Author Topic: Beginners and the importance of FUNDAMENTALS  (Read 2326 times)

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Offline friz78

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Beginners and the importance of FUNDAMENTALS
« on: February 21, 2005, 10:42:38 PM »
First of all, I would still place myself somewhat in the "beginner" category of pizzamaking, particularly when compared with folks like Steve, DKM, Randy, PFT, and Pete-zza.  However, I find it very exciting to see all of the new members who are signing up to this message board and all of the other "guests" who are sure to become official members in the not-too-distant future.

As a way to make a contribution to some of the newest members of this forum, I thought I would start a discussion about some of the fundamentals of pizzamaking and how these fundamentals are really at the very core of producing a great tasting pizza.

First, I have found pizzamaking to be a wonderful exercise that requires skills in math, science, and art in order to be successful.  While you can make a passable pizza without one of the aforementioned disciplines, it seems to me to be almost impossible to make a consistently great pizza product without all three things working well in the process.  Let's take a quick look at each one of these things separately and then I'd like to open up this post to the REAL veterans to expound upon some of these ideas and add their expertise as they see fit and as they feel is important.

1.)  Math -  Whether using volumetric measurement or baker's percentages for your recipes, precision and detail in calculating recipe quantities is critical to achieving consistently good results.  In addition, when calculating quantities and measurements, it also begins to make you aware of important RATIOS in pizza dough that are really at the core of quality dough.  The term "hydration %" is probably one of the most meaningful ratios that I've learned on this web site and it's invaluable to understand pizza dough and subtle adjustments you can make to "tweak" the overall texture, quality and character of a pizza dough.  Hydration % simply refers to the ratio of water to flour in a dough recipe.  By just slightly adjusting the hydration % of any dough recipe, you can change it's taste and texture a great deal.  This kind of math and these kinds of details and ratios are an example of the importance of accurate measurements.  Slight adjustments to hydration % allow you to virtually "re-create" any dough recipe by marginally increasing or decreasing the % of water used in that recipe.  If you want more chew to your crust, perhaps you increase your hydration % slightly, if you want more of a "cracker" like texture, then you might think of slightly reducing your hydration %.

2.)  Science - While I will never be confused with a scientist, it helps to atleast have a general idea of the chemical reactions that take place in the dough making process.  While I can't even claim to understand how this science explains how dough reacts, I try to follow the advice of the scientific experts in how to handle dough.  For instance, I know that some very important chemical reactions happen with a 24 hour refrigeration of dough.  While I don't fully understand this process, it is clear to me that there is most definitely an important chemical reaction that takes place that is essential to making an authentic NY style dough.  I am still at a loss as to why some doughs/flours require an overnight refrigeration and some don't.  Or why some doughs require 6 hours to rise/rest.  Before discovering this sight, I found a ton of recipes that called for a 1-2 rise for pizza dough before spreading and dressing.  Now I need a "pizza dough calendar" just to make sure that the dough is ready for a Friday or Saturday night pizza dinner for my family.  It would be great if someone could contribute more to this topic - even if it was a general "rule of thumb" for rise times for different types of flours, yeasts, and/or sugars.

3.)  Art -  This is my favorite part because if you don't have an artistic side, I don't know that the science and the math matters much at all.  It is the artist who ultimately prepares and cooks the pizza.  It is the artist who puts the science to work and makes it mesh with each and every element to make a final creation.  You can be as precise as you want with your measurements, understand the science of dough making and pizza cooking, but none of these things will enable you to deal with the sudden and unexpected things that happen during the time in which you are preparing and making your pizza.  It is your artistic side that also will allow you to make "personal" adjustments based on conditions that are unique to your environment.  Examples of this include dealing with the unique personality of your oven, your pizza stone, your refrigerator,  your stand mixer, etc.  Not to mention your 4 year old and 6 year old that need to be entertained periodically while you're undertaking this grand experiment! 

In appreciating the artistic element to pizza making, you will be able to overcome unforeseen circumstances and, in essence, turn a negative into a positive in mid-stream process of pizzamaking.  If you make a mistake, your creative side will allow you to make adjustments on the move and create a pizza that may not be exactly as the recipe dictates, but is still a great tasting pie that your family enjoys at the end of the ordeal.  This is the part that I love, probably to a fault.  Sometimes I find myself trying to make the circumstances more difficult than they need to be just to see if I can handle the "pressure."  An example of this would be trying to make 3 pizzas in a row when my family only needs one to enjoy a nice dinner.  It's the challenge of coordinating the operation of making 3 successive pizzas that I enjoy sometimes - kinda like juggling with 4 balls instead of 2!

