The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Neapolitan on the Big Green Egg

Jangles's picture
Jangles

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.

Wartface's picture
Wartface

Your BGE bakes pizza on your pizza stone using conduction heat, it touches the dough. It brown's the top of your crust and cooks your toppings using convection heat when the hot airflow travels through your dome and kisses the top of your pizza with high temperature heat. Radiant heat from your ceramic shell also plays a part. 

Wartface's picture
Wartface

I agree with your idea of completely removing your Daisy wheel for baking bread and pizza. That will allow for the 3 most important things when baking at high temperatures... airflow, airflow and airflow. Plus... it allows you to watch how your bread or pizza is browning and/or cooking. In case you need to rotate it to get equal browning. 

I don't agree with leaving your bottom vent wide open for high temperasure pizza baking. I leave everything wide open and use my BBQ Dragon to speed up my preheating process but when i close my dome after mounting my pizza stone up to about the same level as the heat stem of my heat thermometer in my dome I start closing my bottom vent to keep my cooking temperature about 800° but no more than 900°. If you leave everything wide open your temp will get up to 1200°. 

My Neapolitan pizza dough is 60% hydration dough. I use 00 flour only when baking it that hot. If your toppings and cheese aren't cooking in 90 seconds or less you are putting on more topping than an authentic Neapolitan pizza calls for. 

IceDemeter's picture
IceDemeter

you might find that some of the previous discussions here have some good guidance for you:

http://www.thefreshloaf.com/node/24163/pizza-napolitano

http://www.thefreshloaf.com/node/34626/pizza-levain-and-highextraction-flours

http://www.thefreshloaf.com/node/52012/sunday-poolish-pizza  (and look back through dabrownman's older blogs - he spent a lot of time perfecting a base recipe for high temperature / wood oven baking)

Also - there are a lot of threads here recommending this recipe (which was created for high temp baking): http://www.varasanos.com/PizzaRecipe.htm  (it is the base recipe that I prefer to use right now, especially since I prefer a lean dough, and I find the 65.5% hydration just right)

I don't know whether anyone here has specifically used the BGE, but the needs for high temp baking with it would be similar to the needs of a wood-oven.

Hope this helps, and happy pizza-making!

Wartface's picture
Wartface

What does a brick oven have that makes bread makers and pizzerias love them???--

4 things... conduction heat, convection heat, radiant heat and extraordinary airflow. 

How do I replicate that in my Kamado cooker?

1) Totally remove your Daisy wheel.

2) Heat soak the ceramics of your shell and your pizza stone for about an hour. 

3) Mount your pizza stone up high in the dome to about the same height as the stem on your dome thermometer.

4) Position 1 leg of your heat deflector so it is against the back wall of your cooker, so it will deflect your airflow right and left of that leg. 

5) Regulate your baking temperature to keep it at least 800° but no more than 900°. 

Again... airflow, airflow and airflow is the most important thing here because the conduction heat is going to cook the bottom of your crust just fine. You need the convection heat that's created by that airflow to cook the top of your crust and the toppings. 

Wartface's picture
Wartface

I too use Kenji's New York pizza dough for low temperature pizza cooking. It caught my attention when he first published it because it had a lot more sugar and olive oil than most pizza doughs so I had to try it. He nailed it. I bake his dough in my BGE at 650° though. It takes about 4 minutes... if I don't put to much toppings on it.

Here's my favorite Neapolitan pizza dough with a good video of how to make it. https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=UqoZHwT7RIc

Now... if you're like most home pizza makers you might not have figured out how to open, properly stretch and shape your pizza dough yet. This is a good video of that process.  https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=FR2Teqs4qc4