Author Topic: Lofty goals for an inept cook  (Read 1995 times)

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Offline Mbalm^R

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Lofty goals for an inept cook
« on: December 12, 2006, 08:07:31 AM »
I've been lurking on this site for some time now, and I think I'm ready to try my hand at making pizza at home. The advice in this forum is overwhelming! Still, I envision standing at the curb and lobbing my first few pies into the garbage truck as it passes by my house, but I'm determined to DO this. Those frozen dustboard supermarket pizzas are absolutely revolting and the carry out ones around here aren't worth the money.

ANYWAY, my main concern right now is a standing mixer. I've perused several of the threads in the equipment portion of this forum, yet I remain confused. I will never use a mixer for anything other than pizza dough, so I can't justify spending hundreds of dollars for a turbo-charged, industrial-strength mixer designed to mix 300 batches of dough at a time. Would a standard mixer, such as a KitchenAid, suit my current needs without catching fire mixing one batch of dough??? Do I absolutely NEED a mixer as I start out? It's painful enough watching me trying to open up a can of soup, let alone starting a fire in my kitchen. Any advice is greatly appreciated.

Thanks!

Mbalm^R
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Offline Y-TOWN

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Re: Lofty goals for an inept cook
« Reply #1 on: December 12, 2006, 08:30:20 AM »
Mbalm^R

For starters I'd make the dough by hand - its really EZ especially if you use a little more water. That's is how I was taught at a pizza making class in Cleveland months ago - pizza and flat bread treats have been around longer than the mixer  :chef: :chef:

Offline Pete-zza

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Re: Lofty goals for an inept cook
« Reply #2 on: December 12, 2006, 09:08:32 AM »
Mbalm^R,

I agree with Rkos. Even if you decide later to go to a stand mixer because of a need to make larger dough batches, you will learn an awful lot about how a dough should feel when it is just right.

I have also found that letting the dough rest for a few minutes now and then during the hand kneading helps make the dough easier to knead. This even applies to doughs made using high-gluten flours.

Where you might run into difficulties hand kneading a dough is where you want to make a cracker-type crust. They are usually based on low hydration doughs (not a lot of water in relation to the flour). However, if you have a food processor, that is a very good option in that instance.

Peter
« Last Edit: December 12, 2006, 10:31:43 AM by Pete-zza »

Offline canadave

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Re: Lofty goals for an inept cook
« Reply #3 on: December 12, 2006, 10:11:28 AM »
I'm sort of straddling the fence on this question.  On one hand, I agree with rkos and Pete, hand kneading to begin with is a good way to "learn" about pizza dough, and I would recommend at least one hand knead to start out.

However, to specifically answer one of the questions you posed: Yes, a standard KitchenAid should be sufficient for one batch of dough.  And having done both hand kneads and mixer kneads (I currently own a DLX capable of the "300 batches" you spoke of, but I also had a simple mixer at one point), I think I would cry if I had to go back to hand kneads.

Try the hand knead first, and if you decide your arms are tired, go for the basic KitchenAid or equivalent.

--Dave

Offline Finnegans Wake

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Re: Lofty goals for an inept cook
« Reply #4 on: December 12, 2006, 10:57:32 AM »
As someone in your shoes, Mblam, I have just gotten into the whole pizza-making at home craze ("craze," not because it's sweeping the nation or anything, but because you can sense a fanatical devotion at work on this board... and I mean that in a good way).  I've done the cooking for our family, which my wife is thankful for, but I've been just awful as a beadmaker and pizza dough maker.  That is, until recently. 

So basically, I have never had much need for a Kitchenaid, and my early forays into bread and crust have come with hand kneading.  I think it's a great way to get started, and yes, I do feel I'm learning "by feel" the proper gluten development and dough tackiness and so on by turning the dough out and getting my hands into it.  Does that mean I won't ever get a KA mixer?  Not necessarily.  I'll keep my eyes open for best prices, drop a few hints here at the holidays, and keep on working to get my doughs better.  If and when I do get a mixer, I'll have a better, intuitive handle on what I'm shooting for with the dough.

