I always try to eat delicious food. Unfortunately I don't have that much money, so I have to cook a lot of it at home. But thats OK because I love cooking and I love eating at home with my wife. This is a website with my favorite recipes and a little bit of commentary.

Tuesday, January 31, 2006


Now that I have laid out the dough recipe, it is time to start the hard part. Good pizza is probably 94.3% technique and 6.7% recipe. (I arrived at those numbers after very precise calculations, don't even question them.) Working out the processing of the dough is where the really hard and controversial work comes in. The guys over at pizzamaking.com have been experimenting for years to get the optimal dough processing method. Some of what they have come up with is based on good experimentation and some of it is just BS. 2 things that they have come up with are very valid from my experience. Page through their glossary for kicks. The first is the concept of the autolyse. According to their site, autolyse is defined as:

"A rest period, typically lasting 15–45 minutes, during which flour and especially the protein in the flour fully absorb the water before the yeast and salt are added and fermentation activity begins. Full absorption allows the gluten structure to form better, more complex bonds and serves to reduce oxidation of the dough and shorten the overall mix time. Autolyse also helps increase the extensibility of the dough due to the action of protease enzymes in the flour to break down the gluten slightly during the autolyse. Over time, the term "autolyse" has come to be used to refer to almost any rest period during the mix/knead cycle even though such use is not technically an autolyse as conceived by its originator, Prof. Raymond Calvel, a professor emeritus of baking sciences at L'ecole Francais de Meunerie and author of the classic work on European breadmaking, LeGout de Pain. The term autolyse is pronounced ah-toh-leez."

I first came across this concept when I was learning to make bread from my favorite bread book The Bread Baker's Apprentice, by Peter Reinhart. He discusses the autolyse process on page 58.

"One of the techniques that bakers often use to minimize mixing (and thus reduce oxidation that causes natural bleaching of the flour) is to mix the flour and water for only 4 minutes, enough time to hydrate the flour fully, and then let the dough rest for 20 minutes. During this resting, or what the French call the autolyse, the protein molecules complete their hydration and begin bonding on their own. Then, when the mixing resumes and the other ingredients are added, it takes only 2 to 4 additional minutes to complete the mixing process, during which the newly formed gluten molecules continue to bond to one another in more complex ways."

When I first got serious about making thin crust pizza I bought the book Pizza Napoletana. The book describes in detail the DOC and how to translate the document's contents into Pizza Napoletana at home. The DOC specifies that the dough must be 'mixed at least 30 minutes.' I think the author of Pizza Napoletana has mistaken that guideline to mean that the dough should be kneeded for 30 minutes. Initially I was making my thin crust pizzas by kneeding them in the Kitchenaid for 30 minutes, exactly as Pizza Napoletana recommends. I made some great tasting pizzas using that method, but I have slowly realized that less kneeding can actually make better dough. For my NY style pizza, I will incorporate an autolyse step. Exactly how to do that is the subject of much debate over at pizzamaking.com. What I will do is put the water in the bottom of the mixing bowl and stir in 3/4 of the flour. I plan to stir it with the paddle attachment on the lowest speed for 2 minutes. Then I'll cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let it sit for 20 minutes before adding the rest of the ingredients. The guys over at pizzamaking.com have all kinds of theories about adding the salt separately etc. I honestly don't think it will make much difference so I am not going to bother. I then plan to hand-kneed the dough until it forms a nice satin look with a smooth surface and a nice elastic feel. My kneed time will be different from yours but I will report the kneed time anyway.

The next concept that the pizzamaking.com guys have right is cold fermentation. According to their site, cold fermentation is defined as:

The fermentation of a dough under refrigeration, usually for an extended period of time, for the purpose of developing better flavors and aromas in the finished crust through increased production of fermentation byproducts.

The first time I came across this concept was in the book The Bread Baker's Apprentice, by Peter Reinhart. He describes the technique in detail for his recipe Pain A L'Ancienne, which is the single best bread of any kind I have ever eaten. On page 191 he says:

"The technique by which this bread is made has tremendous implications for the baking industry and for both professional and home bakers. The unique delayed-fermentation method, which depends on ice-cold water, releases flavors trapped in flour in a way different from the more traditional twelve stage method. The final product has a natural sweetness and nutlike character that is distinct from breads made with exactly the same ingredients but fermented by the standard method, even with large percentages of pre-ferment."

His recipe calls for using ice cold water. I will use ice cold Kansas City tap water with an autolyse step. To make sure that the water stays ice cold I will have to put the covered dough container in the fridge while it sits for 20 minutes. Then I will continue with processing the dough. After the dough has the right look about it I will transfer it to an oiled bowl and mist the top of the dough with spray oil to prevent it from forming a hard crust.

At this stage in the dough processing, the guys over at pizzamaking.com debate how long it should sit in the fridge. Peter Reinhart recommends from 24 to 72 hours. Some of the guys at the site say you should let it stay in there for 5 days. I can't wait 5 days for pizza. I will let it sit in the fridge for 3 days.

After 72 hours, Peter Reinhart says to sit the bowl on the counter and let it warm up to room temp for 2 to 3 hours. The guys over at pizzamaking.com say that you should let the dough sit on a floured counter and cover it with plastic wrap for 2 hours, until the dough temperature is about 60 degrees. I suspect that either of these methods would work just fine, but I will go with the pizzamaking.com method. After letting the dough sit for 1 hour on the counter it will be time to prepare the oven. More on the oven and baking in the next post.


1) Take a bowl and put tap water in it. Next float a bunch of ice in the water and let it sit until it cools down. Measure out 122 grams of the ice cold water and put it into the mixer.
2) Measure out 100 grams of Gold Medal Bread Flour and put it into the water.
3) Using the paddle attachment, stir the mixture at the lowest speed for 2 minutes.
4) Immediately cover the bowl with plastic wrap and place it in the refrigerator for 20 minutes.
5) Meanwhile combine 4.3 grams of sea salt with the remaining 94 grams of flour and 1.5 grams of yeast.
6) After the 20 minute rest, slowly add the yeast/salt/flour mixture to the autolysed dough, stirring with a spoon. When the ingredients are well combined, transfer to the kneeding surface. In my case I use a well floured couche. You used to be able to by these through the Baker's Catalogue, but I wasn't able to find one on their site.
7) Kneed dough until it is smooth, satiny and elastic. Time will vary but should be fairly short because you took the trouble to include an autolyse step.
8) Form the dough into a ball and place it into an oiled container. Mist the top of the dough with spray oil to prevent a crust. Cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator for 72 hours.
9) 2 hours before you are ready to bake the pizza, remove the bowl from the fridge. Carefully transfer the dough to the counter (in my case to a floured couche on the counter. Do not squeeze the dough as you do not want to disturb the delicate bubbles which have formed. Cover with plastic wrap and allow to warm for 2 hours. The dough temperature should be about 60 degrees by that time.
10) An hour before you are ready to bake your pizza, prepare the oven. See NY PIZZA PART 3.