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giambra 09-25-2009 11:55 AM

Problem with high hydration dough shaping
I finished up building the Casa 90 early this year (will post pics soon) been experimenting / learning for several months (when I get time). Having a problem with the dough shaping. I have searched a bit here, saw some references to shaping a wet dough for WFO vs a dry dough, but didn't seem to see a solution. I do pretty well at indoor / regular oven pizza (lower hydration), but seem to easily get weak spots in the dough for the WFO.

Here's what I'm doing:

- Using Caputo 00 flour, the recipe from the sticky page on this forum (500 grams 00 flour, 62 to 64% water / hydration, salt, instant yeast)
- After I make the dough divide into about 260 gram balls and store in refrigerator overnight (in very slightly oiled container)
- Take out about 2 hours before ready to cook

Problem I see:

When I shape the dough, I am putting down some flour on the table, pressing out the dough into a circle, and shape it out the best I can. I do not pick up the dough and stretch with fists (this seems to really stretch too quickly and add the weak spots). Even on the counter, I have had trouble getting a good, consistent thin shaping without introducing the thin / weak spots in the dough. When I put the sauce down and bake it, it often times burns through and I have a hole in the pizza, some sauce / cheese falls through and makes a bit of a mess. Compensated a bit by keeping the whole thing a bit thicker, but I believe its too thick and need to make it thinner and more consistent.

Any tips / tricks / things I'm doing wrong? Would the overnight fermentation be a source of any problems here (this is my habit from my pre-WFO days, but I'm not strictly following the recipe on the sticky page here). Any advice is much appreciated.
Raleigh, NC

texassourdough 09-25-2009 12:08 PM

Re: Problem with high hydration dough shaping
Hi Tim!

62-64% hyrdation 00 should not be very sticky - that is not particularly high or difficult. Are you mixing it thoroughly? Try folding it a few times before the rest before forming the balls. The balls should be very elastic and cooperative the next day. Your description makes me feel you may be undermixing (not enough gluten development).

Try using a lot of flour on the counter (I use a half sheet pan with flour at my WFO). The excess can easily be shaken off. Use your finger tips to dimple it and spread it and start on the outside - well flatten it first to about 1/2 inch and then spread the outside area first - leaving a small hump in the middle. If you don't leave the hump the center will get too thin as you spread the dough. I know professionals who do all their shaping on the bench. It is not mandatory to sling or toss the dough though many do and it does help get rid of excess flour.

Don't stress too much over how thin the dough is. Make a 9-10 inch pizza and you will be fine!

Good Luck!

giambra 09-25-2009 12:31 PM

Re: Problem with high hydration dough shaping
2 Attachment(s)
I have a Kitchenaid with the S-hook (much better than the C-hooks), I get a good 6-7 minutes of mixing it. It comes out pretty smooth, but I could try a few more minutes.

I did not do the folding, will try that. Also sounds like good advice on the shaping, will try, hopefully Sunday. Will let you know. Thanks,

Attached pictures of the oven/deck (before the built in benches) ... will post to the ovens pics section this weekend.

texassourdough 09-25-2009 12:42 PM

Re: Problem with high hydration dough shaping
Hi Tim!

Hmmm... Well mixing isn't it. Are you using a scale or are you using volumes?

Your flour may be wet. My local VPN pizzaria uses Caputo exclusively and gets enormous variation in water content - sometimes his scaled 55% dough behaves like 65. I have had some similar "wierdness". Superwet doughs are kind of a pain to deal with but make really great pizza.

I will almost promise if you try putting lots of flour in a sheet pan and form on the flour in the pan you will be able to get round pizzas that are (relatively) uniformly thick (or thin). And the crust should be puffy and wonderful!

Sounds like you are pretty much doing everything right. Hang in there, it will come around. And...if you feel your dough is too wet, make the next batch drier or vice versa. You will get there!

DrakeRemoray 09-25-2009 03:09 PM

Re: Problem with high hydration dough shaping
I love the green oven! Very original and great looking!

I am always suprised at how thin I can make the dough without it tearing. It sounds like you and I use a similar dough preparation (you don't mention a bulk fermentation and I don't use one).

Is the dough easy to handle other than the shaping? Ae you having problems with sticking?