BTW, Amazon has the KA Artisans for $199 right now.  I've seen KAs on eBay, but you have to be careful of refurbs... Don't think I'd be comfortable dropping that kind of money on a refurb.
Education: that which reveals to the wise, and conceals from the stupid, the vast limits of their knowledge. --
Mark Twain

Offline Pete-zza

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Re: Lofty goals for an inept cook
« Reply #5 on: December 12, 2006, 10:59:22 AM »
Dave,

Your post reminded me of the occasion where I hand kneaded a dough using the King Arthur Sir Lancelot high-gluten flour in your basic high-hydration NY style dough formulation. In my case, I made a thinner version but the dough ball weight was over a pound--at roughly 21 ounces. I baked the pizza in a friend's oven--a gas oven--but if I had baked the same pizza in my own oven (electric) the top crust would have been darker. I described the pizza I made at http://www.pizzamaking.com/forum/index.php/topic,2175.msg20385.html#msg20385 (Reply 39).

Peter

Offline Mbalm^R

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Re: Lofty goals for an inept cook
« Reply #6 on: December 12, 2006, 11:40:06 AM »
I had to laugh about the comment about my arms getting tired. I lift dead weight for a living, so maybe hand-kneading is the way to begin. You guys are so resourceful!!! I am most grateful. I'll let you know how it turns out--funeral or festive celebration! Heh!
Roll that beautiful bean footage!

Offline canadave

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Re: Lofty goals for an inept cook
« Reply #7 on: December 12, 2006, 11:45:32 AM »
Thanks Pete :)  I'd seen that post before methinks.  I'm glad the recipe was to your (and your friend's) liking.

BTW, now that I've got my DLX mixer, and having experimented a bit since I last posted regularly, I think it's time for me to update my recipe and techniques.  It's now closer to member varasano's recipe, but still different enough that I should post it separately I think.  In the post you referenced, you mentioned (and the photos back your observation) that the crust wasn't as airy as you expected.  I think I've fixed this problem pretty well in my new formulation.

Getting back to the OP's questions, I just thought of something to add.  If she starts out hand kneading, and over time comes up with a recipe that she really likes, and the pizza is delicious....the natural tendency is going to be, "I need to get myself the capacity to make more of these at once!"  That's what I went through.  I hand-kneaded a while to begin with, quickly realized that I needed a mixer if I didn't want to be straining my arms every 2nd or 3rd day making dough, and then kept getting mixers with more capacity because I wanted to be able to make more of my delicious pizza at once.  Now, with the DLX, I can make 8 batches of 16" pizza dough at a time, I freeze them, and then thaw them out whenever the craving for a pizza strikes.  Assuming that craving occurs every three days, that's almost a month's worth of pizza made in one go.

Hand kneading is nice, and I can definitely understand "purists" wanting to do nothing but hand kneads.  However, a high-capacity mixer has definite advantages if you want to make a bunch of dough at once.

That being said, my wife just had a bunch of friends come over and make perogies this past weekend, and this one Ukrainian woman made all the dough herself, hand kneaded...enough for literally a *tub* of dough.  It took four hours!  Arms of steel.

Next stop for me: a Hobart :)

Offline November

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Re: Lofty goals for an inept cook
« Reply #8 on: December 12, 2006, 11:51:27 AM »
I lift dead weight for a living

Very dead weight, I see.

Offline tgnytg

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Re: Lofty goals for an inept cook
« Reply #9 on: December 12, 2006, 12:19:09 PM »
Spending $200 or more on a mixer to *start* making pizza is a big outlay of cash.  I would suggest your first purchases should be a baking stone and peel.  Make the first few pizzas by hand.  Once you get a few under your belt, then think about buying expensive appliances.

Hand kneading dough is not as daunting or time consuming a task as you have been led to believe.  For pizza dough, in less than 10 minutes you can form a fully developed dough.  It is a lot less messy than high hydration artisan bread dough.

For pizza dough, you can go from ingredients to dough in less than ten minutes - by hand.

