In The Recipe Lab: Pizza Dough Challenge! Round 3

100223-demian-pizza-flour-3-aThe code has been cracked.  When I started this process a few weeks ago I might not have known quite what I was getting myself into.   Or maybe I was just being dishonest with myself.  Under the guise of testing out two different types of flour for pizza dough, I might have actually been doing the work of simply figuring out how to make great pizza at home.  And testing two types of flour at the same time.  Thereby making it more complicated for myself.  Though this is ‘Round III’ of the ‘Pizza Dough Challenge’, I wonder if I would have had to go through the previous two rounds had I some prior pizza success in my past.  I guess in the first round of the challenge I looked into the ‘no knead’ process which was worthwhile.  But I have since realized that without the proper use of heat any preparation process would fall short.  Evidently that is what the trial and error is all about.  True understanding comes with experience.  So with that, to the final chapter.

This time I used the same basic dough recipe as I had in the last challenge.  Duplicated here:

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).

100223-demian-pizza-flour-3-1I 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.  The one minor difference is that this time I covered the bowls with plastic wrap and let them sit on the counter for about four hours instead of two.

100223-demian-pizza-flour-3-2The first major difference in this round was that I then divided each dough ball in two, wrapped them loosely in plastic wrap and put them in the fridge.  Overnight.  This thanks to a comment by ’dmcavanagh’.  The ‘double zero’ dough was tagged with blue tape.  I think that this time lapse allowed the yeast a chance to break down the raw flour and develop a depth of taste that otherwise would be missed in a dough that did not have time to mellow.

About 20 hours later the day of pizza making was upon us.  I pulled out the dough, put each lump into an olive oiled bowl and covered it with plastic wrap to let it warm up again.  This is where the second, and biggest difference, comes in. Previously I had baked the different dough pizzas at the same time in an effort to ensure similar testing conditions.  And since I did not have two pizza stones I simply used metal sheet trays.  Also, I had set my oven at 450F (232C).  The pizzas took about 24 minutes to bake.  This length of oven time was evidently problematic for my process as they came out pretty flat with few air bubbles and not as pliable as I would have liked.

This time I decided to change it all up.  I sucked it up and placed a pizza stone on the top rack.  I also preheated the oven to 500F (260C) for a good 30 minutes.  A few minutes before I was ready I followed Jim Lahey’s direction and turned the oven to broil.  With a bit of fussing I was able to transfer the assembled pizzas from a floured tray to the hot pizza stone.  Maybe I should have assembled them directly on the stone?  Maybe next time. 

100223-demian-pizza-flour-3-3I slid the pizzas in and closed the door.  With the broiler aflame it was mere seconds until there was bubble action on the pies.  The dough immediately started to blister and rise.  I think it was the addition of the as-hot-as-possible pizza stone that made all of the difference for the dough.  And the cheese was no match for the broiler.  I could see that the edges of the pizzas toward the back of the oven were browning faster than the front so I gingerly turned the pizzas a quarter turn every minute or so.  But within no more than 6 minutes I had a finished beautiful looking pizza.  For both types of flour.  Now to see if there was a discernible difference between them.

100223-demian-pizza-flour-3-4When I sliced the pizzas it looked initially like the ‘double zero’ dough had developed a few more air bubbles and had greater variation between thin-and-pliable, thick-and-bready and crunchy crust.  The ‘double zero’ also seemed to have a bit more pull and pliability to the crust than the ‘all purpose’.

But the taste is what mattered.  And here I have to say, after a lot of pizza and much consideration, that the ‘double zero’ flour came out the clear winner.  While the ‘all purpose’ flour made a very good pie, the ‘double zero’ flour produced a pizza that just possessed those unquantifiable qualities that pushed it more nearer to being superlative than did the ‘all purpose’.  The ‘double zero’ dough was more pliable and toothsome when chewed.  While at the same time more readily forming moments of bubbled crunch around the crust on the outside.  Its’ air bubbles, though hard to tell from the photos, were generally bigger.  Not to mention that the dough felt somehow lighter in general.  The ‘all purpose’ dough tasted slightly more ‘bready’ than the ‘double zero’.  ‘Bready’ would be fine in most situations except that the ‘double zero’ somehow just tasted more ‘pizza-y’.  I had a hard time putting my finger on it.  But, regardless of my loss for words, the ‘double zero’ flour is going to have to be the flour I recommend to people that ask my opinion on such weighty matters.  It makes a pizza that is very very good.  And super close to a pizza that the professionals make.

Upon reflection one critique I would have of this process is that the underside of the pizza dough could use a bit more color.  Neither pie’s underside browned very well or got anywhere near showing bits of char.  My oven was at it’s highest setting though I am wondering if there is something I could do differently to push that envelope.  Preheat it longer at the broil setting?  Maybe cover the cheese with a piece of foil when it is molten to keep it from over browning while letting the crust bake a little longer?  Hmmm… I’ll have to think about that one a little longer.  Any suggestions as to tweaking the process are more than welcome.

But beyond the limits of a residential oven, I think ‘double zero’ flour is definitely the best to use for making super pizza dough and is well worth the effort to track down.  I am already looking forward to my next pizza making.  Friday evening perhaps?  And maybe this time I will pit ‘double zero’ flour against the frustratingly good dough from Whole Foods.  My money is on ‘double zero’.