You say you are getting sauce burning through, does that mean that you do not have a hole when it goes into the oven, but that one forms when you turn the dough?

Maybe you are turning the dough before it has had time to set up in the oven?

My only other thought is acutally over mixing...I use a spiral mixer (SP5) and start with cold ingredients (ice cold water) and work to a temp of (I think) 65 degrees (I am at work now, so I don't have my recipe). Then it goes straight into small lightly oiled containers in the fridge. It is not super smooth and window-pane like at that point, but the retardation takes care of that in my experience.

I do tend to pick it up and stretch it slightly and it gets very thin. Even the thinest spot poof nicely in the oven, and the only time I get holes is when it sticks to the peel on the way in the oven or sometimes if I put way too many ingredients on it.

Could you be over-topping? You should be able to see the dough through the sauce....

At least the practice is fun!


tgm 09-27-2009 07:30 AM

Re: Problem with high hydration dough shaping
I find all these discussions about hydration very interesting but for 5 years now we have been using the recipe as we were taught by Roberto and it has never failed us and our pizza crust ranks up there with the best we have ever tasted.

They say the proof is in the pudding, but here the proof is in the Caputo. Never used any other flour, never want to. We just use the recipe as taught by the master, 1L warm water, 1.78K flour, 3g fresh yeast and 1.5oz salt, that's it. It works perfect everytime with 8hr room temp rise being the best.

We have yet to veer from the recipe and have been rewarded with perfect pizza everytime. Rises perfectly, shapes perfectly and cooks to that absolute goodness in a very hot, 900F, oven.

Had I not learned what I know today from master Roberto, the discussions may lead me to not even try making my own pizza. It's not that difficult at all. It's all in the ingredients.

Now back to my dough for today,

Tom in PA

shuboyje 09-28-2009 08:18 AM

Re: Problem with high hydration dough shaping
So if my math is correct you are using about 56% hydration? What type of crust does it yield? I ask because I have found 60-65% to be a bit low for what I want and made mine 70% hydration this weekend with the best results yet. I am trying to get big airy bubbles in my crust, and although I didn't get the result I wanted at 70% I got by far the closest to it with many big bubbles.

tgm 09-28-2009 11:02 AM

Re: Problem with high hydration dough shaping
It yields the best crust I have ever had. If you want big airy bubbles, you got it, just don't put anything on that area and bubble it will. We just used the 4 dough balls leftover from yesterday for lunch today and the results after refrigeration overnight are almost the same.
Considering Roberto's pizza was just voted the best Neopolitan in NYC at his new Bleeker street establishment, Keste, I really don't think i should tinker with a successful recipe that garnishes this type of award.
Play all you want, I am sticking to what works for me.

Good Luck,

Tom in Pa

shuboyje 09-28-2009 12:02 PM

Re: Problem with high hydration dough shaping

Thanks for posting, I read a bit on Roberto and pulled up some pictures of his crust as Keste...looks good. I'm going to give it a shot next time I fire the oven. Do you work it in a mixer or by hand? How much?

splatgirl 09-28-2009 04:15 PM

Re: Problem with high hydration dough shaping
I do what texassourdough said with flour on a sheet pan. I use a 1/2 sheet pan with a 1-2c. pile of flour in one corner. I dip the entire ball in the flour before I start to shape and try and keep as little flour as possible on the rest of the pan. If I've gotten too much on or under the dough during shaping I pick it up and flop it around once or twice between my hands to shake off the excess before putting it onto my peel. The sheet pan itself makes for a nice, self-contained dough prep area and is easy clean up.
I think picking up the round and letting it stretch that way takes a lot of practice and very quick hands. Watch some of the youtube videos of the pizzaiolos doing it and you'll see what I mean.
Does your dough pass the windowpane test before you set it to ferment? Maybe try letting it knead for a few minutes longer and see what that gets you. With very wet doughs, it seems like it is almost impossible to over-develop the gluten especially with that long of a timeout between mixing and shaping.
Or maybe you're just trying to get it too thin/big! I like it fairly thin, and with a ~280g. ball I get about a 12" round. Anything bigger than that has a tendency to go wrong once it gets ingredients on top of it.

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