For my most recent experiment on this thread, I decided to modify the mixing and kneading regimen that I have been using to date. This time I decided to dispense with my KitchenAid stand mixer and instead to use a combination of an electric hand mixer, a bowl-type sieve (to sift the flour), a sturdy wooden spoon, and hand kneading. What I most wanted to see is if this combination could produce a dough with exceptional handling qualities—better than using a KitchenAid stand mixer. If successful, this would mean that one could make a high quality dough without needing a KitchenAid or equivalent stand mixer—only an electric hand mixer, a sieve, and a sturdy spoon—and a bowl, of course.
To conduct the experiment, I settled on the following dough formulation (a modification of the basic Lehmann dough formulation):
KASL Flour (100%): 277.71 g | 9.8 oz | 0.61 lbs
Water (65%): 180.51 g | 6.37 oz | 0.4 lbs
Salt (1.75%): 4.86 g | 0.17 oz | 0.01 lbs | 0.87 tsp | 0.29 tbsp
IDY (0.40%): 1.11 g | 0.04 oz | 0 lbs | 0.37 tsp | 0.12 tbsp
Oil (1%): 2.78 g | 0.1 oz | 0.01 lbs | 0.6 tsp | 0.2 tbsp
Total (168.15%): 466.96 g | 16.47* oz | 1.03 lbs | TF = 0.107
* Actual dough weight = 16.25 oz.
As will be noted from the above formulation, I elected to use a hydration of 65%. This is in line with my recent experiments, which have been successful with that hydration percent. I increased the yeast (IDY) a bit to compensate for the onset of winter in Texas (which means a cooler kitchen), and I used a thickness factor of 0.107 to compensate for minor dough losses during the course of mixing and kneading. Also as a concession to the arrival of winter, I warmed the water to about 72 degrees F before using. Using this water temperature, the finished dough temperature of the dough as it went into the refrigerator was about 74 degrees F. The dough produced using the above formulation was for one 14” pizza.
The following describes the steps used to make the dough:
1) Place the water in a bowl, add the salt, and stir for about 30-45 seconds to completely dissolve. (Note: If sugar is used, it also can be dissolved in the water after dissolving the salt, or separately in warm water, if desired. If ADY is substituted for the IDY, it can be rehydrated in a small amount of the formula water, for about 10 minutes, at around 100 degrees F, and be added to the rest of the formula water, which will be cooler.)
2) Stir the yeast (IDY) in with the flour and place within a bowl-type sieve (see first photo below). The openings in the sieve should be as small as possible but big enough to allow the yeast particles to pass through. In lieu of a sieve, a manually operated flour sifter can also be used.
3) Sift a small amount of the flour/yeast mixture into the bowl and, using an electric hand mixer (see second photo) operating at its lowest speed, incorporate the flour/yeast mixture into the water. Continue to do this in an alternating manner until the hand mixer bogs down and can no longer easily mix the ingredients. Once this occurs, lift the beaters out of the dough and, with the beaters spinning, spin any sticking dough ingredients off of the beaters into the bowl. Set the mixer aside. Its job is done.
4) Continue to sift the flour/yeast mixture into the bowl intermittently and use a sturdy spoon (I use a large wooden spoon) to incorporate. When about 2/3-3/4 of the flour/yeast mixture has been sifted into the bowl and combined, add the oil and incorporate using the spoon. If needed, the hands can also be used.
5) Remove the contents of the bowl and put on a work surface. Continue to sift small amounts of the flour/yeast mixture on top of the dough and incorporate by kneading. Although not necessary, if the dough is too wet and hard to handle without it sticking to the fingers all over the place, a bench knife can be used to turn and fold the dough onto itself. Continue the process until all of the flour/yeast mixture has been sifted onto the dough and the dough takes on a generally smooth, soft and elastic feel with no tears on the outer surface. There may be some small bumps but they will smooth out and disappear once the dough starts to ferment. The total knead time will be about 4 minutes for the batch size involved. At the end of the 4-minute period, the dough should be fully hydrated and have a slightly tacky outer exterior. Unless the dough is obviously too wet and really sticking to the fingers, the temptation to add more flour should be resisted.
6) Form the dough into a ball and knead for about another minute using the punch and fold technique. For those unfamiliar with this technique, it is shown in Images 4a-4c at http://www.woodstone-corp.com/cooking_naples_style_dough.htm
. I do the kneading gently and for only a minute. It may well be that this step is unnecessary, especially for the small amount of dough involved, but it is fun and easy to do. When done, reshape the dough into a round ball, coat with a bit of oil, place into a container (see the third photo below), cover the container, and place it in the refrigerator.
Originally, I had planned to use the dough within about 2-3 days, but because of Christmas chores that period was extended to over 4 days. While in the refrigerator, the dough ball gradually flattened out, making it difficult to gauge the extent of its rise. Whatever dough expansion there was, it was quite modest. The dough was brought out of the refrigerator to room temperature and allowed to warm up for about 2-3 hours before using.
Overall, the dough was of exceptional quality. It was a bit on the extensible side, which was not particularly surprising after four days, but it was easy to handle and shape and stretch out to 14”. As I worked the dough, I could see that it had a uniform thickness and was completely smooth without any noticeable variations, layering or imperfections as I held the stretched out dough to the light and continued to stretch it even further. I could easily have stretched it out to 18” or better. From a handling standpoint, it was as good a dough as I have made, irrespective of machine or process although in the past I have achieved a similar quality of dough with exceptional handling qualities when I used a natural preferment, with a good example being the Raquel dough.
The results achieved suggest that a key element to achieving superior dough handling qualities is fully hydrating the flour. In this case, I would credit sifting the flour and using the electric hand mixer. A dough hook, and especially a C-hook as comes with my KitchenAid mixer, can’t do as good a job. So, for those who don’t have a KitchenAid or equivalent mixer but have a sieve and an electric hand mixer, they can make modest batches of high quality dough using only those simple tools along with hand kneading. Of course, for large dough batches, a machine may be the only logical option. While I didn’t use rest period during the preparation of the dough, doing so will facilitate making larger batches of dough, even with a high-gluten flour, and especially at a high hydration rate.
The final two photos show the finished pizza. The pizza (my standard pepperoni “test” pizza) had excellent flavor, although the cheeses started to brown before I had achieved the desired crust coloration. I used the Frigo brand of low moisture, part skim mozzarella cheese which, I know from past experience, browns quickly and can burn quite easily within a fairly short period of time. Also, I think a shorter fermentation period would have resulted in better crust coloration because of a higher residual sugar content. Although not readily apparent in the photos, there was a fair degree of blistering on the rim of the pizza. This was evidence that the dough was starting to overferment. I don’t mind blistering so that was not an issue for me.
As for the bake process itself, the pizza was baked on a 14” pizza screen for about 6 minutes at the second-from-the-top oven rack position and then moved onto a pizza stone (at the lowest oven rack position) that had been preheated for about an hour at 500-550 degrees F, to get increased bottom crust browning. After about a minute on the stone, the pizza was returned to its original position for about another minute. The broiler element was not needed or used.