Crust too tough/cracker-like

Hi everyone.

I’m encountering some issues with my pizza crust and i’ve tried fixing it in millions of ways but i don’t know what else to try.

Here’s my recipe:

flour 100%
water 58%
IDY 0.5%
salt 2.7%
sunflower seed oil 4%
sugar 3%
potato flakes 2.5%
a tiny bit of pepper and garlic powder, maybe a knife tip?

I put the water in first, followed by the sugar and salt, dump the flour in and sprinkle the IDY and potato flakes along with the pepper and garlic then i let it mix for 2-3 minutes, i then pour the oil in and let it mix for an additional 8-10 minutes.

I shape the dough into balls and put them in the walk-in at 36-37f for at least 12-14 hours, i tried using it after 24, 48, even at the 72 hr range, results are the same.

When i want to make the pizza i take the dough ball right out the fridge and shape it by hand and i then lay it on a slightly oiled steel pan and then i dock it. I then let it rest and warm up for 10-20 minutes.

I’m using a 250g dough ball on a 12 inch pan btw.

I have an electric deck oven with a stone on the bottom, i set the top temperature at 250c and the bottom at 300-325c, the oven’s thermometer reads 290-300c. Bake time is around 6:30-7 minutes untill both top and bottom are nicely browned and done. The taste is great, amazing actually, but the edge of the pizza is always hard and tough, like a cracker. It doesnt bend and retain it’s shape when pressed with a finger, it tends to crack right away and is tough like a breadstick. Ideally i’d like the whole crust, especially the rim, to be soft and slightly chewy, almost elastic or rubber like, if only a little, so it has the strength to support the toppings but is still soft to the touch and easy to chew.

I already tried a million combinations of higher/lower temps, longer proof time, spreading it out in the pan better (making the rim thicker) etc, and i’m stuck. Anyone else encountered this and could give me some ideas?

Which type of flour do you use?

Currently using 11% protein type 500 flour from a local supplier.

I ran some tests using caputo rinforzata and some other, even higher protein % brands (like 14, 14,5%) and results are the same.

I think i’m leaving it too long in the oven at a temperature that’s too low and it dries out. Wouldnt cranking it up to 350-380c (650-700) and lowering the bake time (from 6-7 to 4-5) end up with a softer, more tender crust?

I would imagine the potato flakes are acting just like the flour (absorbing the water) so I would add that to your flour percent, because the whole formula is based off the flour. I use 60 % water. also you want the dough to be around 60 degress when used, that takes over an hour at room temp. my blodgett 461p is set at 500 and and takes about 8 minutes to cook a pizza. It is extremlly important to keep the pizza in the same spot during the cooking process. You need to spin it halfway, but make sure to keep it in the same spot.

I tried letting the dough warm up for 1-2 hours after it’s done the CF part, if i do this when i try to shape it it’s very gassy and soft and won’t stretch at all, it just tears instantly. I found opening the skin straight out of the fridge and then letting it warm up in the pan for 10-15 minutes yields much better results.

I tried a much higher temp today, around 750 (which dropped to under 700 quickly when i opened the door to spin it and such), i got much better results but the bake time dropped to around 4 minutes at most, it’s almost like very high heat makes it soft and puffy whereas my ‘usual’ lower settings make it dry and hard. I wonder if there are any downsides to me doing this, other than the center of the pizza at the bottom being a bit undercooked compared to the rim.

Your potato flour will will increase the absorption by approximately 5% so assuming a typical dough absorption of 62% without potato flour you should be adding an additional 5% absorption with the potato flour so your total dough absorption should by 67 to 68% not 58%. I’m guessing the dough is just too tight to open well during oven spring which decreases crust porosity making for a hard textured crust and if we go in reverse, you are using 58% absorption but the potato flour is responsible for 5% of that so in essence your dough only has 53% absorption which is in the realm of a thin crispy crust (not what you are looking for). Try the increased absorption and let us know if you see any improvement.
Tom Lehmann/The Dough Doctor

It’s science!:cool:

I gave it a go, made a fresh batch with 65% hydration. I found it a bit difficult to handle, in the mixer half the dough was collapsed to the bottom of the vat and half was stuck like a beehive to the mixer arm, i added a little extra oil to help with handling and i somehow managed to pull it on the counter and ball it up (with some difficulty, all the dougballs were stringy kept sticking to my fingers), in any case i put them in the walk-in and they turned out fine by the next day, i felt they were definitely more hydrated/wetter while i was opening them but they opened well. Same conditions as before, 6-7 minute bake at ~300c.

To be frank, nothing much changed. I’m still getting pitiful oven spring. The rim was dry and cracked, it didn’t rise in the oven. It’s nowhere near to my target of a very soft and very elastic crust which is not crispy (not even a bit) so as when I press my finger over the edge of the pizza it’s very springy and it returns to its original shape without leaving any noticeable dent.

Added a few pictures of my latest, cracked and crispy endeavours.

