Bread Basics – Class Outline page is now active. The page started in 2016 and is still a work in progress.
My preference lately has been for cracker-style pizzas. From a technique and ingredients standpoint that generally means:
AP Flour – To limit gluten strength
Limited Kneading – To limit gluten formation
Low Hydration – This is what works for me. It’s possible to make crackers and crackery flatbreads with a wide range of water input. I’ve had the most success with smaller amounts of water.
The Addition of Fat/Shortening – Limiting gluten by interfering with the chains.
Docking The Dough – May be optional. I mostly use it when there are few or no toppings. It helps prevent the dough from poofing up like a pita.
Baking Longer At Lower Temperatures – To drive out moisture without over-browning.
We love arugula on pizza and flatbreads. Last night it was time to harvest the arugula from the salad table. (The link shows the salad table one month after the initial planting in 2015, with yet another arugula pizza. I sense a theme. Here’s a link to the Making The Salad Table post.)
The first picture is last night’s arugula pizza with a garden tomato sauce from the freezer, goat cheese, and red pepper flakes. The arugula was strewn on top after baking:
The sauce was rich and on the sweet side. The frozen tomatoes that we used were labeled “2018 Tomato”, so the base was likely a combination of Oregon Spring and whatever else the garden provided that day. The dough itself was a little on the sweet side too — I substituted out 10% of the water and replaced it with a Riesling.
Another picture. I stretched the pizza by hand rather than rolling it out, making a point to leave it thicker at the edges. The pizza was a little more 3-dimensional than the picture might show:
This flatbread is topped with pancetta, red onion, and an arugula pesto made with arugula, pine nuts, olive oil, garlic, and brie. The arugula pesto was the sauce, so it was added at the beginning:
Using arugula pesto meant that the end result was light and savory at the same time. The flatbread itself was somewhat crackery which complimented the zip of the arugula and red onion.
I recently came across The Pizza Show (Vice Network, part of their MUNCHIES series). It’s a fun and informative show, and it’s less.. guarded than the programming on some of the other networks — it’s more relaxed and it seems less scripted and far less premeditated. Recommended.
The show featured a “bar pie” at one point. A “bar pie” has a thin, crackly crust and is traditionally square cut. (As opposed to the triangular slices seen on most pizzas.)
Which inspired this:
There’s no red sauce, so I’m hesitant to call it a pizza — it’s really more of a flatbread thing. It came out nice and crispy/crackly. The toppings are spicy salami, pesto, and feta.
As I’ve “discovered” over the years, it’s important not to work the dough too much when the target is a crispy or crackly end result. Working the dough encourages gluten development, which is the arch-enemy of crispy. (Digression: Perhaps not surprisingly there’s a Queensryche-meets-death-metal band called Arch Enemy. Meh. Nothing new to see here, other than the female lead singer doing death shouts. I’m guessing that’s the “hook”. (YouTube link))
- Combine 300g AP flour, 180g water (60% of the flour weight), 6g kosher salt (2%), 12g olive oil (4%), and 1 tsp yeast in the mixer.
- Mix for 6 minutes.
- Stretch and fold the dough (once from each direction).
- Lightly oil the mixing bowl. Rub the dough ball around in the oil in the bowl. Cover and let rise 90 minutes.
- Preheat the oven to 500F for at least 30 minutes prior to baking.
- Roll the dough out to about 1/4″ thick. The diameter will be around 12″. Transfer to a baking sheet and let rest 10 minutes.
- Dock everywhere except the edges of the flatbread pizza with a fork. Brush the edges with olive oil. Top with the salami.
- Bake for 8 minutes. Top with the feta.
- Bake for 5 minutes. Remove the pizza from the oven and let rest a minute or two.
- Dollop pesto over the top of the pizza.
For posterity — The first pass at Hamelman’s Pain Rustique. It could have gone better in a number of ways. The fatal issue was that it was vaguely underbaked.
And all of the other problems were caused by some variety of user error:
I’ve been experimenting more with the pizza stone lately, trying to get more comfortable with it. (Most recently, these hearth breads.) It’s definitely a better cold weather activity, when the kitchen and house can use the heat from the oven.
For reference, the pictured flatbread is about 12″ across.
One “trick” that I noticed making this Flat Bread “Pizza” is that if I lightly dust the counter with flour before rolling out the dough then that little bit of flour seems to help keep the dough from sticking to the pizza peel when it comes time to slide the dough into the oven — the dusting of flour removes some of the tackiness from the bottom of the dough. As an added benefit, the pizza peel then requires less corn meal for slipperiness, so I’m less likely to set off the smoke detector with burning corn meal. Win-win!
Not exactly a “Eureka” moment, but I’ll gladly take any new nuances like that one.
During the initial bake this flatbread had only a bit of oil and a couple of thinly sliced shallots as toppings. By the five minute mark it had poofed to between 3″ and 5″ high in places, so I stabbed it with a knife a few times and beat back the bubbles. The herbed goat cheese was added at the ten minute mark and the flatbread was allowed to cook for another five minutes. (15 minutes all total.)
