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Puy de Dome 06-05-2009 09:59 PM

How do I make a pizza base like the pros?
I'm struggling to make a decent pizza base, and I just don't know where I'm going wrong.

I'm using type 00 flour, some salt and ADY (or dry yeast as we in the uk call it).

I mix it up, do some kneading, let it rest to double in size... then comes the shaping.

But there is goes wrong, if it hadn't already! I just can't seem to get the dough to be 'extensible', compliant with my hands. It has area of very thin, and other areas of very thick. All the squidging in the world won't make it get any bigger than 6", and even hen it has holes and tears in it.

Forget getting the backs of my hands under the nice thin base and flipping it this way and that.

I think maybe I need a video of the WHOLE process, from getting the ingredients together to just before slopping the toppings on. Can anyone assist, please?

texassourdough 06-06-2009 08:27 AM

Re: How do I make a pizza base like the pros?
The easiest way I know of that seems to work for everyone is to take the ball (which can be pretty sticky!) and gently plop it into a fairly generous amound of loose flour. (I use a shallow oven tray slightly smaller than a half sheet -just 3/4 inch deep and 12x15 or so). The flour will keep the dough from sticking. Flip the ball over to coat the other side. Then use your finger tips to dimple and flatten the dough into a round. You can push as you dimple to stretch the dough into a bigger circle. When it is the size you want flop it onto a clear space to knock the excess flour off and then put it on your peel (on semolina or whatever).

This technique is used at lots of WFO restaurants because it is gentler on the dough, leaves more gas and bubbles in the dough, and gives a crust that is puffy and... The wet, thin dough is NOT happy with being stretched over your hands or hanging while being stretched. Can it be done? Sure, but this is much easier.

As you suggest, the normal stretching that works on drier doughs tends to give ultrathin crust and crazy pie shapes that simply can't be made circular...

Good Luck!

dmun 06-06-2009 08:39 AM

Re: How do I make a pizza base like the pros?
Texassourdough about covers it, one suggestion that i picked up from this video:
is when you're forming your round before stretching the skin push around the edges so there is a lump in the center, sort of a flying saucer shape, that way when you stretch it out, there is some material in the center where it tends to overstretch and develop holes.

A couple of other hints: Having the dough a little cooler than room temperature helps. So does a couple of days of cold fermentation, by helping develop gluten structure. This is particularly important if, like me, you hand kneed. Don't ever re-kneed before forming your dough, work with you dough ball just as it has proofed.

Not all 00 flours are alike. If you can't get caputo, try different brands. You may get different results.

BrianShaw 06-06-2009 09:16 AM

Re: How do I make a pizza base like the pros?
You just got some good advise from a couple of experts... but let me chime in with a suggestion and a couple of questions. It is possible that you aren't kneading enough the first time to build the gluten properly. How long do you knead and with what method? Also, how long are you resting after the shaping? I'd suspect that you might find more success if you both knead and rest more.

BrianShaw 06-06-2009 09:17 AM

Re: How do I make a pizza base like the pros?
Additional thought... practice makes perfect. Keep trying!

Puy de Dome 06-06-2009 10:05 AM

Re: How do I make a pizza base like the pros?
Texas and Dmun, thanks for the replies - I will try these things.

Brian, I have been kneading for what I think is a relatively short time. Perhaps too short? About five minutes. I thought the idea with kneading was to keep it to a minimum, so that's what I have tried to do.

When I make sourdough loaves, I knead the dough over a much longer time, like 6 hours, with long proofing times in between, hence each knead only 15 seconds or so. Perhaps I should adopt this method for the pizza?

Dmun - I think I must have mis-read some pizza instructions from some time ago, because I thought the idea was to turn the dough in the fingers, thinning from the middle out, but I can see why having a dome in the middle could work out. Like I say, I'll definitely try that.

Other thing, with 65% hydration, I found the dough to be anything but 'wet'. Should I try to increase the water content?

Thanks guys for your help.

dmun 06-06-2009 11:29 AM

Re: How do I make a pizza base like the pros?
I use 64 percent hydration, with caputo pizzaria flour, and the dough is sticky to the touch. My theory of hydration is that super hydrated doughs absorb the amount of bench flour they need to be workable, no matter how much you start at. Remember, we're talking about tiny differences: a 500 gram batch of flour takes 320 grams of water at 64%, 325 at 65 percent. Five grams of water is one teaspoon.

Do look at that video by Tom Lehmann that I linked to: He's as much a pizza authority as there is. When you're hand stretching a pizza skin, the dough tends to accumulate around the edges, hence the bit of extra dough in the center helping to keep a uniform thickness.

As far as kneeding, I'm a minimalist. I mix my dry ingredients with the measured amount of water, Jam them with a silicone spatula, turning just until the dry ingredients are absorbed into the dough ball, let the dough sit open in the bowl for 20 minutes, then kneed for just half a minute or so, until i don't feel any obvious lumps. I do a four hour or so bulk rise (i use minimal yeast, 1/2t, 2g idy per 500) at room temperature until doubled, divide into 4 203g dough balls, and into the fridge in plastic containers for 2-4 days. The time develops the gluten, a trick i learned from the famous no-kneed bread recipe. I turn out and shape the dough balls with minimal handling. I might get smoother dough with mechanical, or extended hand kneeding, but remember, it's an artisanal product: perfect roundness and perfect uniformity of thickness is for pizza hut.

texassourdough 06-06-2009 12:05 PM

Re: How do I make a pizza base like the pros?
Hi PdD!

A lot of good suggestions! dmun is right on - always start near the edge. I actually do most of my shaping in the pan and on the flour. It really doesn't pick up much flour - you can knock it of. But it makes handling so much easier!

The hand forming in the video is at about the 30 minute mark if you haven't watched it. I personally don't like to make it as uniformly thick as he does in the video. Mine is more dimpled with finger marks which gives it a little more puffiness. I would also comment it looks like his dough is pretty stiff (low BP) but it could just be it is cold. I usually work with warm, relatively wet dough (around BP 65) so I am used to handling relatively fragile dough. So I don't let it hang or stretch it much for if I do it will get too thin.

I am about ready to form balls for tonight! Got the oven loaded and ready to light!

Fire Up!

dmun 06-06-2009 02:36 PM

Re: How do I make a pizza base like the pros?

I would also comment it looks like his dough is pretty stiff
It IS stiff, he's working with standard New York style commercial pizzaria dough. The shaping lessons are useful to every discipline, though.

Puy de Dome 06-06-2009 11:03 PM

Re: How do I make a pizza base like the pros?
Well, I watched the video, and enjoyed it and found it useful - or at least I will try today to emulate some of the things I saw. I also thought that the dough was not exactly 'wet', but as Dmun says, this is down to the type of flour? I am now running low on the 'pizza flour' I have, and need to find a supplier here in the uk before long.

For now, I am practicing with bread flour, and I suspect that this is not being hydrated enough, so need to experiment with that somewhat.

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