The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

I need help with Inconsistently tough pizza crust.

skeebo's picture
skeebo

I need help with Inconsistently tough pizza crust.

I need help with Inconsistently tough pizza crust.

This has happened off and on for a couple of years. Here’s my method: I use a food processor method consistently. My typical crust consists of 3 cups white flour (either all bread flour – or - alternately 80% “00” flour -20% commercial 13.5% protein flour by volume), yeast can range from 1t to 1T depending on how much time I have, and 1T sugar to give the yeast some junk-food. 1T oil is added during the second mixing to not interfere with hydration. First, I mix dry ingredients and add enough water just to get it to stick together, processing just until it coheres (15-20 seconds?) . I then let it rest 15 or 20 minutes and process again for 30 or 40 seconds, adding oil and enough water to get it as wet as possible without gumming the processor up. Upon taking it out I fold more water into the dough mass and let it rise once, usually until it triples in volume. This usually yields quite a wet and wiggly lump, that is turned onto a floured stone surface for cutting and shaping. I touch the dough minimally, just enough to make an appropriate shape, and not enough to antagonize the resting gluten or squeeze out entrapped air. I bake on a preheated stone at 500 degrees + convection and do not undercook. Most times this creates an light, chewy and crispy crust with great gelatinous crumb, but occasionally the crust comes out very tough. Can anyone give me a clue as to why this inconsistent toughness happens? – or give me an idea of what conditions can create a tough dough??? I would love to understand this. Thanks.

Jeffrey's picture
Jeffrey

This is worth a thought or two, i've never made piza, but i will someday.  Sort of new at this.

 

When you finish kneading it, is it nice and smooth or lumpy.  We always knead by hand, but thirty or forty seconds, seems pretty quick.

 

Have you checked your oven temp, it may be a bit high?  Ovens arn't all that accurate.

 

jeffrey

skeebo's picture
skeebo

its smooth. 40 seconds in the food processor after the dough rests seemed like a lot to me. I wondered if I was over kneading it, but its my understanding that this is what develops the gluten. Re: temp - The guys in the pizzerias around here cook at 700 F plus, and their crust isn't tough

rcrabtree's picture
rcrabtree

Skeebo, not sure exactly why your dough is tough, I've never done dough in a food processor before.  I wonder if your dough is a little dry.  Also, how long are you cooking the pizza?  I find that at 550 on a stone, the pizza should cook in under 5 minutes; if you are cooking longer it could become tough.

Not sure exactly what you are going for in a pizza.  Personally, I like either Chicago-style or New York style, but nothing in-between.  If you are going for the NY-style, I strongly recommend Jeff Varasano's website:  http://jvpizza.sliceny.com/  His methods produce by far the best homemade pizza I've ever tasted, let alone made myself.  His dough is VERY wet but I swear by it.

risingcrust's picture
risingcrust

Hi I have been looking at Jeff's recipe for a week now trying to digest it and trying to see if it will actually work for me - I was quite happy to read your post as it has given me some encouragement to to try it - were you able to get the temp to 800 and if so did you use the self-cleaning cycle - did you make any adaptations to the recipe? - did you keep the dough in the fridge for 4 days before using it?  thanks

skeebo's picture
skeebo

By all means let me encourage you more! the results can be as good as the best pizza in New Haven. I dont go as far as 800 which I admit would be fun to try. But results are very good at the highest my oven goes (500) and using convection. Thicker stone helps, as does a really long preheat time. Ive found also that 1 teasp. of dry malt extract in crust helps carmelize and adds substance - possibly allowing better results at lower temps. Oil in the dough tenderizes it nicely. Using as much water as possible is key. using little yeast and putting it fridge after a couple hours is indeed nice. Ive left it there maybe 1-2 days - but not 4. Oddly, Ive found though that that "oo" flour from Italy doesn't like the fridge. After repeatedly torn dough- a pizzaria guy told me this - and when I stopped putting in the fridge it worked great. Another mystery. And another direction. Im not sure what Jeffs recipe is. I will look it up. Ive been reading Peter Rhinehardts (sp?) "Great American Pie" book.which is a very good resource. For me pizza has been a never ending quest for 20+ years (since I read something about an unheard of 'baking stone' in the back pages of an old Julia Child book). Sometimes the magic works great! and even when it doesnt it's still super - and sometimes leads to a re-defining of pizza. Let me know how it goes.