Anyway, I was in the mood to try to make a contribution to some of our newer members this evening and encourage the sharing of even more ideas moving forward.  I'm having a blast with this message board so thanks to everyone for your feedback and participation.
Friz


Offline canadave

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Re: Beginners and the importance of FUNDAMENTALS
« Reply #1 on: February 21, 2005, 11:53:27 PM »
Friz,

Very nice idea for a post...excellent.  I just wanted to address the second entry, the "Science" part:

Pete-zza is the local guru on the exact science going on in this.  However, I think I can at least hazily answer a couple of questions you raised.

The longer refrigerator rise basically slows down the rate at which the yeast consumes its food--this dough process is called "retardation" because it "retards" the consumption speed of the yeast.  It'd probably more accurately be called a "biochemical process" than a "chemical reaction."  When yeast consume food, they give off gases as a byproduct, which inflate the dough, creating the characteristic puffiness and honeycomb pattern you see in the finished pizza or bread or whathaveyou.

The gases and chemical residue also contribute to the flavour of the dough.  If you don't put your dough in the fridge for at least 24 hours, the yeast doesn't have enough time to fully contribute its share of the taste.

Not only that, but the durability of the dough will also increase if the yeast are allowed to do their thing over a longer period of time.

When you mention the plethora of recipes that call for just a one or two hour rise time, that's because you CAN get your pizza to rise in that time and be used for pizza.  And most people never get to our level of intimate detail in trying to perfect pizza; for most people, the taste of one-hour-risen pizza seems fine.  But if you really want to maximize the taste of things, a long cold rise is much better than a short warm one.  For me, I find that a 48-hour rise is optimal.

Pete, you'll be chiming in on this I'm sure :)

Dave

Offline Scagnetti

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Re: Beginners and the importance of FUNDAMENTALS
« Reply #2 on: February 22, 2005, 11:17:55 AM »
I have been a lurker on this board for 3 weeks now and found this site as a link on a food blog.  As a long time pizza consumer and cook, I am absolutely amazed by the amount of work and thought that has gone into the pursuit of pizza nirvana by the members on this site.

Now I do have a general question.  I have baked more than my share of breadstuffs at home and I'm not intimidated by dough making but I am puzzled by something that I see heavily emphasized in all of the dough discussions and that is the ratio between water and flour. Hasn't a general rule always been in making bread is that the amount of flour that goes into a recipe can vary as much as 1/2 cup depending on the humidity?  Why is that not a factor in making pizza dough?

Offline bortz

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Re: Beginners and the importance of FUNDAMENTALS
« Reply #3 on: February 22, 2005, 11:29:21 AM »
Hey scag,
Moisture content is very important to crust crispyness and mouth feel after the final product is complete.  Many people overemphasize the importance of flour measurement using digital scales.  The rising and resting and retarding of the dough is far more important than being off a couple teaspoons in your flour measurement or off a little in moisture addition because of humidity effects.

Online Pete-zza

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Re: Beginners and the importance of FUNDAMENTALS
« Reply #4 on: February 22, 2005, 09:43:24 PM »
Scag,

I highly doubt that humidity plays such a major role in the outcome, and especially the hydration percentage, of a dough. In your half-cup example, maybe you were thinking of the difference in amount of water to achieve the same dough consistency using a low protein flour as opposed to a high protein flour. Generally speaking, it takes about 1/2-cup more low-protein flour to get the same consistency as a high-protein flour. Humidity can be a factor to consider, but it is most likely a minor one.

Peter

Online Pete-zza

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Re: Beginners and the importance of FUNDAMENTALS
« Reply #5 on: February 23, 2005, 04:59:14 PM »
From my experience, three of the areas of pizza making that I have found to the most useful to understand as a practitioner to achieve good results in pizza making are the following: 1) gluten and flours, 2) the fermentation process, and 3) the factors that influence fermentation. Almost everything else that technically pertains to dough production will fit somewhere within the framework defined by these three topics. For many of the new members, and especially those who have had limited experience with making pizza doughs, the following discussion may be helpful. I will first address the gluten/flour topic in this post and cover the fermentation topic in another post in due course.

