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Dough problems ... too slack

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  • Dough problems ... too slack


    I tried Peter Reinhart's Napolitano dough recipe yesterday, and it yielded a dough that I couldn't handle. You could barely pick it up. It was runny; it had very little resistance to stretching.

    I think the problem has to do with the flour, because my multigrain bread flour doughs are a usable constancy, but the last time I tried white bread flour (with my usual recipe), I had the same problem.

    Does this sound like a problem with my flour? Or is my method perhaps?

    Advice please!

    Tom MacLean

  • #2
    Re: Dough problems ... too slack

    Hi Tom!

    And welcome aboard!

    Peter's Neapolitan dough is one of my standards. There are lots of potential issues and one might be that you are still a newbie to handling wet dough. I will offer several comments related to possible sources of a problem but first....

    I strongly urge people to not worry about hydration until they have their whole process under control. So...whatever hydration it takes to have a manageable dough is my first recommendation. PR's Neapolitan dough formula is only 58% hydration. If you have to go to 54 percent, so be it... Get it controllable.

    Now to sources...

    You say NOTHING about what flour you use but you imply it might be bread flour. If so something truly strange is going on for the extra protein should require more than 58% hydration.

    I recently got some small mill AP that is exceedingly soft and awful for bread though I can make pizza with no problem with it. I am going to guess you got a weird bag of flour.

    However...even wet doughs can usually be made to cooperate to some extent. Did you try S&Fs (stretch and folds) to get it to firm up?

    Did you bulk ferment with late balling (as PR calls for for Neapolitan) or did you early ball? (not a good idea IMO with AP based doughs)

    Did you WEIGH your ingredients? (The worst aspect of the American Pie book is VOLUME measurements - if you use volume there is IMO too much variability)

    What was your salt content?

    Has your water changed?

    If you have King Arthur flour available I would suggest using their AP. It is a really reliable, high protein AP for your next batch.

    Good luck.


    • #3
      Re: Dough problems ... too slack

      Hi Jay,

      Thanks for answering.

      I am definitely using bread flour, though fairly "run of the mill" (pardon the pun), "Robin Hood Best for Bread". I just send Robin Hood an email asking them for the Gluten content of this flour. Using the Nutritional Info, it has 13.3% protein.

      I used slightly more water than PRs recipe suggested because he said the dough in the mixer should stick at the bottom and clear the sides. It wasn't sticking at the bottom, so I had to add some water (50 ml max).

      I measured by volume, because my recipe is by volume. I do have a scale though, so I could try again by weight.

      I really suspicious of the flour though because I when (using my standard recipe) I make a multigrain dough, the elasticity is there, but with this flour, it is not.

      Not familiar with S&F. I don't know "balling" either. Is this the final shaping, or the scaling/dividing of the dough? In any case, my flour is allegedly not AP.
      (Sorry, though I have been making pizza for almost two years, every other week, I don't know much terminology.)

      I'm from Canada, so I'm not sure I can get KAF here, but I will look into getting it by mail. Otherwise, it will have to wait until I can drive there. In theory, I should be able to get very high quality flour here, but so far, I don't know where.

      Salt content was per the recipe ... 1.75 tsp / 4.5 cups flour, if I recall correctly. The water I used is the same as with my multigrain dough.

      I will try buying some Typo 00 pizza flour from my local deli, and see if that works better. If it works, then I will know it is the RH flour.

      How much influence does olive oil have? PR suggests not to use with AP, and to use it with Bread Flour. I did use it. 50 ml/ 4.5 cups flour.



      • #4
        Re: Dough problems ... too slack

        So ... the next round.

        I'm trying Molino Pizzutti Pizza flour this time.

        575g (20.25 oz) flour
        12 oz (liquid) water (very cold) .... should have weighed this, would be way more precise
        1 tsp active yeast
        1.75 tsp salt (I have trouble believing my scale could be accurate at these small weights)

        I mixed it with a paddle attachment for about 1 minute.
        DID NOT autolyse.
        Kneaded with dough hook for 6 minutes.

        Cut dough into 4 pieces. Put onto flat sheet on oiled parchment, covered in plastic wrap and refrigerated.

        THEN I went to read about S&Fs and balling technique. (Should have done this part first!)

