The photos below show the results of my latest undertaking to make a take-and-bake version of the Lehmann NY style dough. What I have been trying to accomplish along these lines is to 1) produce a take-and-bake pre-formed Lehmann dough skin, and even a fully dressed skin, at least one day, and possibly two or three days, before baking; and 2) bake the pizza in a standard home oven, on the middle oven rack position, at around 425 degrees F, for about 10-15 minutes, without the need for a stone/tiles or pizza peel.
At this point, I would also prefer not to use a special leavening system such as WRISE, as is frequently used by commercial take-and-bake operators to insure that the dough rises sufficiently in the oven in the event consumers “abuse” the pizzas by failing to use them properly and in accordance with the recommended handling and baking procedures. (As background for this subject, readers may wish to refer to Replies 343, 347, 349 and 355 in this thread, as well as intervening posts.)
My experience to date is that take-and-bake pizzas based on a yeast-leavened dough tend to bake up crispier than most pizzas. From what I have read, this seems to be inherent in a lot of take-and-bake pizzas, particularly if a product like WRISE is not used. Also, the manner in which the doughs are made for this style of pizza, and particularly the use of short fermentation times, tends to preclude achieving pronounced flavors in the crust. I have yet to find a good solution for the first problem without resorting to the use of a product like WRISE, but the second problem seems to have a solution in the form of a simple preferment using only commercial yeast. In this vein, Tom Lehmann himself has recommended use of a short-term (3-4 hours) room-temperature fermented sponge (technically more like a biga, in my view) that is incorporated into the final dough before pre-forming the dough into a skin and cold fermenting it for next day use (usually).
Armed with what I have learned to date about take-and-bake pizzas, I came up with the following formulation for a 16-inch Lehmann NY style take-and-bake dough--which includes in the quantities specified what I will refer to as the “biga”:
Take-and-Bake Formulation for 16-Inch Lehmann NY Style Dough
100%, Flour (King Arthur Sir Lancelot high-gluten flour), 13.02 oz. (368.83 g.)
63%, Water, 8.20 oz. (232.36 g.)
3%, Oil, 0.39 oz. (11.06 g.), 2 3/8 t. (Note: I used 80% canola, or around 2 t., and 20% olive oil, or around 1/2 t.)
1.75%, Salt, 0.23 oz. (6.45 g.), a bit over 1 1/8 t.
0.25%, Instant dry yeast (IDY), 0.03 oz. (0.92 g.), a bit less than 1/3 t.
2%, Sugar, 0.26 oz. (7.38 g.), about 1 7/8 t.
Total dough weight (for one 16-inch pizza) = 22.12 oz. (627.01 g.)
Thickness Factor (TF) = 0.11
Before discussing the biga, I will mention as additional background information that take-and-bake dough skins tend to use low yeast levels (to achieve slow fermentation and to prevent gassiness in the dough), and higher than normal sugar levels (mainly for crust color purposes) and oil levels (mainly for softness and tenderness in the crust). In my case, I used elevated sugar and oil levels and I also increased the thickness of the dough, from the usual 0.10-0.105 thickness factor, to 0.11, in an attempt to reduce the level of crispiness in the crust by using a slightly thicker dough.
To make the biga, I took 55% of the flour and 55% of the water (by weight) called for in the above formulation, added all of the yeast, and mixed and kneaded them together into a dough that had a texture and consistency similar to the final dough. I used my KitchenAid stand mixer, but any mixing technique can be used. In my case, I used water at around 120 degrees F to achieve a relatively warm dough, at around 85 degrees F, to allow for good fermentation in my kitchen at a temperature of around 64 degrees F. I allowed the dough to remain, covered, at room temperature for around 4-5 hours. The formulation for the biga itself can be characterized as follows:
Flour, 7.16 oz. (203.01 g.), 1 1/2 c. plus 3 T. plus 1 t.
Water (at 120 degree F), 4.51 oz. (127.86 g.), a bit less than 5/8 c.
Yeast (IDY), 0.03 oz. (0.92 g.), a bit less than 1/3 t.
After the 4-5 hour fermentation, I incorporated the biga with the rest of the dough ingredients. The salt was first dissolved in the remaining water (cool out of the refrigerator), along with the sugar, and the biga was added along with the remaining flour (gradually). The oil was added after all of the other ingredients had formed a rough ball, using the stir and 1 speeds. The dough was then kneaded in the usual fashion for about 5-6 minutes at #2 speed. For convenience, the remaining quantities of flour and water that were combined with the biga can be recited as follows:
Remaining Flour and Water Quantities
Flour, 5.86 oz. (165.82 g.), 1 1/3 c. plus 1 T. plus 1 t.
Water (cool out of the refrigerator), 3.69 oz. (104.50 g.), between 3/8 and 1/2 c.
Once the dough was finished, it was allowed to rest, covered, for 30 minutes at room temperature. It was then shaped and stretched into a 16-inch skin. The dough had a fair amount of elasticity, but after allowing it to rest for a minute or two a few times, the dough did reach the desired 16-inch diameter. The skin was prepared for refrigeration in the manner previously described in the abovereferenced posts, using the cardboard/parchment paper/plastic wrap arrangement previously shown and described.
The pre-formed skin was kept under refrigeration for about 24 hours. It was then dressed in a simple pepperoni style and, to simulate travel from a take-and-bake operation to a consumer’s home, I allowed the fully dressed pizza to sit at room temperature, covered, for about an hour. I might mention that I used a fairly thick sauce--as is typically recommended--to prevent water in the sauce from migrating into the dough during the one-hour wait. As added insurance, I had also pre-coated the undressed skin with a bit of olive oil before putting the sauce down. The pizza was baked on the center oven rack position, on the parchment paper, at a preheated 425 degrees F, for about a total of 15 minutes.
I would describe the latest take-and-bake pizza as the best of the take-and-bake pizzas I have made to date. The crust was chewy and had exceptionally good flavor--almost like a baguette bread flavor--and decent coloration. I was especially surprised by the crust flavor, especially since the dough had remained in the refrigerator for only 24 hours. The crust was still crispier than what I have been looking for--with only modest airiness in the rim--despite the relatively high 63% hydration level. I believe that this result might be attributed to reduced oven spring at 425 degrees F on an oven rack without a preheated stone/tiles. I suspect this is why a product like WRISE is often used.
I believe I can improve the take-and-bake product further, and I have several ideas that I plan to incorporate into my next attempt. To the extent that they advance the process, I will report the results.