I have been giving this NY-style thing quite a lot of thought lately and have come to some thoughts of why it it's tough for a regular home pizzamaker to achieve professional results and would love some input from fellow members on here about my theories. I'm not saying it can't be done, but it's a tall order, given the lack of professional equipment and resources to match any given professional pizza that's out there.
In this case, the famous NY street slice.
After having several conversations with NY-style pizzeria operators here in S.F. (i.e. Marcello's, Armando, Avellino), after watching countless videos, especially the Luigi DDD video, and of course making numerous pies a few things I think really stand out:
All of those guys I've spoken with mentioned a bake time in the double digits, mostly somewhere between 10-15 minutes, depending on size and toppings.
Everybody I've spoken with have told me they run their ovens around 525°F – 550°F. That included Baker's Pride, Rotoflex and Blodgett ovens
58% -60% were the most prominent values given, with an amount of oil somewhere between 2% - 3%, in addition to the water.
10 – 12 minutes, sometimes up to 15 minutes depending on how the dough felt (Hobart & Globe were the two brand names I remember)
I don't know how accurate all these numbers are, but given the fact that all of them were almost identical/consistent with each other, I'm thinking that this might be the standard.
Here are my thoughts on those subjects above.
Well, everybody on here knows that a home oven can't hold a candle to a commercial pizza oven, given the thick hearth they have, the low-ceiling baking chambers, superior insulation, ventilation and what not. Some ovens feature hearths up to 2” thick, perhaps fitted with steel plates the same thickness (Marcello's) and heat coming most likely from different directions due to better heat distribution, especially a Rotoflex. A home oven is no match for this.
What to do? I have tried several different stones, from a flimsy, thin stone which cracked after the second use to a cordierite from AM, an Old Stone, a Fibrament, a kiln shelf which I still use and a steel plate.
The kiln shelf, and also most recently the steel plate, have yielded the best results although at completely different temperatures. I can't use the same dough, though, at the same temperature using the kiln and the steel plate.
The steel would just turn it into a black disc while the kiln delivered a total different outcome, which means I'd have to adjust the dough in order to get the same results on a steel plate at lower temps compared to the kiln shelf, which also means...inadvertently...that Luc's (Marcello's) words and advice are spot on when she said to “...tailor your dough to your oven and not the other way around.” Now I know what she meant. Baking temps.
Okay, make your favorite dough recipe, use your favorite hearth and bake it at 525° to 550°F when you have been using a higher temperature or even a lower one. Two things will happen...it will either be too charred or the crust will be under-baked. That's my prediction. Been there, done that. The result: Frustration.
However, when you know how your hearth performs at certain temps, and you have a solid dough formula and know how that performs then you're pretty much set, right? Great. Now try that exact same dough at the exact same temp on a different hearth or in a different home oven. I bet a whole year's salary that it won't turn out the same way. That's one part of the challenge of generating a NY-style pie at home.
We've heard all those descriptions of the perfect NY-style pie...”pillowy”, “tender crust”, “biting into a cloud”, “foldable yet airy”, “light as a feather”, “creamy, crunchy, chewy”, etc.
What does that mean and how does it equate to hydration? I think we first have to look at the two key components...flour and water. Then, as a third, comes oil. And the way and time frame it took to mix and put the dough together. But more on that later.
Like Peter, Scott R and Scott123 have pointed out over time here, water takes longer to evaporate in a dough. This reminds me of two things...
Luc of Marcello's told me recently that one key to a good NY-style crust is to “bake out” the dough as much as possible without compromising it. I have yet to determine what that exactly means. Chad Robertson gives basically the same advice in his Tartine book, which makes sense given the very high hydration of the Tartine dough, the high heat that's involved and the extended bake time of up to 45 minutes.
But his instructions can't really be applied to a NY-style pizza, although the train of thought might be the same. So how does all that translate to a pizza dough with a 58, 60 or 63 percent hydration? Lower heat and extended bake times (10-15 mins)? Those numbers are for commercial ovens.
At home, they might correlate to numbers between 5-8 mins, for certain hearths. But here's another thought...we all know the effects oil has on a dough. It makes it softer, more pliable, might contribute to oven spring, etc. What I have yet to see is what the oil's temperature during baking does to the dough and how it effects and compares to the water. Oil can get a lot hotter than water without evaporating at the rate water does, if at all. So what effect has oil temperature on a NY-style pizza dough during the bake?
10-15 mins in a professional Horbart, for example. Translate that to a lower-hydration dough kneading in a home mixer, such as the KA or Cuisinart, and it would be overkill, I would think. Especially when a high-gluten flour is used, such as KASL, All Trumps or Pendleton's Power Flour.
The dough would probably end up with a gluten matrix that even a modern tennis net can't match. Not good. My recent pondering and reflection on such matters led me to believe that a kneading time of 4 mins, not counting the minute or two it takes to incorporate all the ingredients, if a 24 hr overnight cold-rise is used, and 6 mins for a same-day dough that's made very early in the morning, say between 6 & 8 am. Not to mention the increased yeast amount for a one-day dough.
With all that said, are home pizzamakers facing an insurmountable & uphill battle when it comes to replicating or even designing a dough that rivals those professional ones? My hopes are on the answer 'No' but it will yet to be seen how far one can take it. Especially with a regular, generic electric oven.
The above thoughts, theories and statements are just that...basically a collection of information and my own ponderings. And I'm not a chemist nor a physicist so anyone with better knowledge feel free to chime in and correct/advise or comment.
It will be, as usual, very much appreciated.