Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Crust Crust Evolution

Well my oven has certainly been busy, but this blog has been long neglected. I've had several requests for my dough recipe, so to kill two birds with one stone, I'm going to make an effort to update this blog and also share what I've learned.

To start with, the more I make pizza, the more I realize that the most important part of the equation is technique. Not some fancy salt from some far off place or water imported from the other side of the planet, but what you do to the four basic ingredients. So while this post will deal with the proportions and ingredients, subsequent posts will deal with the techniques used to make and form the dough.

I'm still using my excel spreadsheet to generate my recipe each time. You can download the spreadsheet here.

Taking the ingredients one at a time, starting with flour. I'm using a 50-50 mix of King Arthur Italian-Style and King Arthur Unbleached Bread Flour. Those playing along at home may notice that while the Italian Style is sold in 3 lb. bags, the Bread Flour is sold in 5 lb. bags. Annoying right? So buy 15 lbs. of each, if you're going to be making lots of pizza like me. I used to have this line in the spreadsheet that spit out half of the flour weight, so I could measure each flour out. Now I make large batches of the 50-50 mix in a nice airtight tub, and simply measure out of that. A word on flour hygiene. I have noticed on some occasions (not in my pizza flour mind you, but in the all purpose stuff I keep separate) that it is possible to get some wee beasties in your flour. With the AP flour, I can throw it out and go to the store and get more, but not so with my pizza mix. So, I make sure to never ever put anything back into the tub. If you've got some extra flour from dusting? Throw it out. Measuring your flour out? Get a squeaky clean big spoon, don't touch the business end, and measure your flour out. Don't get such a big tub that you won't see the bottom of it for a year. As soon as you do see the bottom of it, give it a good wash with a little bleach and let dry thoroughly.

Water. This is easy. I take the filtered chilled water out of my fridge door. Since I'm using active dry yeast, the water needs to be heated to between 120-130F. I asked Jim Dodge if this step was really still necessary, and he informed me that it was. Besides, the nice warm dough on your hands feels better than really cold dough. At one point, I had this super nerded out section of the spreadsheet that would actually calculate how long I needed to put the water in the microwave in order to bring it to the right temp. Mind you it was calibrated for my fridge water temp, bowl and microwave. Then the microwave went kaput and I haven't yet bothered to update it, but I probably will in the near future, and I'll post on how you can calculate it for your setup as well.

Salt. I use Kosher Salt.

Yeast. I use Red Star Active Dry Yeast.

A note on weighing these ingredients. I keep two scales on hand, one for the flour and water, and one for the salt and yeast. The reason is that my flour/water scale weighs in 5 gram increments, which is too coarse for the amounts of salt/yeast usually called for in the recipe. My salt/yeast scale gets maxed out a 1 kg., which is too low to measure the flour/water amounts. If anyone has a scale that can weigh up to around 5 lbs, and has a resolution of 0.1 gram, please let me know!

My dough ball size has recently been bumped up from around 200-250 grams, to 275 grams. This was after a trip to Delancy in Seattle. Maisie took me there on my birthday, and we had a wonderful meal. If you're in the area I can't recommend it highly enough. We sat at the bar so I could watch Brandon at work, and he was kind enough to share some of his tricks with me. I really loved the large, puffy delicious crust, and so ever since then I've been making my dough ball a bit bigger, so I can get the same. I'm happy to say that I can now get the same big crust that I so enjoyed there.

A note on max mixing capacity. I've found that in my Electrolux DLX 2000 mixer the maximum number of 275 gram dough balls I can make is around 10. Any more, and it becomes much harder to get everything properly kneaded. If you're using a Kitchen Aid, it's probably far less, depending on what model you have. More on proper kneading later.

Also, I always add one "phantom dough ball" to the spreadsheet when I am making a batch. If you try to make exactly 6 275 gram dough balls, you'll inevitably lose some dough along the way, and then you'll end up with a half sized ball. Just add one dough ball to the number you actually want to make, and you'll always have enough.

That pretty much covers the ingredient side of things, on to mixing/kneading/dough ball formation.

No comments: