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Old 04-16-2011, 05:07 AM
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Default Heat saturation of the oven floor makes all the difference.

Hi all,
I just thought I'd share a learning experience on the chance anyone else might learn too. I don't know if this has been discussed but I haven't actually seen it anywhere. Which is not the same as it not being discussed, so please forgive me if it's already all over the place.
I have been having trouble getting my pizza dough to have a nice crisp to it. I don't mean the cracker like crust, just not the completely soft thing either. I knew I was not getting my oven's floor up to a good temperature even though the dome had cleared and I had fully saturated the oven.
What I had been doing was building the fire, getting the dome clear, letting the oven saturate, then raking the fire over to the side, sweeping down the floor and loading the oven with the pizza. But, as the crust was not ever done enough either on the bottom or the corniche, I knew I wasn't getting the floor hot enough. So I tried something new last night. Once the dome had cleared but the oven was not yet fully heat saturated, I raked out small coals and ash and pushed the flaming logs to the side and added more, smaller logs which more or less combusted immediately and gave me a nice high, dome-lapping flame. I used this time with the hearth cleared away and the flames branching the dome top and over to the opposite wall, as the saturation period, maintaining a very high flame the whole time, about 45 minutes or even an hour. And I think this was what made the difference. I had been loading the pizza into the oven too soon after moving the fire from the center over to the side, not really allowing the floor itself to recover from the insulating effect from the fire's bed and to become fully saturated. Well, I knew as soon as I started cutting the first pizza. A blind person could tell. You could hear it when my wife cut the pizza. I tapped the corniche with my finger at first and I could feel the nice, bread crustiness. It was one of those defining moments, one when I know I've turned a corner and made a difference.
This is like drugs. It's not enough that I ate pizza last night. I want to do this again soon just to verify. That and my breads which I have been flailing with regarding the slashing. I think I have that down too but I need one more bake to try. Soon... soon.

This is fun, isn't it?
Happy baking all
Kim
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Old 04-16-2011, 05:18 AM
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Default Re: Heat saturation of the oven floor makes all the difference.

Yep, those flames up the dome make all the difference. Even if your oven is overfired and too hot, the results are not nearly as good as a dome with a little ring of carbon around the bottom, and a brisk fire shooting flames up the side.
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Old 04-17-2011, 04:43 PM
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Default Re: Heat saturation of the oven floor makes all the difference.

I always like having a nice tall flame when cooking pizza. The flame is very important in crisping the crust.
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Old 04-17-2011, 05:59 PM
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Default Re: Heat saturation of the oven floor makes all the difference.

I'd always had the full blast flame lapping from the one side over to the other. But I had also always let the oven saturate while the fire was still in the middle, before pushing to the side, then I'd load up right away. The floor never got fully saturated. So while the tops were cooking just fine, the bottoms were not. The corniche would char but never really get that right bit of crisp. So all I did was to push the flame to the side once the dome cleared and then let the whole oven, floor included, to saturate before loading. But you're so right that that high traveling flame is key to good pizza. And the 90 seconds to two minutes to cook. Besides, who can argue with the sheer beauty of that flame? It can get mesmerizing just standing there watching.
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Old 04-18-2011, 09:21 AM
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Default Re: Heat saturation of the oven floor makes all the difference.

Hi Kim!

You were probably suffering a bit from ash insulation as well. As is a superb insulator and can easily impede heat loading of the hearth. It is good to clear the hearth and spread hot coals (with minimal ash) to charge the floor after the dome clears. Then build the cooking fire to the side when ready to cook.

Jay
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Old 04-18-2011, 01:09 PM
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Default Re: Heat saturation of the oven floor makes all the difference.

Hello, Jay,
Yep, that's what was happening all right. I could tell just by looking at the darker floor. It even looked cooler. I've thought about spreading some of the hot colas as you say, to charge the floor. Just haven't actually done it. Friday night's meal. That's the next fling.
Kim

Last edited by KEmerson; 04-18-2011 at 01:12 PM.
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Old 04-18-2011, 05:19 PM
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Default Re: Heat saturation of the oven floor makes all the difference.

Hi Kim!

Be sure to check the hearth temp before you put a pie in unless you have a bunch of extra dough. I routinely get my hearth well above cooking temp and have to wait for it to cool before I start baking pies. And...as you know, the longer a pie sits on a peel the more likely it is to become....immobile...so you don't want to make a pie and then realize it is too hot.

While I have an IR thermometer it is a lot simpler to just throw a teaspoon of semolina or flour on the hearth and count. Three seconds is about right for it to turn black. Longer than 4 it probably should be recharged and less than 2 and it is way hot. After you get the hearth right just brush the semolina into the fire and bake on!

Look forward to hearing how this works for you!

Good Luck!
Jay
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Old 04-18-2011, 06:51 PM
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Default Re: Heat saturation of the oven floor makes all the difference.

Good suggestion Jay. So far I haven't had to worry about the hearth being too hot. But I'd like to get there once or twice just to be able to compare the extremes: Too hot; too cool, and find for myself the perfect median. What temp on the IR is right, by your estimation? I'm going to do the flour toss any way. I'll get back on this sometime Friday or maybe Saturday.

I'm a skydiver and when we land we will often ask one another how the skydive went. One day when I started out 22 years ago and I asked, someone said to me, "Hey, even bad sex is sex." I got the point. So, in a sense, even bad pizza is pizza. (ok, to a point. If that were completely true none of us would be on the mission to perfect pizza that we are all apparently on.) But what I mean is that I have already experienced serving less than perfect pizza to friends who have been converted by my pizza, who have begun swearing off the local pizzerias as a result. Even when I feel disappointment, it's still better than the schmuck's down the street.
Thanks, Jay. I'll let you know how it goes.
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Old 04-18-2011, 07:15 PM
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Default Re: Heat saturation of the oven floor makes all the difference.

You will get there Kim, just keep making pizza. Build the biggest fire you can imagine and get that hearth at least 800 to 900F and go down from there. You will really see the difference at 900F. We're talking 90 sec pizza. Some people like to work at that range, not me. 750F is perfect for me and I can tell when it is there even without a thermometer. The semolina test is even better than a thermometer, after you are familiar with what the oven looks like at the various temps.
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Old 04-18-2011, 11:35 PM
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Default Re: Heat saturation of the oven floor makes all the difference.

Totally agree. Folk get obsessed with fancy temp measuring equip. You don't need it. I've been advocating the semolina method for years. It's also a good fancy trick to impress your guests. They actually think you know what you're talking about.
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