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Pizza Napoli

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TasunkaWitko View Drop Down
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    Posted: 03 February 2010 at 17:18
i thought i would give this a try, using a recipe from the italian volume of the series: time life - foods of the world, 1968.

here's the recipe for the dough:

Quote For 4 individual pizzas:

2 packages of dry yeast
pinch of sugar (i used a dollop of honey)
1.25 cups lukewarm water (warm, flat beer works well, too)
3.5 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp. salt
1/4 cup olive oil

sprinkle the yeast and sugar into 1/4 cup of lukewarm water. be sure that the water is lukewarm (110-115 degrees, neither hot nor cool to the touch). let it stand for 2-3 minutes, then stir the yeast and sugar into the water until completely dissolved.

set the cup in a warm, draft-free place (a turned-off oven would be best) for 3-5 minutes, or until the yeast is almost double in volume. if the yeast does not bubble, start over again with fresh yeast.

into a large bowl, sift the all-purpose flour and salt. make a well in the center of the flour and pour in the yeast mixture, 1 cup of lukewarm water and 1/4 cup olive oil. mix the dough with a fork or with your fingers. when you can gather it into a rough ball, place the dough on a floured board and knead it for 15 minutes, or until smooth, shiny and elastic. dust the dough lightly with flour (we sprayed it with olive oil), put in a large clean bowl and cover. set the bowl in a warm, draft-free spot for 1&1/2 hours, or until the dough has doubled in bulk.


here's a shot of everything we used for the dough, toppings etc. (not all of it is from the book or necessary) -



not pictured: grated parmesan cheese and oregano.

the time-life foods of the world series is outstanding, giving the history of cooking in a country or region accompanied by stunning photography from around the countrysides and towns - as well as many, many detailed traditional recipes:



pizza as we know it originated in the area around naples, italy, and this book gives a great traditional recipe.



the book also includes a recipe for making your own traditional Salsa Pizzaiola (below); but for this time, i used a store bought pizza sauce because i wanted to concentrate on the dough, since i really hadn't found a good homemade dough yet that works well. i am happy to report that after this experience, my search was over!

i put the dough together as per the recipe, with the only substitution being honey rather than sugar. i would have also used warm beer instead of water, but there was none in the house at the moment.

here is the dough after mixing and kneading by hand (that was an interesting experience!). i then set it into the oven (off, of course) with the light on for rising, about 1.5 hours.



i then punched down the dough, re-shaped it and put it back into the covered bowl. after that, it was into the turned-off oven for about an hour and a half; when that time is up, i will shape it into four individual pizzas and bake. i will be doing this on a pizza stone in a fairly traditional method.

---------------------LATER-------------------------

alright, here's how the dough looked after an hour and a half:



as good as it looked, it smelled even better!

i (very) lightly coated the pizza stone with extra virgin olive oil, then put it in the oven at 450 degrees in order to pre-heat. i then divided the dough into four equally-sized balls to make four pizzas.

here's how it went with preparation.

on a wooden pizza peel, we spread out a little corn meal to create a dry surface that the pizza can "slide" on. we then took one of the four balls and stretched, tossed and pressed it into a rough circle of desired thickness, then spread on the deisred amount of pizza sauce - a quarter-cup of sauce is a good place to start for an individual pizza; this is slightly more than needed, but i really like a saucy pizza:



we then topped the sauce with a little oregano and grated parmesan cheese:



at this point, a person could top with a little mozzarella and drizzle on some olive oil, bake it and have a traditional neapolitan pizza, but we like to have some toppings, so here's how it went:



a little mozzarella, pepperoni, mushrooms, sliced green olives, sliced deli ham (parma ham or proscuitto would have been preferred, but let's get real) and anchovy -

anchovies! Shocked

don't knock it 'til you try it; the biggest mistake people make when they try anchovies is too much at once, causing an anchovy overload - and then they are surprised when it tastes too strong and, frankly, awful. one-and-a-half to two fillets chopped into small pieces is plenty to add a great, savory flavor for an anchovy beginner!

