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  • Varying Crust, Dense Crust and Sometimes Perfect. HELP! Consitency issues

    I'm going to attach pictures of all the crusts we've experienced recently. Sometimes we get a perfect result and sometimes its an awful chewy and dense crust that is unserveable. I have tweaked several recipes including Jeff Varsano's to get what I want but the hit or miss aspect is a big disappointment when you spend time and money firing the oven. I've kept a journal and log of all the experimentation but picking out individual variables seems almost impossible. I've been using a sourdough pool and 00 flour, autolyse and mixed on low speed in a KA for about 12-15 minutes until slightly tacky. I mean what if its the humidity ? I can't control that! You guys get what I mean, thanks in advance for any advice.

    The image with the three pizzas is where the problem keeps occuring. Right as I pool the dough from the proofing box I can feel how slack and absent of air it is. It hits the firebrick and refuses to rise. The whole crust is gummy and dissapointing

  • #2
    From your description of the "bad" dough, it sounds like your fermentation has completed or your dough has over mixed (or gluten bonds broken down by time). It would be good to give us your tweaked formula and procedure to better assess what's going on here. When using a leaven (or sourdough poolish) and no commercial yeast, one of the primary problems is the use of tap water. Tap water from a public water supply can/will vary its chlorine content significantly during every day depending on the treatment plant and distance to your tap (from them). Home sourdough cultures seldom contain the quantity of active yeast cells necessary to survive even low levels of chlorine...so if your poolish water has any chlorine in it, your yeast cells may die or be significantly weakened. Always use bottled (not distilled) water for your dough unless you know exactly what's coming from your tap at the time you're prepping the dough. Yeast cells need not only oxygen, but the traces of minerals that are not present in distilled water. Another problem with using all home sourdough starter is that fermentation times become significantly longer. An active culture requires refreshing at least daily and in bakeries they often are refreshing 2-3 times a day. In most cases, you will have much more consistent (and pleasing) pizza crusts if you are using IDY yeast instead of an average home leaven/starter.

    You only need to mix the water and flour briefly before autolyse. I usually do a 1/2-1 hr autolyse and then briefly mix in my yeast and/or active leaven starter (sourdough), cover and let stand for 1-2 hrs. Do a stretch & fold, cover and put into the refrigerator overnight. The gluten will form without 12-15 minutes of kneading/mixing if you are doing overnight/cold bulk fermentation. (You can actually over mix dough and the gluten can break down...becoming gummy, with no elasticity and not extensible...also happens over time to properly mixed dough.) The next day, I bring the dough out and let it come up to room temp for about an hour. (You should see evidence of fermentation...bubbles in the dough--if you don't--you need to check your yeast! If only using a leaven culture, consider adding a little commercial yeast.) Do a stretch & fold, rest for an hour and then cut into your individual pizza dough weight(s). Form each into a tight dough ball and put in a lightly oiled container. Roll the ball to lightly cover with oil, cover, and return to the refrigerator for overnight.

    This dough should be good for 1-3 days, but best within 1-2 days. Take the dough ball(s) out of the refrigerator for an hour to warm up and you are ready to form/top/bake your pizza.

    I did a taste/texture test after I built my oven and we agreed that Gold Medal's Better for Bread flour (~11.9% gluten - basically just a high end AP flour) was better than the high protein bread flour or 00 flours that I had on hand. I know this is just my opinion, but others have come to a similar conclusion. I'm just saying that keep an open mind while you are experimenting to find what you like best.

    Sorry, I didn't mean to run on but hopefully this diatribe will give you some things to check or ponder...I don't think the humidity would cause the problem(s) you're trying to solve.
    Last edited by SableSprings; 01-04-2019, 04:32 PM.
    Mike Stansbury - The Traveling Loafer
    Roseburg, Oregon

    FB Forum: The Dragonfly Den build thread
    Available only if you're logged in = FB Photo Albums-Select media tab on profile
    Blog: http://thetravelingloafer.blogspot.com/

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    • #3
      Helped a lot Sable. The more information the better. We're in the process of building a pizza food truck/trailer and are just having trouble deciding on the type of dough and crust we want. We just NEED to avoid the failure gummy crust which has happened with sourdough. I used Peter Reinharts recipe yesterday for the first time and pulled it from the fridge in the AM to see how long it could sit at room temp, trying to mimic going to an event where it might be hot here in NJ. The dough was overproofed and unusable, wet to the point where shaping was futile. Im wondering if I just need to incoporate more flour here in NJ because of our notorious humidity.

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      • #4
        You probably should be keeping your dough in some type of temperature controlled environment till not super long before use. Maybe 2hrs or so. You will definitely have issues if you just let it sit out all day.

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        • #5
          As Randy noted above, it sounds like you are allowing the dough to over ferment. If you leave any dough in active fermentation for too long, the yeast runs out of food and or the gluten chains start to break down. A cooler would be absolutely needed if you intend to use a batch of dough balls throughout the day. In addition, pure sourdough is a combination of yeast and bacteria. The yeast runs out of oxygen or preferred sugars and the bacteria starts to take over...that produces some good flavors initially, but it doesn't take long for the bacteria to break those gluten chains and start producing "not-so-pleasant" tastes/flavors. Using a sourdough component is good, but you need a commercial yeast (IDY) for shorter time-table, more reliable, and the quantity setups like you are proposing. The humidity is NOT the issue...adding more flour will not solve the problem. The dough is not going to absorb a significant amount of moisture before it over ferments.

          I was at an event in S. California a couple years ago where a mobile pizza oven was working the crowd. They had actually done a skin pre-bake to set it and then put it in a cooler. To prep a pizza, they took out a pre-baked skin, topped it and then put it in the oven to do a final bake. People seemed to be happy with the method...although I was kind of shocked.

          If your dough balls have been taken out of a refrigerator, brought up to 50-60F, and then stored in a cooler until needed, they should remain workable for skins for quite a while. As Randy noted, having a temperature controlled cooler would be ideal. Although the commercial coolers are pretty expensive, there are controllers made to maintain pretty accurate temps in existing smaller refrigerators and chest freezers...the home brewing industry technology has made great advances in relatively inexpensive devices that are applicable to any need to control fermentation temps. Developing a schedule shift for the expected crowd (dough out, warmed slightly, kept in cooler, used) is going to take a little practice. It's better to tell people the dough isn't ready or that you've sold out rather than selling them crappy pizza (although sadly, for some folks what we consider crappy is much better than what they've experienced in the past ).

          Hope that helps. Lots of folks are doing mobile pizza units successfully and have documented their builds on this site. Do some searches through the forum and if you can't find some help/ideas, let us know and I suspect we can come up with some references/contacts. I know there are at least three builders in Australia (documented here) that have put together and used mobile WFO for parties & as a business.
          Last edited by SableSprings; 01-10-2019, 11:35 AM.
          Mike Stansbury - The Traveling Loafer
          Roseburg, Oregon

          FB Forum: The Dragonfly Den build thread
          Available only if you're logged in = FB Photo Albums-Select media tab on profile
          Blog: http://thetravelingloafer.blogspot.com/

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