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Author Topic: What Hydration Makes it "Cracker"?  (Read 1426 times)

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Offline NepaBill

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What Hydration Makes it "Cracker"?
« on: July 12, 2019, 07:19:09 AM »
Just wondering what defines a "Cracker Crust"?  Is it only the low hydration?  At what hydration is pizza dough considered cracker?  Do all cracker crusts tend to have oil in the dough?  If so, at what percent?

Offline Mad_Ernie

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Re: What Hydration Makes it "Cracker"?
« Reply #1 on: July 12, 2019, 09:31:43 AM »
NepaBill:

You are likely to get a variety of answers to that question, but I will go ahead and throw in my 2 cents, for what it's worth.

To me, a cracker crust dough has to have <50% hydration, and it needs a fair amount of fat from oil, shortening, butter, or some combination thereof.  When I say fair amount, I don't have an exact percentage in mind, but I would say roughly 2-6%.

Hope that helps.

-ME
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Offline DNA Dan

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Re: What Hydration Makes it "Cracker"?
« Reply #2 on: July 12, 2019, 01:53:57 PM »
What's up Ernie??? !!!

I'll add to that and say there are two major distinctions of what people call a "cracker" crust.

There's the dry, snappy variety which is like a saltine cracker. (This is probably where the term originated.) The best example I can think of this is MOD pizza or a bar style pizza. Low hydration dough which is underdeveloped, thin, crispy/crunchy and sometimes can be a par-baked skin.

Then there's the layered,LAMINATED style which is achieved through the use of a sheeter when making the dough skins. Many people call this a "cracker" crust, when in reality the correct term is "laminated." It has bubbles and pockets like the saltine cracker type skins, but their creation is really aimed at producing thin layers like the pages of a book.

It doesn't help that the forums here never differentiated between the two styles. IMO they are significantly different that they should be treated separately, but here we all are, in the "Cracker" forum.  :-\

Offline invertedisdead

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Re: What Hydration Makes it "Cracker"?
« Reply #3 on: August 19, 2019, 04:28:13 PM »
What's up Ernie??? !!!

I'll add to that and say there are two major distinctions of what people call a "cracker" crust.

There's the dry, snappy variety which is like a saltine cracker. (This is probably where the term originated.) The best example I can think of this is MOD pizza or a bar style pizza. Low hydration dough which is underdeveloped, thin, crispy/crunchy and sometimes can be a par-baked skin.

Then there's the layered,LAMINATED style which is achieved through the use of a sheeter when making the dough skins. Many people call this a "cracker" crust, when in reality the correct term is "laminated." It has bubbles and pockets like the saltine cracker type skins, but their creation is really aimed at producing thin layers like the pages of a book.


Dan,

What do you think of John Fazzari's older posts, who said that those "page layers" weren't really the goal, rather tiny air pockets which he claimed were responsible for the tenderness of a laminated dough.

John if you're still reading I'd love for you to chime in too. I consider both of you some of this forums most credible resources regarding laminated dough, so I'm just curious if there is a different consensus these days. I've jumped back into laminated pizza at home recently but still not quite sure of the best approach to the process.

the proof is in the pizza

Offline The Dough Doctor

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Re: What Hydration Makes it "Cracker"?
« Reply #4 on: August 20, 2019, 12:12:24 AM »
Cracker type crusts are typically made using a dough absorption somewhat less than 50% and a mixing time of 2-minutes or less. The dough is handled much like a long flake pie crust and has to be formed using a dough sheeter/roller as it's too tough to open any other way. When the dough is mixed longer to form a homogeneous dough mass the end result will be a thin crispy crust as opposed to a cracker type crust. We have had previous discussion on making cracker type crusts. If you have ever visited Incredible Pizza you have had their cracker type crust. It holds up really well on a buffet line.
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Offline invertedisdead

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Re: What Hydration Makes it "Cracker"?
« Reply #5 on: August 20, 2019, 11:10:01 AM »
Cracker type crusts are typically made using a dough absorption somewhat less than 50% and a mixing time of 2-minutes or less. The dough is handled much like a long flake pie crust and has to be formed using a dough sheeter/roller as it's too tough to open any other way. When the dough is mixed longer to form a homogeneous dough mass the end result will be a thin crispy crust as opposed to a cracker type crust. We have had previous discussion on making cracker type crusts. If you have ever visited Incredible Pizza you have had their cracker type crust. It holds up really well on a buffet line.
Tom Lehmann/The Dough Doctor

Hey Tom thanks so much for chiming in!!

