Maybe Pizza?
Gus's experiments in making pizza with very hot ovens.
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December 29, 2012

I've never really sat down and committed to paper to a way to make dough. This is partially because I'm always changing it up quite a bit, and also because I'm kind of lazy. Lately I've been sticking to the same flour and process and I seem to be overcoming my laziness today, so now is as good a time as ever.

It should be no surprise that the flour I've settled on is Caputo Pizzeria Flour. You can order it online, find it in some grocery stores, and sometimes even in neapolitan pizza restraunts. Big John's PFI in Seattle has it in bulk for a buck a pound, and also in 55lb bags.

When measuring ingredients, I do things a little backwards- I always start with water and base the amount of flour to put in off that. I generally use about 110g of water per pizza, which is about a half a cup.

To start off I put a mixer bowl on top of my digital scale, reset it to zero, and put in 1.5 cups of water which usually comes out to around 330 grams. I then multiply that number by 2.55 and in this case I'll get 841.5. I always round down to the nearest ten so in this case it'll be 840. 840 grams is now the target weight of our all ingredients together, including the water that's already in the bowl.

Next, I'll add 1/4 teaspoon of instant dry yeast (IDY) for each half cup of water. So in this case It'll be 3/4 teaspoon, maybe a little less just depending on the weather or solar flares. Add the yeast and use a whisk to mix things up.

Now I'll put in a little bit of flour (1/8 cup maybe?), and whisk things up again. This is so it's not a pure water + yeast only mix for the next step- which is salt. I'll add 1% of the target weight in salt, which in this case will be 8 grams. Whisk that guy up as well. And I'll probably whisk in a little bit more flour until it starts to stick to the whisk. Once the flour starts to clump on the whisk, it can be a pain to clean. (I'm lazy- remember?)

And finally I'll pour in the rest of the flour until the digital scale reaches 840 grams.

I'll then attach the bowl to the mixer (which is a KitchenAid in my case), attach a dough hook, and let it mix till there's an even texture along all sides of the dough ball. If there's any of the mix sticking to the sides, I make sure it's incorporated into the larger ball.

Then after that is done I put a cover on the bowl and stash it away somewhere overnight. Generally I'll let the dough raise in a 60-70 degree temperature range. I make sure to let it raise at least 12 hours if not a full 24. Letting all the dough to be used raise together like this is called "bulk raising". This is one of the big secrets in making good dough. So don't tell anyone.

The next day, about 4-6 hours before I'm going bake the pizzas I'll split the big dough ball up into even parts (3 in this case), knead it a bit, and spray a little bit of trader joe's olive oil spray into the bottom of some translucent cambro buckets and plop the final dough balls in there. I'll put the lid on, and then in 4ish hours time, we're ready to ready to go. You can also keep the dough in the buckets for another 24-36 hours if you have a quick change of plans. If you're going to go longer than that, I'd put the dough in the fridge and maybe even re-knead it again before using it (again, 4-6 hours ahead of bake time).

This is of course only one way to make dough. There's no perfect way, and when you make pizza long enough you'll eventually find a different process that works even better for you. I'm willing to bet within a year I'll be doing things slightly differently.

Some notes:

  • I don't use oil in my dough anymore. It's unnecessary for neo dough and just complicates things. The same with sugar. OK- occasionally I'll add a little bit of sugar, but only because it's the way I've done it for years and habits are hard to break.
  • You can get away with a shorter raise time if you keep your dough in a warm area. I'll sometimes put a seedling heat mat under my dough buckets to help it out. You can also add a bit more yeast to help out. But nothing beats a longer bulk raise, so try and plan ahead.
  • Different flours will require different amounts of water. If you mix in whole wheat, you might want a little bit more. You might have to come up with a different multiplier than what I did. Just always err on the side of adding too little flour. It's easier to add more later on if needed.
  • Where the heck did I get 2.55 as the multiplier for the water to flour ratio? Lots and lots of experimentation. I used to just go by texture as the dough was mixed, but this was taking up too much time so I started measuring exactly how much flour and water I was putting in, and tada- the ideal number ended up being 2.55.