Author Topic: Some attempts  (Read 3724 times)

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Offline dcervone

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Some attempts
« on: April 06, 2007, 04:41:56 PM »
I've been using Varasano's Neopolitan dough recipe and had some pizzas that actually turned out quite good. My problem (other than not yet having put in the time to develop a really good sauce) is just that I'm using a standard gas oven (the type you find in cheap apartments) and just can't get an even bake. What I've been doing is putting the pizza stone on the very bottom of the oven, setting it to 550, with periodic door-openings to keep the flame burning. About 20 minutes before putting the pizza in I switch it permanently to "broil". The idea is to keep the stone pretty much constantly heated by the flame, which allows the pizzas to bake in only 2.5 minutes. The problem is that they cook very unevenly, with the bottom being quite charred before the crust on the top shows even any marks. You can see what I'm talking about in the pictures below.

These pizzas do taste quite good, and the crust overall tastes "cooked", although it remains slightly tough/chewy and not as flavorful as I feel it could be with a fuller, more even bake. I have a couple sheet pans on the lowest shelf to try and retain some of the heat directly above the pizza (which makes inserting the pizza onto the stone a little stressful, hehe), but they're just thin pans and do a pretty poor job. Has anybody tried doing something similar using tiles right above the pizza stone... does that sound like a viable plan?
-Dan


Offline ponzu

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Re: Some attempts
« Reply #1 on: April 07, 2007, 07:20:50 PM »
You are on the right track.  Your pictures tell the tale of your stone being much to hot for the surrounding air.  (bottom charred/cornicone undone)

I am also using a varasano dough, gas oven on broil, and the stone on the floor of the oven.  What I do differently?

Instead of using metal pans on the bottom most oven rack (above the stone) I use unglazed quarry tile.  I also put unglazed quarry tile through the slots on the oven rack on the sides and along the back wall of the oven.  This creates a tile lined box on the bottom of the oven.  This tile has a high thermal mass meaning it absorbs and retains heat so that when you slide the pie in the top is cooked by radiant heat from the heated tile, and the temperature within the cooking environment remains relatively constant.  In addition this setup absorbs so much heat that the top of the oven where the thermostat is never reaches 550 F and thus the heat never turns off.  The oven within the oven temperature is a steady 700F.  Finally I raise  the pizza stone off of the oven floor with a wire baking rack and cover the stone with aluminum foil until the final 1/2 hour before cooking the pies to keep the heat of the stone down.

This all results in a pie that is evenly cooked with a trace of char on the bottom and top in 4-6 minutes.

Good luck.

AZ

Offline briterian

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Re: Some attempts
« Reply #2 on: April 08, 2007, 10:19:35 PM »
Ponzu,
Thanks for the reply. I had 1-2 questions based on your reply.
1. Could this be done with quarry tile on the bottom too instead of a stone - so the whole box created is quarry. I have quarry tiles on bottom and sides but have not taken next step to line the back and top to create the box.
2. If yes, then it's a tad tougher to leverage the foil approach on tiles to keep the temperature down to avoid the burning the bottom fo the crust.  Do you know what temperature I am looking for on the lower level base of my quarry tile and how to achieve this via this modified method?

Offline ponzu

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Re: Some attempts
« Reply #3 on: April 09, 2007, 01:38:25 AM »
1.  The quarry tile on the bottom should not be a problem at all.  Many on this forum report good results with this approach.  The crucial step is making a roof on your oven within an oven.  Incidentally you sould only have about three inches from the top of your stone/tile to the tile roof.

2. The foil approach shold be identical with a stone or quarry tile cooking surface.  Just loosely cover the entire surface with foil.  then when the air temperature in the box reaches 600 degrees (trust me it will) in about 1.5 hours , pick up the foil with kitchen tongs.  Wait 30 minutes and then cook.

Finally, don't forget to raise the stone off of the floor of the oven with a wire bakers cooling rack.  This will protect the stone/tiles from direct conduction of heat from the floor of the oven.

Good luck.

Offline ponzu

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Re: Some attempts
« Reply #4 on: April 16, 2007, 11:35:07 PM »
Here are some pics of  margharita, pepperoni, and clam pies baked in my set-up over the weekend.