i then topped the pizza with just a little more mozzarella and a sprinkle of parmesan, and then drizzled about a tablespoon of olive oil on top. after that, it was into the oven on the pizza stone.

here's mine before the oven:



after about 8, maybe 9 minutes at 500 degrees, the crust and cheese were golden brown and nearly perfect:



as you can see, i probably could have gone another half-minute, maybe even a minute. also, i think i would have had a little more success if i would have baked it at around 450 instead, considering the amount of toppings that I had. the reason for this is that the crust could have baked and finished right in time with the extra moisture cooking off. as it was, the very center of the pizza was just a little wet from sauce, toppings etc., even though the crust was done all the way through.

the flavor was dang-near perfect - the crust was flavorful and...crusty. the inside of the crust was spongy-chewie and easily the best i've yet made. i've always had a problem with crusts and would end up with puffy, crumbly crust or flat, rock-like crust. not so this time.

the only change i would make is to next time use warm, flat beer rather than water. i wouldn't change anything else for the basic method.

those are the basics! give them a try, and also read down this page for tips, ideas and suggestions for making an even better pizza dough, using this recipe as a foundation.

ron
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Hoser Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 08 December 2010 at 03:33
Ron...I don't know how I missed this thread way back when you posted it....but those are magnificent pies! I'd be all over that one with the pepperoni and anchovies....I LOVE anchovies!
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Guests Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 08 December 2010 at 10:44
OKay, as I sit here staring at that Italian loveliness I am making a commitment to try my hand at this between now and the weekend. I will take all your suggestions, Ron, and use room temp, flat beer for the proofing of the yeast, and will use honey as well. Will definitely make an all veggie one (Me and my wife's favourite) plus maybe a traditional plain neapolitan or anchovy, since I love those little fishes! Thanks to you I've got the FOTW Italy book, and will be poring over it again. If mine look half as good as yours did, I will consider it a success Thumbs Up
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote TasunkaWitko Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 08 December 2010 at 11:12
i appreciate the kind words, john - and i know you will do well with your attempt!

this technique worked really well for me, and i am sure you will enjoy it. the fotw-italy book is a very good source for producing a very good neopolitan pizza. the warm flat beer rather than water and the honey as a catalyst for the yeast may or may not actually improve it, but i like to think that they do add character, and the result certainly seems more "rustic" when i make it that way.

a few notes that might help in making a better pizza:

if you want to use beer in place of water for the dough, i am sure any beer would work, but in my experiences, two that seem really suited for pizza for some reason are pabst blue ribbon or an imported beer from italy called peroni. just pour the required amount in a measuring cup and give it time to get warm and go flat, and substitute it for water. i don't know if realistically the beere adds anything or not, but it seems the way an old chicago, milwaukee or st. louis pizzeria would do it.

I prefer to use honey in place of sugar when making the dough. It probably doesn't make much difference, but it seems to me that it imparts a more rustic quality.

the recipe calls for all-purpose flour, and this will work just fine, but I currently prefer the results i get from using a mix of all-purpose flour and half bread flour, maybe 50/50? i also sometimes like to add flavoring to the dough such as italian herbs (dried), garlic and/or onion powder and parmesan cheese - some red pepper flakes are also very good in the dough.

the recipe, as written in the book, has an amount of olive oil (1 & 1/4 cups) that is the TOTAL amount for the whole experience, meaning that the total amount is divided between the dough and the drizzling on the resulting four pizzas. for the dough itself, only use 1/4 cup of olive oil, and reserve the rest. i mis-read the recipe the first time, and added way too much olive oil to the dough. it still made good pizza dough, but it required a lot of damage control. the extra four quarter-cups of olive oil mentioned in the book recipe are to drizzle on each pizza before going into the oven.

the book calls for rolling out the dough, but i prefer to stretch and even toss it a little by hand. i like the texture of the final product better when it is done this way. either rolling or stretching will work well as long as you leave a "ring" of bare dough around the edge when applying the sauce/toppings. regarding the hand-toss/stretch, julia child of all people has an excellent video out on the web about this. in the one episode of her show that i have seen, she is making pizza margherita with a guy and he gives a good demonstration, which is more about stretching and rotating over the fist than it is about tossing, of course! click here to see the video.