Most people think that gluten is in the flour in the bag they brought home from the local grocery. But if you poke around the flour, or even if you examine the flour under a microscope, you won't find any gluten. The reason for this is that gluten comes into existence only when the flour is combined with water and kneaded (or vigorously stirred). It is then that you will see that the flour/water mixture starts to take on an elastic, somewhat rubbery and stretchy quality. That's due to the gluten that was formed during the kneading process. To be a bit more technical, the gluten is formed when certain long-coiled, tangled insoluble protein molecules of flour, called glutenins and gliadins, unfold and line up in long strands and crosslink with each other when they come into contact with water and are kneaded. The glutenins are believed to be primarily responsible for the strength and stability of the gluten and the gliadins are believed to be primarily responsible for the elasticity (the ability to spring back when stretched) and softness of the gluten. While you can't see the glutenins and gliadens with the naked eye and distinguish between them, they are there in the dough and they are real (there are even tests that can be performed to separate the two).

Another important component of dough production in general is the starch that is present in flours along with the protein. Starch is a complex carbohydrate made from chains of sugar molecules. Within the dough, the starch takes the form of tiny “balls” or granules that are trapped within or cemented with the strands of gluten as the water joins the starch and gluten and as the gluten forms and is developed in the course of producing dough. The starch serves several important functions insofar as pizza dough production is concerned: (1) it provides body and structure for the pizza crust (since there is much more of it than protein, about 68-76%), (2) it is responsible, along with water, for the “crumb”, or internal porosity and texture of the baked crust, (3) it provides food (sugar) for yeast fermentation (in a manner to be discussed in a later post on fermentation), and (4) it dilutes the gluten in the dough to form a crust of acceptable consistency and texture (for example, you wouldn't want to eat a pizza made from protein or gluten alone).

Another useful thing to understand about gluten is that different flours have different amounts of gluten-forming protein. (The reader should note that the terms "gluten" and "protein" are often used interchangeably by writers, even experts on baking, and I often do so also, as a simple short-hand way of talking about protein and gluten even though they are not technically identical).

From a protein and gluten standpoint there is a pecking order that I have found useful to keep the different kinds of flours straight in my mind and how they are likely to behave when used to make doughs. At the bottom of the pecking order is cake flour. It generally contains about 6-8% protein (which converts to about 30-32% gluten when mixed with water). Cake flour is followed in the pecking order, in turn, by pastry flour (the white variety), which generally contains about 7-9.5% protein (which converts to about 33-34% gluten); all-purpose flour, which generally contains about 10-11.7% protein (which converts to about 37-39% gluten), bread flour, which generally contains about 11.5-13.5% protein (which converts to about 40-42% gluten); and high-gluten flour, which generally contains 13.5-14.5% protein (which converts to about 45-47% gluten). (Please note that the above ranges, while typical, are exemplary only and can vary from brand to brand, as may the gluten conversions numbers recited above).

In addition to the above specific flours, there are also others that are not often put into the pecking order but nonetheless play a very useful role in pizza making. For example, much has been written of late at this site about 00 flours, as are imported from Italy. 00 flours are milled differently than domestic flours and have protein contents that overlap the categories mentioned above. They can be as low as 9-10% protein and as high as 12.5% protein. Quite often, the gluten formed from these flours is also lower than domestic flours. This is important to know because it means that you can't treat 00 flours identically to their domestic counterparts with a similar protein level. You will have to learn about the particular idiosynchracies of 00 flour and develop a separate dough management procedure.

Of the above types of basic flours, pizza doughs can be made with all of them, except cake flour and pastry flour, both of which have too little protein and gluten to make a functional pizza dough. However, it is possible to combine either cake flour or pastry flour, or both, with all-purpose flour or bread flour, in suitable ratios, to produce another category of flour blends with their own protein and gluten contents. (These combinations, or "clones", were established in great measure to approximate the 00 flours mentioned above, which are not easily found in the U.S. or as well known in the baking trade as the other types of flours). As regular readers at this forum know, 00 and other flours, most notably, high-gluten flour, can also be combined to create yet another "hybrid" combination, affectionately known as the "Di Fara clone".