I am a member at HomeSpunPizza.com (membership of $35 required).  The pizzaiolo/teacher there is Bubba (he's a member of this forum).  On his site he has video demonstrations that take you from pre-measured ingredients to fully developed dough ball in about 7 minutes, for each of three methods - Kitchen Aid mixer, hand mix in a bowl, and hand mix on a bench (counter).  In each case, it is just 7 minutes or less from ingredients to finished dough.  And yes, that is 7 minutes - by hand. 

I would recommend his site for people learning the basics of dough handling, and for those trying to decide whether they want to drop $200+ on a food processor with the guts to do the job, or a stand mixer like the KA or DLX. 

You have to join his site, but for $35 you will learn how to do it by hand possibly saving yourself hundreds.

For those just starting out, you can learn the basics then move on to perfect your own style, try different techniques, and make informed equipment decisions.

For the record, I'm not affiliated other than me paying for a membership at his site.  I wrote a longer review in the Cookbook Reviews section of the forum:
http://www.pizzamaking.com/forum/index.php/topic,3762.msg35738.html#msg35738

My advice: Start simple and cheap, get informed first.

Tom
« Last Edit: December 12, 2006, 12:29:23 PM by tgnytg »


Offline nepa-pizza-snob

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Re: Lofty goals for an inept cook
« Reply #10 on: December 16, 2006, 08:36:44 PM »
Hi

If you want to get into home pizza making and would like to give your arms a rest after work - pick up an inexpensive
bread maker with a dough setting. If you watch it while it mixes and give the sides of the mixing vessel a scrape down
with a spatula here and there you can produce very nice pizza dough 2-3 at a time without any major cash layout or
carpal tunnel flare-ups.

My pre-owned bread maker kneads better than my $200+ kitchen aid and is so close to the efficiency of hand kneading
that the other 5% isn't worth the effort to my busy A#$%

Offline enchant

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Re: Lofty goals for an inept cook
« Reply #11 on: December 17, 2006, 09:07:18 AM »
I've seen KAs on eBay, but you have to be careful of refurbs... Don't think I'd be comfortable dropping that kind of money on a refurb.
I've had some very good luck with refurbs.  I recently bought a Nikon camera body and lens (from different sellers) - both refurbed.  Both were in perfect, mint condition.  From what I've heard, the refurbs are usually units that were returned open, but not used.  The store can't re-shrink-wrap sell them as new, so they go back to the factory.  They go through QA and are re-packaged and sold as refurbs.  And the cost savings is usually quite substantial.

On a different subject, if anyone is thinking of buying a KA mixer, be sure not to get the 4.5 quart model.  They might not even make them anymore, but if you find one used on Ebay or something... KA doesn't make spiral dough hooks to fit the 4.5 quart mixers.
--pat--

Offline Rein Ciarfella

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Re: Lofty goals for an inept cook
« Reply #12 on: January 26, 2007, 05:48:11 AM »
I've been assimilating all the good info on pizzamaking.com for a while now and stumbled across your post recently.

I agree with a couple of the posters above.  My first major step forward was purchasing an inexpensive stone, peel and cutter.  I've been practicing, first with store-bought dough and more recently making my own from scratch, for several months now and am very happy with the results.  I make enough dough for two 12-13" thick-style pies (I've invented my own word to describe them - "Crustica") the day before and let them work in the fridge overnight.  From the time I start getting the ingredients out of the cupboard to getting the dough to the point where it's ready to rise usually takes about 15-20 minutes, then I do a 45 minute rise, punch down, divide into balls and put in the fridge (altogether maybe 30 minutes actual working time).  Although it is possible to do the dough and then go right into cooking, I think letting the dough work overnight develops the flavor and texture somewhat, plus it separates the work into two days and makes it seem less labor-intensive.  I enjoy the hand kneading and it isn't all that difficult, physically, if you develop a rhythm and use your upper body weight efficiently.  If we're only going to have one pie, the other ball goes into the freezer for future use after its overnight in the fridge.
« Last Edit: January 26, 2007, 05:54:15 AM by Rein Ciarfella »
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