i believe you already know this, but coarse corn meal or sea salt is a must for the pizza peel, or the pie will stick to it when you try to slide it into the oven. check the "sliding" properties of the pizza often as you assemble the pizza by "shaking" it back and forth (side-to-side) a little, and be sure that the pie can slide well. you don't want too much, of course, but enough so that you will not stick when you slide it onto the stone.  using a little coarse sea salt along with the corn meal does add, to me, a dimension of flavour and possibly authenticity. pizza most likely evolved form focaccia and many focaccia recipes i see call for throwing down a little coarse sea salt. flavour is added and you eliminate the flavourless, grainy, crunchy (and, in my opinion slightly-less-authentic) aspect that the cornmeal brings to the party. it is possible to over-do the salt, but used carefully it can make a good pizza great, i think. 

i know that it is counter-intuitive, but to me it seems that canned mushrooms work better than fresh mushrooms. if you use canned anything (olives etc), be sure to drain it well and squeeze out excess moisture as much as possible. anchovies can be used whole, but i prefer them cut into bits and distributed across the top of the pie (but the picture won't be quite as nice!). the best hams i have found for this, other than the "real" thing which can be hard to get in rural america, are the thinly-shaved packages of deli hams, cut or torn into strips.  slices of canadian bacon-style ham are also an option, of course. if you have a way to use actual parma-style ham or prosciutto, you're in for a treat!

pre-heat the stone to as hot a temperature as you dare. wood-fired pizza ovens work at around 700-800 degrees, but i have only dared to go 425 or 450, except for the first time. experimentations at higher temps might be worth looking into. i have read that people get very good results if a second stone is placed on a rack above the one you are cooking on, which comes close to simulating the wood-fired oven experience, but still lacks the high wood-burning heat and the reflective properties of a curved dome ceiling.

if you have any leftover dough, put it in a ziplock bag, squeeze out all the air and freeze it - use it next time as a sort of pre-ferment, adding it to a regular batch of dough after thawing and sitting overnight in the fridge. I'm not sure if it does a great deal to improve the flavor, because the potential benefits are cut by the "new" dough that is made, but it can't hurt, and you will always have some "extra" for next time if you do this.

anyway, those notes should hopefully prove helpful. i will post more if i think of any, so keep reading down the thread ~ and if you have any questions, please ask and we will see if we can figure out an answer.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote TasunkaWitko Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 02 January 2011 at 20:04
ok, i needed to get this down "on record" so that i don't forget amounts etc.....

we had a small, impromptu pizza party here tonight and i made a double batch of dough, using beer rather than water and honey rather than sugar. the important thing here was the ratios of the flour check this out:

in the past,  i have used 100% bread flour and i have also used 100% all-purpose flour. i have also used a 50/50 mix of flours. all of these combinations have been good, but not quite perfect, in my mind. tonight, i think i might have found the "ideal" ratio that i will probably be using from now on, if it proves to be the way to go.

what i did was take the total amount of flour needed for a double batch (7 cups) and used 3 cups AP flour and 4 cups bread flour (both unbleached).

for whatever reason, this appears to have produced exactly the ratio that i have been looking for and afforded a crusty, almost crisp outside with a soft, wonderful inside that was pull-apart feathery. the finished pizza crust gave a crisp little crunch when i bit into it, but was at the same time so tender that the crust (cooked about 9-10 minutes at 450 degrees on a pizza stone) folded easily. the crust was stretched and pulled out, rather than rolled. I am currently thinking that if you want a really nice neapolitan pizza experience, you can get close if you try your crust as described here.

also, for some variety, i added (to the dough) a mixture consisting of a couple of tablespoons of mixed italian herbs (oregano, basil, parsley, thyme and marjoram) and about a tablespoon each of garlic and onion powder. finally, i added about a quarter cup of parmesan/romano/asiago grated cheese (the kraft stuff in the canister). this was a very good addition, where flavor is concerned. I would have added a tablespoon of red pepper flakes as well, but the beautiful mrs. tas does not do well with those.

