I’ve been experimenting with my wood-fired oven for nearly a year, on and off, and in the last few months I’ve been working on my dough. The key breakthrough was moving away from 70% hydrated dough down to 55% hydration, and my pizza also seemed to improve when I bought a 25kg bag of Amato tipo “00” flour from
the local italian deli. I paid just £20 for this sack of flour, not sure I’ll match that again! Most of the recipes for dough in books and on the internet seem to say add 700g water to 1000g flour, I think this is way way too much if you are using “00” flour. The dough is eminently more stretchable without ripping, and is also easier to handle because it becomes much less sticky.
I’m not adding any other flour, just white “00”. What really works for me is using the refrigerator. I let the water I’m adding stand overnight so any dissolved chlorine “goes off”.
I’m making a poolish (of equal amounts of flour and water, no salt, pinch of yeast) three days before I start, letting it sit on the counter for a few hours, then 48 hours in the fridge. Then I’m making my dough with that poolish, and letting it sit on the counter for a few hours, then putting in the fridge overnight. About 07:00 on the day I’m making pizza, I’m taking the dough out. I’m making the dough balls using a method I learned from YouTube about 2-3 hours prior to need to bake them, leaving them to rise at room temperature in an olive-oiled food grade box. A silicone brush is using to oil stuff as and when needed, mainly because it can go in the dishwasher without disintegrating.
Another improvement came with the purchase of a Kenwood Chef Major, which I adapted with a catering grade stainless steel spiral dough hook. This gets you far better results than the hook that ships with the Kenwood Chef, and it’s dishwashable – and very easy to clean by hand. My Kenwood cost less than half the cost of the Kenwood Chef Professional, and the only difference seems to be the wire cage, and the on/off switch. You can mix up around 2.5kg of dough, which also means you are making bread dough you can use an entire 1.5kg packet of flour at 70% hydration, kind of neat. This dough is a big step up from my hand mixed, and a big step up from Magimixed dough, which used to get too hot and sticky. With the spiral hook the dough hardly heats up at all.
Since my last post about making pizza sauce over a year ago, I’ve become a heretic – perhaps. Achieving a less sloppy sauce without cooking it now means that I fish the San
Marzano tomatoes out of the can (using a fork, rather than a rod and line!), and use only the tomatoes in the sauce. This also makes me a feel a little better about BPA, which was brought up by a reader. I’m also taking my mozzarella balls out several hours early, draining them, squeezing excess moisture out, and wrapping them in several layers of kitchen paper – so they are dryer and at room temperature when I’m using them. Other modifications include adding a pinch of sweet paprika to the crushed tomato sauce, and a pinch of sugar as well as a splash of red wine vinegar. I’m using a one measure of a 40-year old 2 ounce ladle to measure and spread out the sauce per pizza, which holds about 65 grammes of water according to the scales, you can get one from a catering supplier! I’m starting cooking when the oven walls are 450-475 degrees Celsius. My research showed a really good commercial wood-fired pizza restaurant in London was cooking at just 315 degrees Celsius, which although it may be commercially viable, does not produce the product I am looking for – my product reminds my better of pizza I’ve eaten in Naples.
I’ve also stopped using excess flour to lubricate the dough ball, from ball to stretch,
stretched dough lubricated with coarse semolina, this really helps get the pizza on the peel. The other ingredients are now drained, so the black olives used on this pizza were drained in colander, squeezed by hand, then let drain on kitchen paper. The flour burns more readily on the oven hearth, which can leave a more bitter flavour whereas the semolina aromas actually add to the flavour. And here is the result. This was four of five – none lasted no longer than 120 seconds, in terms of the time until all the slices were removed from the plate, at my local street party last weekend.