Offline ponzu

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Re: Some attempts
« Reply #5 on: April 16, 2007, 11:36:29 PM »
...
« Last Edit: April 16, 2007, 11:41:08 PM by ponzu »

Offline ponzu

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Re: Some attempts
« Reply #6 on: April 16, 2007, 11:37:30 PM »
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Offline ponzu

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Re: Some attempts
« Reply #7 on: April 16, 2007, 11:38:14 PM »
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Offline ponzu

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Re: Some attempts
« Reply #8 on: April 16, 2007, 11:38:34 PM »
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Offline ponzu

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Re: Some attempts
« Reply #9 on: April 16, 2007, 11:39:16 PM »
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Offline dcervone

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Re: Some attempts
« Reply #10 on: April 23, 2007, 06:23:22 PM »
Those crusts look great, especially the first one in the clam pizza. I'm trying to locate tiles atm but its a real pain. Neither the hardware store nor any of the gardening stores near me carry any sort of tiles. The kitchen store, of course, has pizza stones, but at 30.00 each I'd rather just find some tiles.

So ponzu, do you have any idea what temperatures you have on the stone itself and around the stone at the time you put the pizza in? For my pizzas, judging by the level of char they have on the bottom after only cooking them 2.5 minutes, my stone might be 800ish degrees (I don't have an IR thermometer), but the air around the stone can't be much more than 550. It's frustrating having pizzas so unevenly cooked, but if I could get the surrounding temperature up 150 degrees or so it might still be worth keeping them a bit unevenly cooked for the benefits of a 2 minute bake.
-Dan

Offline ponzu

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Re: Some attempts
« Reply #11 on: April 24, 2007, 01:40:34 AM »
Thanks for the compliment on the crusts.  They were actually a bit sub-optimal as the dough was over-risen after agingi n the fridge 9 days before baking and was thus harder than usual to work with and evenly stretch.  The cornicone was about par for the course in terms of volume but the body of the pizza wasn't as thin and delicate as with a properly aged dough.

In terms of tiles just look up tile stores in the phone book.  Your town almost assuredly has one and almost all dedicated tile stores have unglazed quarrytile.  Try Daltile in the white pages.

I don't know the airtemp in the tile oven within my oven but I estimate it to be about 700F based on the 650 degree oven thermometer that registers off the scale in after about 2 hours preheating.  I don't think that you should focus on the baking time in terms of your set up.  A 2 minute pie that is burnt on the bottom and uncooked on the top is not nearly as enjoyable as an evenly cooked 4.5 minute pie.
I also long for a proper set-up that gets to an air temp of 850-1100 degrees but there is merit in optimizing your current set-up to get as close to perfect as possible.  Incidentally, I think that you will probably like the pizza cooked in your tile box more than 99 percnt of the pizzeria pies that you have had.

Good Luck.

Offline dcervone

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Re: Some attempts
« Reply #12 on: May 09, 2007, 12:51:46 AM »
I went to home depot and got a box of unglazed quarry tiles (6" x 6" - the only size available). In my oven, I put the baking stone onto the lowest rack (as opposed to the floor), and arranged the tiles on the rack above it (about 3" difference between racks) so that they covered the entire shelf about two tiles thick. Oven was preheated for a little under an hour and a half with an oven thermometer on the baking stone. When I put the pizza in, the thermometer was past its max (600).

The pizza cooked between 4:00-4:15, once again slightly unevenly but better than before. The bottom was slightly less charred than what I was getting with a 2:30 bake with the stone on the oven floor, and the top of the crust showed brown in some areas, which is an improvement from the nearly all-white tops that came out before. Though the pizza tasted fine, I must admit I was slightly disappointed with the result. By moving the stone from the oven floor to the first rack, I was expecting a dramatic decrease in the temperature of the stone; and with the addition of the tiles on the rack above, I was expecting an even bake. Though the end result was more even than before, there's still room for improvement.

The next step might be to try and build a small tile box around the stone, rather than just situating the stone beneath a row of tiles. Also, maybe a 2 hour preheat could help.
-Dan

Offline grovemonkey

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Re: Some attempts
« Reply #13 on: May 09, 2007, 07:49:59 AM »
Your bottom on the first set of photos looks like what I got when I first tried my G3 Ferrari.  The heating element got the stone really hot, around 800 and the  bottom was done in about 90 seconds but the top wasn't even remotely close.  I ended with a burnt bottom and a undercooked top.  I lowered the over all temp and quite trying to make Neapolitan until I can get a brick oven or a much better set up.

