Author Topic: Caputo 00 Pizza with Caputo 00 Biga  (Read 41751 times)

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Online Pete-zza

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Caputo 00 Pizza with Caputo 00 Biga
« on: February 28, 2005, 07:00:35 PM »
Yesterday I decided to try to make a simple pizza based on using the Caputo 00 flour (the pizza flour in the blue bag) along with a Caputo 00 biga. About a week ago, I started a Caputo 00 biga following pftaylor's instructions, which included the addition of a small amount of IDY to the basic flour and water mixture. The weather here in the Dallas area has been erratic lately, unpredictably going up and down in temperature, and the biga has not been particularly accommodating in generating the virility it needs to be useful in fermenting a dough. But yesterday, it started to bubble up nicely and I thought I would seize the moment and give the biga its maiden run.

Since I wasn't sure the biga was going to work, I just threw the dough ingredients into a bowl and decided to knead the dough by hand so as not to create excessive heat that might impair the performance of the biga and, hence, the fermentation process, that cannot proceed unless the yeast is alive and viable. The sequence I followed was to put the Caputo 00 flour (a little over a cup) and about 1 to 1 1/2 T. of the biga into a bowl and then the water (about 1/3 c.). Once the water was kneaded into the flour and the biga, I added some olive oil (about 1/2 t.) and kneaded that in, and, finally, I added about 5/8 t. of salt, and kneaded that in also.

I placed the dough into a plastic storage bag and left it on my countertop for about 18 hours. It took several hours for me to detect that the dough was rising, but it did, and continued to do so over the 18-hour period. So I at least knew that the biga was working, but little else. After the 18-hour period, I rounded the dough again (it had spread into a pancake-like affair in the storage bag) and returned it to the storage bag for about another 6 hours or so.

I then shaped the dough into a round of about 10 inches, entirely on my work surface. I dressed it with some hand-crushed San Marzano tomatoes (the DOP type), some thick slices of mozzarella cheese that I had bought from the Mozzarella Company in Dallas, a light scattering of Sicilian sea salt (with some dried basil already mixed in with the sea salt), and a drizzle of light olive oil.

To bake the pizza, I had put two of my pizza stones in the oven, one at the lowest level and the other at the level two notches down from the broiler, and preheated the stones for about an hour and a half at 500-550 degrees F. I baked the pizza on the lower stone for about 6 or 7 minutes and then transferred it to the upper stone to bake for an additional 2 minutes under the broiler, which I had turned on about mid-way through the baking of the pizza on the lower stone. I wanted the crust to brown up more than it had on the lower stone and to brown up the cheeses a bit also.

The pizza that resulted from all these efforts is shown below, followed by a photo of a typical slice. The pizza was very tasty, and typical of a Neapolitan style pizza except that it didn't have the carbonization of the crust that is typical of an authentic Neapolitan pizza baked in a wood-fired oven at extemely high temperatures. The crust was soft and chewy and the rim (cornicione) had a soft and light interior with a crunch on the outside.

Emboldened by today's success, given that I had low expectations to begin with, I have hand-kneaded a couple more dough balls today using the Caputo 00 flour--one with the pftaylor-inspired Caputo 00 biga (which looks more sluggish today) and a second one with another Caputo 00 biga I started recently using only the Caputo 00 flour and water. And no commercial yeast. I have absolutely no idea if either will work, and will only know later tonight when and if I start to see signs of life in the doughs. This time, I used weights to measure everything so if the doughs and the pizzas work out, I may have something further to report. 

Peter
« Last Edit: October 21, 2005, 01:42:03 PM by Pete-zza »


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Re: Caputo 00 Pizza with Caputo 00 Biga
« Reply #1 on: February 28, 2005, 07:51:40 PM »
Do you notice a difference in taste or texture by using the biga as opposed to traditional yeast use? From my understanding Biga is more used for flavor enhancement and texture for breads as opposed to pizza. There is a great book called "The Italian Baker" that you would find very interesting.
Well....okay,then.

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Re: Caputo 00 Pizza with Caputo 00 Biga
« Reply #2 on: February 28, 2005, 08:12:27 PM »
I am not really sure what I had for a biga by the time I used it. It started out with commercial yeast (IDY) and did very little for several days sitting on my countertop. Then, all of a sudden, it started to perform better--expanding and bubbling up. I don't know whether it was cellular reproduction at the yeast level or the biga having been overtaken by wild yeast, which some of the experts say can happen.

In the crust itself I didn't detect a noticeable difference. I have always found it a bit difficult to detect certain flavors I am looking for in the crust when the pizza is loaded up with all kinds of toppings. To do a proper test, I would have to make just crusts and compare them.

