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Pizza Woes

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Ive had some trouble getting the desired crust on my pizza.

Can you tell me what im doing wrong?

I usually use 3 cups KA bread flour.

I dont have the recipe on hand at the moment- but the rest of the ingredients are the basics- yeast water salt and a lil oil- NO SUGAR

I also assemble it on some parchment and put it on the baking stone at 450 ( with the parchment)

This all results in a pale crust.. not too much browning at all.. The cheese would begin to brown but the bottom is pale, pale, pale. This is where i figured some sugar would help.

Also the texture of the crust is not what i want.. I want a "corner pizzeria" bottom. Softer with a lil chew.

Mine was a lil harder with less chew.

I tried moving the stone as well.

Initially began in the middle.. but my cheese would brown way before the bottom

moved to lower.. and that helped balance that out..

So any ideas? thoughts?

Would all AP flour help? or just be harder to stretch?

Is the parchment hurting the crust? should i just use cornmeal and assemible on the peel?

Also any thoughts on different flour combos?

i have semolina and like the crunch it can give on a thin crust.

also i have oo flour. should i use instead of bread flour for pizza?what would the difference be>?

thanks much for the help

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  1. I make alot of pizza, and what I've found is that it has less to do with the flour and more to do with temperature and rise time. I let my dough rise until it has doubled, punch it down, and then leave it on the counter until it has doubled again.

    How long is your rise?
    Do you refrigerate?
    Do you use an oven thermometer? I try to get my oven as hot as possible, which means turning it to broil but cooking the pizza in the oven.

    I think the king of pizza has to be Jeff Verasano. His devotion to good pizza is something to be admired.
    Link: http://www.varasanos.com/PizzaRecipe.htm

    Dough Recipe:

    1 & 1/2 cup warm water
    1 packet yeast
    2 teaspoons salt
    Roughly 3 cups of AP flour

    Here in LA I'm fortunate enough to be able to grill my pizza and I have to say it's my hands down favorite method.

    1. Rise the dough in the refrigerator overnight if possible. Get the stone, low rack, as hot as you can (I do at least half an hour at 550 but aim for longer). I use parchment so it's easier to slide into the oven, on the peel into the oven.You want more gluten so don't go w/ AP flour. You could add vital wheat gluten if you want but I use all bread flour.

      1. Besides ingredients, how to you make your dough? How long does it rise for? The dough gets progressively better after a few days in the fridge. Adding a little sugar will also help with the browning of the crust. Also the ratio of water to flour makes a big difference in the end pizza. The more water (meaning higher hydration) will be a more airy dough but will also make it more difficult to handle.

        Also, 450 is a bit low for the oven, so my guess is that, as a result, you are baking your pizzas too long and the crust is drying out. My oven goes to 550. Also, how long are you preheating your stone? It should be preheated for 45-60 minutes, so its hot all the way through and doesn't drop in temp when you put the dough on it.

        I don't use parchment at all. I use a wooden peel dusted lightly with semolina. I stretch the dough on the counter and then transfer to the peel before topping. I have zero issues with sticking.

        My best pizzas are made using the broiler. I have the broiler in the main oven compartment (as opposed to a broiler in the bottom drawer). I preheat the oven at 550 for an hour with the stone about 4-5 inches from the broiler element. After an hour, I turn the broiler on and start stretching the dough. by the time I'm ready put on the stone, the stone registers about 650-700 degrees. Then I put the pie on the stone. It cooks in about 2 minutes. I get good spring and a nice browned, airy crust. The only issues is my broiler shuts off periodically when it gets too hot, so I have to be careful with timing, lest the broiler go out because the ambient temp in the oven is too high.

        4 Replies
        1. re: ESNY

          thanks all

          i put the dough in the fridge for an over night rise- i believe i made the dough at 11 on saturday and took it out the next day by 5pm

          is that enough time?

          and then let it get to room temperature and shaped and stretched etc.

          regarding water to flour.

          I took a class once that said the dough should be soft and wet

          I am not sure if that is right.. i tend to knead mine for a while till it passes the window pane test and is soft but strong *( not wet)

          I think my error is the stone.

          i turn the oven on and when it hits 450 i throw the pizza in,

          i also usually make 2 pizzas and i dont allow for enough time to let the stone get hot again.

          The stone should register 650/700? I have an infrared. i can double check that .

          1. re: lestblight

            I would try pre-heating your stone for an hour next time. It doesn't have to get up to a set temp, but the hotter it is the better. Just for comparison, use your infrared next time when the oven hits 450, the stone will be much lower in temp. Also, you want to stone to be heated through, not just the surface, which is why most people recommend you preheat for an hour. This will help the temp bounce back. Also, try to wait a few minutes after your first pizza is done to let the stone get hotter before cooking the second pie. Also, how long do you cook your pizzas for? Using the oven set at 550, mine takes about 7-8 minutes. As I said, using the broiler it takes 2 minutes.

