Refining the pizza dough recipe

I’ve been working for a couple of years now on refining my pizza dough recipe for use on my Big Green Egg grill. Over those years a lot of work has been put into the actual cooking process while not a lot has been spent on the recipe itself. I found Ken Forkish’s Saturday Pizza dough recipe in his book “Flour, Water, Salt, Yeast” and having gotten good results with it so I just sort of kept it. As a lover of Neapolitan pizza my efforts have been largely spent in that space. Since I don’t have the room to build a wood fired pizza oven, I’ve settled for using by Big Green Egg grill to get as close to Neapolitan as possible. The grill can easily get to 700 degrees which is probably about as good as Im going to get without a real wood fired oven. At this point, I think I have a setup in the grill that works and is reproducible so I’ve switched my focus to the dough itself.

Ken’s newer pizza book “Elements of Pizza” slightly changes his tune from the original book based on his newer findings around pizza dough. Specifically, the doughs are much lower in yeast content. Percentages of around .2% were more common previously in his first book while most Neapolitan recipes in his new book (and others) are around .06%. While looking at his recipe in the Elements of Pizza book I noticed that the bakers percentage was in fact listed incorrectly…

I often scale up and down recipes using the listed bakers percentage and in this case noticed that a percentage of .6% would lead to a quantity of 3 grams of yeast rather than the expected .3 grams of yeast. I’ve emailed the publisher about this so I’ll see what they say.

In any case, I wanted to experiment a little so I made two doughs. One with a .06 percentage of yeast and one with a .09 percentage of yeast. I came to the .09 percent number from a cookbook by Mark Vetri in which he describes his recipes for Neapolitan pizza dough (“Mastering Pizza: The Art and Practice of Handmade Pizza”). In my recipe this meant a difference between .42 and .96 grams of yeast. certainly not a huge difference, but I wanted to discern if I could notice any changes in the dough behavior.

After the dough shaping, I couldn’t really tell a difference. The .09 dough perhaps felt a little more airy but nothing significant. When it came to the final shaping for pizza I had thought that the .09 dough would be easier to shape as well but they both acted about the same. Part of me wonders if I didn’t let the 2nd rise happen long enough based on how cold it was in the house that time. In any case, when I baked the pizzas there was actually a huge difference…

The .06 dough

The first to get baked was the .06 dough and it was a little of a disappointment. The rise was OK, but I like a beefier crust myself. The .09 went on next and I was amazed to see an awesome oven spring.

The .09 dough

What a difference! Now – I have to say that this isn’t entirely a great case study. For instance, the .06 dough was cooked first which means the grill might not have been to its final cooking temperature. But I did continue to alternate between the two doughs and this is a direct comparison of the last two pizzas cooked…

.09 in the back and 06 in the front

I do believe that even in the end the .09 was getting a better rise but the last pizzas were in general getting a better rise than the first. And most importantly, the bottoms were also getting cooked correctly…

Perfection!

So I think I’d like to redo the test and give the grill more time to heat up. I also think that I’d like to mess with upping the dough hydration a hair as well as giving the dough more rise time. The dough was workable, but not as easily as I had hoped.

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