HOME > Chowhound > Home Cooking >


butt load of baking questions

  • j


1) How do you make bread lighter? My no knead bread has great flavor and crust, but i would like something less chewy and more "feathery" not sure of the best word. Does that mean baking longer, more flour or less water?

2) Pizza. should toppings be cold, room temp, what before being used? Dough temp? I'm trying to avoid getting that gooey feeling in the center of the pie. being parsimonious with the toppings helps quite a bit, wondering if temp does anything?

3) no knead pizza dough: is it possible? I saw an nyt blog update but i am dubious. the recipe makes such wet dough it has got to be an unworkable disaster?? could you just make a drier dough and sit it 12+ hrs? or maybe 12+ hrs of the recipe, then into the fridge until the next day to firm up??

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. I'm not qualified to really answer bread questions, but I can relate my experience -- the Lahey "no knead" bread is notorious for being wet. I make it and I like it, a little different result each time, but it is never fluffy! The fluffiest bread I've made is pictured below, from a New York Times Cookbook--let me know if you want the recipe.

    The pizza dough I make (no-knead style) is from here:

    I make *half* a recipe, spread it out as best I can on a cookie sheet, cover with thinly sliced potatoes, ham, mushrooms, and lots of gruyere cheese (all room temp). It's delicious, and the lack of a wet sauce keeps it unsoggy.

    3 Replies
      1. re: blue room

        In Lahey's book, he spreads the dough out with his knuckles!

        1. re: mnosyne

          Ha -- I believe that! It's very springy, I always end up with thin thin spots and a nice thick 'n chewy rim around the edge. But we do like the flavor.

      2. 1) You might want to try a different recipe. I have never had a no knead that was not on the dense side. I think that is part of its appeal - the open, rustic nature. Try a white bread that has a little more yeast than normal and a little more liquid (esp. if you are in a cool room). Stickier, less, salty, a tiny bit more yeast and time to sit around on the counter rising get a airier bread - generally speaking. You also want to knead it, but not to death. If it feels like pasta dough it is going to be sturdy! LOL

        2) I think it is best to have the dough at room temp (so if you have had it sitting in the fridge, pop it out a few hours before you intend to shape it. The ingredients should be - not fridge temp. So grate the cheese and then cut veggies and walk away and do some Chow browsing and then come back. Gooey is reduced by getting that oven firey hot and cooking it on your stone or a really thin aluminum pan - maybe preheated if you can manage it. Sometimes I cook pizzas on the grill. Those are never gooey, but I think the toppings sorta suffer.

        3) I have tried no knead pizza dough. I used the serious eats prescription. It was a pain in the butt. I used parchment sprayed with oil to shape it because it was so wet and annoying to deal with. It is better just to knead it. Listen, I have quasi kneaded in a big metal bowl while out camping. So if you object to the flour on the cabinet and all that, you might want to try it in a bowl. You have to be creative sometimes. Pizza dough kneads (: )) to be knocked about a bit to get the right texture.

        1. 1) Can you give an example of the type of bread you want? "Chew" in general is a result of gluten and less protein would do it so it could be going w/ all AP flour if you're using bread flour, or even using a little cake flour if you're using all AP. But, if you're looking for bread that's more like challah then you can find a recipe w/ milk/eggs/butter.

          2) Everything at room temp. HIgh temp in the oven, as high as you can get it and heat the pizza stone up to an hour would help.

          3) I haven't done it but you can add olive oil to the dough to make no knead bread dough. And, in My Bread, Lahey has different recipes, one for flat bread pizzza. I can look it up if you want.

          Also, he has changed the ratio in his book, since it was written up in the NY Times and the new recipe calls for 1 1/3 c water.

          1. 1. Rather than trying variations on the same recipe, try other recipes. If you're using a bread making machine, I can't help you much there. My "bread making machine" is my KitchenAid mixer. For standard recipes, a brioche recipe will give you a light bread. Challa is a bit heavier. Rye is denser still. Pick up a good cook book that deals exclusively with breads. I'd recommend mine, but it's out of print.

            2. Soggy crust on pizza, in my experience, has less to do with the temperature of the toppings than it does with whether or not you cover the crust with a generous coating of olive oil before adding the sauce and toppings. The olive oil acts as a moisture barrier and the crust rises better and doesn't get water-logged.

            3. For heaven's sake, don't tell anyone I told you this, but for really lazy pizza crust or focaccia bread, I always keep a few packs of Great Value Pizza Crust Mix from Walmart in the pantry. I think it's something like fifteen or twenty cents a pack, but I like it better than the pricier brands when it comes to flavor. Add 1/2 cup of hot water, beat for 20 strokes with a wooden spoon and let rise for five minutes. I've had worse pizza crust from pizza parlors where I paid a premium price. But it's not as good as my own made-from-scratch, but that takes a lot more than five minutes! Life is a trade-off.

            Good luck with your bread making. It is one of life's great rewards!

            1. http://www.thefreshloaf.com/node/1708...

              Pizza results rely heavily on oven temperature and baking surface. A sheet pan works but is not as good as a stone. Bake your pizza in a well pre-heated oven, on a pre-heated surface and your "parsimonious" habits will produce a better pizza.
              No knead pizza dough is possible but it's essentially a foccacia rather than a pizza.
              You can find lots of ideas here:
              Pizza dough will hold, wrapped tightly in plastic wrap, for as much as five days in the refrigerator.

              1. ok some more stuff about:

                1. Mine turns out almost like an english muffin. I just want to know what to do to the recipe to make it lighter, I'm not trying to imitate a specific bread or looking for a new recipe.

                So its all gluten?? Moisture doesn't have anything to do with it? I've been using something like 500grams flour and 430 grams water, and going to 500 and 400 wouldn't make a lighter bread?

