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Author Topic: Crust doesnít brown  (Read 548 times)

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Offline Sheabird

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Crust doesnít brown
« on: April 05, 2020, 12:34:13 PM »
I am a newbie just starting to make dough.  I have read quite a number of posts here on this topic but wanted to get some clarification on a few points.  Iím using dough recipes that are derived from Lehmann.  I weigh flour and water.  I use KA bread flour as thatís what I have a bunch of currently.  I have tried hand mix and stand mix.  Iím making small amounts, generally no more than 4 13Ē at a time and cold ferment for 1-3 days.  My oven is a small Miele 6800HB which is 24Ē and not tall so max distance from broil element is about 6Ē.  Max set temp is 475 except for broil which has given me peak temps of about 550.  I use a stone that is 5/8Ē thick.  Now for some questions.
1) closest I have come to decent browning used dough that did have a bit of sugar. Dough had no sweet taste though.  Also I sauced and cooked crust for about 2.5min before adding cheese.  Prior attempts result in burned cheese with no browning.  Is baking crust first common for home pizza?  If so how to avoid the big steam bubbles that puff the dough from stone?
2) seems that steels May work better since steel has higher conductivity and Iím betting higher specific heat.  I see positive comments about steels.  Should I get one?  I was thinking since my oven doesnít get too hot on bake, the steel might do a better job of storing energy in a broil preheat and allow me to not have to run the broiler when the pie is cooking.
3)I seen varying advice on how much kneading should be done.  Does it really matter?  Seems not if people get good results either way.
4) I have assumed that dough should not stick to my hands when kneading is complete.  I donít mean not tacky at all.  I mean it doesnít stick to the hand and adhere such that when you pull the hand away you have a sticky mess of dough on the hand.  Is this correct?
5) is the bread flour OK?  Do I need to just move on to KASL?  Does that impact browning?  FWIW I do get a good rise on the rim of the crust, just not brown.

Thank you for such a good forum and thank you to all the experts who take the time to help folks like me learn.

Offline The Dough Doctor

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Re: Crust doesnít brown
« Reply #1 on: April 05, 2020, 02:15:20 PM »
By all means add sugar to your dough, 2% is a good starting point but you can go higher if you want. You seemed disappointed that the 2% sugar didn't give the crust a sweet taste, pizza crust is not typically sweet tasting but if you want to have a sweeter tasting crust you have to go to at least 5% sugar for starters. If you are baking with the broiled element on that's why your cheese is getting browned too fast. You might try moving the pizza to a lower rack position. Additionally, how long are you preheating the oven/stone? You want to preheat for at least 1-hour.  A baking steel will probably help a lot.
Hand kneaded dough will always be more sticky than a machine mixed dough that is properly mixed, that's not a problem though as the condition will improve as the dough is allowed to ferment.
Your bread flour should be just fine in it is malted (check the bag).
In the mean time some things you might need to do:
1) Place the cheese in the freezer for 30-minutes prior to use.
2) Tent the top of the pizza with a piece of foil for about the first 5-minutes of the bake time (you will need to experiment).
3) If you are getting bubbling during baking the dough might be too cold (did not allow to warm to 55F internal dough ball temperature), par-bake with 1/2 of the sauce applied to the skin usually fixes the problem, or you may need to also dock the skin prior to dressing.
This is all based on the assumption that you are correctly following my dough formula and dough management procedure.
Tom Lehmann/The Dough Doctor

Offline Stichus III

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Re: Crust doesnít brown
« Reply #2 on: April 06, 2020, 11:33:08 AM »

I see positive comments about steels.  Should I get one? 


I have a 1/4" steel (and also 3/8" steel that I rarely use) and my pizzas brown better when using the steel as opposed to when I was using pizza stones. I don't plan on ever going back to a pizza stone. However, it is said by the pizza cognoscenti that you could get similar results as a 1/4" steel by using a good cordierite pizza stone.   

My experience when transitioning from a pizza stone to a 1/4" pizza steel, was that the bottom of the crust would burn after about 3 minutes (at 550F). This was caused by the 3% sugar I was using to try and get decent browning using my pizza stones; this 3% did not work when using a pizza steel. I had to scale the sugar content back and experiment to find the best balance. I eventually settled on 1% sugar (but I could go somewhat higher) with good results.