I have read that starters are sometimes used by pizza makers in Italy (Naples), but I suspect even there it is not all that common. To the extent they are used, I don't know whether they are based on commercial yeast or natural yeast. Maybe pizzanapoletana can enlighten us on this. He is an advocate of using only a wild yeast starter. That's one of the reasons I decided to see if I could make such a starter using the Caputo 00 flour, purely for experimental purposes, rather than buying Italian ones as I believe he has recommended.

I'm sure I would enjoy reading Carol Field's book, The Italian Baker. She was one of the first writers (in the mid-80s, I believe) who talked about Italian flours and how to mimic them using our domestic flours (such as A-P, cake and pastry flours).

Peter
« Last Edit: October 21, 2005, 01:43:50 PM by Pete-zza »

Offline pftaylor

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Re: Caputo 00 Pizza with Caputo 00 Biga
« Reply #3 on: February 28, 2005, 08:35:34 PM »
Pete-zza,
Where do I begin? My jaw is on the floor. First let me begin with deserved praise.

That pie looks absolutely authentic. Congratulations! You must be very proud to have accomplished that level of success. I know I am quite desirous of your tenacity to try completely new approaches and be proficient. Frankly, I couldn't be happier for you as a true pizza man. While I may never know how much effort it took you to produce that seemingly simple pie, the end result speaks for itself. If there were such a place as a pizza hall of fame, you would be a first ballot inductee  in my book.

Next, if you would be so kind as to expand upon your technique in the coming days so that the rest of us have a chance to mimic your expertise. I have so many questions I'm not sure where to begin so I may jump around quite a bit but here goes;

- What was your biga refreshment process to ensure maximum activity before incorporating it into your recipe?
- What is the source of your pizza recipe?
- Do you think the biga is matured enough to affect the dough's flavor one way or another? Reinhart mentions a full 2 week period for maturity.
- Was there any funny taste present? Did you lightly dust the dough ball with flour during the final rise? During final stretching of the dough was there flour on your bench? Any flour on the peel?
- Did you refresh the biga after taking out 1- 1.5 T?
- Did the dough have the presence of many bubbles after rising?
- Did you consider incorporating a minor amount of commercial yeast to act as a booster or cheat?
- What were your reasons for not using a refrigerated fermentation period?

« Last Edit: February 28, 2005, 09:01:41 PM by pftaylor »
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Re: Caputo 00 Pizza with Caputo 00 Biga
« Reply #4 on: February 28, 2005, 10:20:06 PM »
pft,

Thank you for your kind words, but they are completely unwarranted. All I tried to do was to see if I could make a Caputo 00 dough using only a biga and no additional commercial yeast. The recipe was simple. Just Caputo 00 flour, the Caputo 00 biga, water, salt and oil (which I added to help achieve crust softness in a home oven environment). There were two possible outcomes--I would succeed or I would fail. I wasn't worried too much about failing because I knew I could "salvage" the dough the next day by adding a bit of IDY (which I would proof in a bit of warm water to help incorporate it into the failed dough), and start the process all over again.

Even when the dough showed signs of life and was expanding, I didn't know how long it could sit on my countertop at room temperature without running out of steam and becoming slack and basically unusable. I had seen that happen more than once before with doughs made from 00 flour, but this time it was different because I was using a biga with a small amount of IDY that hopefully was working very slowly and extending the dough's useful life.  After the 18-hour period, the dough had about doubled in volume, which I interpreted to mean that it perhaps was time to punch it down and reball it and let it rise again and then be used. After the additional 6-hour period, the dough just about doubled again. Although I felt I understood the chemistry, I wasn't sure that the dough would produce an edible product. The dough was very soft, with a rather flat profile, and fairly moist, which are symptoms of a slack, overfermented dough. No one was more surprised than I to see the final results.

As to your questions:

What was your biga refreshment process to ensure maximum activity before incorporating it into your recipe? I just periodically replaced about half of the biga with fresh water (bottled) and Caputo 00 flour. I left the biga on my countertop, sometimes uncovered (hoping to attract wild yeast), but mostly lightly covered. It took a few days for bubbles in the biga to emerge, but they increased with time. I knew from prior experience with sourdough starters that the starter has to have a lot of activity to do a good job.

What is the source of your recipe? I just used the Caputo recipe that I got from the Caputo 00 distributor, which I scaled down to single dough ball size, around 8 oz. or so. The recipe was posted on another thread dealing with 00 flour (see Replies ## 10 and 13 at http://www.pizzamaking.com/forum/index.php/topic,783.0.html.)

