Saturday, May 29, 2010

Dough Experiments on the Grill-Part II

Welcome back. At this point you might be asking yourself why a guy who makes BBQ sauce (and beer, don't forget the beer) would be trying to figure out how to make pizza dough. First, I tend towards the obsessive-compulsive end of whatever that particular spectrum is. So, having decided I wanted (read, "developed a compulsive desire") to develop the perfect, yeastless, grillable pizza dough, there was really no choice about turning back.


Second, I completed my undergraduate at the University of Washington. Near The U was one of the best pizza making operations I've had the pleasure to patronize, Atlantic Street Pizza. While they still have a website, it says their U-district store is closed as of March, 2007, "for remodeling". They're supposed to have another store in downtown Seattle, but on my last trip near there during business hours, it was also in the middle of the 2008 snowstorm, and a lot of the smaller businesses in downtown were closed. The sign outside said nothing about Atlantic Street, however, so I have my doubts about whether they are still in business.


So flash forward to present. I had a hankering for Atlantic Street, sourdough proofing in the kitchen, and a Weber that hadn't been fired up in a couple months. What choice did I have?


I knew very little about Atlantic Street's recipe when this particular obsession hit. They're still-extant website confirms the one thing I was sure I could remember about their crust--that it is made from a no-yeast starter with no sugar. Let me just say for the record that I don't have anything against yeast or sugar. I love bread of all types, and I make beer, which, without yeast, would not be beer. (Yes, it's State the Obvious Week here at Casa Bill.) However, the intrigue of getting a just-right-thick, just-right-chewy crust really piqued my culinary curiosity.


Designing the Experiment

I turned on the old engineering skills, and dug into the recesses of my all-too cobwebby memory to find some long-ago-learned topic called, "Design of Experiments." You're probably not into DOE, so I won't bore you with the details. Suffice it to say, what ensued was a full-on four-variable DOE with two dimensions for each variable. Not really complex, but complex enough.


So what variables could I play with for my experiment? Well let's see:


  • I had two sourdough starters, so there's one variable: Starter
  • I had two cooking methods, so there was variable number two: Heat
  • I knew pizza doughs could be frozen or refrigerated, so there was number three
  • Number four was proofing/forming order--whether to proof then form or vice versa
I determined I could carry out my experiment with a total of eight dough balls. To try to control things as much as possible, I actually made only four dough balls, then split each one for the cooking method.  


The following weekend, I made dough from the two mother starters I have. One is the "Northwest Sourdough Starter" from Northwest Sourdough. The other is "Mister Baker's Authentic San Freancisco Style Sourdgough Bread Starter" given to us as a gift and available as a dry starter from Yankee Grocery. They both produce good breads, but their characteristics vary in terms of crumb, crust, and aroma. I thought one might be a better choice for grilling. Variable one completed.


To try to control the experiment, I used the same recipe for both doughs as follows:


Recipe
1c starter
1.5 c water
2T extra virgin olive oil
2T sugar (I know, I know, the original is not supposed to use sugar)
1T fine Kosher sea salt
4c enriched, unbleached white flour minus 5T
5T whole wheat flour


Combine the water, starter, oil, sugar, salt and 3c flour.  Allow to rest for 20 min, then stir to develop gluten.  Allow 20 minutes more rest before adding remaining flour and allowing to proof eight hours overnight.


I tried to keep the cooking methods the same as well:


  • Oven: Used a pizza stone and held the oven to 400F. I timed the bake to 15 min.
  • Grill: Tried to keep a constant temp in the grill at "medium" distance (a setting on my adjustable kettle) from ~30 starting briquettes. Used a pizza stone on the grill. Timing the bake was resulting in visibly under-done crusts, so I had to rely on my eye to determine when the crusts were done.
Tabular Results

Crust
Starter
Heat
Proofing
Forming
Process
Observations
1
Northwest
Oven
Fridge
Ball
Removed from fridge, rolled out to crust, and proofed one hour at room temp.
Flaky texture like pie dough. Ok flavor.
1
Northwest
Grilled
Fridge
Ball
Flaky texture like pie dough. Better overall flavor than oven.
2
Baker’s
Oven
Fridge
Ball
Also flaky in texture. Oven produced slightly better texture.
2
Baker’s
Grilled
Fridge
Ball
Flaky texture, but grilled wasn’t as tasty
3
Northwest
Oven
Frozen
Ball
Removed from freezer after 14 hours. Thawed nine hours. Patted into crusts and allowed to proof ~one hour at room temperature.
Slightly pasty texture, but with slightly more rise than the Baker’s.
3
Northwest
Grilled
Frozen
Ball
Pastier than oven-cooked. Smokiness only discernible flavor difference
4
Baker’s
Oven
Frozen
Ball
Slightly pasty texture, very thin.
4
Baker’s
Grilled
Frozen
Ball
Also pastier than oven cooked version. Flavor difference as noted.
5
Northwest
Oven
Fridge
Crust
Instead of bulk proofing in the refrigerator as a ball, these crusts were formed first, then bulk proofed ~eight hours. Once removed from fridge, were allowed to warm to room temperature over two hours.
Rolled extremely thin and did not rise much.  Baked up very crispy and cracker like.
5
Northwest
Grilled
Fridge
Crust
Instead of crispy, the grilled version came out pasty with a noticeable cracker-like flavor. No significant rise noted.
6
Baker’s
Oven
Fridge
Crust
Good texture, but a little flaky. No chewiness at all.
6
Baker’s
Grilled
Fridge
Crust
Did not make a notation of results.
7
Northwest
Oven
Freeze
Crust
These crusts were first formed, then frozen. Removed from the freezer after 14 hours, they were allowed to thaw and proof at room temperature overnight.
Pasty/doughy texture, though sourdough flavor was notable.
7
Northwest
Grilled
Freeze
Crust
Texture same as oven, however, sourdough flavor somewhat less noticeable due to smokiness.
8
Baker’s
Oven
Freeze
Crust
Sourdough flavor not as apparent. Also very pasty/doughy in texture.
8
Baker’s
Grilled
Freeze
Crust
Very pasty/doughy texture.

Conclusions

After nearly two full days of mixing, proofing, grilling and baking, I could draw only a few conclusions:


  • Neither starter seems better suited than the other to the task of being a grilled pizza crust.
  • The corollary to the above is that neither starter seems all that well-suited to this use at all.
  • Forming before freezing or refrigerating does not seem like a good idea. Leaving the dough to bulk proof (frozen or refrigerated) in unformed balls seems to give a better texture.
  • Time required to bulk proof and get some degree of thickness cannot be underestimated.
I have pictures of all the different crusts, but I'm going to post only this one. It is Dough #6, and on the left is the grilled version; on the right is the oven-baked version.  I brushed it with some olive oil and salted it lightly.  You can see the oven-baked version developed slightly more uniform bubbling, probably due to the consistency of the temperature within the oven.  It still wasn't enough to convince me that these starters were up to the task of much more than providing a sour sort of focaccia. 

Stay tuned for Part III where I develop my own starter from scratch.

 

1 comment:

  1. This is so awesome. You are just like Ken, but with food. LOL

    ReplyDelete