finally, i should mention that this pizza was particulary enjoyable paired with a 2008 piccini tuscany chianti. the chianti was one of the best i've tried, and had a modest price; it was perfect for the bold flavours that we had going on with the herbs, sauce, meats (including pepperoni, proscuitto, italian sausage and anchovies) and the blend of cheeses including mozzarella, provolone, asiago, parmesan and romano. for the heck of it, we made an interesting and refreshing beverage by combining the chianti in a 50/50 mix with diet 7-up - a perfect match that was crisp and refreshing without being too sweet!
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote TasunkaWitko Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 08 December 2011 at 12:16
I don't know how I managed to neglect the recipe for the Salsa Pizzaiola, but here it is; it appears to be a really nice and reasonably authentic Neapolitan sauce for this recipe:

From Time/Life's Foods of the world - The Cooking of Italy, 1968:

Quote Salsa Pizzaiola

To make about 3 cups:

3 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup finely-chopped onions
1 tablespoons finely-chopped garlic
4 cups italian plum or whole-pack tomatoes, coarsley-chopped but not drained
1 6-ounce can tomato paste
1 tablespoon dried oregano, crumbled
1 tablespoon finely-cut fresh basil, or 1 teaspoon dried basil, crumbled
1 bay leaf
2 teaspoon sugar 
1.5 teaspoons salt
Freshly-ground black pepper

In a 3- to 4-quart enamled or stainless-steel pan, heat the 3 tablespoons of olive oil and cook the finely-chopped onions in it over moderate heat, stirring requently, for 7 to 8 minutes. When the onions are soft and transparent, but are not brown, add the tablespoon of finely-chopped garlic and cook for another 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Then stir in the coarsly-chopped tomatoes and their liquid, the tomato paste, oregano, basil, bay leaf, sugar and salt and a few grindings of black pepper. Bring the sauce to a boil, turn the heat very low and simmer uncoverd, stirring occasionally, for about 1 hour.

When finished, the sauce should be thick and fairly smooth. Remove the bay leaf. taste and season the sauce with salt and freshly-ground black pepper. If you wish a smoother texture, puree the sauce through a food mill, or rub it through a sieve with the back of a large wooden spoon.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote TasunkaWitko Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 08 December 2011 at 13:31
some more thoughts that could result in getting the best dough/crust possible:

it might be worth it to try autolyzing your dough, which sounds fancy but is actually very easy - it simply means that you combine the dry ingredients and water at the beginning, and then let them rest for 20 minutes or so. before you mix in the oil and start kneading it. allowing the dough to autolyze should result in a smoother dough that develops and rises better.

some sources suggest that you do not add any oil or other fat to the dough until after autolyzing it for 20 minutes. the theory behind this is that, if the oil surrounds the flour before it is wet, its waterproof properties will keep the water from penetrating the flour and stunt gluten production. i do not know if this is an absolute truth; i am certainly no expert and the benefits of waiting to add the oil could be over-stated. it certainly can't hurt, but i am not sure if it really helps.

having said that, autolyzing in general should and most likely will improve your dough, so it's worth a try, with or without the oil.

also,  i am finding that with pizza dough, i seem to get batter results when I knead it less than one would when making bread - 6 or 7 minutes seems to be enough. this is just an observation, and I could be wrong, but it might be worth a try.
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Here is another suggestion for possibly improving your pizza dough.

Pre-fermenting pizza dough can result in a finished product that is a little richer, with layers of depth that will take a good dough and make it that much better. This two-day process is not something required that you have to do - you can just as easily make the dough and pizza on the same day with very good results; but the time spent with the ripening of the pre-ferment really seems to imparts something special, an "aged" quality that hits all sides of the tongue.

I learned about pre-ferments when making a bread called Pane Siciliano, and figured that the idea would translate well with pizza, so I gave it a try and was very pleased with the results.

Here is what I did; it is not a true pre-ferment, when compared to the method in the link above, but it seemed to add a little extra something. This results in 2 recipes' worth of dough, so alternately, you can cut everything in half to end up with one recipe's worth.