Do you think the biga is matured enough to affect the dough's flavor one way or another? Reinhart mentions a full 2 week period for maturity. I didn't detect a pronounced flavor difference, although the biga did have that nice odor of fermentation that good starters have.

Was there any funny taste present? I didn't detect any funny tastes. I thought the dough could have used a bit more salt, but that was about it.

Did you lightly dust the dough ball with flour during the final rise? No. After the 16-hour rise and reshaping, I just put the dough ball back into the storage bag (which had been lightly oiled), and zipped it shut. 

During final stretching of the dough was there flour on your bench? Any flour on the peel? I always put a bit of bench flour on my work surface when shaping doughs, mainly because most of my doughs tend to be on the high hydration side. Today's dough was moister than usual, so I found it necessary to use a bit more bench flour than usual. I also put a bit of flour on the peel. I had thought to try the "blow" test to get the pizza onto the stone but thought better of it since that might have terminated my experiment--without getting any answers--if I failed the test.

Did you refresh the biga after taking out 1- 1.5 T? No. I just put what remained in my container back into the refrigerator, since I now knew that it worked. Based on what I learned about starters when I was in my sourdough bread "phase", when I plan to use the biga again, I will take it out of the refrigerator, feed it with more flour and water, and let it work for a few hours until it looks bubbly again. There may be other and better ways of doing it, but this is the way I learned to do it.

Did the dough have the presence of many bubbles after rising? No. In fact, that was one of the things I thought might be the undoing of the dough. I saw nothing that looked like bubbles. I decided to plunge ahead anyway, figuring that the worst that would happen is that I would end up with a Cracker Margherita. No one was more surprised than I to see the dough rise once it went into the oven. As least I wouldn't get a big round cracker for all my efforts.

Did you consider incorporating a minor amount of commercial yeast to act as a booster or cheat? No. That wasn't an option for this experiment. I wanted only to see if a Caputo 00 dough using a 00 biga was doable. I also knew from experience that if the dough was really "dead", using commercial yeast wouldn't revive it. Once the dough is dead, it's dead and the only thing to do at that point is to just throw it away.

What were your reasons for not using a refrigerated fermentation period? I knew from having worked with 00 flours before that refrigeration would work. What I was trying to do today was to emulate as much as possible the way that Neapolitan pizzaioli make their pizzas, and that is usually without refrigeration. And I wanted to try using the biga, which is what I believe pizzanapoletana advocates and is a direct way, rather than an indirect way, of doing what Mangieri does at Una Pizza Napoletana (he uses the indirect, old dough approach). Mangieri lets his dough rise a total of almost 36 hours without any refrigeration whatsoever. If I can get the wild yeast version of the Caputo 00 biga to work, that would be another step closer to what Mangieri does, from what I can tell. What I will never be able to achieve is the high oven temperatures that a wood-fired oven produces. My Neapolitan style pizzas, no matter how good they are produced in my oven, will always fall short of the real thing.

Peter
« Last Edit: November 01, 2007, 11:00:56 AM by Pete-zza »

Offline friz78

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Re: Caputo 00 Pizza with Caputo 00 Biga
« Reply #5 on: February 28, 2005, 10:32:42 PM »
Pete,
Congratulations.  It looks great!
Have you considered creating a similar pie except replacing the biga with commercial yeast? I would love to hear the comparisons on that front.  While pft is getting great results from his pizzas that include a biga, it's still tough for me to determine if it's more the result of the biga or his 800 degree grill.  My sense is that it's more his grill than the biga.  But if we could learn from a comparison with a traditional oven instead of a 800 degree oven, that would be the kind of feedback that would motivate me to explore a starter or not.
Friz

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Re: Caputo 00 Pizza with Caputo 00 Biga
« Reply #6 on: February 28, 2005, 11:04:16 PM »
Friz,

I have done some limited experimentation with the Caputo 00 flour but not in a way that would permit direct comparison with today's pizza. That is something I will have to try. The tricky part of any 00 dough is determining the outer limit of its fermentation period, that is, how long can you leave a 00 dough out at room temperature and be usable. That outer limit can vary from one brand of 00 flour to another. And that outer limit can also be influenced by things like room temperature, amount of yeast, amount of salt, etc. So, following a recipe slavishly might produce poor results, as happened, for example, with one of our Australian members who discovered to his dismay what a really hot Australian climate can do to your dough (in his case, a 00 dough). Adding a biga to the equation means having to learn some new techniques and tricks.

