Author Topic: Coming back to this forum...  (Read 1922 times)

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Offline bdshort

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Coming back to this forum...
« on: October 29, 2008, 04:41:14 AM »
It's been a long while since I've been to this forum, and it seems things have grown quite a bit here.  I could have sworn that I had an account here, but nothing was registered to the email I've been using for several years, so I guess not!

I've been a somewhat avid home pizza maker for awhile, though recently there have been very long lulls in between my home pizza making.  When I did make pizza, I'd been using the crust from the Food Network website, from the Good Eats episode on pizza.  It worked pretty well, though the last time I tried to make it a few weeks ago, it tore pretty easily as I was stretching it.  I decided it was time to try something else, so I looked here, and using some recommendations from one of the other threads, put some numbers in the crust calculator, measured things out by weight, and ended up with a pretty decent crust.  I used about 68% hydration, using kosher salt, IDY, and honey, and let it sit in the fridge for maybe 18 or so hours before letting it warm up.

I think I can do better, but I have some limitations.  I looked through the massive tome that is the Pizza Raquel thread, and was overwhelmed.  It seems the OP has really found what the perfect pizza is for him, but he also has better access to high end resources, and more money, than I want to spend!  It also looks like really great pizza.  What I'm looking for are some good forumulas for what I do have, which is:

A KitchenAid Artisan mixer - I'm thinking I should have stepped up to the Professional grade mixer than can use the spiral mixer, but it's what I have now, and will have for awhile, so there you go

A Safeway supermarket - Unfortunately this means I don't have easy access to some of the more specialty flours I see used here.  Maybe I'll take a walk down the baking isle to make a list of what they DO have, but this is going to be my source for ingredients.  Shipping specialty items to Alaska, where I live, I think would be a bit too expensive.  So we're probably looking at bread machine type flour, which I assume works as a high-gluten flour, or should I try something else?  I'll look to see of they have things like 00 flour for classic neopolitan crust.

IDY - I've seen people here are also using starter, which I'd also like to try, but have no clue how to get one going.  I'm sure the directions are on this site somewhere, I'll try to dig them up.

A regular electric oven with quarry tile - I think I can get it up to about 550 degrees F, so I guess I'm good to go there.  When I get a house someday, I'd love to install a brick pizza oven, but that just isn't possible where I am now!

One thing I've found with my dough is that it doesn't seem to stretch as easily as doughs that I've seen videos of, were the pizziolas seem to be able to effortlessly stretch them from a ball to a 16"+ crust.  It seems I have to do a lot of initial coaxing to get it to stretch, but once it gets going it seems to work out okay.  I was thinking that after the dough has risen in a bowl in the fridge, I should turn it out onto my work surface and spread it out without punching it down and forming it into a ball first?

Also, for years I've been doing the cold ferment in the fridge, but now I've seen people making a "poolish" by letting a 1:1 ration of flour ferment at room temperature for several hours instead of the fridge rise... any arguments on either side as to which is better?

Back to reading this wonderful forum!
« Last Edit: October 29, 2008, 04:43:15 AM by bdshort »

Offline bdshort

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Re: Coming back to this forum...
« Reply #1 on: October 29, 2008, 04:49:38 AM »
I just wanted to add, the recipe I made the other night, seems to be more or less the recipe JerryMac posted, except that I just threw everything together in the bowl, kneaded on speed 2 for 15 minutes, then stuck it in the fridge in an oiled bowl.  This is my first crust where I left out the olive oil, and I really do think it made a difference.  Jerry mentioned with oil his crust was too "bready", and that's what I remember from the last time I tried the good eats recipie.  This time it had a much better texture, and it held up well for cold leftovers too.  I made 1 margharita pizza (grated cheese, then crushed Hunt's tomatoes, baked, then topped with fresh basil) and 1 applebutter pizza (apple butter as the sauce, then grated mozz cheese).  Both were excellent!

Online Pete-zza

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Re: Coming back to this forum...
« Reply #2 on: October 29, 2008, 11:29:10 AM »

Overall, I think you are in pretty good shape for making NY style pizzas. It would be nice to have a mixer with a spiral hook, but that shouldn't deter you from making pizzas with a mixer with a C-hook. My very basic KitchenAid mixer has a C-hook, and I sometimes wish it would irretrievably break down so that I could replace it with a better machine, but I have been using my mixer for over 30 years without incident.