From what you are describing with a good portion of the dough stuck to the bottom of the mixing bowl as well as adhering to the dough hook (is it a reverse spiral dough arm?) it sounds like your dough is either too small for the bowl size or the dough is still too under mixed. What can you tell us about your mixer? A picture of the dough hook would also help as this might be contributing to the problem.
Tom Lehmann/The Dough Doctor

I attached a picture of the dough hook. It’s an older mixer with a single speed setting. I don’t know how big the bowl is, i’d guess 10-12 liters. It may well be undermixed,

Every time the dough mixes well at first and the hook goes through all of it untill slowly but surely it starts to almost liquefy, sticking to the bottom of the bowl and the dough hook. This tends to happen after 4-5 minutes of mixing. By that point nothing gets mixed anymore, the dough is just spun around for nothing.

I’m making a bigger batch now (3kg flour, 1.8l water + the rest in percentages) and the same thing happens. This is what the dough ends up looking after a few minutes, if i keep going it’s going to deflate even more.

I don’t know how much the dough in the photo has been mixed but it is most definitely under mixed from all outward appearances.
Try making a dough just as you have it shown in your first post but without the pepper, garlic powder and potato flakes. Use 58% absorption based on the total flour weight and let us know how it performs.
Tom Lehmann/The Dough Doctor

Something’s not right with the whole mixing procedure here. Maybe i’m doing something wrong.

I have attached several pictures i took throughout the process. I have to say in advance that the yellow hue of the photos is due to my phone’s flash, the dough itself is pale and almost white IRL.

picture 1 - after 2 minutes of mixing, the dough was shaggy and i added the oil.
picture 2 - after 2 further minutes of mixing (4 total) the oil started to bring it all together
picture 3 - 10 minutes of mixing. at this point it’s easiest to gather it up and ball it. by now if left to continue to mix it’ll just start to liquefy
picture 4 - 12 minutes. it starts to plop down like batter.
picture 5 - 20 minutes total mix time. by this time it’s completely spent, very sticky and unshapeable.

Just out of curiosity i let the mixer run for another 20 minutes (40 total) and it got worse and worse.

Here’s a short clip of how fast my mixer is :

I thought the dough is supposed to come back together so it’s easy to shape but mine is too soft and hard to handle. All this with 58 hydration. Even with the added potato flakes, this happens to it.

I’m beginning to think the issue is with the flour you’re using. I agree that at 10-minutes the dough, while not sufficiently developed, is about as developed as it’s going to get since at 12-minutes it is already beginning to break down. This indicates a very poor protein quality, or insufficient protein amount. What can you provide us on the flour that you are using?
Tom Lehmann/The Dough Doctor

It’s regular type 500 flour with 11% protein content. I have experimented with different flours recently, with protein content up to 14% (like caputo red and others) and the same thing happens.

You say you have experimented with a 14% protein content flour, which one? Can you provide “spec” on any of the flours you have tried? The Caputo “00” is not a very strong flour and really doesn’t tolerate mixing all that well nor does it tolerate much more than 24-hours cold fermentation (relatively poor fermentation tolerance by U.S. standards). The potato flakes…do they contain sulfite? The label should show it as an ingredient if they do. Many mdehydrated masned potatoes destined for home or commercial use in making mashed potatoes contain sulfite as an anti browning agent, that’s the good news, the bad news is that sulfite is also a reducing agent much like L-cysteine which will cause a soft, slack, extensible, sticky dough condition if not use correctly. A quick test for this is to simply make a dough without the potatoes (and 5% less water).
Tom Lehmann/The Dough Doctor

This is the most recent flour i’ve tried. I ran some tests previously without the flakes and the same thing happens. I only got that ‘soft, satin appearance’ when i did a batch with 50% hydration out of curiosity, but it came out just as hard and cracker-like out of the oven.

Here’s a link to a clip of what i’m aiming for when i mean soft, elastic crust : . Unfortunately it’s from a local chain in another city that’s quite a ways away and their product isnt readily available for me to study.

How can i get a crust that behaves this way, doc?

I saw some char on the bottom of the crust in the video which, to me, indicates that the pizza was baked at a temperature much higher than 300C/572F, probably more like 371C/700F or higher for a much shorter time, more like about 2.5 minutes, or so. Crank up the thermostat or toss another log on the fire and try baking at a higher temperature.
Tom Lehmann/The Dough Doctor

Their ovens are easily observable from the counter, they use electric Zanolli Citizen pw40’s (deck style with a stone on the bottom), cranked up to about 90% power, even their temperature dial is in plain view and it reads 290-310 depending on how often the employees open the doors, i timed the bake time and it’s 6:30-7 minutes, give or take.

I still think there is something going on with your flour, unless I can get more information on it I can’t add much else on the dough issue. The finished pizza shows only limited cheese coloration while the bottom crust color is well developed, so if it isn’t temperature of the oven it might be related to the top temperature of the oven being cooler which allows the pizza to be baked longer without scorching the top of the pizza.
Tom Lehmann/The Dough Doctor

How is the rise? Sounds like a bad bag of yeast to me if your crust is cracker like and not rising… Have all your attempts been made with the same yeast?