For some time, I have wanted to see if there was an easy and convenient way to make a more artisan looking Lehmann NY style pizza in my circa-1989 standard builder’s-grade Whirlpool electric oven. Heretofore, I have used either a preheated 14” x 16” pizza stone at the lowest oven rack position of my oven or a combination of the pizza stone and a screen for pizzas larger than my pizza stone can handle. On a few occasions, I tried using two pizza stones spaced apart from each other. However, I discovered that it takes considerably longer to preheat two stones than one and, in addition, I could not clearly see the back edge of the bottom stone as I was trying to load a pizza onto that stone, especially one that was 14” (the largest size pizza my stone can handle) and required very accurate positioning so as not to overshoot the stone. Also, I discovered that the top stone shielded the pizza from view such that I could not see it through the glass window in my oven door as it was baking. I did not want to have to open the oven door too much to see the progress of the pizza.
Over time, I noticed that our members developed many ingenious ways of using pizza stones and cast iron pans and sheet pans and tiles and aluminum foil to elevate the temperatures of the oven such that the pizzas baked up with greater oven spring and with good-sized bubbles and with better crust color and a decent amount of char. In some cases, the broiler element was an integral component of the particular configuration used. Also, some members found ways of getting around their oven clean cycles in order to get higher oven temperatures. However, what I was looking for was a method that only involved one stone and was easy and convenient to use and where I could see the pizza at all times as it was baking. I wanted to have the greatest control over the pizza as possible.
The closest arrangement that I could find that seemed to meet my requirements is the one that member Pete Waldman described at http://www.pizzamaking.com/forum/index.php/topic,6585.msg56478.html#msg56478
. In the Waldman arrangement, the pizza stone is placed at the top-third of the oven and preheated at an oven setting of 550 degrees F for about 45 minutes, followed by turning on the broiler element for about 10 minutes. The oven setting is then turned back to 550 degrees F. I wasn’t sure how this method would work in my oven since the broiler element cuts off when the oven temperature exceeds about 525 degrees F (Pete did not say whether his broiler works the same way). However, I decided to give the Waldman method a try. The first photo below shows my oven configuration using this method.
For the experiment, I used a defrosted dough ball that had originally been cold fermented for three days and then re-balled, flattened, inserted into a plastic storage bag and placed in the freezer compartment of my refrigerator and frozen for about 17 ½ days. The frozen dough ball was then transferred to the refrigerator compartment of my refrigerator and allowed to defrost for about one day. It was then left at a room temperature of around 72 degrees F for about an hour and a half. The dough was sufficient to make a single 14” pizza and had the following formulation based on the expanded dough calculating tool at http://www.pizzamaking.com/expanded_calculator.html
|KABF/VWG Blend* (100%):|
Olive Oil (1%):
|241.43 g | 8.52 oz | 0.53 lbs|
149.69 g | 5.28 oz | 0.33 lbs
0.91 g | 0.03 oz | 0 lbs | 0.3 tsp | 0.1 tbsp
4.23 g | 0.15 oz | 0.01 lbs | 0.76 tsp | 0.25 tbsp
2.41 g | 0.09 oz | 0.01 lbs | 0.54 tsp | 0.18 tbsp
398.66 g | 14.06 oz | 0.88 lbs | TF = 0.09135
Note: Nominal thickness factor = 0.09; dough for a single 14” pizza; bowl residue compensation = 1.5%
* The KABF/VWG Blend comprises 234.71 grams (8.28 ounces) King Arthur bread flour and 6.72 grams (0.24 ounces) Hodgson Mill vital wheat gluten (about 1 ½ t.)
When time came to work with the defrosted dough, I found it to have a somewhat unusual combination of extensibility and elasticity--in the sense that the dough ball opened up very easily and was highly extensible but it also had a tendency to then shrink back. So it took a few tries to get the skin to the full 14” size. The skin also exhibited a lot of fermentation bubbles, which I took to be a good sign. Once the skin was placed on my peel (with semolina flour as a release agent), it was dressed with pizza sauce (I used the Pastene Kitchen Ready ground peeled tomatoes with a bit of sugar, freshly ground black pepper, garlic powder, grated Pecorino Romano cheese, and dried oregano); low-moisture, part-skim mozzarella cheese that I had diced in my Cuisinart food processor; a mixture of sautéed and very thinly sliced raw mushrooms; hot Italian sausage (Johnsonville) that I had removed from its casing, formed into thumb-sized pieces and briefly microwaved to reduce the fat content; and pepperoni slices.
In preparation for loading the pizza on the pizza stone, which had been preheated for about 45 minutes at around 525 degrees F, I turned on the broiler element for about 10 minutes. Since my broiler element kicks off at around 525 degrees F, I occasionally opened up the oven door so that the broiler element would turn on again. This helped get the stone temperature to around 585-600 degrees F. After ten minutes, I turned the broiler off and set the oven temperature back to its highest setting. The pizza was then loaded onto the stone where it baked for about 4 minutes. There was very good oven spring, with a lot of good-sized bubbles, good top crust coloration, decent char, and the cheeses and toppings were baking properly. However, when I removed the pizza from the oven, I noticed that the bottom of the crust was lighter than the top of the crust. I attributed this to the fact that the stone was some distance from the lower heating element and perhaps the bottom of the crust wasn’t getting sufficient heat to produce greater color. The thought also occurred to me that it was also possible that the dough was low in residual sugar after about a total of four days of fermentation and, hence, resulted in less crust coloration. If that was indeed true, it would be something that could be easily corrected in future doughs, as by adding a small amount of sugar to the doughs. In any event, I simply moved the pizza off of the stone to the lowest oven rack position where the bottom crust developed normal coloration from exposure to the bottom heating element. I would estimate that the pizza was on the lowest oven rack position for about a minute.
Overall, I thought that the pizza turned out very well, given the limitations of my oven. The crust was chewy and crispy and with good flavor and with a profusion of bubbles and blisters. And the pizza clearly had a more artisan NY style appearance. I hope to continue to experiment with the Waldman method to see if I can replicate and improve upon the results I achieved using that method but with my normal (non-frozen) Lehmann NY style dough.
The remaining photos show the finished pizza.