I was reading Tony Gemignani's latest book, and noticed the incredibly high hydration levels for New York Pizzas. I'm not a huge advocate of hydration levels over 70%. But he gave me a list of personal names that suggested it was definitely worth taking another crack. Since I was in the midst of returning to old habits after reading Randy's thread under American style, I decided to give Tony's suggestion a try since I had not experimented with over 70% hydration in quite some time.
Man, talk about nailing it on the head, despite a few mistakes on the way.
- I started with over 75% hydration level accidentally, and compensated with additional flour to get it down to a manageable level. I know from experience that some of the best breads in the San Francisco area get some awesome moisture with elevated hydration levels.
- I was in the early stages of a starter. It was still mostly an organic rye flour, mixed in with some Caputo flour. So instead of tossing 1/2 of the starter away at this stage, I decided to break-up a small portion of it for this pizza and mix it in with enough King Arthur Bread Flour to give me a total of about 9 oz of flour.
- I added my usual tsp of salt, a small amount of sugar/honey (about 1/2 TBL combined) to 6 oz of cool water. I FORGOT that I had proofed a 1/2 tsp active yeast (which by the way is more yeast than normal for me) with 1 or so ounces of water. SO now I was up to 8 oz of water with the amount that was in the starter.
- I added the water + the proofed yeast into the flour mixture. Brought it together, let it rest a few minutes. Added a tad of palm oil/olive oil, and gave it a 1 minute mix. When I went to lift it out to hand knead it... forget it. Then I realized my error with the proofing of the yeast. So I added enough flour to bring this beast to over 19 oz. In all, I was at around 10.5 oz of flour and 8 oz of water. I was thankful for the rye flour in the starter.
- Normally I don't like to add flour once I start to mix, since all ingredients are based on the weight of the flour. So I evaluated my dry ingredients. Well, I wasn't worried about the sugar level, since malted barley is in the King Arthur flour. And I just figured with this much water, I would not be tossing this puppy anyways... so I left the 1 tsp of salt go.
- I kneaded about 50% by hand to establish the right amount of flour. I left it out for an hour or so. It was getting late so I decided to put it in a stainless steel container and leave it with the lid loose in the refrigerator for 45 minutes to dry it out a bit. I then re-established it into a ball, put the top on, and left it in the refrigerator.
- The next day, 1/2 tsp active yeast proved to be a lot as I suspected. The thing had ballooned out. I remembered the same happening with Pete-zza under Randy's American thread. What the heck, as pointed out in the A16 Neapolitan thread, I don't mind kneading it a small amount to strengthen the structure during fermentation. I then re-formed it into a ball and put it back in the refrigerator.
- 48 hours later, I wondered what to do. I wanted a 14" pizza, so I cut it down to about 16.5 oz.
It was slightly moist on the inside with a wonderful dry presentation on the outside (just like a wonderful old world levain bread in San Francisco)... and it was crispy on the bottom, with great spring in the cornicione... I cooked it at 515F, 1 minute no toppings, 6.5 minutes with simple prosciutto/pepperoni toppings, using a screen sitting in the middle of the oven. The camera darkened the background and slightly lightened the foreground.
after it was cooled off, I sat back in the living room and enjoyed the last of my cornicione... That's when you really know you got it right... when you can enjoy a crispy outside with a moist inside even when it has cooled off. The taste was undeniable... it wasn't sweet, it wasn't sour, it was simply right. Accidents happen, and sometimes it all works out for the best!