Here's some techniques to give you a crust with less density and more holes:
- First, I would recommend review of this excellent discussion in baker's toolbox regarding mixing methods and the direct impact that duration of mixing has on the airy level of the dough. http://www.progressivebaker.com/class/section5.htm
As you can see from one of its pictures, the amount of time that you mix the dough is disproportionate to the airy level you have in the dough:
- Although pros require longer mixing times, it's important to keep in mind that they are working with 50 lbs or more of flour, while we work with cups of flour. In the case of professional dough, you will note that their dough is usually an off-white color. This is because they do not oxidize the pigments in the dough. Unfortunately, for those who try to follow long mixing times at home, the dough tends to oxidize, resulting in a much whiter color and less taste from the loss of pigmentation.
- It's all in the handling. You ever see those sites that suggest beating the dough up while preparing it for the oven? The opposite is true if you want an airy crust. I find tender loving handling of that dough to be extremely important to giving me that consistent chewy crust demanded in thin New York style crusts, along with an airy texture. You'll notice that Naples DOC requirements prohibit the use of rollers. The goal is to keep the bubbles in place by delicately stretching the dough.
Shorter knead times and delicate handling give me a chewy airy outer crust every time, even when the rest of the pizza is characteristic of a New York thin style pizza: (http://home.comcast.net/~keck-foundation1/down-to-the-last-bite.jpg)
- Unfortunately, many contribute the strength of the dough to be directly attributable to long kneading times due to professional requirements when working with 50 lbs or more of flour. However, salt is often the factor that will strengthen a dough. The world champion tossing professional, Tony Gemignani, suggests using more salt to make a better tossing dough.
- Since bubbles allow the top skin of the crust to separate from the bottom skin of the crust, try to bring the bubbles out as much as possible by following any of these methods
a) let the dough sit for 40 or more minutes after removing it from the refrigerator,
b) let the dough sit on the screen with no ingredients for 5 or so minutes,
c) place the dough in the oven with no ingredients (at 530 F, small bubbles should form within 35 seconds, middle to low shelf, without any burn marks). The last step is critical as seen in this picture:
Here's an example of an airy slice attained with the suggestions above to maintain bubbles. Farther down in this page is a thinner slice, which maintains the same airy texture:
As far as color and taste:
- I no longer abide by rules that suggest against the use of sugar, especially when leaving the dough beyond 24 hours; but for different reasons than some might think. First, to put things into perspective, the use of 1 1/2 tsp of sugar (6g) gives each pizza slice 25% less than 1g of sugar. Hence, you will only get an additional 1g of carbs with 3 slices of pizza. Second, even with refrigeration, much of the natural sugar will be gobbled up in the dough after 1 day by the yeast. There's nothing worse than a white-looking pizza crust, which you end up over-heating in an effort to gain some color. In Naples, they do not use sugar. But then, they often make the dough same day.
- With regard to taste, you need to extend the life of the dough to extract the natural bacteria and sugars from the starches of the dough that can only develop over time. By adding a little bit of sugar, I can extend the life beyond 24 hours, and I can retain the color and obtain a taste that is clearly stronger from the bacteria by the 2nd day in the refrigerator.
- While separating out the ingredients may appear necessary to maintain the fermentation of the dough during the mixing process, I have found far more effective results with a more thorough mix that is achieved with with a much simpler process of mixing the salt, sugar and proofed active yeast into cooler water at one time, especially when working with a home stand mixer.
Salt will not kill the yeast. It only slows it down (which is the goal). The same is true when adding proofed active yeast to cooler water. And of course, by properly mixing the dry ingredients in the fluid first (water, milk, beer, etc.), you will get a very consistent even mixture with the flour.
The 14" pizza shown below has a nice outer edge with slices that end in a New York style slender skin. The following ingredients will yield a similar result: 10 oz of high gluten flour (e.g., Pendleton's unbleached flour just under 14% protein), 60% cool water (6 oz) , just under 1 tsp salt, just under 2 tsp sugar, 1/4 tsp active yeast proofed in 1 TBL of 105 F water, and 1 - 2 TBL oil
. All ingredients, except yeast, were dissolved into the water. The proofed yeast was then added, mixed gently, and then added to the flour for kneading: