As I alluded to in my last post in this thread, I used the Ischia starter as the basis for another dough to make another cracker-style pizza. I made that pizza today.
As usual, I made some changes (besides the starter used) and these were mainly in the way the Ischia starter was activated and how the dough was processed in preparation for making the pizza. In particular, the Ischia starter was activated along the general lines recommended by Ed Wood, that is, by feeding the Ischia starter with flour and water after the starter was removed from the refrigerator and allowing it to sit at room temperature for about 12 hours. At the expiration of that time, I combined the starter with the remaining ingredients to prepare the dough. The dough formulation I used was identical to the last one I used with the Camaldoli starter. Only the starter and its mode of activation were different. Unlike the dough that was made using the Camaldoli starter, the dough based on the Ischia starter rose at a much slower rate, even though the amount of the Ischia starter, as a percentage of the total formula flour, was the same as I used for the Camaldoli starter. As it turned out, the total fermentation time of the Ischia dough was over 50 hours. I estimate that the dough rose by about 25% over all that time.
The long fermentation time did not impair the dough or its handling qualities. I was able to easily roll the dough out to 15” with no difficulty. However, I processed the dough skin differently this time.
First, after I had rolled the dough out to 15”, I folded the outer edge of the skin under the skin and crimped it shut to provide a rim. After docking the bottom of the skin, I flipped it over and docked the top side also. So, the rim was seamless when viewed from the top. Next, as before, I brushed the top of the skin with a small amount of olive oil, to impede migration of the sauce into the dough.
After the skin was sauced, I added the cheese (shredded Grande mozzarella cheese) and pepperoni slices. I pressed the slices of pepperoni into the cheese to better anchor them. It will be noted that I did not pre-bake the skin before dressing it. Instead, the dressed pizza went directly into the oven onto a pizza stone that had been placed on the bottom oven rack position and preheated for about an hour at about 500-550 degrees F. After about 4 minutes of baking on the stone, I lowered the oven temperature to 450 degrees F, and continued the baking at that temperature for about another 3 minutes, or until the cheese was melting and the top crust was starting to brown. I then removed the pizza from the stone to the top oven rack position, where the pizza baked for about another 2 minutes, to achieve additional top crust browning.
Ordinarily, I would have removed the pizza from the oven at this point. However, this time, I turned off the oven and moved the pizza back onto the stone, for about another 3 minutes. I then placed the pizza back on the top oven rack position for about 2 minutes. The objective of this exercise was to allow the pizza to dry out more and form a more crispy crust, but at a temperature that was low enough as not to cause the cheese to break down too much or become excessively brown. These extra steps proved to be beneficial in providing a crispier crust. However, I believe that pre-baking the crust is better for the cheese. If a low-quality cheese is used with a long bake time, it is likely to break down and release fats, even at lower temperatures. Using more cheese, or using larger pieces, or using the cheese cold, may help mitigate the breakdown problem.
The photos below show the finished product. As with its predecessors, today’s pizza was crispy and cracker-like, although not to the same degree as the last two preferment-based pizzas that were pre-baked before dressing. However, the slices were firm and not droopy when held out straight, and the rim was definitely crunchy. Also, I thought that the pizza had a nicer overall appearance, particularly with the rim folded under the pizza (which is best seen in the third photo below), which created a cleaner shape without ragged edges. The pizza itself was as tasty as the ones that preceded it. As the pizza cooled, I found that the slices actually became a bit crispier and more cracker-like.
The next step in my cracker-style pizza education is to buy a cracker-style pizza from one of the pizzerias near me. None of the local independent pizzerias make that style that I am aware of, but I believe that the big chains in my area, including Pizza Hut, Domino’s and Pizza Inn, sell thin-and-crispy/cracker-style pizzas. I am looking forward to learning from the experience.