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mickyD 01-09-2012 01:33 AM

Crust Issues
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Hi all,

I have just made pizza using my very own sour dough starter that Iíve used for the first time. I used Splatgirls recipe and method to prep the dough balls. In a few words, absolutely amazing. Great flavour, tenderness and oven spring. The only problem I had was that the crust did not bounce back like Iím used too when I cut or bite into it. The crust looked a little under done in the middle and I suspect that is the problem but the rest of the pie looked ready and if had kept it in there for much longer it would have burned. The crust was not thick, I didn't think so anyway and was light and airy but not quite done.

My question is, do you have to adjust your cooking times or temps when using high hydration dough. I used a 70% hydration dough as apposed to a 65% dough that Iím used too. I used a 50/50 mix of bread flour and 00, donít know if that has anything to do with it.

Any comments would be appreciated.


texassourdough 01-09-2012 06:27 AM

Re: Crust Issues
Hi Micky!

The gray color of your crust (with darker caramelized spots) tells me you had very low residual sugar in your crust which means it was WAY overproofed. This tends to give a cardboardy texture and reduced oven spring. You say you followed splat's guidance don't really tell us what you did... and I must guess this dough was either well over one day of retard OR was out at room temp way too long after the one day retard.

You got reasonable oven spring. I am forced, however to question how thin the pie was. It looks more moderate than "thin". Nothing wrong with either IMO but the oven temp and baking times are different.

I agree with Doug that your oven looks a bit hot but without seeing the bottom I can't tell whether the hearth was hot enough or not. The side near the camera was obviously near the fire and makes it look like the hearth was hot but I kind of suspect it was a bit low (and why your pie was a bit short on doneness). You can definitely leave the pizza in longer - even 10 or 15 seconds can help a lot. Also a slightly hotter hearth relative to dome/flames.

Good Luck!

mickyD 01-09-2012 08:20 PM

Re: Crust Issues
Hi Guys,

Thanks for your input. You both raised valid points that I need to improve on. One was not my entirely fault though, (I only just found out). I think I do place the pizza too close to the flame and will have to force myself to avoid doing that. I have been doing that so I get a good char on my pizza but I know itís not necessary with a hot oven.

Jay, I am amazed that you can tell what is wrong with a pizza just buy looking at it, you truly are a legend. When I was showing my wife your responses she had admitted that she had unintentionally forgot to turn the fridge on. What happened is that I balled my dough and left it out for three hours before putting it in the spare fridge. The problem is I had to go to work and asked my wife to put it in the fridge at a certain time. She forgot. It was only after seven hours of proofing at room temp that she realised what she had done. She thought it wasnít an issue and has only told me now. Do you guys think that three hours of room temp proofing before retarding it is too much? I noticed that when I got home from work and looked at the dough it was full of bubbles on the sides and had more that doubled. I had suspected that it might have been overproofed but wasn't sure. I did have an issue working with such a wet dough in regards to getting a thin uniformed dough base. I just need more practice I guess.

I think another reason might have been after I took the dough out of the fridge to come to room temp I over estimated the time it took the oven to come to temp and the dough ended up out of the fridge for about an hour and a half before I used it.

As you said Doug, there is a lot more to it than just plonking a bit of dough in an oven and hoping for the best. So much too learn. Ah well, itís not all bad. More excuse to eat more pizza.:rolleyes:



texassourdough 01-10-2012 11:55 AM

Re: Crust Issues
Hi Mick!

The color of the crust of a cooked pie is a really good, easy indicator of the overproofing of the dough. You can't get that gray look and a speckled caramelization across the toppings if the dough has any significant sugar left! Overproofing is NOT IMO a big deal for pizza (and please share that with your wife - it is not like she broke your favorite fly rod/gizmo/etc.). It will still taste good and can have good cornicione, and is so better than those "other guys" that no one will care. But when you are trying to get it right and figure out what is "wrong" it should be mentioned when it is as far as you were for it has effects that need to be recognized.

The good news is it sounds like your overproofing was erroneous and when you follow the routine properly you will probably be pretty happy with the results. Try again, and if you still have questions/problems we can discuss them separately for that may clear up all your concerns.

I do suspect your hearth was a bit cool though. The easiest test - even better than a IR thermometer IMO - is to simply toss 1/8 tsp or so of semolina on the hearth and count (the ole one thousand one, one thousand two, etc.). It should sit on the hearth and then suddenly turn black. If that is more than about 4 to 5 seconds your hearth is on the cool side. Two or less and it is too hot. Three seconds is the target IMO. I have a slightly leaky hearth so I have to recharge about every hour and that is how I test! When it is too cool I simply rake some coals out over the hearth and let it sit for a few minutes. Reclean the hearth and give it a minute or two to equalize, check the temp and resume baking.

Good Luck!

mickyD 01-11-2012 01:17 AM

Re: Crust Issues

Thanks for the feedback. Just for the record, me and the wife have kissed and made up:).

Seriously, I am having a pizza party this weekend and will let you know how it went with the correct proofing times and oven temp. Iíll try and get some picís of the bottom of the pie as well, thatís if I donít get my hand bitten off. Iíll give the semolina test a go and at the same time take a reading from my IR thermometer to see what it reads, just out of curiosity .



texassourdough 01-11-2012 04:01 AM

Re: Crust Issues
Glad to know you are "back together"! Let us know how it turns out.