I'd like to believe that using a biga is a plus overall, and complementary to the use of a very high temperature grill as pftaylor uses. If he can master using the Caputo 00 flour and a biga also, in the context of his grill, he should be able to get spectacular Neapolitan style pizzas. It may turn out that he will discover that he prefers the other kinds of pizzas using the KASL better than the Neapolitan style pizzas, but at least he will have had the best of each styles to compare with each other.

Peter
« Last Edit: May 31, 2005, 02:53:46 PM by Pete-zza »

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Re: Caputo 00 Pizza with Caputo 00 Biga
« Reply #7 on: March 01, 2005, 03:36:07 PM »
Pete-zza,
I have noticed in a number of your posts that you have pointed out the fact that you do not have a turbo-charged oven. Just out of curiousity, do you have ready access to a grill? Have you tried to extend your considerable pizza making skills to the grill? I'd bet with your scientific approach to pizza making you could make a killer grilled pie.

Some say the grilled pie out of Providence is the best in the country. I'd bet you could match or even beat their results.

At this point, the lack of extreme heat is the only thing any of your recipes don't have.
« Last Edit: March 01, 2005, 03:50:57 PM by pftaylor »
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Re: Caputo 00 Pizza with Caputo 00 Biga
« Reply #8 on: March 02, 2005, 10:41:07 AM »
pft,

When I started out on my pizza odyssey, the only thing I was trying to do was to make a decent pizza at home using my standard home oven. The science part happened by accident as I tried different dough recipes and found them to produce inconsistent, unpredictable and unreliable results. At the time, I was fortunate to stumble across the writings of Tom Lehmann (whose name and Dough Doctor handle I found in a Google search), and I read just about everything he wrote about pizza dough (and related matters) at PMQ and elsewhere. That helped me decipher recipes, understand and use baker's percents, identify problems with doughs, and fix many of the recipes that I thought were faulty.

While I have a small grilling unit that I use on occasion, and while I was aware of the seminal work that George Germon and his wife Johanne Killeen at Al Forno in Providence were doing in making pizzas on a grill (they are often credited with having "invented" and popularized the grilled pizza in the U.S.), I was never motivated enough to go in that direction, even though I now know from your work that grilling at high temperatures has merit. I would still like to improve on home oven performance and I don't mind testing out the kinds of temperature-enhancing solutions that Steve and others have proposed from time to time (other than disabling the oven cleaning switch) to produce better pizzas. But that is about as far as I have gone with my ambitions along those lines.

BTW, the two dough balls I started the other day, one using the Caputo 00/IDY biga and the other one using only the Caputo 00/wild yeast biga, suffered a setback yesterday. When I made the two dough balls on Sunday afternoon and placed them on my kitchen counter to ferment, I saw by evening time that they both appeared to be viable. However, during the course of the evening, the pilot light of my gas heating unit in the attic went out and, by yesterday morning, my kitchen was at 60 degrees (40 degrees outside). I let the dough balls sit out for several hours at the lowered room temperature, but when it looked like my heating problem wouldn't be resolved until late in the day, I put both dough balls into the refrigerator, on the theory that the retardation would slow down the fermentation process. I brought both dough balls out to room temperature this morning and they are sitting on my kitchen counter. I won't know until later today the extent of the harm, if any, produced by altering the metabolism of the two dough balls.

Peter

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Re: Caputo 00 Pizza with Caputo 00 Biga
« Reply #9 on: March 02, 2005, 11:13:49 AM »
Interesting background to getting started making pizza. Thanks for sharing.

Were you baking or cooking other foods that eventually led you to pizza? Or was pizza your actual starting point? My starting point was pizza. I rarely cook other foods and when I do it's more a matter of feeding the family than pursuing a hobby.

Sorry to hear about your recent setback. It just goes to show you that even the masters run into uncontrollable variables. I'll be interested in how it all turns out.
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Re: Caputo 00 Pizza with Caputo 00 Biga
« Reply #10 on: March 02, 2005, 11:59:23 AM »
pft,

Over the years I tried making pizzas for my son as he was growing up. But my efforts were more or less hit or miss since I wasn't well grounded in the aspects of pizza making necessary to produce good results. My son has fared far better with the pizzas he now eats, especially after I taught my daughter-in-law how to make a good, basic pizza dough (I gave her one of the early home-adapted Lehmann NY style dough recipes).

I have been interested in food preparation since I was a child, and have always enjoyed making things from scratch, whether it was my own fresh pasta dough (although I like the dry better for most dishes, especially the best imported Italian varieties), pie crusts (the hardest thing in the world to make consistently well, in my opinion), sourdough and other artisan breads, bagels (the way they used to be made before machines took over and made them soft), pita breads, etc.  So, it was natural enough to go the same route with pizza.

