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Can't replicate authentic pizzeria soft dough consistency!

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steveyraff's picture
steveyraff

Can't replicate authentic pizzeria soft dough consistency!

Hey guys, 

Long time food and cooking enthusiast; only entering the realm of 'bakery' recently. 

So, I've made quite a few of the more basic and simple bread recipes - all successful so far, EXCEPT PIZZA!

I love pizza and I am a huge fan of good pizza, but so far I haven't been as successful as I'd prefer. Don't get me wrong, they've been tasty and enjoyable - but one of the things me and my girlfriend both love about going out to a pizza restaurant is the consistency of the dough. 

I have not been able to get that beautiful soft texture out of the oven. Perhaps to do this you need a genuine and very hot stone oven?? 

I have followed many popular online recipes, from the highest and most rated recipes posted to the popular food recipe websites, to the recipes documented by popular TV chefs (ie Jamie Olivers recipe, Barefoot Contessa etc). They are all still way off the mark. 

So far its almost always the same problem - it comes out of the oven quite hard, stiff and biscuity. The crust especially ends up very crunchy and brittle. This is just NOT how I am used to having pizza in a good pizza restaurant. 

 

I've attempted it about half a dozen times now, each time trying to learn from my previous try and making various adjustments ... I've tried strong bread flour, 00 Flour, normal plain flour, different quantities of yeast, allowing the yeast to proof for different lengths of time, making sure my water is optimum temperature while activating yeast, making sure to kneed the dough correctly, adding honey, adding olive oil, salt etc etc - I've experimented with different amounts of each ingredients, different oven temperatures, different lengths of baking times etc. 

 

SOMEONE PLEASE HELP! Unbelievably, the softest dough I came up with yet was a Pizza I threw together in about half an hour at about 2am whilst quite drunk. No idea how I managed to pull that one off! lol

 

Pictures of some previous not so good attempts: 

 

 

BreadBro's picture
BreadBro

For soft, puffy pizza dough with good flavor you need two things:

High hydration dough (75%+) 

Long cold fermentation (~18 hours is pretty typical)

My go-to pizza dough recipie is Peter Reinhart's Neo-Napoletana pizza.You might want to consider reading this article regarding making pizza.

http://www.thefreshloaf.com/recipes/pizza

steveyraff's picture
steveyraff

Brilliant, thank you BreadBro. 

 

I have not heard yet of the High Hydration dough, nor have I made it - I will look into that. 

Also, long cold fermentation... can you explain this process please? It reminded me that in some of the pizza joints I've been in in the past, I've seen them take dough balls out of the fridge wrapped in film. I guess this is cold storage fermentation?

 

Thanks for the Peter Reinhard heads up. I found that recipe on a website, and it was introduced by someone with a story VERY similar to my OP on this thread. Cool! 

http://www.101cookbooks.com/archives/001199.html

 

I hope this does the trick. Anyone else who has any input feel free to let me know - every little helps. 

Thanks again. 

 

henkverhaar's picture
henkverhaar

The secret is in the oven more than in the dough. Although a truly bad dough can never become a good pizza...

The thing is, you need high heat and high conductivity to bake a pizza in as short an amount of time that you can get away with. 5 minutes is long. Need anything longer than that (to get stuff properly cooked) and your pie will turn out dry, brittle and cracker-like. Wet dough helps a little there of course.

Problem is, home ovens can neither provide the required heat, nor the thermal mass/conductivity to get that heat into the pizza. WFOs have not only high heat, but also thermal mass (hot floor that you bake the pizza on), forced convection of hot air over the pizza and radiant heat from the dome to rapidly cook the toppings.

A pizza stone in your home oven helps a little, but most are too flimsy (still not enough thermal mass) and lack conductivity to make up for the too-low temperature. What helps more is a slab of steel - at least 0.5 inch thick, to bake your pizza on in your home oven. The thermal mass is sufficient to store enough heat to rapidly cook the pie, and the conductivity (the speed with which the steel plate dumps that heat into your pie) is sufficient to make up for the lack of raw temperature. Preheat your oven, with the steel plate in it, to the maximum temperature it will do (usually something around 250°C), then when your plate reaches that temperature (you really need an IR thermometer to learn how to do this...), switch on the broiler, and get that plate up to around 275°C (or hotter, if it will). Bake your pizza on that steel plate - while keeping the broiler on; the heat from the plate will quickly cook the pie, without drying it out and making a cracker crust out of it, while the radiant heat from the broiler will cook the toppings in the same amount of time.

Slimbo's picture
Slimbo

Are you using semolina mix in the flour? I find giving the base a good dusting before you bake keeps it softer. Oil is another ingredient that makes a big difference to a pizza dough, I see you've experimented here already, but I find a high oil content helps to get a softer dough. 