Is a "thin and crispy" pizza more thin than a cracker crust?

I guess my hangup is the word "cracker" makes me think of something thin and crispy, so outside of lamination, I'm still a little confused about the distinctions between the two styles.

Aren't "thin and crispy" pizzas usually sheeted too?
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Offline The Dough Doctor

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Re: What Hydration Makes it "Cracker"?
« Reply #6 on: August 20, 2019, 12:44:43 PM »
Thin crispy dtyle crusts are indeed sheeted as are cracker style crusts but the absorption is a bit higher, usually around 45% along with a longer mixing time as previously noted. Thin crispy crusts tend to be more dense than cracker style too. We use to say that you know when you're eating a pizza made on a cracker crust when you have crumbs in your lap. A number of years ago we saw commercial attempts at this type of crust, Schwan's probably had the most visible as it was called their Italian Pastry Crust Pizza. While the crust appeared to be laminated it really wasn't, instead it was made using hard fat flakes mixed into the dough to give it a laminated and cracker like appearance. So, what does a real cracker crust look like? It looks like a saltine cracker and it eats somewhat like one too. For those who are old enough to remember, this is the type of crust that put Pizza Hut on the map, it's the original thin crust that they had back in the early 60's, what they have now is more of a thin crispy style. A good example of thin crispy is that made by the Pizza Shoppe (Kansas City) as well as any number of pizza buffets our local Pizza Ranch has a fair to middlin' version of a thin crispy crust.
The only place that I can think of off hand that might still make a cracker type crust (they use to at least) is Incredible Pizza (Springfield, MO.)
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Offline invertedisdead

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Re: What Hydration Makes it "Cracker"?
« Reply #7 on: August 20, 2019, 01:37:02 PM »
Thin crispy dtyle crusts are indeed sheeted as are cracker style crusts but the absorption is a bit higher, usually around 45% along with a longer mixing time as previously noted. Thin crispy crusts tend to be more dense than cracker style too. We use to say that you know when you're eating a pizza made on a cracker crust when you have crumbs in your lap. A number of years ago we saw commercial attempts at this type of crust, Schwan's probably had the most visible as it was called their Italian Pastry Crust Pizza. While the crust appeared to be laminated it really wasn't, instead it was made using hard fat flakes mixed into the dough to give it a laminated and cracker like appearance. So, what does a real cracker crust look like? It looks like a saltine cracker and it eats somewhat like one too. For those who are old enough to remember, this is the type of crust that put Pizza Hut on the map, it's the original thin crust that they had back in the early 60's, what they have now is more of a thin crispy style. A good example of thin crispy is that made by the Pizza Shoppe (Kansas City) as well as any number of pizza buffets our local Pizza Ranch has a fair to middlin' version of a thin crispy crust.
The only place that I can think of off hand that might still make a cracker type crust (they use to at least) is Incredible Pizza (Springfield, MO.)
Tom Lehmann/The Dough Doctor

Fantastic information, thank you Tom!
I typed Pizza Shoppe Kansas City into google images and found this picture full of laminations https://www.yellowpages.com/kansas-city-mo/mip/pizza-shoppe-458025544/gallery?lid=458025544
Based on what you briefly mentioned above about Schwann simulating lamination, is there something like that going on with Pizza Shoppe?

What about something really thin like Cecil Whittaker's - would that be considered thin & crispy as well?