I checked the two dough balls this morning and they still seem to be alive, although I don't know what they will produce when I get around to trying to use them later today. No matter what happens, I will have learned something.

Peter

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Re: Caputo 00 Pizza with Caputo 00 Biga
« Reply #11 on: March 02, 2005, 09:17:42 PM »
Tonight I put to the test the two dough balls that I had started the other day but whose fermentation progress was interrupted when my gas heating unit went off and my kitchen temperature dropped to around 60 degreees F for about a day. To prevent the dough balls from overfermenting, I put them both in the refrigerator where they remained until I removed them this morning. I let the dough balls set at room temperature for about 6 hours before attempting to prepare pizza from them.

By way of recapitulation, the first dough ball was made with Caputo 00 pizzeria flour (4.65 oz.), water (2.45 oz.), 1/2 t. salt, and, as best I could measure, about 0.60-0.70 oz. (a little over one tablespoon) of a biga that had been made from Caputo 00 flour and wild yeast captured in my kitchen. The second dough ball was made with the same ingredients and amounts except that the biga was made from Caputo 00 flour and a small amount of IDY yeast. As best I could measure, the IDY biga weighed around 0.60 oz. (a little over a tablespoon). Both dough balls were kneaded entirely by hand, and each weighed around 7.65 oz. By the time I was ready to use both dough balls, both had pronounced fermentation odors reminiscent of sourdough smells.

The first pizza, shown in the first two photos below, was made from the dough ball with the wild yeast. The dough was very soft and damp and required additional bench flour to be able to handle it. It was also difficult to shape without holes forming. This was a sign of apparent overfermentation, and portended failure. However, rather than discard the dough, I did that which I usually recommend not be done--I reballed the dough to tighen up the gluten and then reshaped it. It took a little bit longer to reshape the dough (to a diameter of 10 inches) after the gluten network tightened, but I managed to accomplish it successfully. I dressed the dough with San Marzano tomatoes, fresh mozzarella cheese slices, a sprinkling of Sicilian sea salt (with dried basil combined with the sea salt), and a drizzle of good olive oil. The pizza was baked for about 5 or 6 minutes on a first pizza stone on the lowest rack position of my oven that had been preheated for over an hour at around 500-550 degrees F. The pizza was then transferred to a second pizza stone that I had placed two notches down from the broiler element. I turned on the broiler about 3 minutes after I had placed the pizza onto the first stone. The pizza finished baking under the broiler for about 1 to 2 minutes.

The second pizza, shown in the second set of photos below, was made with the dough ball with the IDY biga. The dough was much firmer and drier than the dough for the first pizza and shaped much more easily. It was dressed with the same toppings as mentioned above and baked in the same manner as described above except that it took about 7 minutes for the pizza to bake on the first stone (the pizza browned more slowly than the first pizza) before transferring it to the second stone for about 1 or 2 minutes of final baking.

Both pizzas were very tasty except that I felt that the first pizza, with the natural biga, had better overall texture and flavor than the second pizza based on the IDY biga. Both pizzas were chewy with a nice crunchy rim, except that the crust of the second pizza had a more pasty texture. The crust of the first pizza was lighter and more delicate. I thought the first pizza with the natural biga was worthy of repeating in a future experiment, but where I will be able to control the fermentation process better than I was able to this time around. Nonetheless, today's experiment with the first pizza marked a first for me--the first time I ever made a pizza entirely with a natural yeast rather than commercial yeast.

Peter


 
« Last Edit: April 05, 2005, 01:24:27 PM by Pete-zza »

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Re: Caputo 00 Pizza with Caputo 00 Biga
« Reply #12 on: March 02, 2005, 09:22:31 PM »
And the second pizza, based on the Caputo IDY biga.

Peter

« Last Edit: March 02, 2005, 09:35:20 PM by Pete-zza »

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Re: Caputo 00 Pizza with Caputo 00 Biga
« Reply #13 on: March 03, 2005, 07:13:27 AM »
Pete-zza,
Thank you for the articulate description of your latest adventure. You always seem to add a flavor to pizza making that the rest of us find captivating. I know I do. Truly interesting comments about your bigas. If I may be permitted, a handful of questions;

My sense is that you are generally satisfied with bigas. I have found them to be absolutely complimentary to my pizza making efforts. Will you incorporate their use in most of your recipes? If not why? It doesn't seem the time, energy, and effort to care and feed them outweigh their flavor and texture enhancement at this point. So what factors are different this time around from when you last maintained a starter previously and deemed it not as valuable?