            An overnight rise is ok but I prefer a 3-4 day. it develops the taste more. Plus, since you don't put sugar in your dough, you need more time to let the yeast do its work. I'm not sure of the science but here is an article from Slice showing differences in the same dough after a multiple day rise.

            http://slice.seriouseats.com/archives...

            Lastly, regarding the water and dough, pizza makers, are notorious for their exactness related to hydration level. You can go blind and crazy trying to read everything. But basically, the drier the dough, the more crackerlike the crust will be and the wetter the dough the more "neapolitan" puffy/airy style it will be.

            If you are happy with the taste of the dough, but not the texture, I'd start with the oven temp/preheating factor and see if that helps. Then i'd move on to a longer cold ferment. Then potentially adding a pinch of sugar (nothing more than a TBS). FWIW, using the same dough, I've found that using the broiler instead of the "normal" 550 degree oven, created a lighter, softer airer pizza.

            1. re: lestblight

              I set the oven to 550º..... and ignore the beep when it reaches temperature. Wait at least 45 minutes before throwing the pizza onto the stone. I too use a peel with semolina, and it slips right off. [First three times, it didn't... now I keep swishing it around as I add the toppings so I know that it won't stick.]

              1. re: lestblight

                My husband does pizza every week - he insists he can't get "decent pizza" here in upstate NY.

                We use a sourdough starter, but that shouldn't make a huge difference.

                He makes the dough on Tuesday for Friday pizza.

                Around noon or so, he takes the dough out of the refrigerator to come up to temperature.

                Oven gets preheated (to 550) at 4:00.

                And he starts shaping pizza (while straddling the dog who's looking for any stray bits of cheese that may hit the floor!) around 5:30. At that temperature, I think the pizzas cook 6 or 7 minutes - he takes the first out, then shapes and slides the second in.

            2. While a no-sugar dough is very important for a true Neapolitan pizza (cooked in 90 seconds in a 900ish degree oven), I think you'll get better browning experimenting with doughs with a little sugar cooking at your temperatures.

              I'm a recent convert to the 00 flours (finally got around to ordering it, not that I had anything against it before). Oh, does the dough handle gorgeously! Finally, I'm able to stretch the dough enough and get something just like we tasted in Naples! I can really push the hydration and get just gorgeous puffy, slightly chewy crusts. But I'm making my pizzas in the wood-fired pizza oven I built in the backyard, so I am cooking at extremely high temps and my pizzas are done in 90 seconds. I'm using the flour designed to cook in those conditions, and the dough recipe designed for those conditions. I have no idea how they'd behave at half the temperature in a normal oven. The 00 is worth trying, I'd say, but if you're after a more NY style pizza rather than a true Neapolitan crust, I'm guessing you won't find the extra cost of the 00 flour worth it.

              I always raise my pizzas to the top of the dome to get a little extra browning at the end. I'll bet ESNY's suggestion of using the broiler could really help in that respect.

              1. We make pizza, with the parchment, all the time. The stone is on the bottom rack. 500 degrees, half hour preheating. Bottom browns perfectly, no problem. And that's using Trader Joe's dough so it's not like we work too hard at it.

                2 Replies
                1. re: escondido123

                  For those of you who use your stone at 500 degrees or more, do you have a problem with the oils from past pizzas (seeped into stone) smoking out your house? Mine is okay at 400, but if I go to 500 or higher I'll be entertaining the fire department! Any solutions?

                  1. re: CocoTO

                    Past 450, it gets a little fumy, but if the oven hood is on, it's no big deal, and clears pretty quick. You know something's in the oven, but it's not fire department time.

                2. How long do you allow your pizza stone preheat before you place the pizza on it? It should be at baking temperature before the dough is place on it. Some people pre-bake the dough for a few minutes before adding toppings to the pizza.

                  If you intend to continue to make pizza at home, I suggest getting at least one of these 3 books, 2 of which are by Peter Reinhart. They are entitled 'American Pie, My Search for the Perfect Pizza' and 'The Bread Baker's Apprentice.' The former is written in 2 parts, 'The Hunt' which is light reading about finding the best pizze (plural in Italian) in different parts of the US and Italy, and 'The Recipes.'

                  The third book is entitled 'The Italian Baker' by Carol Field. She describes the preparation of many recipes using 3 processes...by hand, by mixer, and by processor. This book may be difficult to find because it was published in 1985. i found as an overstock book years ago.

                  1. I've tried many pizza dough recipes and found a proportion that gives me consistent results.

                    For your 3 cups of KA bread flour (works for AP flour too)
                    1.25 C Water (I try to shoot for 60 to 65% water to flour, by weight)
                    1 tsp of salt
                    1 Tablespoon oil (optional)
                    2 tsp of sugar (optional)

                    The little harder and less chew... sounds like your dough isn't rising properly.
                    Are you allowing the dough to double in size before punching down and dividing the dough?
                    Are you allowing the dough to rest, covered, another 30 minutes to an hour?