Let's begin!

Make a recipe's worth of pizza dough according to the recipe in the opening post, using autolyzing and other techniques (mentioned above) as desired in order to maximise the quality of the finished product to your liking. Then, after it has risen to double in size, lightly oil it, cover it with plastic wrap and put it in the refrigerator overnight.

The next morning, take the "pre-ferment" out and let it come to room temperature, which will take around three hours. While you are waiting for it to come to room temperature, make a second recipe's worth of dough.

When the pre-ferment is at room temperature, use a knife to cut the dough ball into 8 or 12 wedge-shaped sections. Knead the sections of pre-ferment dough into the second batch of dough you just made, then let the whole thing rise as you normally would in a turned-off oven with the light on until double in size and proceed to portioning your dough and making your pizzas.

Unless you have a lot of guests over, you are going to twice as much dough as you need, but that's ok. Simply put half of the dough into an oiled ziplock freezer bag, squeeze out all the air and seal it, then put it in the freezer. The next time you want to make pizza, just thaw the frozen dough to use it, either for your pizza or as a "pre-ferment" for the next batch.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Margi Cintrano Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 29 December 2012 at 15:39

Ron,

Looks scrumptuously delicious !
 
On a personal note, my fave pizza is a BIANCO, white cheese 4 or 5 cheeses ! SINFUL SENSATION FOR A CHEESE-HOLIC !!!
 
 
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote HistoricFoodie Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 29 December 2012 at 18:26
That's an interesting approach to making a preferment, Ron; one I wasn't familiar with.
 
My go-to preferment is pate fermente, which I use with all sorts of breads, including the Pane Siciliano you reference above. That's one of my favorites, even though it takes three days and a pretty fancy loaf form.
 
I use Peter Reinhart's formula for pate fermente almost exclusively. In fact, I find all his preferment's preferable. The exception is when I make Bavarian style soft pretzels. For those I find Eric Kastel's pate fermente more suitable. Most of his preferments, IMO, start with far more yeast than is needed.
 
For instance, Reinhart's pate fermente is .55% yeast, whereas Kastel's is 1.4%. Bigas and poolishes run similar ratios.
 
One point you raise that should be stressed, because, in my experience, many bread bakers don't realize that all preferments and bread doughs can be frozen. They seem to think that freezing will kill the yeast, which, of course, is not the case. We don't have a pizza night in this house. But for those who do (it seems to be a fairly common part of people's rotation), it makes sense to make large batches of the pizza dough, freeze them in portion sizes, and, thereby, always have dough ready to go.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote TasunkaWitko Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 31 December 2012 at 08:21
Hi, Margi - I agree, these bianco (bianca?) pizzas can really be something unexpected. Here in the US, most would think that such a pizza would be really bland, due to the fact that commercially-produced cheeses (especially mozzarella) can have no flavour at all. But I found when making my semi-famous  focaccia al formaggio di Recco that if one takes time find some good-quality, flavourful cheeses that work well together, something as simple as a bianco can really be a heavenly indulgence.

Brook - I think my "method" described above was one borne more out of ignorance than anything, but I must say that the result is definitely good and flavourful with a very good product. Just as important, it has a real, honest "Old-World" aroma and taste to it that goes extremely well with the most commonly-used pizza ingredients, making it something truly special. I cannot really explain these qualities, except to say that it seemed to turn the home of even the most inexperienced cook (yours truly) into a veritible pizzeria.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote HistoricFoodie Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 31 December 2012 at 09:24
I cannot really explain these qualities,.......
 
I know exactly what you mean, Ron. The fact is, all of these so-called "artisan" techniques, such as using preferments, and retarded fermentation, etc., work to produce better breads. You notice the difference immediatly, even if you can't articulate it.
 
I wasn't serious about bread making until about four years ago, mostly because I didn't understand the processes. So when I did bake, I followed the recipe slavishly. Then I caught the bug, learned all I could (now you want to talk about a continuing education, bread making is it), and figure, maybe in another 15 or 20 years I can call myself a baker.
 