The reason why bigas work for me is that I am driving toward a specific goal - replicating Patsy's mythically light taste structure as closely as possible. Jeff, and my experience, have convinced me that this is a way to take a step closer to that goal. How would you plan on incorporating their usage and toward which overall goal? Can you think of a pizza recipe where utilizing a biga would not be a benefit?

If a tablespoon of biga is good would adding even more be better? I have found that adding anywhere from a quarter to a half cup of biga (to a 40oz dough ball) will produce a veritable plethora of additional flavor. Where is the logical point of diminishing returns in the world of biga?

Also, I wonder if the pasty texture of the IDY biga will fade as it becomes more mature. Reinhart has stated in his book, "American Pie" that it takes two weeks for a starter to mature than after that time, it doesn't matter if it's a thousand years old. Are you going to perform further comparative analyses to determine differences? Or was the IDY biga just an insurance policy if the wild yeast biga didn't grow?
« Last Edit: March 03, 2005, 07:32:17 AM by pftaylor »
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Re: Caputo 00 Pizza with Caputo 00 Biga
« Reply #14 on: March 03, 2005, 12:23:08 PM »
I haven't decided how far I wan't to go with using a biga in my pizza making. I had learned from prior experience in using starters (especially natural starters) to make sourdough breads that bigas can be temperamental and time consuming to maintain. And their viability doesn't always improve with time. It has been my experience that they can actually get weaker. Maybe it was my fault, or maybe I should have bought a good starter from Ed Wood's company that would have held up a lot better.

I decided to try a starter recently because of the high level of interest on this forum, and especially in the context of doughs using 00 flour such as the Caputo 00 flour, and the work that Mangieri at Una Pizza Napoletana and fellow member pizzanapoletana have done in advancing the Neapolitan style pizza. I was pleased especially with the results of using the natural biga and the flavor enhancements achieved using that biga. I would like to explore that avenue further.

One experiment in particular I would like to try is to use a very small amount of natural biga, as Pizza Napoletana's recently posted recipe calls for. I estimate that the amount of natural biga I used for my recent pizza was several orders of magnitude greater than pizzanapoletana's recipe calls for (on a unit basis). Use of a small amount of natural biga should permit a longer period of fermentation at room temperature, as that process should proceed at a very slow rate. It may be possible that my natural biga is not strong enough to work in a very small quantity. I don't mind trying, however, and to this end, I have brought my natural biga out to room temperature from the refrigerator, and have refreshed it, and am now awaiting to see if it bubbles up enough to suggest that it ready for its next experiment. I have posted a question to pizzanapoletana on another thread to be able to determine how long a fermentation period is required for a small amount of dough, as opposed to a dough ball produced from his recently posted recipe that weighs several pounds. If an answer is provided, that should help me proceed with my next experiment.

I may also continue to experiment with the IDY biga to see if the results improve under circumstances where I am able to control the extent and duration of the fermentation process. The pastyness might have been as a result of my having lost control of the process when my gas heating unit stopped heating my home during the night and the temperature of my kitchen stayed cool almost all the following day.

I agree that a biga, natural or otherwise, offers many advantages in terms of flavor. I know that it works for a dough based on a weak flour like the 00, but I don't know without actually trying whether it will work equally well for a dough based on a stronger flour such as a high-gluten flour for, say, a NY style dough. Not much commercial yeast is needed to make a good NY style dough, so it's possible that a small amount of a biga may convey flavor and taste advantages to that style of dough also. I actually was thinking of using a biga more along the lines suggested by fellow member Mike (Gils) to enhance the flavor of a same-day dough as a substitute for a long period of fermentation. What is not clear to me is if using a biga along with commercial yeast, such as IDY, provides the same flavor benefits or whether they are somehow negated by the addition of the commercial yeast. I have seen that happen in the past in the case of sourdough breadmaking and, in a recent discussion with a brother who has been making sourdough breads for several years, he indicated that he regularly experiences that same phenomenon. He also added that using too much starter can produce a poorer result, not a better one. So I have no idea where the breakpoint or tipping point occurs in terms of amount of starter to use.

As you can see, there are still a lot of question marks about bigas and their use in pizza making.