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Online Pete-zza

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Re: What Hydration Makes it "Cracker"?
« Reply #8 on: August 20, 2019, 01:50:53 PM »
Tom,

A member recently asked me about a pizza sold by Domino's that is called a crunchy thin crust pizza. But when I looked at the ingredients statement under "THIN CRUST" at https://www.dominos.com/en/pages/content/nutritional/ingredients and also the Nutritional information for the 14" size at page 10 at https://cache.dominos.com/olo/6_0_4/assets/build/market/US/_en/pdf/DominosNutritionGuide.pdf, I really couldn't tell what category of cracker crust the Domino's pizza fell under. For example, looking at the Total Fats for the 14" size, which I took to mean the oil in the dough only, it seemed to me that there was a lot of oil (8 x 4 = 32 grams). If I interpreted the information correctly, then it would seem that the Domino's cracker style pizza is not of the type where you are likely to end up with crumbs in your lap. By way of background, some years ago (in 2007) I wrote up what I found when I purchased a cracker style pizza from Domino's, at Reply 27 at:

https://www.pizzamaking.com/forum/index.php?topic=5173.msg48331#msg48331

As a side note, Domino's used a chemical leavening system along with yeast in 2007, and does likewise today but with far less yeast. Domino's also added L-cysteine for its current formulation.

In a similar vein as discussed above, one of our members, nick57, modified one of your recipes for a cracker style that called for 4% or 5% oil and boosted the oil to 11% and used a hydration of 42%. His pizzas have been a big hit among those who have had them. You can see his formulation and method at Reply 286 at:

https://www.pizzamaking.com/forum/index.php?topic=18731.msg499459#msg499459

What has puzzled me is whether it is the hydration or the amount of oil, or maybe both, that govern what style of cracker crust you will end up with. I am sure you can educate me on this matter :-D. But what I was hoping for is to be able to look at the baker's percents for a cracker style dough and know which type it is.

Peter


Offline The Dough Doctor

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Re: What Hydration Makes it "Cracker"?
« Reply #9 on: August 20, 2019, 02:15:25 PM »
Peter;
I think too many people are too wrapped up in dough formulation as a distinguishing feature between thin crispy and cracker. We found that not to be the case at all, you can make a very good cracker type crust using 2% total fat if you are willing to go the lamination route as you can get with 4 to 8% fat by mixing a shaggy dough (about 45-75-seconds). When we did the development work back in the 70's we found that a plastic shortening worked much better than an oil in this application as it did not soak into the flour thus destroying any ability to create crispiness. When we did the development work we looked at how saltine crackers are made (under mixed using a spindle type mixer) and then also looked at how a long to medium flake pie crust is made (has a lot of the characteristics of a cracker type crust) and used that as the basis for our development work. More lately, in the 90's we were looking at the use of hard fat flakes in very under mixed (shaggy) doughs to achieve this. While the results were pretty good we thought the crust was more like that of a laminated croissant than what we were looking for. In my archives I've got the entire procedure using the hard fat flakes captured on a DVD. We ended up using this approach when we were asked to develop a dough for use in making pizza cones where it worked beautifully with just a little modification to allow it to be pressed int the desired cone shape while still retaining the desired flaky characteristics in the finished crust/cone.

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Online HansB

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Re: What Hydration Makes it "Cracker"?
« Reply #10 on: August 20, 2019, 03:36:49 PM »
Tom, what is "plastic shortening?"
Hans

Offline TXCraig1

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Re: What Hydration Makes it "Cracker"?
« Reply #11 on: August 20, 2019, 10:02:21 PM »
Tom, what is "plastic shortening?"

A fat that is solid enough to support it's own weight without deforming but still soft enough to spread at room temp.
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Offline nick57

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Re: What Hydration Makes it "Cracker"?
« Reply #12 on: August 20, 2019, 10:20:32 PM »
 After all these years of trying to make an 1960's Pizza Hut pie I am still not any closer. I really like my latest formula, but not so sure it is a true cracker crust. I would classify it as a very thin and crispy crust. If you have followed my quest over the years, I have made very cracker like styles. I have tried making the crust like a saltine cracker and matzah dough. Of course I am at a disadvantage trying this at home. If my memory serves me correct, the PH crust was very light with almost no chew. There was no shatter in the bite, it was very crisp and the smell of the sausage sent me to heaven. Too bad PH lost their way. My quest won't end, I feel like captain Ahab and I will solider on. Maybe I need an intervention?
« Last Edit: August 21, 2019, 09:15:40 AM by nick57 »

Offline fazzari

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Re: What Hydration Makes it "Cracker"?
« Reply #13 on: August 21, 2019, 07:35:13 AM »
Dan,

What do you think of John Fazzari's older posts, who said that those "page layers" weren't really the goal, rather tiny air pockets which he claimed were responsible for the tenderness of a laminated dough.

