8 tsp of sugar=2 calories. There may be more calories in the air we breathe  :-D

Craig makes a good point about the broiler in the post below. I have a $1 trick I use ( it may have come from the above-mentioned Kenji. Large cheap metal serving spoon from Walmart..I wedge it into the oven door when the broiler is on to keep it slightly ajar..It usually helps get the broiler on and keeps it on. Thoguh that may well depend on the oven. Mine's nothing special... basic Kenmore.
« Last Edit: June 29, 2015, 11:14:43 AM by Jersey Pie Boy »

Offline TXCraig1

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Re: Proper Neapolitan Dough in a home oven
« Reply #15 on: June 29, 2015, 11:09:09 AM »
Depending on your oven, at 550F, the broiler might not come one. You might try a slightly lower temp.
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Offline dithb

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Re: Proper Neapolitan Dough in a home oven
« Reply #16 on: June 29, 2015, 12:06:09 PM »
Thanks guys!

Jersey pie boy,
My whole reason for trying to not use sugar is to get my recipe to be more "authentic", whatever that's worth. It's not a big deal, but I figured it might be fun to try out.

I'll try to post some pics if I try the no sugar recipe and royally screw it up again.

Again, thanks for all the help!


Online mitchjg

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Re: Proper Neapolitan Dough in a home oven
« Reply #17 on: June 29, 2015, 12:36:04 PM »
I created, what I believe to be, a reasonable estimate of your dough with baker's percents.  I used the Lehman Dough Calculator - http://www.pizzamaking.com/dough-calculator.html
To estimate the flour properly, I used the mixed mass calculator - http://foodsim.toastguard.com  It shows a cup of KABF X 1.25 to be about 155 grams.

It appears to me that, as I was guessing before, your yeast is at 1%.  That is VERY high for a 3 day cold ferment.
Take a look at Craig's chart here: http://www.pizzamaking.com/forum/index.php/topic,26831.msg349349.html#msg349349
Using it with 72 hours at 38 degrees yields an IDY of 0.19%.  As another example, I have dough in my fridge right now (no sugar) on a 3 day cold ferment with 0.25% IDY.  I have full confidence I will have a full rise.

Further, your bulk ferment will hasten yeast production.

Long story short, I think your issue is way too much yeast.  It is eating everything in sight and there are not enough sugars left in the dough for a Maillard reaction (the browning) by the time you get to three days. 

Suggestion: Go at it again, but cut the yeast back to 1/4 or 1/5 of what you were using before.

PS And, I think you can omit the sugar.




« Last Edit: June 29, 2015, 03:15:00 PM by mitchjg »
Mitch

Offline dithb

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Re: Proper Neapolitan Dough in a home oven
« Reply #18 on: June 29, 2015, 12:50:46 PM »
Big thanks mitch!

I'll definitely give that a try the next time

Offline TXCraig1

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