Look forward to hearing how it works this time!

mickyD 01-16-2012 01:45 AM

Re: Crust Issues
2 Attachment(s)
Well, had my pizza party over the weekend and everyone loved the pizza, every one except me. My problem is that I am a perfectionist. I think this time the dough was under proofed. The crust sprang in the oven but did not have that ďbounce backĒ in the crust after you cut or bite into it. Is that an issue caused by under proofing? There is also no sour taste to the dough at all. The mother starter is sour though when I taste it after it has peaked but has not come through into the pizza crust.

This is what I did:

I will use 1000 grams of flour to keep it simple.

1000grams of bread flour, (lighthouse brand)
650grams filtered water
150 grams sourdough starter
20grams sea salt

I used Jeff Varasano's method which included mixing 75% of the flour with all the water, starter until just combined and let it autolyse for 20 min. I then mix it in the kitchen aid on number 1 setting for 5 mins then increased the speed to 2 for another 3 mins gradually adding the remainder of the flour and salt until all combined and just forming a ball but still sticking to the bottom of the bowl.

I then let it rest for 20 mins, shaped it into a ball and divided it into dough balls where I put them into individual containers and left to proof for 4hrs at room temp. This time unlike the last time when the dough balls over proofed, I had trouble getting any movement in the dough balls. After 4 hours they had hardly rose but I had to go to work so I put them in the fridge. 24hrs later I took them out for 2hours with not much rising. Probably about 1/3. I think I have self identified a few problems.

1. I took the mother starter out of the fridge and only feed it once before using it. It doubled in size after 4 hrs and I thought it was good to go, but I could have been wrong.

2. My started is only three weeks old and may not be established enough to raise the dough on its own without a little help from our friend, ADY.

3. I am a total novice at using sour dough starter and am probably trying too much too soon. I think I will add a little ADY as well as my starter for the next batch so itís a little more predictable.

I have tried this method the first time I made pizza but with IDY and the crust was awesome with bounce back after I bit into it. That was with a ten minute room temp proof and then striaght in the firdge. Pulled out 2hrs before use.

Iíve attached two photoís. The pizza looks thicker than it actually is. It is thin on the bottom. My mate helped me put toppings on the pizza and has gone over the edges a little. During shaping, (which I need a lot more practice) the dough also felt dense, not light, soft and airy like Iím used too. BTW, hearth temp was 400C.



texassourdough 01-16-2012 04:17 AM

Re: Crust Issues
Sounds like your starter is still puny. Not surprising. Looks like you had good oven spring in the cornicione so you were on the way, but if it wasn't light and airy your starter probably needs more time/feeding/acivity for 4 hours plus 24 retard plus a couple of warmup should have you close to ready. You probably should have given more than two hours for final proof. You didn't say how much starter you used. You may have overexapanded (too much flour for the amount of starter) but I can't really say without more info.

I think your dough may be overworked a bit also. The autolyse should have had the gluten ready. You shouldn't have needed so much additional mixing IMO.

Still pretty good looking. Shaping takes time and experience!

Hang in there!

mickyD 01-16-2012 06:56 PM

Re: Crust Issues
Hi Jay,

Thanks for your reply. When you ask how mush starter I used, it was 150grams in total. I had 360grams of mother starter after it was fed and doubled at room temp once. I then removed 150grams and added it to the 1000grams which is 15% of starter. Is this not enough?


I think your dough may be overworked a bit also. The autolyse should have had the gluten ready. You shouldn't have needed so much additional mixing IMO.
Any suggestions on how I could improve on the needing side of things.



texassourdough 01-16-2012 07:47 PM

Re: Crust Issues
Expansion rates for feeding/expanding starter vary a bit with temp and hydration and ???. But your expansion is IMO low. Normal expansion rates for sourdough are 4 to 1 range - to 100 grams of starter, add 200 or flour and 200 of water. That should peak in about 8 to 13 hours at room temp (say 70 to 78 F). In winter when it is in the sixties I go to 3 to 1 (100 plus 150 plus 150). I could go 5 to 1 at 80 if I had a hot kitchen.

As I read your messages you took 150 grams of starter and barely doubled it to 360. that is not a very big feeding or expansion. Your starter is not likely to be robust after a low expansion feeding like that. (Likely problem No. 1 in why your dough was "slow". Then you expanded 210 grams of that probably slow starter into 1800 grams of dough. That is too aggressive an expansion IMO.

For bread I take 100 grams of starter and expand it to 500 of levain. (I feed the starter separately - I don't steal from the expansion). Then that 500 gets expanded to 2500. So I use about twice as much starter/levain in the final dough. That is for bread, and I don't retard so there are some things in favor potentially for the big expansion.

First, it is best to be certain the starter is robust. Feeding twice is not a bad idea. Once should be enough but... Feeding in the morning (say 8 am) then in the evening (say 8 pm) to make what you call your mother starter that you steal from would give you a more robust starter. Would be good to up the expansion too!

Then I would increase the levain to at least 300 grams in your final dough. Could be 400.

Also...note: some sourdoughs really don't like refrigerator retards! Mine does not so I never do it. It gets sleepy and is hell to wake back up. Fine for storage of levain but my retarded dough is usually very hard to get actively raising bread. It just sits like a cold lump forever!

WRT kneading... I would think mixing in the salt and hand kneading for two minutes or so after the autolyse ought to be enough. At most a couple of S&Fs half an hour later. Ball it, bag it with a little oil, and retard it. If it doesn't swell much in the fridge, take it out 3 hours before baking - maybe take one out 4 hours early so you can see what works best.

You probably need to experiment to find the right combo for your climate, yeast, etc.

Good Luck!

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