What is very important to understand about the protein content and gluten-formation aspects of different flours, is that the protein and gluten will play a major role in the characteristics and textural properties of the doughs and crusts made from the different flours. For example, a dough made from a low-protein, low-gluten flour (such as a 00 flour or one of its "clones") will be soft and easy to knead (the elasticity is low), and the crust will be soft and tender and without a great deal of "heft". As you move up the flour chain, the doughs become tougher to knead (relatively speaking) and have greater elasticity and pliability. The crust texture will also gradually change and, when you reach the other end of the flour chain (high-gluten flour), the crust will be heavier, puffier, with a coarser texture, with small crunchy bubbles (and sometimes large bubbles), a darker and maybe even slightly charred rim, and chewier than most crusts, and with a somewhat more “bready” flavor. The crusts are also more likely to be able to support a lot more toppings than one based on a softer flour, because of their greater "heft" and substance. Another important distinction between low-protein, low-gluten flours and high-protein, high-protein flours, is that, all other things being equal, the crust produced from a low-protein, low-gluten flour will be lighter in color--almost white or tan-colored--than one made from a high-protein, high-gluten flour.

It would be nice if one could easily determine which type of flour to use to make the different styles of pizzas. It's hard to generalize, but the following guidelines might prove useful. 00 flours and their "clone equivalents”, with their relatively low protein levels, lend themselves best to the production of Neapolitan style crusts, with their characteristic soft and chewy textures. Flours with a protein level of around 11% (bread flour) tend to lend themselves best to thick crusts, including crusts for deep-dish pizzas. Flours with a protein level of around 12% tend to be suitable for both thick and thin crusts.  And flours with a protein level of around 13% and above (high-gluten flour) are most suitable for cracker-like thin crusts and New York style crusts, with their characteristic tough, chewy, leathery and bubbly crust textures. These are generalizations, of course, and, as anybody who has spent much time on this site already knows, the possibilities are wide and varied and limited only by one's creativity and willingness to experiment.

The discussion to this point has centered on white flours alone. It is possible, of course, to use other flours to make pizzas, such as whole-wheat flour, and various other flours in combination with white flours. Whole-wheat flour is a high-protein flour, containing around 12-14% protein. It can be used alone to make pizzas, but more often it is combined with white flour to provide a softer crust. Some of the more common examples of other flours that can be added to white flour include cornmeal, semolina, and rye. (More recently, soy flour and various high-protein by-products of wheat milling have become popular as ingredients for low-carbohydrate pizza doughs.) These additions generally impart pleasant flavor and texture components, especially where cornmeal and semolina are used. Crusts using cornmeal and semolina will be chewy with a light yellow color (and the doughs are sturdy enough to lend themselves nicely to grilling on an outdoor grill). To avoid an overly tough or stiff crust, the amount of semolina used should be in the range of 15-25% by weight of the total flour mixture (although I have seen ratios much higher).

It will generally be because of a flavor preference or nutrition enhancement that one elects to use whole-wheat flour, or cornmeal, semolina, or rye as an addition to white flours. Usually, the crusts made from whole-wheat flour and the various flour combinations will be a bit heavier, tougher and chewier than the crusts made from the white flours alone. They also do a better job of holding multiple toppings. An important point to keep in mind when using the above flours, however, and especially those that do not themselves have much gluten or have lower quality gluten (such as rye), is not to add too much of such flours in relation to the white flours. This can have the effect of diluting the gluten strength of the white flours and result in a less pronounced rise, and also produce a crust that is too stiff. For this reason, it is generally advised that the low-gluten secondary flours (e.g., rye) be combined with a high-gluten flour that will better be able to stand up to the other flours. Alternatively, vital wheat gluten may be added to compensate for the dilution of the gluten. For those who are unfamiliar with vital wheat gluten, it is a dried wheat protein of high-protein, hard wheat flour that has had all of the starch removed and is then dried. It has a gluten content of around 45% and a protein content of about 75%. The recommended amount to use is at the rate of 1 to 2 teaspoon for each cup of flour used (or 2-3% by weight of flour, in terms of baker’s percentage). Vital wheat gluten is also sometimes added to other flours, such as all-purpose and bread flours, to increase their protein and gluten content.

Peter
 


 

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