Good luck!

grove

Offline dcervone

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Re: Some attempts
« Reply #14 on: May 12, 2007, 02:32:06 PM »
So the other day I tried a 2 hour preheat with foil covering the baking stone till about 15 minutes before putting the pizza in. I'm still getting used to using my new IR thermometer, but the temp on  the top of the tiles above the stone was around 570. The stone itself was 670 when putting the pizza in, and earlier on the foil was giving me around 600 (temp for the bottom of the tiles?). The pizza was quite good, and baked in about 3:30. It wasn't perfectly even, but close, as the crust had some nice browning. It wasn't quite as soft and puffy as I would have liked (was more on the bready side) but still another improvement.

-Dan

Offline dcervone

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Re: Some attempts
« Reply #15 on: May 27, 2007, 02:41:00 AM »
Well after some initial success I've been having trouble with that set-up. It's very difficult for me to actually transfer the pizza from the peel to the stone, as there's only a couple of inches between the two oven racks and I have no view in between. One time, some cheese/sauce fell off and the pizza was a complete disaster. Another, the back end of the dough was accidentally folded a bit when I tried to wiggle the dough off of the peel, and obviously the folded parts were not cooked through and inedible.

So I've made two pizzas now using the broil chamber in my gas oven. This is a drawer located beneath the heating chamber--beneath the flame itself, in fact. One nice advantage is that the drawer opens easily and even pulls out, making it very easy to take the pizza in and out. And after setting it to 550 and waiting about 45 min, I was getting a reading of 650 or so on the stone with my IR thermometer (though I have no idea of the surrounding air temperature). My first pizza using this set-up was quite good. I baked it for about 3.5 minutes and achieved a similar amount of browning of the crust as the pictures in the post above, yet the bottom was only slightly charred. The bake seemed even in this regard, it perhaps could have used an extra minute in there to get some more charring. What prompted me to remove it, however, was the presence of some charred spots in the very center of the pizza. This makes sense, considering the oven flame is centered right above the baking surface. How ironic--once I have the top and bottom of the pizza cooking evenly enough, the edges/center get messed up.

My second try was a bit less successful... it took about 4 minutes to bake to a similar result as the first. After taking the pizza out my IR thermometer gave me only 450 for the baking stone, even though it was well above 600 several minutes earlier. My memory on these measurements if fuzzy, so maybe the time elapsed was different, but that temperature drop makes me wonder. The broiler compartment is so small that I fear opening it up to put the pizza in dramatically reduces the temperature. This would explain why the pizza seems heated more by the direct heat of the oven flame (explaining the char in the center) than the air around it. And of course, it being an unfamiliar setup, I was opening the door of the drawer every minute or so to quickly check on things.

I've thought about rotating the pizza several times during baking, but am worried that that process will empty too much heat out of the chamber. I've also thought about raising the stone closer to the flame, (as there is room to do this) but I think that it will only exaggerate the unevenness in the center, even if the temperature of everything else becomes hotter. Another solution I've though of is to put tiles directly on the oven floor, to trap a lot of the ambient heat and better insulate the broiler chamber. But this somehow seems like a bad idea (I'd essentially be placing the tiles directly over the flame, maybe this would impede airflow, etc?). Yet another thought is to go back to the setup from the previous post, but using a metal pan to bake the pizza on top of the stone. The benefits of this would be the obvious ease in transferring the pizza in/out of the oven, and also the fact that the metal pan going between the pizza and the stone would slow the cooking on the pizza's bottom, perhaps resulting in a more even bake.

Thoughts?
-Dan

Offline tommy

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Re: Some attempts
« Reply #16 on: May 27, 2007, 12:14:51 PM »
dan,

as far as using the set-up in the pic, why not pull the rack out (the one with the stone) when putting the pizza in?  it takes a few seconds more, so you'll lose a bit more heat, but you won't have a mess.

taking the cooked pizza out is usually pretty easy, even in tight spaces. i use tongs to pull it onto the peel usually.