But if you had told me five years ago that I would off-handedly talk about a bread that takes three days to produce I'd have said you were crazy.
 
BTW, one reason so much of bread making is intimidating to folks is the jargon. For example, what's the difference between "autolyse" and "rest?" But one is scary and the other not.
 
Other than the name, retarded fermentation shouldn't bother any cook. After all, we don't think twice about letting something marinate in the fridge overnight. Why should a bread dough be any different than a pork roast?
 
Another thing that bothers me is the snobbery some foodies portray. An example would be the relatively new-found fascination with weighing things instead of volume measuring. Well here's a well known secret: if you're only making one or two loaves of bread, volume measuring will work just as well as weight. So, anyone who shys away from break making because they don't use a scale is just making an unnecessary sacrifice. And that comes from somebody who does weigh all ingredients.
 
We can discuss this further if anyone is interested in the reasons. But I don't want to hi-jack this thread any more than I have.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote TasunkaWitko Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 31 December 2012 at 09:41
Hi, Brook -

Thinking about it, I am coming to the conclusion that the perceived benefits that I was getting from my "pre-ferment" attempts were probably more likely from the retarded fermentation, as you describe above. The maturation and development of the dough is what I was after, and I'm thinking that my results would be just as good - or maybe even better - if I make my dough a day or two in advance, then keep it in the refrigerator until I am ready to use it (allowing time to come up to room temperature, of course).

I think that all of this would definitely make a great topic in the "Breads and Grains" forum. I did start one before on "pre-fermenting," but in all honesty, I am less than an amateur on it and can't even claim that it is the "right" way for someone to go about it - so any thoughts there that you have would be quite valuable.

Also, your post above is a good reminder for people not to be intimidated by the thought of trying something they want to do, just because it SEEMS complicated. This kind of thinking has held me back for years, in nearly all areas of cooking and a few other activities, as I waited for "the right moment" or to do "enough research," or whatever else; all of those delays can be boiled down to unnecessary intimidation. A primer or introduction to baking bread at home might be just the ticket to un-lock some of these barriers.

Bringing the idea back around to the original topic, my advice is for anyone and everyone to try their hand at bread-making in a very easy and basic way to make something nearly ALL of us enjoy: making pizza, using the recipe in the opening post!
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote TasunkaWitko Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 01 July 2013 at 15:35
I made this again over the weekend, preparing the dough the night before and refrigerating it until a couple-three hours before we started putting the pizzas together. I didn't use beer this time, since there was none in the house - I must say, I notice a definite improvement using beer rather than water in the dough.
 
I tried something slightly new this time; normally, I stretch out the dough, then slather on the sauce and top the sauce with a dusting of parmesan cheese and sometimes oregano (which I used this time) before adding the toppings. This time, however, I also sprinkled on a healthy shake of Mad Hunky's General Purpose Rub:
 
 
Given the rub's primary ingredients (garlic, onion, "hot" paprika etc.), it seemed like a natural way to spice up the pizza just a bit, without making it "too much." Results using this were incredibly good, and I definitely recommend that any home-made pizza enthusiast give it a try.
 
The beauty of the recipe above is that you can make 4 individual pizzas, allowing everyone to choose their preferred toppings; for the Beautuiful Mrs. Tas, I made a pizza with pepperoni, ham (canadian bacon), mushrooms, black olives and chunks of pineapple. For my own pizza, I employed extra pepperoni, mushrooms, green olives and anchovy fillets. Magnifico! Clap
 
As usual, I baked the pizzas one-at-a-time on my pre-heated pizza stone at a temperature of 450 degrees. 430 might have worked just a little bit better, but this seemed to work very well, producing a crust that had a nice, crispy crunch on the outside, with a soft, tender inside. The bottom of the crust was a nice, golden colour with a few spots of brown and the rim of crust around the pizza was a nice, deep, toasty brown without being burned at all.
 
I was once again impressed with the simplicity of this technique, which never fails to produce delicious results - if you have a great crust the rest is easy!
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote africanmeat Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 02 July 2013 at 02:49
Ron, it makes me wanna light the pizza oven for some pizza.