The crust came out nice and crunchy — in places the crust was separated from the top by big bubbles. I was very happy with the texture overall.
300g bread flour, 190g room-temperature water (63% hydration), 7g salt, 1 TBP “Italian Seasoning”, 1 tsp instant yeast, 1/4 tsp diastatic malt.
Mix on low speed for 8 minutes. Let rise one hour. Stretch and fold the dough. Let rise one hour.
Preheat oven and stone to 500F, 30 minutes prior to baking. Roll out the dough to ~12″ across. Bake for 10 minutes, top with cheese and bake for another five minutes.
I think the stretch and fold definitely encourages the “poofiness”.
by A.J. Coltrane
The summer garden harvest will be starting soon, so we’re readying for the needed freezer space by preparing dinners like this one:
Roma tomato sauce (with oregano, salt, and garlic), peppers, pancetta, and bunch onions all from the freezer. The crust was augmented with porcini powder and minced roasted tomotoes. The “white” is a light dusting of mozzarella.
[The dough: 300 grams AP Flour, 180 grams water (60%), 12 grams olive oil (4%), 9 grams sugar (3%), 1 teaspoon instant yeast.]
A nice weeknight pizza for basically free.
by A.J. Coltrane
The holidays are past, and that means one thing: It’s now time to empty out the refrigerator before stuff turns.
A very fast weeknight pizza:
The dough: 400 grams bread flour, 120 grams water, 120 grams beer (the beer was a holiday gift — for reference, the water and beer combine to create a very normal ~60% hydration in total, if you don’t count the beer solids), 1 tablespoon dry oregano, 1 tablespoon sugar, 1 tablespoon “garlic infused olive oil” (another holiday gift), 8 grams kosher salt, 1 tsp instant yeast. Mix on low speed for 10 minutes, lightly coat the bowl and dough with oil, cover, and let rise for up to two hours. I only let it go an hour since we were hungry.
The Topping Ingredients: Garlic olive oil (that same gift as above), TJ’s “Bruschetta” sauce (mostly tomatoes and garlic), SeaStack cheese, herbed goat cheese (both cheeses left over from entertaining guests), diced Boar’s Head salami (another gift), crumbled cooked bacon (we bought too much bacon for guests). The outer crust got Penzy’s “Brady Street Cheese Sprinkle” (another gift — finely grated dried romano cheese with dried garlic, dried basil, and green peppercorns.)
- Preheat a pizza stone to 500F
- Lightly oil a pizza pan. Form the dough on the pan, leaving a lip around the perimeter.
- Lightly oil the entire top of the pizza, including the rim. Spread ~1 cup of the “Bruschetta sauce” on the dough. Top with diced salami. Dust the “Cheese Sprinkle” around the crust.
- Combine the cheeses and bacon, set aside in a bowl.
- Bake for 10 minutes.
- Top with the cheese and bacon.
- Bake 4 minutes.
There are a few good “weeknight cheats” this time. Substituting beer for the water creates flavor when there’s not enough time for flavor to happen naturally. The addition of sugar adds flavor, somewhat helps the dough rise, and promotes browning. The flavored oil can be thrown around liberally, and that helps too.
The ingredients were excellent. The Penzy’s Sprinkle and flavored oil both added interest to the crust. I’m sure the Penzy’s thing is overpriced, but it’s really good. Romano cheese on the crust may be my new not-so-secret weapon.
Everything exuded some liquid, so the pizza wasn’t crisp. Still, it was very tasty, and made for a good way to Use Things Up.
I’d be ok with eating like that all the time.
by A.J. Coltrane
I may have slightly overestimated how much dough was required for two largish calzones.
I used 600 grams of bread flour (300 grams for each calzone). That may have been at least 100 grams more than necessary.
The Recipe: 600g bread flour, 348g water (58% hydration), 30g olive oil (5%), 12g sugar (2%), 15g kosher salt (2.5%), 1 tsp instant yeast. Knead on low speed for 10 minutes. Let rise 1.5 hours. Divide, shape into balls, and let rise another 30 minutes. Roll out. Preheat oven to 375F. Bake for 30 minutes on a sheet tray, turning halfway through.
A picture right out of the oven:
The filling included pepperoni, meatballs, minced (and sauteed) onion, diced (and sauteed) crimini mushrooms, an aged gruyere grated on the small holes of a box grater, and a roma tomato sauce with diced red peppers, garlic, and herbs.
Here’s one of the two calzones dominating a regular-sized dinner plate:
The filling was well received. The calzone “bread” was fairly light — for as massive as the calzones were, they didn’t “eat” like a giant meal.
Still, add a salad and they’d easily feed a family of four.
I thought they were the best calzones I’ve made so far. I think going light on the oil, adding sugar, and being patient with the rise combined to give better results than in the past. (And just like in this grilled calzone post from 2012 — red sauce on the side would have been welcome. Oh well.)
by A.J. Coltrane
I recently received a Baking Steel as an early holiday gift. The Steel is 16″ x 14″. It *just* fits in our undersized oven:
It’s pretty tight against the top of the oven too — the directions call for placing the Steel on the 2nd rack from the top.