        The dough seems pretty runny again. The "balls" I made collapse into flat disks.

        On the up side, after consulting some videos, I see that my dough might not be much runnier than other people's.

        On the down side, when recently in Italy, the dough I was handling there was much drier, and handled more like pie-pastry than these semi-liquid "balls".

        1) Unless I mis-read, I don't think PR says to autolyse the Napoletena dough. Is it important to do so? For how long?
        2) In the S&F technique videos, oil is used on stone. Is it necessary to us oil? Is flour OK? In the video, PR is making a high-hydration dough to which he does not want to add flour. I don't think I care so much. Do I?

        ... hoping you will be patient with me!

        Tom M.


        • #5
          Re: Dough problems ... too slack

          Hi Tom!

          Balling is dividing the dough and forming balls which will later become the pies. With AP I find that is best done late - after the retard/refrigeration - about two hours before usage. With BF and Caputo 00 I find it needs to relax before making pies so I prefer to ball it before the retard/refrigeration.

          Do a search on S&F and you should find a detailed commentary by me on that done in the past week.

          A little oil can be good, but if you feel too liquid, cutting back on oil is not a bad idea.

          I don't know the Molino flour but some of the pizza flours contain extensability enhancers (like dead yeast) which will make the dough feel looser and more extensible (like Caputo 00).

          A 13.3 % flour should be able to be well above 60 percent hydration with no problems. While scaling provides greater consistency you would have to be really sloppy for your measured 60% dough to be far enough off to be a problem.

          The 13.3 flour should be fine for virtually everything, bread, pizza, everything but cake. Gold Medal AP is a bit lower but is fine too if you can get it. But every flour is a bit different and benefits from some fine tuning in my experience. And some brands (particularly bigger brands like KA and GM) are usually very consistent. My foray into smaller mills has turned up some spectacularly aromatic and flavorful flours that are simply a nightmare of inconsistency.

          I tend to suggest sticking to one flour as best you can and getting it under control. Once you are consistent, then when you change flour you know you can reasonably blame the flour (if the problem is persistent). And you can adjust or switch to another depending on how big the problems are.

          I tend to think you are dealing with odd flour more than technique. But if it is sticky enough or loose enough that you consider it a problem - my main suggestion is cut the water (for sticky) or oil (for loose but not sticky).

          Happy Holidays!


          • #6
            Re: Dough problems ... too slack

            Oh...your questions...

            Peter doesn't autolyse the Napoletana or any of his American Pie doughs that I can recall, but he does retard them. Autolyse is simply a technique for getting equivalent gluten formation with less handling. And S&F is the normal way of organizing gluten in autlysed doughs. It tends to give you a dough with a slightly different texture than a dough done in a mixer. And it does typically involve some oil but doesn't have to. I have pretty much gone to hand mixing so I tend to autolyse.

            As an aside, last time I saw Peter he was hand mixing and he used pretty much the same technique I use. Mix the dough by hand to just past shaggy (but no dry flour). Let it sit is a bowl for 20 minutes or a half hour. Knead it for a couple of minutes and you are done (or in my case do some S&Fs till it feels right).

            Bread dough, pizza dough, ciabatta, focaccia are all to me pretty much the same method with different goals. Whole wheat, rye, spelt, etc. are different and take somewhat different techniques and handling.

            Don't sweat extra flour too much. I try to minimize getting extra flour in the dough before pie formation and loaf formation but a little will typically only make your crumb a bit tighter. Once you have pizza balled you can use lots of flour on the outside and simply knock it off before you put the pie on the peel. With bread it can be decorative!

            Hang in there!


            • #7
              Re: Dough problems ... too slack

              My sanity is restored!

              My dough tonight was great! My technique (other than measurement precision) was identical to last week, so I am pretty sure changing the flour did the trick!

              I think this has been my best dough yet! It stretches nicely without getting excessively thin. Unlike last week, I was able to pick it up without issue. I am so thrilled!

              Now I would like to reproduce this with Canadian flour, if possible. I suspect I had a bad bag of Robin Hood "Best for (anything but) Bread" ... but I'm not sure I want to try again.

              Thanks for your help and encouragement.

              Tom M.


              • #8
                Re: Dough problems ... too slack

                Glad to help!