The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Crust Issues

vink's picture
vink

Crust Issues

Hi,

I just recently started baking bread, and am now attempting Pizza. I am using the 50% whole wheat Neo-Neopolitan Dough from Peter Reinhardts "Artisan Bread Everyday" book, including oil and sugar. I am using a pizza stone, and my oven set to convection roast at 550 degrees. 

I left the stone heat up nicely for about 45 minutes and baked for about 6 minutes.  The cust is coming out nice around the edges, but the center is very thin and getting a little soggy.  The edges were starting to look bured, so I could not leave it in longer. Any suggestions to improve would be welcome. 

- I am trying to stretch using my knuckles like he suggested, but it is not working too well, so I am mostly just stretching out by hand in a floured pan. When I try to pick it up to stretch by knuckles, I think the weight of the rest of the disk is stretching out the center too much. Any idea on how to improve this?

- We are using fresh mozzarella. Should I wring out the water from it in some way?

- Should I use regular setting or broil when making the Pizza, or convection roast is reasonable? The fan is in the middle, and I have the Pizza Stone set right at the center of the fan. 

Any other pointers? 

Thanks in advance! 

jcking's picture
jcking

The fresh mozzarella should be rung out, yet it's best for an oven that reaches over 700°F. Go easy on the sauce and don't overload with toppings.

Jim

vink's picture
vink

Thanks, I will try wringing out the mozzarella next time. We've been easy on the sauce, but I end up sharing one pie with my wife and she likes lot of veggies on it... The kids put fewer toppings, those pizzas have been less soggy, but still soggier than I would like.

lazybaker's picture
lazybaker

Par-bake the pizza dough before adding the toppings. That's the only way I could get around to getting a non-soggy pizza crust. Bake the dough for less than five minutes or until it forms a crust. Take it out of the oven and add the toppings. Return in the oven to bake.

jaywillie's picture
jaywillie

I don't have a convection oven, so I can't really comment on that with any certainty, but I'm wondering if convection is the best choice for pizza. If you think about the traditional wood-fired ovens, the extreme heat comes mainly from the deck (floor) of the oven. The advice I have, from my own experience and things I have read, is to put your stone on the lowest rack, so the bottom of the pie is really heated well from below. Oven on bake, not broil, and as hot as your oven will go. That's what works for me.

It would seem that 45 minutes is enough to preheat your stone, but I sure notice a difference when the stone is not hot enough. I have learned to give my stone a full hour, and for me it makes a difference.

I don't wring out my mozz, I just slice it up (thick slices, too) and use it. I don't layer it or anything, just the traditional use as on a Margherita. I've never run into problems with it.

 

jaywillie's picture
jaywillie

After re-reading your post, I'm wondering if you are baking your pizza in a pan, or directly on the stone. If you're baking in a pan, that would have a huge impact on the crust.

vink's picture
vink

I am baking directly on the stone. As far as convection, I tried it because that's what the pizza stone ebook from fornobravo.com recommended. I should try other settings.

Thanks for all the advice, I will be trying them for sure!

thomaschacon's picture
thomaschacon (not verified)

I make pizza as you do, directly on a stone preheated to 550 F, but my pizza is never ready after only 6 minutes. I'm lucky if it's done by 12 minutes, usually taking at least 15. I check with the pizza paddle. If I lift the pizza and it bends in the center from weakness, it's not done, so bake it some more. 

It sounds like your edges are burning up very quickly, so I think one of several things:

  • turn convection OFF and/or turn the oven down after you put the pizza in (continuing to preheat as you do)
  • try another pizza dough, one that has no sugar or honey.
  • maybe try a recipe that does not use whole wheat flour, as I don't know if whole wheat is contributing to faster edge-browning

-

My crusts are thin as well; but, after 12-15 minutes, they're crispy, not soggy (and I don't skimp on the toppings).

How you compose your pizza has a great deal to do with whether it will be soggy, especially if "wet" ingredients like onions, basil, peppers, and sauce are topped with "dry" ingredients like sausage, pepperoni, and (most) cheeses.

Some choices I make, by no means definitive, can be summarized as: "Wet ingredients must always be exposed to the heat of the oven, not buried beneath dry ingredients."

  • I never sauce the pizza as you commonly see it being done, spreading the sauce as the base layer. I prefer to dollop the sauce after other ingredients are placed, especially after a layer of dry cheese. If you're using Peter Reinhart's sauces, which tend to be thin and wet (as compared to those (awful?) thick, tomato-pasty sauces), it's important not to use too much (as someone said above: "Go easy on the sauce!") and not to spread it all over the crust. Doing so will dramatically increase the hydration of the crust and, once covered with other ingredients, will take much longer to cook through (if it ever does), resulting in a soggy crust. 
  • Wet ingredients go on top of dry ingredients, so the wet ones like onions, pepper, olives, etc. are on top and exposed to the heat of the oven, while cheese and meat are on the bottom. If the wet ones are covered, they just steam and/or release their liquid into the crust, instead of be evaporated/dehydrated by the heat of the oven.
  • You can pre-cook wet toppings. I don't get to fancy with toppings, but if your toppings include a lot of vegetables, etc. (which have high water content), consider pre-cooking them, like caramelizing the onions or roasting the peppers or dehydrating the tomatoes (or using sundried ones). You often see pizzas being made on television with very fresh ingredients, but unless you have an oven that can get to 800+ F, you're taking a risk. Trying to use very fresh ingredients for pizzas made in a home oven, that doesn't exceed 550 F, usually results in a soggy mess.
vink's picture
vink

Thank you for your suggestions. Indeed, the edges are starting to burn by 6 minutes, but the center is not cooked.  I will try the changes you suggest: switching from convection to regular baking,  avoiding sugar in the recipe. I want to try and keep the whole wheat flour, I can try reducing the percentage from 50 to 40 or so. 

Thanks also for the pointers in how to top the pizza. We were using only small amounts of pesto sauce, but the tomatoes, bell peppers and mushrooms were certainly contributing to moisture.  We pre-cooked the bellpeppers and the mushrooms, but maybe not enough, and we didn't pre-cook the tomatoes (and they were very juicy). 

Thanks for all the very helpful pointers!