Also, you say that your dough is "tacky"; that made me think about the following. Would it be possible that you are applying a lot of flour to the dough when opening and stretching it into a pizza? In my experience if a (dry) layer of flour remains on the crust it will usually resist browning.
« Last Edit: April 06, 2020, 12:04:01 PM by Stichus III »

Offline Sheabird

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Re: Crust doesnít brown
« Reply #3 on: April 06, 2020, 11:14:21 PM »
Thank you for the replies here.  An update from me.  Perhaps I sounded as if I wanted sweet tasting dough-I donít.  In reading various threads I took from them that one shouldnít need sugar so I thought that something must be wrong.   I finally made some progress yesterday by simply cooking the crust with no cheese for about 4+min then adding frozen cheeze.  Previously I didnít pre cook that long.  I got a nice browned crust.  The bottom didnít really brown but from the comments it seems a steel should be my next move given my oven.  I did think the interior of the crust was a bit on the dry side but Iím not really an expert.  Iím guessing that the key would be to cook hotter and minimize oven time?  Or possibly a slight increase in sugar to brown faster?  I think the result was good enough to just keep practicing.  I do see that with cooking temps like this,  you really have to time things to keep track of what works.

The recipe I used is pasted below.  I found it on feelingfoodish before I found this site.  Looks like the sugar is about 1% if I understand bakers %.

6 cups (6 cups) flour, all purpose or bread 28 oz (796 grams)
2 1/4 cups (2 1/4 cups) water 17.4 oz (493 grams or mls) Luke cold
1 teaspoon (1 tsp) instant dry yeast (3.5 grams)
2.5 teaspoons (2.5 tsp) salt (15.6 grams)
2 teaspoons (2 tsp) sugar (7.8 grams)
1 tablespoon (1 tbs) olive oil (11.8 ml)

Offline The Dough Doctor

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Re: Crust doesnít brown
« Reply #4 on: April 06, 2020, 11:39:41 PM »
For your next try turning the broiler on 15-minutes before putting the pizza into the oven (this is after a 1-hour pre-heat time) and increase the sugar level in your dough to 3%, or three time what you are presently using. Don't make any other changes but do record everything that you do. Let us know if this provides further improvement in crust color.
The dryness you noted in the crust is due to the par-baking of the crust. Par-baked crusts are always significantly lower in finished moisture content than single baked crusts.
After you get a baking steel you should be able to open the skin, dress it and bake it without par-baking.
Tom Lehmann/The Dough Doctor

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Offline Sheabird

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Re: Crust doesnít brown
« Reply #5 on: April 07, 2020, 12:23:19 AM »
Thanks for the reply.  Iíll do that.  I did use the broil prior to bake to increase stone temp.  Iíll record everything next bake.

Offline The Dough Doctor

  • Tom Lehmann
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Re: Crust doesnít brown
« Reply #6 on: April 07, 2020, 03:07:49 PM »
One other thing I might add, have you confirmed the actual temperature of your oven using a calibrated thermometer or an IR thermometer? In many cases where one is baking directly on a stone or steel the oven door is left open for some time which DRAMATICALLY reduces the actual oven temperature at the time the pizza is placed in the oven. You can use an IR thermometer to measure the temperature both before and after placing the pizza into the oven. If you don't own one of these handy devices they are readily available from most home stores as well as Harbor Freight and online sources too. I recently picked up yet another one, this time for use in the garage, from H.F. for just $17.00.
Tom Lehmann/The Dough Doctor

Offline Sheabird

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Re: Crust doesnít brown
« Reply #7 on: April 08, 2020, 09:12:34 PM »
Ok I have tried again.  I donít have an IR thermometer but will pick one up.  I made dough with 3x sugar as instructed.  I did not do the crust prebake or freeze cheese for these first couple trials.  Also on the second pizza I was careful to use as little flour in shaping as possible.  I was scared that I wouldnít get things off the peel so prior tried did have a fair amount of flour.  After about 9.5 min of bake, the pic is what I ended up with.  Crust interior was nice.  Overall this was much better than prior pizzas without prebake.
I will be getting a steel as my oven simply doesnít have an option above 475 that isnít broil.  Hoping a steel allows me to get better mileage from the preheat.  Can sauce and cheese might impact browning?

Many thanks for the good advice.  I will keep up the practice.  My 6 year old and I love to eat pizza!  Even my wife liked the recent pies.  So good progress!

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