Peter
« Last Edit: October 21, 2005, 02:12:59 PM by Pete-zza »

Offline pftaylor

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Re: Caputo 00 Pizza with Caputo 00 Biga
« Reply #15 on: March 03, 2005, 12:49:06 PM »
I am refreshing my biga now and will take a number of your comments into consideration. I will attempt to make my normal NY style recipe without the aide of commercial yeast and use much less biga. Recently, I have used anywhere from 1/4 - 1/2 cup of biga. I will post the results...
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Online Pete-zza

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Re: Caputo 00 Pizza with Caputo 00 Biga
« Reply #16 on: March 04, 2005, 08:19:59 PM »
Yesterday afternoon, I started a new dough ball based on pizzanapoletana's recipe. This was before I read PN's reply to a question I had posed earlier about the amount of time to use for fermentation (8-12 hours) and the follow-up "ripening" period (3 hours or more).  Since it was unlikely that I could use those specific time periods in succession without waking up in the middle of the night to attend the dough, I decided nonetheless to proceed and throw caution to the winds by using longer time periods.

For the dough ball I made, I scaled down PN's recipe to a dough ball weight of around 9 oz. The ingredients and quantities were as follows: Caputo 00 pizzeria flour (5.40 oz.), water (3.25 oz., temperature adjusted to achieve a finished dough temperature of around 80 degrees F), sea salt (Sicilian, 3/4 t.), olive oil (1/2 t.), and Caputo natural starter (0.17 oz., or about 1 1/2 t.). I noted in retrospect that the amount of starter I used, at around 1 1/2 t., was at the upper end of the range of 1% to 5% of the weight of water recommended by PN. The olive oil was added per PN's suggestion since I was intending to bake the pizza in a home oven.

The procedure I followed to produce the dough was to add the starter to the water in a bowl, and to then gradually add and mix in the flour. Once those ingredients were combined, I added the olive oil and kneaded that in also, followed by adding and kneading in the sea salt. All the kneading was done completely by hand. After a few minutes of final hand kneading, I put the finished dough (very lightly oiled) into a plastic bag, and set the bag on my kitchen counter. It stayed there for about 18 hours, following which I reshaped the ball, put it back into the bag, and put it back on the kitchen counter for an additional 6 to 7 hours.  During the fermentation period, the dough expanded a slight amount, and very slowly at that, and finally stopped expanding after about 8 hours. It budged not at all during the final 6-7 hours of "ripening". I have no idea as to whether either behavior was normal.

When time came to make the pizza, I shaped the dough ball in the usual manner, pressing the dough on my counter work surface to a diameter of around 12 inches. I had no problems doing this--the dough was fairly dry yet soft and there were no outward signs of overfermentation. After dressing with the usual Pizza Margherita toppings, I baked the pizza in the same manner as described in a previous post, using two pizza stones in conjunction with the broiler.

The photos below show the final results. The pizza was very tasty, with a nice flavor and texture--soft in the middle and chewy and crunchy at the rim (cornicione). There was no significant bubbling, either in the dough as it was being shaped or after baking.

What the foregoing experiment taught me is that it is possible to make a good pizza using a small amount of natural starter over a prolonged fermentation/ripening period without the dough overfermenting. For the next experiment, I intend to try to follow PN's recipe a bit more closely as to the fermentation/ripening times and also to reduce even further the amount of starter used, to something that is closer to the middle of the 1-5% range recommended by PN. To this end, I have brought my Caputo 00 natural starter out of the refrigerator, refreshed it, and am awaiting its resurrection in time for the next experiment later tonight. Of course, I am open to any suggestions from PN or anyone else as to improving my technique in making a PN style pizza.

Peter
« Last Edit: October 21, 2005, 02:16:49 PM by Pete-zza »

Offline friz78

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Re: Caputo 00 Pizza with Caputo 00 Biga
« Reply #17 on: March 05, 2005, 12:11:39 AM »
Pete,
Your most recent pictures and pizza creations using a starter look excellent.  But I would suggest to you, and PFT, that you can achieve the same or similar results by adjusting the hydration percentages of your dough.  I can't wait to get to NYC on Monday afternoon and I plan to head right to Patsy's and get some firm answers regarding the techniques that they use.  I am convinced that if they in fact use a starter, it is a very basic one and one that is very simple and easy to maintain and replicate.  No for-profit business can engage in the moody nature of starters that it is inherent in such an endeavor.  Believe me, the starter concept is an over-rated one and almost impossible to replicate on a consistent basis, which is completely contradictory to your scientific approach to pizza making.
Friz

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Re: Caputo 00 Pizza with Caputo 00 Biga
« Reply #18 on: March 05, 2005, 01:23:23 AM »
Friz,

My experiments thus far have been for the purpose of identifying the parameters of the use of natural leavenings for pizza making, and especially the versions promulgated by pizzanapoletana, who has studied Neapolitan pizza making in Naples in great depth and can bring information and insights on the subject that I clearly lack. Oddly enough, the science isn't all that mysterious. I agree that starters can be temperamental, but that may be more because the ones I have been making based on Texas wild yeast are less virile than others that I might use, such as those sold by sourdo.com. Also, I may not be as willing as others to spend the time to maintain starters on a consistent basis. If I were running a commercial operation I would have no choice but to pay very close attention to the entire leavening process and how to best implement it, since the success of my business would depend on it.