DavidEF's picture
DavidEF

The best pizzas in the world are baked very quickly at high temps. But, to do that, you need extra moisture in your dough. That's why BreadBro said to do a high hydration dough. Your actual hydration will depend on what flour you end up using, among other things. What is a "high" hydration for 00 flour will not be so "high" for strong bread flour. You want the dough to be wetter than for normal bread, almost a batter, but not quite. Look up Jeff Varasano's NY Pizza Recipe at http://www.varasanos.com/PizzaRecipe.htm to see what it's really like. He also suggests cold fermentation, and describes exactly how he does it. You were right on, that it basically means to put the dough in the refrigerator. But AFAIK the long fermentation won't do anything for softness. It's all about the flavor, which is very important too, of course.

Oh, about the additives. They are okay for tweaking, once you get really close to what you want. But, I would recommend trying just flour, water, yeast, and salt, and getting the hydration, baking temp, and baking time right, then move on to other enhancements. You may find you don't need any, once you get there. Again, the best pizzas in the world are made with just those four ingredients.

yy's picture
yy

A long, cold fermentation will help you develop more flavor. In my experience, 00 flour yields a crunchier, paler crust than bread flour or plain flour. I personally choose to steer clear of it for that reason. I like using bread flour for the chewiness it yields. Your pizza dough should only have four ingredients: flour, water, salt and yeast. No olive oil or other add-ins need apply. 

As for hydration, you don't need to make the dough all that wet. I would say around 60-65% hydration should be fine (Some pizza Napoletana recipes even come in at around 55%). The important part is to allow the shaped dough balls to rest and develop adequately. I usually use this procedure:

1. Mix dough

2. Bulk ferment

3. Divide and shape into tight balls

4. Retard the dough balls in the refrigerator overnight

5. Take the dough balls out a few hours before dinner to rise at room temperature. They should become puffy, tender and pliable.

6. Shape, assemble and bake

The resting will help give you a chewy crust with good crumb structure. How are you shaping the pizza? A pizza maker on youtube recommended that you use your hands to press from the center of the disk outward to "push" the air bubbles to the outer crust. Then use your hands to gently stretch the pizza to the desired size and thickness without ever degassing the outer crust.  

yy's picture
yy

Just remembered a tip from Alton Brown: for chewier crust, allow your shaped pizza to rest for 30 minutes to rise before you load the toppings and bake. For crispier crust, bake immediately after shaping. I've never done a comparison myself, but it's worth a try.

JayLofstead's picture
JayLofstead

I completely agree with the above recommendations. I have been using the Reinhart recipe for years and consistently turn out great pizza. I have moved since I started and found some differences with different ovens.

First, see how hot you can really make the oven. Second, get a good stone or a baking steel to give a really hot surface to bake on. Third, you'll have to balance the heat of the stone/steel with the air temperature so that both the top and bottom are done at the same time. My old oven (gas) was consistent at 7 minutes at 550 degrees F. My new oven (also at 5600 feet of altitude vs. 800 feet or so), also gas, I had to take the stone off the floor where the burners were to keep the bottom from burning. They get done now in 4-4.5 minutes now, depending on the quantity of toppings.

My next experiment, once I get $500 to blow, is to get a kettle grill and the pizza insert+steel to see what I can do beyond 550 degrees. I want 900-1000 with a cook time of under 2 minutes. :-)

DavidEF's picture
DavidEF

JayLofstead,

At 900-1000 degrees Fahrenheit, you should be able to get well under a minute, with the right mix of ingredients, and some practice, of course.

steveyraff's picture
steveyraff

This is all great - thank you all so much. 

It can be quite confusing pin pointing exactly what I am doing wrong (or need to do different) considering the actual simplicity of it, there are only few ingredients in play here. But I am definitely seeing a pattern emerging through all your feedback, and I am beginning to see some definite changes I could make. 

I find it interesting however, that some of you state the amount of oil has a big effect of consistency. When I looked and Reinhart's recipe, I was surprised at how much olive oil he used (despite my tweaking of this, I'd always used very little). When I seen this I thought that is something to consider, but then some posts also state to not use any oil at all as it is not needed if everything else is done correctly. That slightly confuses me. 

I am definitely doing to look into hyrdration, cold fermentation, hotter/faster baking on stone, and maybe semolina flour for dusting purposes. I also believe I have been shaping the pizza correctly so far. 

By the way, I live on a farm with plenty of outdoor space around my house - I have been considering building an outdoor stone oven. Has anyone experience with this kind of project? I may be way off base here, but I imagined it would be fairly rudimentary and easy, and something I could use for all kinds of outdoor cooks - not just pizza! 

Steve. 

DavidEF's picture
DavidEF

Although the best pizzas in the world are made entirely without oil, if you dump a bunch in, it will indeed make it softer. A little bit of sugar will also, as will milk. All of these soften the bread in different ways, and for different reasons.

