Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Pizza Crust....The continuing quest for the best.

I have still been trying to adjust the baking times and temps to get the crust to consistently brown the way I like.  The tops of the pizza get done so nicely...Sometimes the crust is brown, and sometimes it's too light.  Too often the latter.  -An oven/baking issue.                                                                                                                                                                                                       
I have also been haunted by Devadeva Mirel's statement on her blog, Sabjimata

  - A recipe/method issue.   I've tried recipes that rise for hours or days before and never noticed a difference, but should I try again?  ---Sure.  Why not?                                                                                                                                       

So this past week, I decided to address both issues.                                                                                                                                                                        
Recipe/Method Issue:                                                             
With a renewed interest in this book after attempting artisan bread again recently, I decided to give an artisan recipe a try.  I mixed this up on Wednesday for baking on Friday:      
Olive Oil Dough
adapted from Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day                                                                                                                                                                 
6 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup vital wheat gluten
1 tsp sugar
1 Tbsp salt
3/4 tsp instant yeast
1/4 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
2 3/4 cups water
Stir in a tall bowl or container, using large spoon or hands, until all is moistened.  No kneading necessary.  Cover the bowl with lid or plastic wrap and let sit at room temperature for 2 to 5 hours.  (I left mine out for almost 4 hours, since our house was a bit cool.)  Then put it in the fridge until early in the day you plan to use it.   (In my case, I set it out on the counter at 10 or 11 AM for use at 5:30 PM.)                                                                                                                                                       
The dough almost doubled on the counter, but didn't change much in the fridge.  I am used to bread dough that tries to overflow the bowl overnight, and resembles a puffy chef's hat or mushroom.                                                                                       
I divided and shaped this as I do any pizza crust dough.  It was a little softer at first, but worked fairly easily.  I put on sauce and topped it as usual.

Oven/Baking Issue: 
Probably not the wisest to try 2 new things at once, as it's hard to judge either in comparison to what we've had before...But I also made the oven adjustments I'd been thinking over.  In a discussion about my Wolf oven on the Gardenweb Kitchen Forum, Segbrown gave some information received from Wolf regarding the use of the elements in different baking modes.  The Stone mode I'd been using, the oven put 40% to broil and 60% to the stone, which, I assume, was from the bottom element.  I know, also, that the convection fan was on if I used the top oven.                                                                                                                                                           
I decided the fans were probably contributing to the tops getting brown faster, and also the high percentage of broiler heat.  I needed more heat from underneath and less heat swirling around the tops to get my crusts more done.   My choices were to try Bake, which is 90% bake (lower) element and 10% broil (top) with no fans, or Roast, also without fans, which offers 75% bake and 25% broil.  
I chose Roast at 500 degrees.  (Pizza stone on rack in bottom-most position, and preheated for an hour, as usual.)  Since I had already eliminated the fans, I wasn't sure I wanted to drop the broiler use too dramatically at the same time.

Results:  2 thumbs up.  The pizzas took a few minutes longer to bake...9 instead of 6.  But I can certainly live with that, if the crust is...well... crusty.  It was crispy and brown...YES.  Some didn't notice any difference in the crust as they wolfed down their multiple slices, and said it was as good as usual.  But Princess Artiste said it was different...With more to the flavor and she liked it better.  Hubby said it seemed chewier, and in a good way. 
Nice big air bubbles...Now if I could get my
Artisan breads to do that!
I didn't notice too much difference on the main part of the pizza, but the bare edges, which I often toss to the dogs, I kept for myself this time!  There the crust seemed lighter and, indeed, better and more interesting tasting somehow.  There were more air bubbles.  I thought I'd be glad to eat a whole portion of it on its own without the toppings.                                                                                                                                                          
Another great thing is that I could quickly stir up a new batch as soon as I removed this one from the bowl.  So I let it sit on the counter for a couple hours, then refrigerate and ignore it until next Friday when I set it out of the fridge 1-6 hours ahead, and at pizza time, it will be ready to shape.


  1. Yum! My stomach is grumbling looking at your pics and it's 8AM here. The pizza looks perfect. I haven't had a decent pizza since we went gluten-free. It looks like it's time for me to start monkeying around with pizza dough.

  2. I am not a huge bread eater, but life without pizza would be VERY difficult!


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