Thanks for the compliments, Mots and Pc
Okay, here’s the skinny on how these pizze came together. It’s a long post so bear with me…
It may sound somewhat like an unorthodox method in terms of the prefermentation and the combined use of a starter and ADY but the results, I think, speak for itself. Plus, I’m a firm believer that in order to achieve a good crust, one should do what feels right and most importantly, tastes great.
We all chase the elusive “perfect” crust, whatever that might be, but the bottom line is that it always depends on the individual making it, the ingredients used and the techniques and tools that were employed. But I have to agree with members on this board, who by far surpass my expertise in pizza making, that the ingredients should be of a higher quality, if not the highest. So don’t compromise on the ingredients.
The pizze I made last night contained King Arthur BF, water, yeast, fine-milled sea salt, a nicely developed starter and a small amount of garlic-infused EVOO. The addition of oil to the dough automatically throws my crust out of the Neapolitan, and perhaps NY style, category, but I can live with that. If I’d be to chase after the perfect Naples crust, for example, it would probably take me a lifetime and I’m sure an enormous amount of funds. Instead I opted for a crust I thought my friends, neighbors, family and myself would enjoy. The positive feedback so far has been unbelievable, especially when I always ask for brutal honesty and believe me, I have received it in the past.
Anyway, I can try to describe in exact detail how the crust tasted but I don’t know if it would do justice. The flavor was amazing. The crusts had all a very subtle sourness & saltiness, without being overpowering, the texture was both chewy on the inside and had a nice crunch and crispiness on the outside and the charred spots added the typical flame-baked taste to it. The oven spring and lightness are also something I was thoroughly impressed with.
In terms of flavor, it was almost like a two-punch; the first came when I bit into it, tasting the freshness of the ingredients, the gooey goodness of the cheese, which just melted away in my mouth and its nice flavor and the second punch was when finally the fine nuances of combined flavors of the crust itself started to shine through. It was just great. Overall it was my personal best to date.
The only thing I will further experiment with is the hydration level, which was at 58%. It might have been a tad too low, even though a couple of my neighbors I gave two pies to last night, didn’t share my opinion. However, I think a level of 60% is more adequate and I will make an adjustment with my next batch.
I’m sure that what will follow next in this post will some of you have shaking their heads, but I can live with that also. Let me begin with the starter…
About 2 months ago - I don’t remember the exact date – I experimented with a cube of fresh yeast, a cup of KABF and a cup of bottled water. I fed the starter for about a week and then simply left it in front of my open kitchen window, behind a screen, hoping to catch some natural yeast that this area is famous for, and for further fermentation. If I caught some of the natural yeast I really can’t say since I’m by no means an expert on starters but nevertheless, after feeding it only sporadically, it developed a nice hooch and at some point a very pungent smell. Now, a few people have mentioned to discard the hooch, something I never really understood because in my opinion it only adds to the flavor. When the smell became to overwhelming, I simply added ½ cup of flour and ¼ cup of water, mixed everything together and transferred about half the amount of the starter to a clean container and discarded the rest. On occasion it lifted the lid right off the container, it was so active.
A cube of fresh yeast
1 cup of flour
1 cup of bottled water
Dissolve the yeast in the water, add the flour, whisk everything together and feed once a day for a week then let it ferment, preferably near a window that has a screen, feeding it occasionally with ½ cup of flour and ¼ cup of water. That’s it.
Okay, on to the dough…
A couple of days ago, I asked Peter (Pete-zza) about the effects, or impact I should say, that an overnight prefermentation would have on a dough that is intended for same day use. I accidentally used the term “Autolyse” until he informed me that an autolyse doesn’t contain any yeast, only water and flour…
But like me, he’s never done an overnight prefermentation so I thought I’d give it a shot and see what happens. And boy, am I glad I did! You can read about the result of the overnight preferment – complete with the final dough formula - by clicking on the link above and scroll all the way down (Reply #7).
To put it all together with my KitchenAid Classic, I used my own kneading procedure, which I wrote about here: http://www.pizzamaking.com/forum/index.php/topic,6922.0.html
I made one major change, though. After the dough cleared the sides of the bowl completely, I let it rest in the bowl for 3 hrs, covered tightly with aluminum foil. It did almost double in size. I gave it a couple more spins with the dough hook, poured it onto a lightly floured surface, hand-kneaded it for a couple of minutes, shaped it into a ball and let it rest until use. 30 mins before, I divided the dough into 4 balls, between 250 gr – 260 gr each (13” – 14” pizza). The dough was incredibly responsive during shaping, never tore once and had a great smooth feeling to it. It felt like I could have stretched it down the block it was that manageable. Plus, the smell was fantastic.
Here’s the complete dough formula I used. (4 pizze):
654 gr KABF (100%)
380 gr Water (58%)
18 gr Salt (2.75%)
2 gr ADY (0.3%)
12 gr Starter (1.8%)
6 gr EVOO (garlic-infused)
Like I said, I will tinker around with the hydration level a bit and also will try a two-day cold rise, just to see how and if it has a major impact on the crust’s flavor.
The pies were baked for 2 - 3 mins at a temperature between 685° and 725° in the LBE. I would love for fellow members to give this dough a try and post your findings, pros and cons. Keep in mind, though, that this was only a start for me, albeit a surprisingly good one and my gut tells me that it can only get better from here on out.
Below are a few pics of a plain cheese pizza (Mozzarella & Fontina), with a few olives thrown onto it.
Edit: Baking times added.