rcrabtree's picture
rcrabtree

I hope you do try it.  Pay particular attention to the mixing technique and his comments about the wetness of the dough.  Do you have a stand mixer?  I've never made a successful pizza crust by hand.

No, I have not been able to make a crust at that temperature.  I'm sure that would be better, but just turn your oven up as far as it will go and it'll be good.

Try not to get frustrated the first time you handle the dough; it'll be very wet, but use plenty of flour and it'll just stretch under its own weight and shouldn't tear.  Also, if you use a pizza peel and baking stone, use plenty of course cornmeal on the peel and assemble the pizza quickly since it's so wet.  Let me know what you think!

jm_chng's picture
jm_chng

Hi I don't use a mixer so I can't advise on that. I can't comment too well on your recipe either since a cup of flour can vary so widely. Here's what I do. I don't add any oil to my dough either. 

375g of flour. 00 if you like. I only use 00 for my pasta I just use the bread flour for piza or Type 55 if I'm feeling extravagnet. 
245g -281g of water 245g won't be sticky when you've finished mixing. Let it Autolyse 30-60 mins, so don't add your salt or yeast yet. ( i use less water, 65%, becuas it's easier but as someone esle said it's better a little higher.)
7g of salt. 
I use a leaven so I can't advise on yeast but I based this recipe on your flour being 125g per cup so your usual should do. 
Allow to double, give a second rise if you are using yeast. Shape to a ball. Rest for 15 mins. Then shape by rolling or fancy spin or patt to shape. 
Now I use those holey pizza trays and get the oven as hot as it will go. The faster the better. You can even put it on the back of a preheated frying pan and grill it. The frying pan is Heston Blumenthal's  method so I 100% trust it.

Jim

merrybaker's picture
merrybaker

Have you tried a flour with less gluten?  I think I read somewhere that pizzas baked in home ovens work better with less gluten.  A while back, a group of cooking professionals went to Italy to learn about pizza, and they came back with a recipe using only cake flour.  It worked better than you might think.  Reinhart uses unbleached, all-purpose for his pizzas, and that works well for me.  It doesn't need a lot of kneading, either.  If it's a wet dough and it sits overnight, the gluten will develop by itself.  I mix it by hand (omitting the oil), stirring til evenly moist and then a couple of "kneads," two folds during a 30-minute wait, and into the fridge overnight.  No kneading other than that.  When assembling, don't roll it out with a rolling pin.  That gets rid of all the nice bubbles.  Bake at your highest temp.  Good luck!  Let us know how you get on.   

skeebo's picture
skeebo

I've suspected in the past that gluten is the culprit; or maybe my food processor. But Ive never been able to find any specifics on what can come together to create the occasional condition of tough dough. My dilemma: I like the tenderness of a lower gluten flour, but with higher protein flour I’m able to introduce more water and produce a moister crumb with very pleasing air bubbles. The bubbles have translucent walls where thin. These specifics I usually see when eating best quality bread or pizza in general, and am unable to make this happen with all purpose flour. As such I thought that higher gluten was its cause. Perhaps mistakenly – perhaps not. Can this type crumb be achieved simply with well-developed gluten from lower protein flour?  I would love to know how to balance good chewy crumb with a tender crust. Do you achieve this kind of result using your method? This goal of balance is what has recently led me in the direction of trying 80+-% low-ish gluten “00” flour my local pizzeria distributor gets from Italy, mixed with 20% high gluten winter-wheat flour. Rhinehart spoke about pizzerias in Naples mixing the two. So far I haven’t had tough dough and the crumb isn’t too bad but results are inconsistent. Maybe I need to start weighing ingredients instead of volume measure. I too remember something about cake flour - Julia Child coming up with a recipe that approximated Italian flour using it. And similar to your experience, the distributor I buy flour from opined that home bakers are better off w/ less gluten because we usually don’t have high shear mixers capable of developing higher gluten flours.