                    Baking
                    I'd bake directly on the pizza stone at 500F or 550F. The oven/pizza stone has been pre-heated for at least 20 minutes.
                    use cornmeal or semolina to dust your pizza peel (or back of a baking sheet)
                    Pizza stone is on the lowest rack in the oven. My reasoning is the pizza stone will heat up faster closer to the heating elements.

                    Flour Mixtures
                    I found that straight bread flour or all purpose flour make good pizzas. The cornmeal that sticks to the bottom provides extra flavor.

                    1. Agreed with most posts that the main issue is temperature and time, not dough. Get the oven - and the stone - as hot as you can. If your oven goes to 500, crank it to 500 and leave the stone in there for a good 30 minutes before baking. You can also try baking the crust for 2 minutes, then pulling it out, assembling, then sliding it back in. Oftentimes, the crust only needs an extra couple minutes to brown, but it gets pulled because the cheese is browning too much. Lastly, it goes without saying that the thinner the crust, the faster it'll bake and brown. If you can, go for tissue thin.

                      1. My AP flour one-large pizza crust recipe calls for 1/4 cup olive oil and I never have a problem with browning.

                        7 Replies
                        1. re: noodlepoodle

                          thanks!

                          on the rising part...

                          i make the dough and then stick it in a container for a slow rise in the fridge

                          usually when i wake up in the morning i have to punch it down- since it is already overflowing out of the pizza tin.

                          I continue to leave it in the fridge and punch it down again after a few hours

                          is this wrong?

                          For a few days rise in the fridge- how often are you supposed to punch it down? does it really matter?

                          also.. does anyone know the science behind that ?
                          "The little harder and less chew... sounds like your dough isn't rising properly."

                          why is that ?

                          thanks yet again,. this has been extremely helpful

                          1. re: lestblight

                            Is it possible you are using too much yeast? I have no idea why you would need to punch it down twice in the fridge unless your container is way too small. The dough shouldn't be too warm when you put in the fridge and shouldn't really rise all that much until you warm it up to room temp.

                            1. re: ESNY

                              i am using the pizza proofing tins they have in the restaraunt supply store

                              i am using KAF instant and use 2 and 1/4 teaspoon yeast for 3 cups flour.

                              http://www.katom.com/Merchant2/graphi...

                              1. re: lestblight

                                If my calculations are correct, that comes to a yeast weight of ~ 2% of the flour weight. That would be about right if you were using fresh yeast cakes, but at least double the amount needed when using IDY. With that much yeast you will have a very short window of usability before the dough over-ferments and results in exactly what you are describing. Try cutting the yeast in half or two thirds and see if there is improvement.

                                You also may want to take a look at the Enclclopizza for a lot of good info...

                                http://www.correllconcepts.com/Encycl...

                                1. re: lestblight

                                  I use the same yeast - good stuff, but I think if you do as Coogles suggests and try different amounts you'll be glad you did. The amount you are using is probably about what most people would use for "same day" pizza, but as others have said, a slow rise in the fridge really helps the end result a lot more.

                                  Personally, I go with about 1/2 tsp for 3 cups of flour when doing a slow rise for about five days - if I don't have that kind of time, I add a little more yeast. When I'm really on the ball, I'll save a little dough from one batch and add it in when making a new batch.

                                  As for the "chew and crunch"......
                                  a. +1 Regarding what others have said about getting oven/stone as hot as possible.
                                  b. Personally I prefer corn meal to parchment paper because I think it does more than just keep the pie from sticking to my peel, but there still are times when I'm having an "off day" and I'll resort to parchment.
                                  c. To me, sugar amount is like yeast, I'll sometimes use it for a "quickie" pie, but I don't add any in a slow riser.

                                  Finally, +1 on the above mentioned Jeff Verasano link, and pizzamaking.com is good too.

                            2. re: noodlepoodle

                              oh and about the books. i wanted to get the reinhart one. its on my list.

                              can anyone recommend a good book on baking that goes into the science of it?

                              I have the bread makers apprentice which is helpful. but i want to know differences in wet dough versus firm and the results..

                              results of under proofing etc

                              thanks.

                              1. re: lestblight

                                I've tried the pizza dough recipe out of "The Bread Baker's Apprentice" and it's very good. That recipe has a water to flour ratio of 69%. That book also has some decent explanation of the why's and what's of baking.

                                Generally, wet dough is slack and sticky which usually results in thinner pizzas while a firm dough forms a ball and is not sticky. The resulting pizza is bready.

                                If you really want to experiment with making pizza doughs, I suggest buying a scale so you can weigh the flour and water.

                                Also, with a scale you can accurately play around with the water ratio and correlate to your end results.

                            3. Regarding the browning, the issue is very likely the temperature of the stone/oven and has little to do with the ingredients.

                              Get your oven and stone very hot. 450 is not very hot. And lose the parchment paper. That simply cannot help with browning.