My initial trial of Caputo 00 Chef’s Flour intrigued me, but it certainly didn’t solve the issues I’d faced with doughs in the past. My Caputo pies came out pale (although they had no oil or sugar, so a direct comparison with past pies is not really fair) and tough while my King Arthur Bread Flour (KABF) pies have had problems with too much extensibility and not enough elasticity in the dough, resulting in spots where the pizza skin is stretched too thin or tears. Lately with all of my doughs I’ve been having issues with too much bench flour making it onto the finished pizza. I took my issues to Pizzamaking.com, which has an excellent forum of pizza enthusiasts and professionals helping members make their ideal pizza at home. Tonight I try some of the tips and suggestions I received.
As promised, I followed up my test of various bench flours (homemade rice flour, semolina, cornmeal, and plain old whole wheat) with a test of two things that are not bench flours but certainly help moving the pizza from the peel to the stone. I put my dough on top of tin foil or parchment paper before putting it on the peel and let slide onto the stone easy as ever. Either of these surfaces is far superior to any flour for ease of transfer, but in principle could alter the heat transfer between the dough and the stone resulting in inferior crust.
After losing quite a few pizzas during transfer to the oven (and of course setting off the smoke alarm each time), my resistance to buying equipment caved and I purchased an American Metalcraft aluminum pizza peel. The first time I used it, it was brilliant. With just some whole wheat flour spread on top, I was able to stretch out the dough and slide it into a cast iron skillet with no issue at all. However, the critical info I’m leaving out about ease of this pizza placement is that the dough was untopped. I topped the pizza in the skillet before putting it under the broiler. One week later, I tried topping a pizza on the peel only to have it stick to the peel so badly that there was no way to get it unstuck, and the pizza had to go into the trash instead of the oven. Continue reading
The first pizza related post I made on this blog gave the dough and sauce recipes that I had developed over a matter of months of experimenting. I had found a sort of all-purpose dough for making both cracker crust and a “normal” pizza with a crispy crust but some chewiness as well. Basically the only difference between these two styles was the amount of dough I used.
I then started experimenting with baking surfaces and quite suddenly abandoned my dough and sauce recipes in favor of recipes influenced by The Pizza Lab. The recipe I started favoring included no whole wheat flour or spices, but delivered improved crispiness, chewiness, and flavor. Why would anyone want to look back in light of such progress?
Well, I happen to still like my old recipes. I like that whole wheat is more nutritious, and I like being able to make a cracker crust, which I somewhat doubt could be done with this dough (even if I made a thin crust pizza, the dough would still have too much spring in the oven to produce a dense cracker crust). Also, I’m an experimentalist at heart.
In my deliberations about buying a stone, I searched about for cheap alternatives. I had read on recipe sites and message boards about using cheap quarry tiles to approximate the effect of a pizza stone. While Jason’s cast iron skillet is free for me to use, it can only produce pies that are a bit over 9″ across (smaller than I would probably even eat by myself). I have $5 to lend to a pizza experiment, so I decided to pay a visit to Home Depot.
While I have been hesitant to invest in a pizza stone, I have noticed a significant difference in the quality of the pizzas I bake on a baking sheet compared to those I bake on a pizza pan. Getting a crispy bottom crust seems much more a matter of luck when using a baking sheet than with the pan, and additionally the pan is the only surface I’ll trust to bake a pizza with any thickness to it.
In response to my last post about pizza, one of my friends pointed me to an excellent blog called Slice, which has experimented with all kinds of cooking techniques, surfaces, temperatures, fermentation techniques, dough recipes, yadda yadda yadda. Most of their experiments can be found in the aptly title Pizza Lab section. I found myself reading about pizza until about 2:30 am that night, which I think is just about the highest recommendation I can give that blog.