I wanted to start with some small, simple, and very manageable pizzas to get a feel for how everything was going to behave, and to ideally introduce as few variables as possible. I was targeting pizzas 8-10″ in diameter to keep things from getting too interesting.
The Recipe: 450 grams AP Flour, 270g water (60%), 11g kosher salt (2.4%), 9g olive oil (2%), 1 TBP of “Italian Seasoning”, and 1 tsp instant yeast. Combine all ingredients and mix on low speed for 10 minutes. Lightly oil the bowl and dough ball, cover and let rise 1.5 hours. Divide the dough into 3 roughly equal pieces, shape into balls, cover with a towel, and let rise 30-45 minutes or until “poofy”.
I stretched each dough out by hand, trying to take care to preserve the gas bubbles around the edges. (The remaining doughs hid under the towel until it was their turn for shaping and baking.) The pizzas were topped with pepperoni and a Roma tomato sauce from the garden that was doctored up with garlic, onions, “Italian Seasoning”, diced bell peppers (from the garden again), and kosher salt. I used a floured peel to slide the pizza onto the Baking Steel, in an oven heated to 500F. The Baking Steel instructions call for a 9-minute bake. I went 9 minutes on the first pizza, 10 minutes on the 2nd, and I-don’t-know-because-I-failed-to-set-the-timer on the 3rd.
Some cheap pre-shredded parmesan was tossed on top of the pizzas shortly after they came out of the oven.
Pizza One Crumb:
Pizza Two Crumb:
Pizza Three’s crumb wasn’t “all that”, so I didn’t bother with a picture.
I selected AP Flour because I wanted to use some up. I think the color and structure would have been better had I used Bread Flour instead. Alternately a little bit of sugar might have been a good addition.
Even so, the pizzas were all fairly airy, especially so considering the AP Flour. They were really easy to eat without realizing how much had been eaten — the small, savory slices went away fast.
Conclusion: The Baking Steel seems to perform as advertised. It’s definitely an improvement over the pizza stone, and as an added bonus it’s basically indestructible. At $80, it’s not a cheap toy, but I’ll think we’ll get years of value out of it. It might be the right answer would have been to spend $100 and get the unit that’s 3/8″ thick, rather than the 1/4″ of the regular version, but $100 seemed like too much to throw at something that I wasn’t totally sure about.
Still, I’m happy with it.
(I think Pizza Two was the most attractive.)
by A.J. Coltrane
A “00” pizza using SeattleAuthor‘s pancetta and a little goat cheese:
This started out as a 60% hydration pizza. (250g “00” flour, 150g water, 6g salt (2.4%), 1/2 tsp instant yeast.) I kneaded it on low speed for 10 minutes. At that point it was obvious that the dough was going to be unmanageable (again), so I kneaded it by hand while adding a small amount of flour until it became more cooperative.
The dough (with the pancetta) was baked on a pizza stone at 500F for 10 minutes. The goat cheese and herbs were combined, then added to the pizza and allowed to bake for another 4 minutes. (Herbs: Chives, rosemary, garlic, sage, and lemon thyme, all finely minced together with a little olive oil — flavors I thought would complement the pancetta. I was sort of shooting for a “pistou” type of idea, though there’s likely a better term for whatever it was.)
A significant amount of the pancetta fat rendered out and soaked into the dough. I’m guessing the pools of fat didn’t do much for the appearance, though after the fat permeated the dough it looked fine again.
Overall it came out about like I’d visualized. The shape and thickness were good, and the crust puffed up around the edges well. I was hoping for something closer to little matchsticks for the pancetta, but the larger size was fine anyway. I liked the finished pizza, though others in the crowd weren’t so sure about the concept.
SeattleAuthor’s pancetta with red sauce and parmesan:
This time I used 250g “00” flour, 142g water (57% hydration), 7g kosher salt (2.8%), and 1/2 tsp instant yeast, all mixed for 10 minutes on low speed in the KitchenAid. The dough was immediately cooperative (the extra salt may have helped), and it shaped more easily too. It’s hard to tell by the photo, but there’s a nice lip around the outside. The pizza was baked on a pizza stone at 500F for 10 minutes with everything except the cheese, then the cheese was added and it went back into the oven for another 3-4 minutes.
The red sauce was made with roma tomatoes and sweet bell peppers from the garden, flavored with salt, pepper, garlic, dried oregano, and some “Italian herb mix”. (How we came into the possession of a bottle of “Italian herb mix” I have no idea.)
There was less fat in finished product #2 — I’d trimmed away some of the really fatty bits before baking. I think the 2nd (red) pizza was the better of the two, though I learned a little something about handling “00” flour from each.
I think I still have enough “00” flour for ~20 more of these pizzas… thank you Iron Chef Leftovers.
Late edit: It was pancetta, not prosciutto. I knew that..