One of the things I have been trying to accomplish lately is to devise a recipe and technique for making a same-day Lehmann dough that would 1) use a natural preferment, 2) be fermented at room temperature, 3) use a high hydration level (to achieve an open and airy crust), 4) be easy to handle and shape, and 5) yield a crust flavor equal to or better than a Lehmann crust made from a 24-hour retarded dough (at a minimum). To set the bar even higher, I decided that I also wanted anyone practicing the recipe to be able to start the dough in the morning--for example, before leaving for work--and to shape, dress and bake the pizza that evening about 9-10 hours later, without anyone having to touch the dough at all during the entire fermentation/rise time. As a further timesaving measure, I also decided that I didn’t want to use any autolyse or similar rest periods, no matter how brief. And I didn’t want anyone, including me, to have to get up at 3:00 AM to feed the preferment so that it would be ready to go at dough making time a few hours later. An important aspect of what I wanted to achieve was that the preferment would have to be readied starting the night before.
To achieve the above goals, I decided to use my basic preferment to naturally leaven the final dough as usual, but instead of using it in its normal liquid, batter-like state, I would convert it to a much thicker consistency--much like a thick, soft, wet dough--and let it ferment and ripen overnight before incorporating it the following morning, along with all of the other ingredients, into the basic Lehmann dough formulation. The thickened preferment would be similar to what is often referred to as a chef
or a pate fermentee
(“old dough”) but, unlike a chef
or pate fermentee
, it would be “new” dough rather than “old” dough and it would contain no salt. For purposes of this post, I will simply refer to it as a “dough preferment” for lack of a better term.
To prepare the dough preferment, the evening before I planned to make the Lehmann dough I took 1/2 cup of my natural batter-like preferment, which I had refreshed earlier in the day with flour and warm water (a process that took about 3 hours after taking it out of the refrigerator), and combined it with the following: 3 ounces of flour (1/4 c. plus 7 t.) and 2 1/2 ounces of warm water (1/4 c., at 85-90 degrees F). After thoroughly mixing these ingredients together in a bowl to achieve a somewhat thick, dough-like consistency, I lightly covered the bowl (I used a loose fitting lid but a towel can also be used) and set it on my countertop to allow the dough preferment to ferment and ripen overnight so that it would be ready to use by morning.
By the next morning, about 10 hours later, the dough preferment had almost tripled in volume—a clear indication that, at least at the outset, my basic preferment had sufficient leavening power. One of my concerns at this point was that the dough preferment may have overrisen and weakened during the night because of the 10 hour rise (at about 75 degrees F) and its substantial volume expansion. However, I speculated that, even if such were the case, the byproducts of fermentation that contribute to crust flavor would still be there and, once I incorporated the dough preferment into the basic Lehmann dough recipe, as weak as it might be, the resulting dough would ferment and rise at a good slow pace throughout the day and be ready to be used 9-10 hours thereafter without fear of overfermentation. Whether my analysis was correct or not, the dough seemed to concur with my analysis--at least judging from the outcome as described below.
For the Lehmann dough recipe, I decided to use the same basic recipe (for a 16-inch skin) as set forth originally in Reply #151 (and indirectly in Reply #161) but modified in a few respects to account for the substitution of the dough preferment for the basic liquid preferment called for in the recipe. I decided to use the dough preferment in an amount equal to 20% by weight of flour--a figure I borrowed from fellow member Bakerboy’s work with pate fermentee
. For my dough preferment, this came to about 3 1/2 tablespoons (about 2.32 ounces.). (I chose to discard whatever dough preferment I would not need for the recipe, although it could have been used to make more dough or for other sourdough baking purposes.)
To spare readers having to go back to look for the basic recipe, the recipe as I modified it for this experiment was as follows:
100%, KASL high-gluten flour, 11.60 oz. (2 1/2 c. plus 3 T. plus 1 t.)
63%, Water, 7.00 oz. (7/8 c., temp. adjusted to get a finished dough temp. of around 80 degrees F but not adjusted for dough preferment hydration)
1.75%, Salt, 0.203 oz. (about 1 t.)
1%, Olive oil, 0.12 oz. (a bit less than 3/4 t.)
20%, Dough Preferment, 2.32 oz. (about 3 1/2 T.)
Finished dough ball weight: 21 oz. (TF = 0.105)
Finished dough temperature: 77.8 degrees F
The processing of the Lehmann dough was the same as previously described in Reply #161 except that I had to make a few minor adjustments to the amount of flour (accounted for in the above recipe) during kneading to compensate for the hydration level of the dough preferment, which was wetter than the dough itself. When the dough was fully kneaded, I shaped it into a round, smooth ball, oiled it very lightly, flattened it into a disk, placed it in a round, transparent, straight-sided, 6-inch diameter Rubbermaid container (see the first photo below), covered the container with a loose fitting lid, and set it on my kitchen countertop to ferment during the day. I intentionally chose the container I selected because of its round shape (the same shape as a pizza skin), and because its straight sides and transparency would allow me to see the dough rise and accurately measure the degree of its volume expansion (note the use in the first photo of a rubber band to mark the starting level of the dough).
For the first four hours that the container of dough sat on my countertop, there was no discernible difference in the dough, even at a room temperature of around 78 degrees F. The dough just sat there. Then, very gradually, almost imperceptibly, the dough started to expand. And by about 5 or 6 hours later, the dough had about doubled in volume, with the bulk of the rise having taken place in the final couple of hours. At that point in its destination, the dough was soft and somewhat flabby looking, giving no palpable signs that success was to be achieved. At the expiration of the 9-10 hour period, I put the dough on my work surface and dusted it with bench flour in preparation for shaping and stretching the dough into a skin. The dough was cool to the touch but not wet or sticky--as was my last effort--and it had a good, substantive feel to it. I took that to be a good sign.
Very surprisingly, despite its rather anemic appearance throughout the entire fermentation period, the dough handled exceptionally well. Like many of the Lehmann NY style doughs I have made, the dough was quite extensible but I had no difficulty whatsoever in shaping and stretching it out to the 16-inch size that I would use on my 16-inch pizza screen. I was very happy with the dough. Once the dough had been stretched to the 16-inch size and placed on the pizza screen, it was dressed in a simple pepperoni style. In a departure from the way I last baked the Lehmann pizza, this time I placed the pizza screen with the dressed pizza on it directly onto my pizza stone, which I had placed on the bottom oven rack position and preheated to a temperature of about 500-550 degrees F for about an hour. After about 5 minutes of bake time, I removed the pizza from the screen and slid it directly onto the pizza stone for an additional couple of minutes to achieve additional bottom crust browning. This was followed by an additional minute or so of baking on the upper oven rack position, just under the broiler element, which I had turned on about 3 minutes into the baking process.
The last two photos show the finished product. I am pleased to report that the pizza was one of the best Lehmann pizzas I have made, with a crust as good as any I have made in my many experiments with the Lehmann dough--whether based on retardation (refrigeration) or not. The crust was chewy yet soft and tender and with a nice pleasant flavor. For one of the few times, I even got the rim to be a normal NY street size
. But what pleases me most is that I now believe, for the first time, that it is possible to make a high quality same-day Lehmann dough and pizza without having to subject the dough itself to a period of overnight retardation. Rather, the heavy lifting is put on the back of the preferment. Of course, quality often comes at a price and, in this case, it means having to make or reconstitute a preferment and take care of it and learn its individualistic, often unpredictable, behavior pattern and put it to greatest use.