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james 10-07-2005 02:43 PM

Dough Prep Lesson
Paul and Marcel,

Hope you don't mind, I'm moving the dough conversation over to this forum. Paul, it's great having a pro in the forum.

I got a lesson the other day from Peter deJong, who is setting up the Forno Bravo cooking school and installing ovens around the wine country. He used to co-own the Village Bakery in Sonoma county, a nice boutique bakery, along with a handful of restaurants and even a pastry shop in NY. Apparently making a wedding cake and building a pizza oven are pretty similar. :-) Luckily, the pizza oven lasts a lot longer.

He took a look at my typical dough the other day (I was making a ciabatta), and had a lot to offer to my untrained technique:

1. My dough was way too dry. The flour wasn't hydrated enough for the gluton to develop and the dough get really stretchy. He added water -- a lot more than I would I have done, then re-mixed. He ran the mixer slow for 2 minutes, then fast for 5, then slow for 2. The final product was softer and stretchier, and moist to the touch. You couldn't handle it without flour on your hands -- it was a lot nicer than what I had going.

His view is that the dough should be worked for about 8-9 minutes. Slow, then fast, then slow.

2. After the bulk vermenation, he took the dough ball out and pushed out all of the air bubbles. I usually just punch the cap down, but don't do much at this point. This is more important than I had thought.

3. Then, he folded the dough into thirds, and shaped a ball to let it rest.

4. I said "plastic wrap?" and he said no -- there are living creatures in there whom we want to keep working. I used a damp towel.

Finally, he shaped the loaf and I left it to rest and cooked the bread on a pizza stone for dinner.

Nothing like have a pro in the house.

Still, I think what I learned can be generalized for us home bakers and for pizza dough balls.


paulages 10-07-2005 02:55 PM

sounds like a good lesson james. yes, i agree with the plastic wrap, to the extent that you don't want to somother your doughballs. however, fermentation is an anaerobic process (requires no oxygen), and will work just fine even if you completely wrapped it tight. you would, however, blow out your plastic wrap!

the amount of water and mixing time are two things you are really lucky to have someone show you. neither can really be explained without seeing it done right, and both require learning how to "eye" it right through practice. if you overmix, you get too tough a dough, but if you undermix, it doesn't work the gluten enough. very true about the amount of water as well, though a looser dough makes for tricky handling. you can't allow it to proof quite as long or it becomes to loose and falls apart easily. these are things an experienced baker ends up just knowing by the look and feel of it, but it takes a while to get there.

james 10-07-2005 03:06 PM

Good point on the moister dough and handling.

It can get tricky when the kids are making pizzas -- they really can't make the moist dough work. Two batches on the "make your own" pizza night?

I guess the moisture content question is why they call out hydration on the VPN dough spec. Is it true that Italian pizza flour can take on more moisture than American bread flour?


paulages 10-07-2005 03:19 PM

making doughballs
this post is for those who aren't fortunate enough to have a professional show them the ropes.

forming the doughballs:

all of this should be done with as little flour as possible, without the dough sticking all over your hands. take the piece of dough in your hands, and repeatedly fold the outside edges forward (away from you) and in on itself, using your palms to stretch (the side towards you) outward, and your fingers to push the outside edge in .it's kinda like you are repeatedly trying to turn it inside-out (you are really), rotating all the while, so that you do so evenly. you don't want to overdo this motion, or the dough starts getting rough and you won't have a nice smooth top (this is actually not a problem at all with the italian pizza flour, as it is so beautifully smooth). i usually just fold it over 3 or 4 times. after all of the bubbles are thoroughly crushed and the ball feels tough, you pinch the open end together, closing it off. one method of doing this is to use the pinky end of your hand and pinch the end between your palm and pinky as if you are making a fist. this end goes down, and your fresh round side goes up.

the trick to a perfectly balanced ball is to completely close it off so that the ball grows as one without a pocket inside, and without opening up on the bottom. one way to do this (this is hard to explain without showing) is to put the doughball pinched-end down on the worktable. cupping the doughball between both hands, you push downward with your cupped hands, and with the outside heel of your hands work the ball in a circle on the table. your hands are moving in a counter-clockwise motion, but the motion is turning the ball clockwise. do this with no flour or oil on the table, and this will completely seal off the bottom and ensure that the ball is tight.

really, having a perfectly round doughball only matters if you want a perfectly round pizza, but it is very hard to toss a doughball out if it is inbalanced, and this method provides a perfectly symmetrical ball.

i'll edit in some photos next time i make pizza.

james 10-07-2005 03:22 PM

I think there is a dough preparation DVD in our future.

Paul, will you post photos?


paulages 10-07-2005 03:29 PM

certainly, but my oven is in mid vent-construction, so no pizzas for a bit...

arevalo53anos 10-10-2005 06:41 AM

5 Attachment(s)
Pizza, pizza

paulages 11-02-2005 04:59 PM

doughball prep photos
here's a picture of my dough mixing, showing about how much sticks on the bottom of the bowl. this is towards the end of it's mixing cycle.

paulages 11-02-2005 05:08 PM

here are some step-by-step photos of how i form my doughballs:

holding piece of dough in hands,

stretch the outward (as if turning a sock inside out), and pinch the front edges together. rotate, and repeat procedure, until all airbubbles from previous fermentation are crushed, and the dough is smooth and tight.

paulages 11-02-2005 05:19 PM

if you have pressed the ball together well, the next step isn't absolutely neccesary, but it does help close the ball off well, and gives you one more chance to push any airbubbles out.

putting the doughball pinched end down on a non-floured, non-oiled surface, the doughball is worked in a circle with the outside heels of both hands cupped around it, always keeping the same end down. this sticks the pinched end together, so that it won't open back up if it was too dry when balling it.

(the motion of my hands in the photos is counter-clockwise, turning the doughball clockwise)

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