Neapolitan on the Big Green Egg
I'm new to baking bread, so excuse me if I'm not the most knowledgeable.
Ok, I thought it would be nice to have a conversation for people who are Eggheads and blooming bread bakers, like myself, to discover the best pizza for a BGE. First, a little background. (if you want to get down to brass tax, skip the next 3 paragraphs to dive into the "study")
I've been cooking on a BGE for a few years now and love it. I discovered pizza on the egg last year, and it was an immediate hit at the house! I started with a NY pizza recipe from Kenji on Serious Eats, which was amazing (at the time). If I have a cooking sensei, it would be Kenji. Well, not long after that, I discovered that Chef Steps came out with a Neapolitan dough recipe from some baker up in Seattle (Joe Heffernan). It was a dough made for the oven, but I knew Neapolitan style goes well in high heats. I nailed it the very first time, and it was awesome! I swore to never change it..... Then, one day, I changed it! I was starting to have good and bad days with his pizza, and I couldn't figure out why. I am a math and procedures guy, and I didn't like how Joe's recipe would say things like "use warm water" or "let rest overnight". How warm is the water? How many hours is overnight? So I bought FWSY and started getting into baking bread.
After reading most of the book, I figured a BGE can hit the same extreme temperatures that a brick oven can hit, so let's use the same water to flour percentage, right? WRONG!!! Yeah, at 58% hydration, the bottom would cook perfectly in 30-60 seconds, while the top and sides of the crust and the toppings were uncooked and the cheese was not melted. FYI, I cook wide open on top and bottom, and my temps are around 900°-1,000° dome and 700°-850° stone. It didn't make sense to me at first, but after thinking about it, it was crystal clear. A brick pizza oven heats through the brick (conduction) and through the line of sight to the fire (radiation). A BGE is mostly conduction, as the fire is below the stone. This is why I don't have to turn my pie like one would have to in a pizza oven: there is no radiation cooking the close side of the pie faster than the far side. Ok, so back to the drawing board!
So 58% hydration is out, but where do we go from here (clearly up). Well, I calculated the percentages for Joe's pizza dough since it seemed to work quite well. He cooks his at 65% hydration. Now, FWSY tells me that you may go as high as 75% hydration if you cook it in the oven at 500°, but that's way too high for my BGE.
This past weekend, I decided to try 63% (don't ask why 63, it sounded good). I did the FWSY Poolish Neapolitan (forgot his exact name for it). Never used Poolish to bake before. It worked well! Not perfect, but well! By the time the bottom is cooked through, about maybe 90 seconds, the top has developed some color and the toppings are done (mainly worried about the mozzarella here).
Anyway, I think this is a good study of how Neapolitan on the BGE works. I'm not done exploring here. I'm still trying to figure out which way to trend on the water. I mean, the more water I add, the longer it needs to cook, right? But that goes for the top and bottom of the crust, and I'm trying to consider them separately here. Since the bottom cooks faster due to conduction, then adding more water should even them out, at least at 58%. That's why adding 5% on the water ratio made this work; it added like 30-45 seconds cook time to the bottom, and 15-30 seconds cook time to the sides of the crust. I may try 65% next time and see if I like it better. I'm splitting hairs here, but the bottom could have used 10 seconds less than the top for my taste.
Anybody have anything to add? Am I missing something here? I think a discussion on this would be nice, and I'd love to hear comments if you've already been through this.