merrybaker's picture
merrybaker

Hi, skeebo.  Why don't you try making the dough once without a food processor?  For years I made bread dough in the processor, with good enough results.  Then we moved to a temporary location where I couldn’t unpack my processor, so I started making bread by hand.  The quality increased immediately!  I became much more aware of the slight differences in a dough that's too wet or too dry.  I also started weighing ingredients, and that’s so great I can't recommend it enough.  (If you use a scale, when you finally get the pizza dough you want, you’ll be able to do it a second time!)  Have you ever made Reinhart’s Napoletana Pizza dough?  The one in American Pie without any oil.  (If  you don't have the book, it's easy to find the recipe on Google.)  Try making it by hand once, and make sure the dough’s not too dry -- a little sticky when you put it in the fridge.  (Use a good unbleached AP flour like King Arthur.)  Refrigerating overnight is what works the miracle.  (I have better luck refrigerating it in a bowl, without dividing it.  Then I divide it into balls when I remove it from the fridge the next day).  Whatever you do don’t use a rolling pin.  I’m miserable at forming the pizza shape, but the King Arthur people have a great method:  oil an upside-down large metal mixing bowl, and put the ball of dough on top of the upside-down bowl.  With your finger tips, push the dough out from the center (sort of a Ouija-board motion), until you have a nice big circle.  Stay away from the edge.  You want that to be thicker and puff up.  Then peel the dough off onto a peel or (what I do) place a piece of parchment paper directly on top and flip the whole thing over, peeling the bowl away from the dough.  You can tidy up the shape with a little stretching and pushing.  Use quarry tiles or a stone, preheated at least 45 minutes to your oven's highest heat.  You can try just a third of PR's recipe and make 2 small pizzas.  What have you got to lose?  To paraphrase my son, even bad pizza is better than anything else!

Bruce R Leech's picture
Bruce R Leech

I really think you need to ether knead by hand or get a good mixer. I think the food processor is most of your problam

buzz's picture
buzz

Use AP, not bread flour--bread flour makes pizza crust too dense and chewy. Make sure that your dough is not too wet and sticky (a bit sticky is fine, but if it needs a lot of bench flour just to handle it, it will bake up tough).

As for the food processor--it doesn't make a bit of difference how you mix the dough. I used to do it all by hand--now I let the bread machine do the work--it's far easier!

Here's what I do:

I mix all ingredients except for 25% of the flour for 2 minutes in the bread machine. Then I let the dough in the pan autolyse for half an hour or so. Then I take the pan out of the machine, let it cycle to "knead", put the pan back in and let it kinead for 6 minutes. After the first 3 minutes of the knead, I gradually add the reamining 25% of the flour. After the 6-minute knead, I let the dough rest for 15 minutes or so. Then I turn it out onto a floured surface and give it a quick 1-minute knead by hand, then let it rise for around 4 hours (no need for an overnight rise in the fridge). You can let it rise for 2 hours, if you don't have the time to wait.

After it rises, I turn it out and let it rest for around 10 minutes. Then I roll it out with a rolling pin to get it as thin as possible, transfer it to a thin pizza pan, cover it with foil and bake on the bottom rack for around 10 minutes at 450 (until the bottom starts to show a litttle color). Then I take it out, add sauce and toppings, put the foil back on, and cook it at the top rack until the bottom is just about done. Then I remove the foil and let the top cook (which happens very quickly).

The result is a wonderful thin crust which is crisp yet tender at the same time!