As for the outdoor oven, you have several options. If you're looking to bake a variety of things in it, your options slim down a bit. There are ovens made for bread, ovens made for pizza, and ovens made for general baking. All of these are different, but the general baking oven will still do bread and pizza well, or can be made to. There are several websites you can find with a quick search, as well as lots of youtube videos you could watch.

steveyraff's picture
steveyraff

Cool, thank you. 

Yea I was just going to build a brick oven with a stone slab base like I have seen many times whilst travelling across Europe, some times in the outdoor courtyard of restaurants etc. I'd be happy with one that could just make me nice pizza's and bread based foods. 

Jillios's picture
Jillios

i have made pizza dough for years...all sorts of different recipes.No matter what it is always missing something ..It must be the commercial oven..but..

i  will share with you my most consistant recipe...This will make a 12-16inch pizza depending how thick/thin you like it. i make it 14inches.The most important thing is to use a heavy dark pan(I use a deep dish pan even though I dont push the dough up the sides of pan)Grease pan with pam or some vegetable oil(sometimes I dust the pan with some flour)Preheat oven to 475 for 20 minutes and the rack should be on the lowest part of your oven.

Here is the recipe which I make in a bowl by hand..no machines

In a large bowl put 3T warm water add 1 1/2tyeast(I only use SAFinstant yeast(I buy from King Arthur)and 1/2t.sugar..Let sit 5-10minutesi just use unbleached flour(I cant give you an exact amount because it varies)Add to bowl about 1/2c.flour,1t.honey,2t.olive oil,1/2cwarm water, 1 1/4t kosher salt

Whisk together about 30 seconds and then I just add more flour maybe about another 1/2c then I switch to a hard plastic spatula adding flour just enough so I can turn out and knead.The dough should be soft you can always add more flour as you knead.knead 10-12 minutesI dust my hands with flour and sometimes a little oil as I knead so maybe there is 1t extra oil at the end of kneading. I then put it in an oiled plastic container(i use Lock and Lock)-and refrigerate anywhere from 1-3 days..i have even left it 5 days and it is good) when you remove from container dont knead the dough.just take it out and gently form into a ball. i usually wait 5 minutes then I roll it out and put it in thepan. Sometimes the dough is easier to push into the pan.just depends on the weather..After it is in the pan fully that is when i preheat the oven.You can leave it in the pan even up to an hour before baking.

I will prick dough just in case there are any air bubbles..I put sauce and I find 4oz of cheese is enough...Bake for about 11minutes cool 2 minutes cut and enjoy..reheats great at 375 in 7-8 minutes.Let me know how you like it.I think its simple and as good as you can make at home.Everyone makes it so complicated and it is so simple.

Jillios's picture
Jillios

I forgot to tell you to drizzle the top with olive oil before baking..

I make this all the time and I can make it in my sleep but I think that drizzle of olive oil makes it better.

ferginator's picture
ferginator

courtesy of OLINRAIDER (Matt) from this very site.  Here is his recipe I have used it many times over the past year, it is outstanding!  Go to the link here to see images of the pizza he created with this recipe.  Please leave feedback when you have sampled the recipe.  I found it easier to make the pizza rounds on top of a piece of parchment paper then slide them on the peel when ready for the oven, then onto the stone in the HOT oven.  Enjoy!

 

http://www.thefreshloaf.com/node/19240/superb-sandwich-bread-perfected-honey-wheat-sourdough-luscious-brownies-andpizza-pizza-pi#comments Flour: 450 gramsWater: 360 gramsSalt: 9 gramsYeast: 8 gramsFirst, heat your oven with a stone in. If you don't have a stone, try this on a sheet pan. I have not, but it would probably yield good results. Turn the oven to 500 degrees with your stone in. I have two stones, so I position them on the bottom rack and the second to top rack. If you use one stone, put it on the bottom rack.  While the oven is heating, mix the dough. Combine 8 grams of dry yeast with 360 grams of water to dissolve.  Mix 9 grams of salt into 450 grams of bread flour and place it in your stand mixer Add the water-yeast mixture, and mix to form a dough. Once the flour is all incorporated, turn the mixer to high and mix with the dough hook 10 minutes.  Transfer to a bowl greased with olive oil, cover with plastic wrap (or a towel), and proof for one hour. Remove onto a floured surface, and divide the dough in half. The dough is quite soft and extensible, much like ciabatta. form into pizza rounds. Let it rise on parchment paper for about five minutes. Coat the dough with about a half tablespoon of olive oil, then one cup of tomato sauce. You can use your favorite, or make your own. When we buy it, we get Red Gold. Add just under a half pound (one small block) shredded mozzarella (or provolone), then top with fresh basil and oregano. Bake the pizza on the hot stone for 4 minutes, then rotate and bake another 3 to 4 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack and let it cool 10 minutes. This is important!Cut and enjoy.
ferginator's picture
ferginator

**forgot to add:  you must use bread flour