Thanks.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote TasunkaWitko Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 07 March 2018 at 16:20
Brook and I have been discussing this topic in a few email exchanges; in particular, I've been wondering if (and how many of) my "improvements" described above are actually beneficial. I've learned a few things since my last post on this thread, and - looking back - figured it would be good to review a few of the things that I did.

Brook's reply, as usual, was filled with some great knowledge and - more importantly - experience; here are some snippets:

Originally posted by Brook Brook wrote:

Sometimes it happens that even if we don’t know what we’re doing, things work out for the best. They call that serendipity. And sometimes we do the right thing for the wrong reason, and wind up with something better. Again, serendipity.

Your pre-ferment approach as described is more than unorthodox. It just makes extra work. Generally, a preferment is a small amount of the previous dough, used as the leavening agent. By making an entire dough, which then undergoes delayed fermentation, you are, in effect, giving the final dough an extra rise. Nothing wrong with that. And it often results in a better bread. Your technique may or may not bring the benefits of delayed fermentation to the whole mass. But I don’t think there’s enough of that carry-over to really make a difference.

With classic pizza making (i.e., the way it’s done in a pizzeria), all the dough expected for the next day is mixed up, divided in portions, shaped into balls, and put in a proofing cabinet. All of the dough sits overnight in what amounts to a delayed fermentation process. This is one reason pizzeria dough tastes better than most home-made. People, at home, typically mix the dough, let it rise, shape it, and bake it.

Honey vs sugar for proofing yeast is an on-going discussion point among bread makers. Personally, I always use honey, myself, because I believe non-processed foodstuffs are better than processed ones. However, being realistic, the sweetener serves only one purpose, which is to provide a food source for the yeast. I probably can’t prove it, but I believe it’s easier for the yeast to break-down a simple sugar than a processed one.

The fact is, by the time you’re ready to use it, the proofed yeast has eaten all the sweetener, and converted it to alcohol, water, and co2. None of it effects the taste of the final bread (which is not true when sugar is used as an enrichment to a dough).

That’s my long-winded way of saying to keep using honey. Or any “liquid” sweetener, such as molasses, cane syrup, or what have you.

The beer is an interesting modification. I can see it producing a nicer loaf. But all my reasons are guesses. So keep that in mind.

You know, we say bread is made from only four ingredients: flour, yeast, salt, and water. A better way, however, would be to say “liquid” rather than water. Literally any liquid will work. Those that are not water, however, can be thought of as enrichments, because they bring other stuff to the mixing bowl. For instance, while water and milk are interchangeable, milk brings butter, certain other proteins, etc. to the party, all of which affect the final texture and flavor of the bread.

With that in mind, we have to look at what it is that beer brings to the table. Primarily two things: maltiness (which certainly can improve the final flavor), and effervescence, which never hurts making a lighter dough. Even though you’re using flat beer, some of that effervescence will still be there. From your description of the final crust, I’m also guessing that beer has enzymes or other components that act as tenderizers, the same way yogurt does.   

Autolysing a dough, at some stage of its development, never hurts. Even a dough that’s been enriched with oil can benefit from a rest to ensure that the flour is fully hydrated. So, there again, you can’t go wrong. The idea that oils block the water, and negate the purpose of autolysing, is, in my opinion, highly overstated. You're not adding enough oil for it to set up that sort of shield on each grain of flour.

Mixing flours: Pizza is a semi-soft dough. By mixing the flours as you did, you are reducing the percentage of gluten, and heading in the soft direction. Frankly, when I make pizza (which is rare), I only use all-purpose flour for that reason. Remember, pizza is, essentially, a leavened flat bread, and does not need all the bricks of a risen loaf.

The real test on that is to make two pizzas at the same time, one with your mix and one just with all-purpose flour, and see if there’s a noticeable difference.


There is some great stuff - and a lot of food for thought - in the quote above; with that in mind, I'll post some conclusions soon, and we will see if the never-ending quest for "the perfect pizza crust" can possibly advance an inch or two....
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