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dmun 09-19-2007 06:13 AM

First Pizza
So, after a series of curing fires, I got my oven up to raging heat yesterday evening. I started the fire around 2:00 for a 6:00 cook. At the same time I made a batch of caputo based dough, using the measured recipe.

4 cups caputo
1 1/2 + water
2t salt
2t ady

I had set out in search of good yeast at lunchtime, the idy we hear so much about. I first went to Trader Joes ("Yeast is a seasonal item" sniffed the sales clerk "come back in late October") but still spent 20 bucks for stuff I didn't need.
My local classy grocery store (Kings) had packets labeled "Oetker Yeast Levure" which on the back said no need to disolve yeast, just add to the dry ingredients. That sounded like the stuff.

I stirred it together, let it set 10 minutes, kneaded it briefly, and put it back in the bowl, with a piece of cling wrap on top to avoid that nasty crusty skin. I put it in a warm place, and went back to shoving logs in the oven with wild abandon.

At five o'clock I divided the dough ball into quarters (It had risen a LOT and had a pronounced alcohol smell, like the co-worker no one wants to work with on Monday morning) I formed nice balls and left them on the counter for an hour or so. Come six, I pushed the fire, which at this point was mostly coals and a couple of half burned logs, over to the right side, and concerned about getting the pizza on the floor while it was still hot, rushed back into the kitchen. On my new wood peel, i stretched out one of the dough balls. Boy is this stuff extensible. It was as thin as a condom in the center before I got it stretched out at the edge. I splotched some crushed tomato, and put some slices of mozz and peperoni on, and after some aggressive shaking, got the pizza onto the oven floor. It immediately started puffing up on the edges, and soon after starts bubbling like a volcano in the center. I try to do the rotate with the turning peel thing, but it's sort of like trying to rotate a puddle. So I'm sitting there trying to rotate this thing, waiting for it to turn brown around the edge, and it doesn't occur to me to lift the edge and look underneath.

Here's the white on top - black on the bottom result. I guess I didn't have to worry so much about how hot the oven floor was. Not all was a disaster, the edge had really good puffiness:

And the overall look was pretty good:

Slices from my first two pizzas.

maver 09-19-2007 06:21 AM

Re: First Pizza
Wow, you've started already. Nice spring. How was the balance of crisp/foldability in the crust? I'm interested to see you pizza building progress in relation to your oven build - no pressure.


dmun 09-19-2007 06:27 AM

Re: First Pizza
My third attempt was the most successful, I had cut down the toppings to four slices of mozz, eight little hormel pepperoni rounds and just a splash of tomato. I had remembered the trick of dumping the tomato into a strainer to de-water it. I watched it in the oven like a hawk, and when it started to get brown i used the turning peel to "sky" it and get some browning on the top edge. This worked OK, but of course it stuck to the peel.

The curious shape is due to the fact that I poked a hole in the skin stretching it out, and had to fold it over to repair it. Note the browning around the edge.

A bottom view, including a part of the broken-through place.

So, a request for comments. I am serving pizza to five or six people on Sunday. I need to know how how to stretch out a skin so it has some dough in the center.

The taste of the pizza was, i suspect, mostly burnt bench flour. Where do I get this rice flour I hear so much about? Is it a Chinese grocery item?

Should I be making my dough days in advance and cold retarding it? How much less yeast should I use if I do that? Is the cold retard only for the second rise?

Thanks for your help.

dmun 09-19-2007 06:33 AM

Re: First Pizza

Originally Posted by maver (Post 15463)
Wow, you've started already. Nice spring. How was the balance of crisp/foldability in the crust?

I wasn't wild about the texture, it was sort of limp and tough. I don't have a thermometer gun yet, but I suspect I'm running about fifty degrees too hot for my skill level.

barbarian 09-19-2007 08:10 AM

Re: First Pizza

Originally Posted by dmun (Post 15465)
I wasn't wild about the texture, it was sort of limp and tough. I don't have a thermometer gun yet, but I suspect I'm running about fifty degrees too hot for my skill level.

