I’d like to dedicate this post and the pizza shown below (in the following posts) to member John Fazzari. It was he who unknowingly recently gave me the clue to a solution to the vexing problem of rolling out a low-hydration cracker style dough without needing the arms of Popeye and the strength of Hercules. With the clue and some additional work on my part, I was able to roll out a low-hydration dough, with a hydration of 36%, within about two minutes, with ease. Also, with a modified DKM cracker-style dough formulation, shown below, I was able to make the crispiest and most crackery pizza I have ever made. It “cracked” from the initial roll of the pizza cutter through the pizza to just about every bite.
The magic words from John that led me to the solution were from the quote that I cited in Reply 9: Warm dough is a lot easier to sheet, than cold dough.
Obviously, those words didn’t sufficiently register with me when I made the last dough as discussed in Reply 9. But after thinking through John’s statement more deeply, it brought back to mind how so-called “short time” or “emergency” doughs made by professionals are intentionally made very warm so that the doughs can ferment faster and be ready to use to make pizzas within a couple to a few hours. Usually this is done by using very warm water along with above average amounts of yeast (about double). The doughs made this way can have finished dough temperatures of about 90-95 degrees F and, as a result, they are soft and supple and can be shaped and stretched quite easily. What I couldn’t recall is whether this method had been used before for very low hydration doughs rather than high hydration doughs.
Since I had experimented many times before with short time doughs, using flours all the way from 00 flour to high-gluten flour, I felt that I had learned how to really speed up the dough heating process. So, rather than just using the conventional method of using very warm water (which I did also) and a lot of yeast (which I didn’t do) to do the trick, I decided instead to use a proofing box. For those who have not seen my proofing box, it is shown at Reply 6 at http://www.pizzamaking.com/forum/index.php/topic,403.msg4887.html#msg4887
. Before getting into the details of how I used the proofing box and how I prepared the dough that went into it, I’d like first to give the modified DKM dough formulation that I used for the latest cracker-style dough. It is this one:
Vegetable (Soybean) Oil (3.5%):
|183.62 g | 6.48 oz | 0.4 lbs|
66.1 g | 2.33 oz | 0.15 lbs
1.84 g | 0.06 oz | 0 lbs | 0.61 tsp | 0.2 tbsp
3.21 g | 0.11 oz | 0.01 lbs | 0.58 tsp | 0.19 tbsp
6.43 g | 0.23 oz | 0.01 lbs | 1.42 tsp | 0.47 tbsp
2.2 g | 0.08 oz | 0 lbs | 0.55 tsp | 0.18 tbsp
263.41 g | 9.29 oz | 0.58 lbs | TF = 0.07
Note: The pizza size entered into the tool is 13”; the desired final pizza size is 12”; there is no bowl residue compensation
One of the most important aspects of the above dough formulation is the thickness factor. As I mentioned in Reply 9, I thought that a thickness value of 0.07 would be a good starting point for future cracker-style pizzas. Now that I have tried that value, it seems to be a solid choice—not too thick and not too thin. As noted above, the size of pizza that I entered into the expanded dough calculating tool (http://www.pizzamaking.com/expanded_calculator.html
) for the size of the pizza was 13”. That is one inch greater than the final desired pizza size of 12”. That one-inch differential seems to be adequate to prepare enough dough to allow one to cut out a skin of the desired final size (in this case, 12”)
I prepared the dough in the exact same way as I did the last two pizzas (see Reply 8 for details) except this time I used water at 130 degrees F. This is a temperature I have used on many occasions before to make pizzas within an hour, so I know that it works and won’t harm the IDY in the flour. When the cornmeal-like mixture was removed from the food processor and gathered into a ball, I flattened it into a disk (to allow it to warm up faster), lightly oiled it, and placed it in a compact thin-walled plastic snap-fit container (see the container in the first photo below). This is also a trick I have used before to keep the warm-up time at a minimum and not waste the heat of the proofing box heating up larger or thicker-walled containers before the dough can be heated.
I placed the dough container into the proofing box. As is my practice, I turned on the proofing box when I started to make the dough so that it was at its maximum operating temperature when the dough went into it. The maximum temperature that I can get out of my proofing box is about 110-120 degrees F. As an alternative to the proofing box, I could have used my ThermoKool MR-38 unit (http://www.thebuzzelectronics.com/thermokool_mr138_thermokool_mr-138_deluxe_mini_cooler_and_w.htm
), which would have allowed me to use a slightly higher temperature, but I wanted to prove out the process using the simple proofing box that anyone can make, and cheaply at that. If I didn’t have a proofing box or a unit like the ThermoKool unit, I think I would have used my home oven set at a low temperature (around 100-125 degrees F)*. The only real reservation I had at this point was whether the proofing box would do the job with a very low hydration dough, with which I had no prior experience with the proofing box.
