In The Recipe Lab: Pizza Dough Challenge! Round 2

100111-demian-pizza-flour2-6The experiment continues…

Based on the outcome of the original Pizza Dough Challenge, my findings were less about which type of flour, Italian ‘00′ or regular ‘all purpose’, was better and more about how both lacked the doughy pizzeria characteristics that I was looking for.  Although good, the pizzas I produced were not near enough to the quality of a Patsy’s, Grimaldi’s, Sal and Carmine’s, etc. to warrant all the effort.  If I can’t get close to their results, why bother making pizza at home?  Better to leave it to the professionals.  Heck, I can walk to Sal and Carmine’s.  And many other great pizza choices are a mere subway ride away.

Of course I know all those pizza guys are working on a totally different level with different equipment but still… why can’t I pull it off?  I have a pretty killer oven, I have some decent kitchen skilz and for goodness sakes it’s basically flour, water, yeast and time right?  Right?  Evidently my obsession is rising along with the dough.

100111-demian-pizza-flour2-1Based on the results of the first flour experiment I was left wondering if kneading the dough was a key aspect of the process that was missing.  I decided to run the experiment again, this time with a more traditional kneaded dough recipe.  Which is as follows:

3 cups (495g) of flour (’00′ on the left and ‘all purpose’ on the right).  1 1/2tsp (5g) dry yeast.  1 1/2tsp (4g) salt.  2 tbs (30ml) olive oil.  1 1/4 cups (300ml) water plus 1 tbs (15ml) water at 110F (44C).

I combined the dry ingredients.  I added the olive oil and the 300ml of water and mixed.  Switching to mixing by hand I added the extra 15ml of water,  formed the dough into a ball and turned it out onto a floured surface.  I kneaded the dough for exactly 6 minutes, pressing down and away about every second, rolling the dough ball a quarter turn on its side every time.  I kneaded this way for about 20 seconds at a time before having to pause briefly to re-flour the surface.  I finished by shaping the dough into a ball and placing it into an olive oil slicked bowl.  I covered the bowls with plastic wrap and let them sit for at least two hours.

100111-demian-pizza-flour2-2Both of the doughs rose beautifully.  They already looked different than the original experiment.  The next step is to turn the risen dough out onto a floured surface and mess with it enough to get it into a loaf shape.  Divide the loaf in half and form the two halves into balls.  The above photo shows that process completed for the ‘00′ and the risen ‘all purpose’ awaiting its turn.  Loosely cover with plastic wrap and allow the balls to rest for at least 15 minutes in which time they will have expanded a bit again.  So be sure to leave a little space between.

100111-demian-pizza-flour2-3Both versions of dough felt very nice and elastic as I stretched them into pizzas.  I formed and topped them exactly as in the original experiment.  I have to say here that I think the Whole Foods‘local’ fresh mozzarella that I picked up for this experiment has a better moisture and texture than Fairway’s mozz does.  But I love Fairway so I will have to check again and give them another try.

100111-demian-pizza-flour2-4After 22 minutes in the oven at 450F (233C) I had these pizzas.  And the verdict?  They were… pretty good.  Still not quite what I was looking for.  The crust looked a bit better than the original round but the big question was how did it taste?  I cut them up to take a look:


Hard to tell from the photo but the dough had a few more areas of bread-y bubbles than the ‘no knead’ variety did.  Which I think is a good thing.  The problem, though, is that the crust still did not possess the softness, elasticity and occasional crunch that great pizza crust should.  I was wondering if the inclusion of olive oil in this recipe would aid in achieving that.  But, unfortunately, I didn’t sense enough of a difference in these characteristics to push the results further than an allowable margin of error.  Also, the dough still smelled… flour-y(?).  Not something I usually pick up when smelling a professionally made pie.

This kneaded version of the ‘ Pizza Dough Challenge’ was better than the first run of the experiment.  But still a long way off from where I wanted to be.  So what is the deal?!?  I did get a couple comments from people wondering if I should crank the oven up to 11 with some pizza stones to shorten the cooking time.  I did notice that the cheese and tomatoes did tend to dry out a bit after the 22 minutes it took for the dough to bake sufficiently.  So time was an issue.  But I was also stuck on the fact that professional pizza ovens of the gas, wood and coal burning varieties worked in the 800 – 900F (427 – 482C) range.  Even at 500F (260C) I would still be 300F (149c) below that.  But… would another 50F (10C)  be what it took to make a real difference in the product?  Maybe there was something to Jim Lahey’s broil method…

The other issue was that of a pizza stone.  I wanted to bake both flour versions of the pizza together to keep bake time consistent.  I didn’t have two stones for this so I just used sheet pans.  Of course the result was crust that was painfully un-charred.  Not a char in sight.  Except on the cheese…  Anyway, I think this is a problem that must be rectified.

My big question in all of this is would the same dough respond that differently to the added heat?  Sure I may be able to attain a char with a hot stone but would the hotter oven cause the dough to rise at the crust edge more?  Would it have more elasticity?  Maybe the length of time in the oven had something to do with drying the crust out…

So, as for the results of Round 2 of the ‘Pizza Dough Challenge’ I think that kneading the dough is a step in the right direction.  But the difference between that and the ‘no-knead’ recipe is small compared to the elusive variable that continues to elude me.  I guess that means only that I will have to redesign the experiment and do Round 3.

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  • dmcavanagh says:

    After you make your doughs, let them sit at room temp for 30 minutes, then put in the refridgerator for a day, this will give the dough time to develop some flavor and get rid of that floury taste and smell. I use instant yeast and therefore there is no need to use warm water. The long rest in the fridge gives the yeast time to work to brake down the flour and in the process develop more flavor. Doughs used on the same day they are made, are very bland and tasteless.

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