I guess the oven hearth is too hot, it should cook mostly from the top..
bread bakers use a spray bottle with water to spray the dome and floor.. experiment with that
put the pizza edge closer to the coal/fire and turn every 30. sec or until it's puffing and slightly burned on the edge(that's the best part)
also sound like maybe you used too much yeast, the slower it raises the better, use sea salt if you can
do it one day ahead and set in the fridge take it out only 2-3 hours prior to baking or less if you live in a warm place.
You should stretch the dough from the center out it is not as easy as people think.. practice:D

CanuckJim 09-19-2007 10:06 AM

Re: First Pizza

You should be able to find brown rice flour at health food stores, organic markets, dedicated flour suppliers, etc. It shouldn't be that hard to find.

The cold retardation is only done after the bulk fermentation and shaping of the dough balls.


DrakeRemoray 09-19-2007 02:10 PM

Re: First Pizza
Congrats Dmun,

I found rice flour at our local King Soopers, it was in the health food section. Look for the Bob's Red Mill packages. I use regular flour for pizza though. I have been using the rice flour for breads.

And not to contradict Jim (can you tell I am about to :)), but the Peter Reinhardt recipe for Pizza in the bread bakers apprentice calls for using cold water and only a small amount of yeast, mixing/kneading the dough and immediately shaping and retarding. This is a very low maintenance way of doing it, since I can create a big batch of dough and get it into the fridge shaped right away. For example, I can get home from work on Friday night and make dough, shape it, get it into the fridge and still make my poker game at 7 PM...Then Saturday around 1.5 hours before I am ready to cook, I take the pizza balls out of the fridge and let them rise. Also, I found the SAF instant yeast both at williams sonoma and mail order from King Arthur flour. Much much cheaper (well, same price bigger box) from KA.


CanuckJim 09-19-2007 02:38 PM

Re: First Pizza

No contradiction taken. Reinhart's recipe is a special case. I make his Ancienne baguette every week. I was really referring to a more conventional formula, such as the one recommended by FB for Caputo. There are many, many ways to do this, but both the FB and the Reinhart formulas are about the best out there.


maver 09-19-2007 07:52 PM

Re: First Pizza
I've been using wild yeast for a while, but I think this advice is still valid. The biggest AHA! moment for me with pizza (and my current bread dough) was to really let it get busy with the bulk fermentation - give it time to really double. I think I was afraid to let it over rise - but in the bulk fermentation I have never seen that with either wild or commercial yeast. Once it has risen, you can shape dough balls and retard in the fridge. When you shape dough balls, do it like Jim in the boule video - develop surface tension and turn it in on itself enough to align the gluten. Then let it retard at least 24 hours, 2-3 days may be better. From there, you can take it directly from the fridge to shape it. As far as shaping, look on youtube for the pazza pizzaiolo video - that flipping technique works great - avoids thin spots. I use regular flour and it does fine.

I'm not sure whether the uneven browning is due to an overhot floor or an underheated oven. Because you are finishing curing I would suspect underhot oven (oven has not fully moderated). Are you seeing the carbon burn off fully from the dome? My usual problem is an overhot floor - after the roaring fire I have to let it die down about 15 minutes to even the temperatures. During that moderation time the coals are on the side - the pizza area is exposed.

Keep having fun.

edschmidt 09-19-2007 08:53 PM

Re: First Pizza
Insted of spraying the hearth with water (which probably will evaporate before touching) I just mop the hearth a few times with a mop. Are you using cornmeal? When I was using cornmeal i got bad burns from all of the sugar content. Also try first putting the pizzas close to the door until the crust sets up enough to get the peel underneath (you will see the spilled flour on the bricks begin to brown) then when you rotate you can get the pizzas quite a bit closer to the coals. 1 last thing about pizza/ peel disasters, Ive found that if I rotate my peel (side to side motion of the handle) it loosens the pizza without tossing the toppings everywhere which is one of the main causes of the crust sticking.
P.S. I love reinharts pizza recipie and use it for breadsticks, bread, and sometimes crackers if I have any left over.
Using these techniques I have made 25 pizzas in 1.5 hrs with no problems.
Hope this helps.

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