Bread flour, such as you are likely to find in your local Safeway, is a very good choice for the NY style. I shop at a local Safeway and have been able to find the King Arthur bread flour, as well as the General Mills Better for Bread flour (which until fairly recently was also branded as Harvest King flour). Some people prefer to use a high-gluten flour for the NY style, using brands like King Arthur Sir Lancelot or All Trumps, but these flours are almost never sold at retail. You would have to order them for shipment to your home in Alaska. You are also not likely to find the Caputo 00 Pizzeria flour, or even competing brands of 00 flour, at places like Safeway. You would have to look for 00 flours at a specialty food shop, such as an Italian market. Even then, making Neapolitan style pizzas in a standard home oven is a major challenge because 00 flours in general are not well adapted to a standard home oven. You really need a very high temperature oven, such as a high-temperature wood-fired oven. My advice in this area is to master other styles of pizzas before experimenting with Neapolitan style pizzas using 00 flour in a standard home oven environment. I personally think that the NY style pizza dough is the best style to try to master. The most basic NY style dough needs only flour, water, salt and yeast and a pizza stone or tiles. You can't get more basic than that. In your case, if your budget permits, you might consider getting a Cordierite, FibraMent or comparable stone to use in lieu of tiles because of their improved oven thermodynamics.

As for trying natural starters, my advice is to master using commercial yeasts in dough formulations before migrating to natural starters. Unless you are a regular and skilled user of natural starters and preferments--like Bill/SFNM, for example--I think that you will find that starting and maintaining a natural starter takes a lot of time and effort, far more than most people are willing or able to devote to the process. I personally think that using commercial-yeast preferments, such as a poolish, is a good middle ground solution between using the straight dough process and a natural preferment. A good example is the JerryMac recipe you mentioned. Using a commercial-yeast preferment for that recipe willl save a lot of time in preparing the dough and will give you a finished product that is of high quality. Making a same-day room-temperature prefermented dough, as with JerryMac's recipe using a poolish process, will be comparable from the standpoint of crust flavor and texture to a dough that has been cold fermented in the refrigerator for several days.

If you want to avoid using a commercial-yeast preferment, you can make a straight dough using a long room-temperature fermentation (e.g., between 20-24 hours) as an alternative. However, you will need a long fermentation time to get the best results. An example of how this can be done is discussed at http://www.pizzamaking.com/forum/index.php/topic,7225.0.html. If you want to use onlly cold fermentation, to get results reasonably comparable (but not exact) to what you will get using natural starters and commercial-yeast preferments, you would have to make a dough that can cold ferment for several days, and up to more than two weeks. I conducted several experiments along these lines, as you will see at this thread: http://www.pizzamaking.com/forum/index.php/topic,3985.0.html.

Whatever dough formulation or method you use, you don't want to re-knead, re-ball or re-shape the dough when you are ready to use it. That will only mess up the gluten mesh and make the dough overly elastic and difficult to open up without tears forming. The conventional advice is to let the dough warm up for about 60-90 minutes at room temperature before shaping and stretching. If the dough is too cold, or it has endured a short fermentation time, it will be prone to elasticity and tearing. If the dough has undergone long fermentation, it may be possible to work with it without requiring as long a warm-up time.

Most of the doughs that you will see in videos, especially those made by professionals with commercial mixers, will be more robust than you will be able to make with your Artisan stand mixer. However, that doesn't mean that you can't get good results using your basic Artisan mixer. Interestingly, I have discovered that the best and most robust and beautiful looking and handling doughs I have made with my stand mixer don't necessarily produce the best crusts and pizzas. Some of the worst doughs I have made have produced some of the best crusts and pizzas. I have learned not to beat up on myself when the dough isn't perfect.


Offline bdshort

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Re: Coming back to this forum...
« Reply #3 on: October 29, 2008, 10:06:43 PM »
Thank you for the advice Peter.  It seems that my problems in the past with the dough being either too elastic, or tearing too easily, definitely has to do with trying to reshape the dough after the cold ferment, or not letting it sit out long enough, and trying to use a cold dough, so next time I'll remember to let it warm up for a longer period of time, and not to re-ball the dough.  I think I may get a dough recipe mixing up here before I go to work, and let it sit until Sunday or so, then next weekend I'll try the same recipe using a poolish.  I'll stick with Jerry Mac's recipe for now, it seems to produce good results.  The flour we seem to have here is the Better for Bread brand.  I don't recall ever seeing King Arthur flour at the store.  Maybe I ought to solve that problem my moving elsewhere! ;)

Regarding the mixer, it's a brand new Artisan that I bought only a month ago, so it's going to be my only option for awhile.  Had I done a bit more research beforehand, I definitely would have gone with the Professional 600 series, or another brand of mixer, that has a spiral hook.

Thanks again for the advice!