It recently dawned on me that of all the techniques I have used to test out the dough for Tom L.'s NY style pizza dough recipe, there was one that I completely neglected--hand kneading. Also, my focus had been on the larger-sized pizzas that are characteristic of the New York style. I suspect also that in the back of my mind was King Arthur Flour's admonition that a dough made with a high-gluten flour, such as its Sir Lancelot flour, should "be kneaded by a mixer, processor, or bread machine, to fully develop its gluten." The last part of this admonition gave me pause to wonder what would happen if I hand-kneaded a dough using the KA Sir Lancelot flour but did so gently, without a desire to fully develop the gluten (along the lines recommended by Tom L.), and if I just reduced the size of the dough ball so that it would not be a physical chore to knead it. With these thoughts in mind, I attempted an experiment based on these premises.
For purposes of the hand-kneading experiment, I decided on a dough ball weight that would be sufficient to produce a thin NY style dough with a diameter of about 12 inches. Using the expression W = Pi (i.e., 3.14) x 6 x 6 x 0.10 (the thickness factor for a thin pizza), I calculated a value for W (dough weight) of a bit over 11.30 ounces. I concluded that such a weight would enable one to make a pizza on a standard size pizza stone (or tiles), or on a 12-inch pizza screen. Little else would be required in the way of pizza making equipment (except, perhaps, a calculator
For the dough formulation itself, I decided on a relatively high hydration percentage, 63%, and an instant dry yeast (IDY) percentage of 0.25%. Using the mathematical techniques and weight-volume conversions as described in previous postings in this thread, I arrived at the following recipe formulation (including baker's percents):
Flour (100%), KASL high-gluten, 6.80 oz. (about 1 5/8 c.)
Water (63%), 4.30 oz. (about 5/8 c.)
Salt (1.75%), 0.12 oz. (about 5/8 t.)
Oil (1%), 0.07 oz. (about 1/2 t.)
IDY (0.25%), 0.02 oz. (about 3/16 t.)
To hand knead the dough using the above recipe, I had basically two methods to choose from--the countertop method or the bowl method. I chose the bowl method because it is simple and less messy. However, for those who prefer the countertop method, this is my suggested approach. Combine all of the dry ingredients on a work surface, including the salt, and form into a mound. Make a well in the center of the mound, and gradually add the water to the center of the mound. Using the fingers or a fork, draw the flour mixture into the water. When all the water and flour have been combined, the dough mass should then be kneaded for about a minute or two. If the dough mass seems dry, that's OK and don't be tempted to add more water. It takes time for the flour to be hydrated by the water. Then add the oil and knead that into the dough, for about 2 minutes, and continue kneading for about another 2 or 3 minutes. (If the flour and water were not weighed, it may be necessary to add more of one or the other--a little bit at a time--to get a dough of the correct texture and feel.) The dough will be sufficiently kneaded and ready for refrigeration when it is shaped into a round ball and the outer surface is smooth (i.e., without tears) and shiny. If it isn't, continue kneading, gently, until it is.
It will be noted that I instructed that the salt be combined with all the other dry ingredients before adding the liquid ingredients. Doing so serves to slow down the oxidation of the flour and preserves the color and certain flavor and color enhancing vitamins (mainly carotenoids) in the flour. However, if an autolyse (rest period) is desired, as described in a previous post in this thread, the salt can be added later in the dough kneading process. However, trying to combine salt with an already-kneaded dough is a lot harder to do by hand than by a machine. The dough will separate and develop tears. However, this is a temporary condition and is overcome by simply kneading the dough until the salt is fully incorporated and the dough is smooth and elastic.
As indicated above, I chose to use the bowl method to make the dough. I combined all of the dry ingredients in one bowl and put the water into another bowl. I gradually added the flour mixture to the water and stirred it with a spoon until the ingredients started to come together in a rough mass. I then put the dough mass onto a very lightly floured work surface and continued kneading until all of the flour had been taken up into the dough ball. I then added the oil and kneaded that into the dough ball, about a minute or two. I then continued kneading for an additional few minutes until the dough ball was smooth and shiny, with no tears. Once I reached that stage, I flattened the dough ball into a disk (to get the dough to cool faster), oiled the dough, put it into a plastic storage bag, and then into the refrigerator. I left the storage bag open for about 1 hour, to allow any moisture on the dough to evaporate, and then closed the bag for the rest of the duration in the refrigerator.
To be faithful to Tom L.'s NY style dough recipe in making the dough ball as described above, I temperature adjusted the water to achieve a finished dough temperature of 80 degrees F. Unlike machines like stand mixers, food processors, and even bread machines, hand-kneading adds very little frictional heat to a dough--maybe 1 degree F. So, for a desired finished dough temperature of 80 degrees F, the water temperature will be close to room (and flour) temperature. For the temperature conditions that prevailed in my kitchen, the water temperature I needed was around 79 degrees F. (For those interested in the specific calculation methodology, visit some of my earlier postings in which the methodology is discussed in detail). The finished dough ball had a temperature of 80 degrees F. Its weight was 11.30 ounces (pretty much as calculated).
About 24 hours after I placed the dough ball into the refrigerator, I removed it from the refrigerator and brought it to room temperature, where it remained for about 1 1/4 hours in preparation for shaping and dressing. The dough handled very nicely. It had good extensibility (stretch) and, surprisingly, some elasticity (springback). In fact, the elasticity, which I prefer along with good extensibility (the dough tosses easier), was greater than most of the doughs I have made using machines. I had no trouble whatsoever in shaping the dough.
The shaped dough was finished and dressed in a simple pepperoni style, using 6-in-1 tomatoes, dried oregano and basil, crushed rep pepper flakes, Hormel pepperoni slices, a combination of deli mozzarella and provolone cheeses, a few squirts of a good olive oil, and freshly-grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese and fresh basil (added after baking). The pizza was baked for about 7 minutes on a pizza stone that had been preheated for about 1 hour at about 500-550 degrees F. The pizza was delicious. It had the usual characteristics of a NY style pizza, except that it was smaller. Also, the crust was a little bit crunchier, quite possibly because of its smaller mass.
The photo below shows the finished product (with a slice photo in the following post). The pizza crust did exhibit some bubbling, which surprised me since the dough had been allowed to sit for a little bit over an hour before shaping and dressing. I think it may have been because the dough was a light mass compared with the much larger dough balls I have made previously for NY style pizzas, and colder when it emerged from the refrigerator. Letting the small dough ball sit for another hour might be a good idea (or use docking).
What the above experiment says to me is that it is possible to make a very good small NY style pizza without a major investment in stand mixers, food processors, or bread machines. I do believe, however, that a good kitchen scale is a worthwhile investment--even for the beginning pizza maker--especially for weighing the flour and water, which make up the bulk of the dough and whose relative weights and measurements are important to making good pizza doughs. And, obviously, a pizza stone, tiles or a pizza screen, and a paddle (peel) are prerequisites if pizza making is to become a regular routine. Hand kneading will also teach you a great deal about doughs. Once that has been mastered and you want to move on to even greater pizza challenges, then you can think about fancier gear.