John if you're still reading I'd love for you to chime in too. I consider both of you some of this forums most credible resources regarding laminated dough, so I'm just curious if there is a different consensus these days. I've jumped back into laminated pizza at home recently but still not quite sure of the best approach to the process.

The process to make dough in our restaurant was learned from the people at Abby's Pizza, who were originally employees of Shakey's Pizza. Although I've altered it to improve consistency over these years, the facts remain that the dough has a 38% hydration rate and uses 4% oil.  Although it is thoroughly undermixed, we mix the dough about 8 minutes to make it manageable for the sheeter.  Our dough is laminated but I maintain that layering is the "means" to the end, not the end itself.  Laminating without the addition of fats between layers still conditions the dough, by the creation of tiny pinholes in the skin.  It is true that at times a baked skin will show signs of layers, or air pockets.....but to me this isn't something I'm looking for.  I've said it before and I'm sure I'll say it until I die....even though this process might have been created for simplicity in restaurant use, the laminated pizza (when all the stars line up) is truly one of the best pizza experiences I've had.
I took a picture of a laminated skin which sat out for awhile many years ago, and it clearly shows the pinholes I'm talking about.

John


Online Pete-zza

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Re: What Hydration Makes it "Cracker"?
« Reply #14 on: August 21, 2019, 08:59:42 AM »
In general, is there a preferred type of commercial mixer to make cracker style doughs or does it depend on the hydration and amount of oil? In a home setting, I found my food processor to work best.

Peter

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Offline The Dough Doctor

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Re: What Hydration Makes it "Cracker"?
« Reply #15 on: August 21, 2019, 12:03:48 PM »
John/Pete-zza;
Sorry, I don't see any "pin holes" I only see a laminated cell structure with some very classical "fish mouthing".  Maybe what you are calling "pin holes" is what I'm seeing?
Your dough looks very much like the dough that we make using hard fat flakes.
When it comes to mixing a cracker type crust we have had our best success using a planetary type mixer with a pastry knife attachment. With this attachment the mixing time is significantly longer than with a regular dough mixing attachment but it does a great job of blending the ingredients into a homogeneous mass while distributing the fat evenly throughout the dough. This is the preferred attachment for making pie dough too so it's no wonder that it works well in this application. The least effective mixer for making the cracker type dough is the spiral mixer, they were never designed for cutting and blending which is what is required for making a cracker type dough.
Tom Lehmann/The Dough Doctor

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Re: What Hydration Makes it "Cracker"?
« Reply #16 on: August 21, 2019, 01:28:22 PM »
Tom,

I don't know if it will help but I took John's photo and magnified it.

Peter

Offline fazzari

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Re: What Hydration Makes it "Cracker"?
« Reply #17 on: August 21, 2019, 03:52:47 PM »
Thanks for that Peter.....maybe pinholes is the wrong word, but the point I'm trying to make is that you don't see layer  after layer after layer

john

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Re: What Hydration Makes it "Cracker"?
« Reply #18 on: August 21, 2019, 04:12:18 PM »
John,

Out of curiosity, what kind of oven do you use to bake your cracker style pizzas, and did you have to modify your dough formulation to work in your oven?

Peter

Offline fazzari

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Re: What Hydration Makes it "Cracker"?
« Reply #19 on: August 21, 2019, 04:30:53 PM »
Peter
We use old Blodgett gas deck ovens...I bought an existing Abbys pizza in 1983, and these are the same ovens that were here.  No mods needed as dough is pretty similar

john

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