The dough remained in the proofing box for two hours. I made no attempt to look for a doubling in volume, since I knew from having made many short time doughs before that the heat (high finished dough temperature) was the more important part of being able to easily shape and stretch the dough into skins. At the end of the 2-hour period, I checked the temperature of the dough, and it was 110 degrees F. I suppose I could have then left the dough to ferment the rest of the time at room temperature, which was about 73 degrees F, but I decided instead to roll out the dough and form a skin that I could put into the refrigerator for a day or two, as I did with the skin for the last pizza. I also wanted to see if it was practical to make up skins in advance and store them in the refrigerator until ready to be used, say, a couple or more days later.
Rolling out the dough after I removed it from the proofing box turned out to be a breeze. I didn’t actually clock the time that it took me to roll out the dough (to 13”), but I estimate that it was about two minutes or so. And that included the times I stopped to measure the diameter of the skin. The ease with which I was able to roll out the dough reminded me of rolling out a pie dough, offering little resistance to the rolling pin. Once the dough reached 13” in diameter (the edges were irregular, not perfectly round), I used a 12” pizza screen as a template to cut out a 12” skin. The skin weighed 7.25 ounces. From that weight, I calculated that the corresponding thickness factor was 0.0641. That figure is consistent with what I have used in the past to make thin crust pizzas.
To prepare the skin to go into the refrigerator, I decided not to put the skin on a cardboard round as I had done with the last skin, which required a lot of open space in my refrigerator, but rather to fold it in quarters and wrap it in plastic wrap. That way, I could stick the skin in just about any small spot in the refrigerator. I very lightly dusted both sides of the skin with flour so that the mating surfaces when folded in quarters would not stick to each other. The second photo below shows the folded skin as it went into the refrigerator. The skin remained in the refrigerator for about 2 days and 4 hours, following which I allowed the skin, still in the plastic wrap, to warm up for about an hour and a half at room temperature.
When I was ready to use the skin, I removed it from the plastic wrap and unfolded it. I found it to be supple, flexible and still a bit soft. I made a quick roll of the rolling pin over the skin to flatten the skin where the folds had formed. Using my dough docker (see the first photo at Reply 389 at http://www.pizzamaking.com/forum/index.php/topic,576.msg26720.html#msg26720
), I then docked the skin on both sides and put it into my 14” dark, anodized nonperforated cutter pan, which I had pre-oiled in order to get increased bottom crust browning. The cutter pan was put into a 475-degree F preheated oven, on the lowest oven rack position, for just short of 5 minutes, or until the skin just started to turn a light brown. I could see a profusion of nickel-sized bubbles forming throughout the pre-baked crust as it baked (see the bottoms of the bubbles in the last photo), which I took as a positive sign that the finished crust would be crispy and crackery. There were no gigantic bubbles that can lead to a very uneven surface and make dressing the pre-baked crust more difficult.
I then took the cutter pan out of the oven and dressed the pre-baked crust, while still in the pan. The crust was dressed pretty much as the others were except that this time I used slices of Grande low-moisture part skim mozzarella cheese (instead of the whole-milk variety) and lightly-sauteed sliced mushrooms along with Hormel pepperoni slices. Once dressed, the pizza, still within the cutter pan, was placed back on the lowest oven rack position and baked for about 7 minutes, also at 475 degrees F. I then moved the cutter pan to the topmost oven rack position for further baking of the top of the pizza, for about 3 minutes. (Ovens differ, so others who may decide to try the modified DKM recipe may have to use the appearance of the pizza as it bakes to determine times and positioning within their ovens.)
The remaining photos show the finished pizza. As noted above, the crust was crispy and crackery throughout, more so than any other cracker style pizza that I have attempted to date. That was perhaps the biggest surprise. The most exciting part, of course, was finding a solution to the problem of rolling out a very low-hydration dough. Hopefully others will be encouraged to use the same dough warming method and report back on their results and to offer suggestions for improvement. Maybe someone will also try the original DKM cracker-style dough recipe using the dough warming method and report back to us. In that case, it may be necessary to use more than a 2-hour warming period because of the significantly larger quantity of dough than I used.
I’m sure that there are many possible variations of what I did. One that looks promising is to allow the dough to ferment at room temperature for about 24 hours and to use something like my proofing box to heat the dough during the last couple of hours, and then roll it out. Also, because of the ease of rolling out the dough, one might want to try folding and re-rolling the dough a few times to achieve a layered or laminated effect, although I did not find that to be necessary to get a high degree of crispiness or cracker quality. I also see no reason why the dough warming method should not work with a low-hydration dough that has been made in a stand mixer rather than a food processor, although having used both machines for that purpose it seems to me that a food processor is better suited for the job.
* EDIT: For an update on the use of the oven instead of the proofing box, see Reply 42.