I raised many of the same points you have raised about using starters commercially with Jeff Verasano on another thread, including the profit-making aspects of the business, and he insists that it is not difficult to use starters in the context of a commercial pizza operation. I suspect Jeff went to extraordinary measures to try to extract the secrets of Patsy's use of starters. As I recall, he bought a piece of dough from Patsy's when he couldn't get the trade secrets out of Patsy's. But we don't need Patsy's to make a case on the use of natural starters in a commercial operation. There are many, many artisan bakers who use natural leavenings to make breads commercially, and they integrate the leavening process into their operations in a seamless manner. I suspect we would find that it isn't as difficult to do as we may think. Bakers have to figure out how to do it well, or they are out of business. And, as a sidenote, if pizzanapoletana is right on his facts, Brandi's, which may well be the oldest pizzaria in Naples, uses a natural leavening (the "crescito").

BTW, the hydration percent I have been using to date is the one used in pizzanapoletana's recipe, which has a higher hydration percentage (over 60%) than is typical for Neapolitan doughs, which usually run around the low- to mid-50's percent range.

I look forward to what you learn on Patsy's and others when you are in NYC.

Peter
« Last Edit: October 21, 2005, 02:20:09 PM by Pete-zza »

Offline pftaylor

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Re: Caputo 00 Pizza with Caputo 00 Biga
« Reply #19 on: March 05, 2005, 05:51:49 AM »
Friz,
You bring up a number of valid points. Perhaps I have mistakenly given the wrong impression to you and the forum membership as to why I am using a biga. If so, I am sorry as it certainly wasn't my intention. It has nothing to do with the visual appearance of the pizza, crumb structure, or for that matter, the way the oven spring looks. I don't do it for any reason that anyone can detect from the photos.

And I agree with you that most pizzerias don't use a starter. Patsy's probably doesn't. And that is the best tasting pizza crust in the world - as far as I have personally witnessed. A few of the artisanal pizza joints like Una Napoletana and Bianco do, but big deal. I would put my grill spring up against any other pizza maker alive. I know that can only come from intense heat and proper hydration levels. I'm blessed to have an 800 degree grill and high gluten flour which combined gets me as close as I'm ever going to get to the Patsy's crust I so crave. With many months of trial and error, I have now fully replicated 95% of their crust - at least the visual aspect of it.

Why do I use a biga? For one reason and one reason only. Flavor. I do it for the taste. I do it for the flavor. Every pizza maker in the world can't get the flavor with commercial yeast that I can get with a biga. I can assure you that the flavor enhancement is undeniable and complimentary to my pizza making efforts. As far as making the dough rise? Who cares. Commercial yeast can do a better, easier job of that.

Now does the incorporation of a biga get me closer to the Patsy's goal? No. Flat no. How can it? It was formed in Tampa. It doesn't have any of the flavor qualities of a Patsy's pizza. The only thing it truly does is stop my crust from tasting like cardboard. It is packed with flavor though. If I were ever to open a "Tampa Coal-Fired Pizzeria" the pie would be good. Very, very good.

My final thought on the matter is that one of our members, Jeff, has talked at length about a Patsy's starter and how Patsy's may use one for their operations. I don't know if they do or not. But something is different about their dough. You will see when you visit them. No other pizza joint has their light crust. Jeff has surmised that their unique crust may be due to the use of a starter of some kind. He may be right, then again maybe not. Maybe a Patsy's strain of yeast exists in the air near their East Harlem neighborhood because they've been baking pie there since 1933. Who knows? Maybe that's why the other locations aren't as good since all but one have a coal oven.

But Jeff apparently bought some raw dough from Patsy's and nurtured it along for the past couple of years and swears that he can get his dough to taste just like Patsy's. To me, that is a risk worth taking. I will also be in the big apple shortly and will buy a dough ball and use it to form a biga for my pizza making hobby. What do I have to lose?

If after trying Patsy's Pizza you want to try starting a Patsy's based biga, I'll be glad to split the cost with you. The curiosity is killing me...

« Last Edit: March 05, 2005, 08:15:50 AM by pftaylor »
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