                2) I use a cast iron skillet for pizza, i'm not interested in a pizza stone. looks like room temp it is.

                7 Replies
                1. re: j8715

                  I tried to separate your pizza questions from your fluffy bread questions. Hydration (moisture) certainly is a factor in bread making - it often is the determining factor in how the dough can be handled and how the dough is handled is a seriously important factor in its finished texture. The approach to how it's kneaded is one factor affected by hydration levels. Whatever you're making with the 86% hydration level (500/430 gram ratio) is going to be incredibly slack and difficult to handle. It's not "all in the gluten", but the degree of gluten development (generally indicated using the window pane test) is certainly important.
                  In bread making, it's a combination of factors (typically referred to as a formula rather than a recipe) that determine what comes out of the oven. Trying to make any single adjustment to your recipe to produce the kind of bread you're trying to achieve would be an exercise in futility.

                  1. re: todao

                    So what combination of factors do make fluffy bread then? Really I am interested in what each factor does. You seem to be suggesting that one factor alone does nothing, then what is th point of measuring by weight if little adjustments don't do anything?

                    And yes, it is unworkable. you basically flop it into a piping hot black pot.

                    not sure why you put quotes around parsimonious, it is a perfectly cromulent word.

                    1. re: j8715

                      I like your sense of humor! Anyway, in baking bread there are so many factors that play into the kind of results you will get from exactly the SAME recipe on different days. Which is why it is better to measure by weight than volume in bread making, but even so things like the humidity level of the air on the day you're baking, the age of your ingredients, how happy the yeast is.... Well, the variables are endless and they will all have an impact to a greater or lesser degree.

                      On these boards you will get a bunch of answers from people like me, from people who know a lot more than I do and from people who don't know as much. I think you will be much better off with a really good book on bread baking written by a really good baker and well researched by his staff and publisher. No. I'm not talking about websites I'm talking hard copy books from major publishers. It couls end up saving you a whoooole lot of time and a whoooole lot of heartache. IMO '-)

                      1. re: Caroline1

                        i agree but the trouble is finding good cooking books that answer questions. many people don't seem to see the difference between a coffee table book with recipes and a cooking book.

                        SOOO any particular baking references? the jim lahey book? the artisan bread in five minutes a day book?

                        1. re: j8715

                          Peter Reinhart's Bread Bakers Apprentice if you want the details. If you want only to fool around w/ no knead bread, then My Bread is good but won't give you the details of gluten development, hydration, etc. I think of that as more of a recipe book. BBA is chock-full of information.

                          1. re: j8715

                            Peter Reinhart's Bread Baker's Apprentice is fabulous. All the science, and very carefully tested formulas. If you don't have a scale yet, time to order that at the same time.

                            This book has changed how we eat bread in this house.

                            1. re: j8715

                              There you go. Two strong recommendations for Peter Reinhart. I learned to bake read before mankind learned how to write, so I'm not much help on recommending an encyclopedic work. Good luck!

                    2. I'm just chuckling at the use of the term "butt load." I've never heard that before and find it such a interesting choice for a discussion of baking.

                      1. without knowing what recipe you're using, I'd suggest finding one that uses all-purpose flour (less gluten, which makes for less-chewy bread that can rise higher) and possibly more yeast (more oomph)

                        A double-raised bread (knead, rise, punch down and knead lightly again, form into loaves and raise again) THEN bake might also give you a structure more like WonderBread, which is I think where you're trying to head (not *making* WonderBread...just a more soft, fluffy texture thanwhat you've got)

                        I've made this recipe with good results in the past:


                        1. Everybody is giving you good advice. here's mine. no knead bread is fabulous, but unless you have the chops- it can be difficult to understand why it won't do what you want it to do. My advice to you is to find a good Italian "straight rise" bread recipe and learn how to make well. it rolls out easily (after kneading, let it rest for about 30 minutes) and if you like your crust thick, pre bake it on your cast iron pan by itself for about 15 minutes first, let it cool and then build your pie. Bake again until the toppings are done and the cheese is like lava. This way you will get that light fluffy crust cooked all the way through. If you like it crisp, roll it thin (lots of flour underneath), transfer it to your room temp cast iron pan and then build the pie the way you like it. Be sure your oven is pre-heated to at least 400F.
                          Seriously about bread though. It is science and art at it's best. In order to understand it you must build a relationship with it. It is after-all alive, at least before you bake it. All that zen stuff aside though, try not to be discouraged. Start simple, work on it , have fun along the way. I know that once you succeed you'll be hooked and you'll love it the way all bread bakers do.

                          simple notes: Many doughs that use a pre-ferment (sometimes called starters) are generally a wetter doughs. The wetter the dough, the more varied the size holes form in it and it tends to spread out (proofing and baking) rather than rise up. This kind of dough takes experience in bread making. (eg.the English muffin look)
                          Formulations that use a fermented dough but less hydration can create a drier doughs which rise upward both in proofing and baking. These also are kneaded to develop gluten strands, give strength to the loaves, and generally have smaller holes with a finer crumb structure.
                          Types of flour also play a part in the "light or heavy texture" -the volume or weight of the bread. Whole wheat or other whole grain flours are heavier than AP- or- all-purpose wheat flour. Any amount of a whole grain flour flour will make a denser, moister and flavorful bread product.
                          *the exception to this is whole wheat pastry flour which is not strong enough to be used for bread because of it's low protein percentage.
                          Percent of Protein in bread flour usually begins at 12 %. That is vital to making a good gluten structure for the bread to trap the gasses that make it rise.
                          Make sure your yeast is fresh.
                          Salt retards the yeast, sometimes it will kill it.
                          Follow the formulation (recipe) and stick to it.
                          Once again, start easy and have some fun.