Continuing adventures in pizza

Now that I have my hands on a supply of Caputo 00 flour, I’m (once again) chasing after a truly good pizza crust.  No, I haven’t gone off the deep end and ordered a wood-burning oven (yet)….I’m just working out good pizza technique in my Big Green Egg.  What sort of crust am I chasing?  Hmm:  I’d like it to be thin, crisp-tender, charred in spots, and flavorful.  Ideally, it would fall somewhere between thin-but-soft Naples-style and the ultra-thin, crispier crust found in Rome.

The dough: For my first attempt using 00 flour, I started with the Naples-style dough recipe on Forno Bravo’s website:  it calls for 500 g Caputo flour, 325 g water, 10 g salt, and 3 g active dry yeast, mixed slowly, then at higher speed for a bit, and a final slow kneading.  Right away, I noticed that the Caputo flour didn’t hydrate evenly–the dough retained an odd, granular quality, so I decided not to use it right away.  After dividing, I refrigerated the dough for 2 hours, then froze the individual portions for later use.

The dough defrosted at room temperature for 2 hours, then I gently stretched it and laid it out on parchment paper (mainly for ease in moving it to the BGE, which is outside, down a short flight of steps, and at least 40 feet from the kitchen).

The “oven” set up: I cleaned all of the ash out of my BGE, poured in a full firebox of fresh lump charcoal, and lit the coals in two places.  The plate setter went in, legs down, and I added three firebricks atop it, then added the pizza stone.  Why firebricks?  The idea is to raise the pizza stone higher into the Egg’s dome, exposing the upper surface of the pizza to greater heat and ensuring that the bottom and top of the pizza brown at an equal rate.  After the Egg’s internal temperature reached 600 degrees, I waited 40 minutes, allowing the plate setter, fire bricks, and pizza stone to absorb the heat.  Meanwhile, I patted the defrosted dough onto parchment…

The toppings: canned, crushed tomatoes, fresh cow’s milk mozzarella, parmesan, and basil on one pie; crushed tomatoes, mini pepperoni slices, capers, mozzarella, parmesan, and red pepper flakes on the other pie.  All of the toppings were applied with restraint:  too heavy a load of “stuff” on a pizza ruins a thin crust pie.  Less is more…use fewer but better quality ingredients to deliver flavor, rather than a shovel-load of crap.

The results: a very edible pizza, with a nicely puffed edge and excellent top browning.  Okay, it was slightly too brown on top and not quite scorched/charred enough on the bottom.  The parchment paper may have slowed down the crust’s browning; on the second pizza, I removed it just as soon as the crust set, and browning was definitely improved.  On the other hand, better browning might have resulted from a hotter stone.

What I learned:

  • 65% hydration, 00 flour crust is much easier to handle after long, cold fermentation
  • Fire bricks are a bit too tall for pizza-making; the stone can be lifted too high into the dome!
  • Even when pizza is slightly less than perfect, it is very edible.

Next time, I’ll try out a blend of 00 and high gluten flours…

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3 thoughts on “Continuing adventures in pizza

  1. Can’t wait to try my 00 flour in pizza dough. Did you notice an “extensibility” improvement you (and I, too) are looking for? I get so exasperated with dough retraction after stretching out, even after resting a long time at room temp, that I usually have to resort to the…rolling pin. (Oh no!)

    • It WAS a bit easier to stretch than an AP flour crust. I didn’t have to threaten it with the rolling pin. I just stretched it over the backs of my hands/knuckles and allowed the dough to droop under its own weight. This was frozen, then defrosted dough: I think that helps a bit, too. I understand that the Italian pros use a blend of high-gluten and mid-gluten 00 flours in their crusts….so my next experiment will blend KA’s Sir Lancelot w/the 00.

      • Looking forward to that experiment! I tried the 100% 00 flour recipe. The Caputo recipe suggests a total of 9 minutes mixing with a mixer, long enough to toughen the dough, in my opinion. I got a nice flavor but not enough “action” with the dough, AKA flat, but could have been partially because it was oven baked (on a stone) at only 525°. I did get slightly more bubbling when placing the pizza directly on the stone without the parchment. I used to buy these bags of pizza dough in California made by La Brea Bakery that were “bubbling” before your eyes in the bag. This made a great, bubbly, crispy, charred pizza. I suspect a longer rising may help, like slowly in the refrigerator. I’ve also heard that they still use biga in the Naples area, for flavor and action..

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