Crust too tough/cracker-like

I’ve used different brands of IDY, they all perform ok.

In the mean time i figured out what my 2 issues were - too much hydration and wasn’t putting any pizza sauce on the rim.

I briefly worked at big local chain of pizzerias to gain some knowledge and experience before i open my own place and during their new employee instruction phase they taught me to always leave the outer inch of the crust free of any sauce and toppings. Thinking back, they did have a thickness factor of .11 or something, compared to my 0.075 so maybe they got away with it. Or their conveyor oven yielded different results than my deck. They got a soft(ish) rim somehow even when it was dry. I did not.

In any case, once i started lightly applying some of the tomato sauce i make on the outer edges i got results that are nearly identical to the pictures in reply #18 and the video in reply #16. The only thing left now is to figure out how to stop the bottom from becoming too dry, which is an issue i’m currently facing. I set the bottom at 350c so it doesnt end up raw but it seems to jump into the other extreme right away, of being too dry.

As for the dough not mixing, i’m just gonna have to guess there’s a big difference in the flours we use. I made a batch with 53% hydration (with the potato flakes as well) and it came out fine, mixed it for 25+ mins and it came out great, white and satiny as all the instructional videos showed. I guess 60% or more is too much and the flour can’t handle it. It’s a pain to shape into balls and even the taste is a bit off, as if it’s undermixed/undercooked after being in the oven.

Thank you all for your input and help, i look forward to being a part of this community :slight_smile:

I’m certainly a beginner but have done a lot of experimenting with my dough for many years. My best dough has been with briskly mixing the water mix with about half the flour to really get the glutens going. Then adding flour a bit at a time until it looks good and then kneading. I twice bake my bases so I use a 75% water ratio. I leave the dough in the fridge for at least 24 hours. Also I leave the oil out of the mix as a read somewhere it prevents flour hydration. I add the oil on the outside and then shape the dough using this oil. Maybe it helps.
pizza slice.png

I return with new information, i made some more experiments and also asked around and found out some new things.

The pictures in reply #18, which appear to show charring (which would indicate a higher temp than 300c) is actually residue from the seasoned steel pans they use… apparently they wash them once a week, aside from that they just scrape them with a scraper to get all the residue/burnt dough bits off, then they go back to the make line where they’re oiled again and made ready for the skins. Is this even hygienic/allowed? I thought i’m supposed to wash the pans after each use.

Secondly, apparently they use as little as 0.2 IDY and do a room temperature ferment, with the dough trays only being put in the fridge overnight.

Is it even feasible to run a small shop like this? How would one go about it? Say, could one make a big batch with 0.2% IDY (which would easily last 4-5 days in the cooler, right?) only to have a tray or two out on the counter each day and leaving it out there for a few hours before use (0.2% IDY at room temp still takes 3-4 hours according to that yeast chart).

A bit messy and all over the place with the questions but any help is appreciated :slight_smile:

As long as your pans remain behind the counter you are not required to wash them after each use. With seasoned pans we do not even recommend washing them, just wipe out with a clean towel and you’re good to go. You never see bakers washing their bread pans do you? Your pizza pans are no different. The problem with making a large dough and using it over the course of a week is that the yeast continues to ferment during all that time so the dough will also be changing over the course of the week. Better to make a 3-day dough twice a week as you will have less variability from day to day.
Tom Lehmann/The Dough Doctor

Thank you Tom.

Interesting. We (me and my girlfriend) are just starting out a small pizza shop, doing some tests, etc. We had a few customers already and when it got busy having to clean the pans was a pain, i considered buying some more as a back-up but not having to wash them saves some time.

I ask about the 0.2% IDY because that’s what i narrowed down the recipe to. I made a menu by myself but the dough i’m trying to base on the product they made at my last job, in a different town quite far away(so i can’t just drive there and buy a new pizza every day and run tests to copy it). I still keep in touch with a friend who works as a cook there and he helped me piece together the following

100% flour
56% water
0.2% IDY
1.5% salt
2% oil
1.7% sugar
1.9% potato flakes
a knifetip of garlic powder and one of pepper

…and the dough gets left mostly on the counter at room temperature untill it’s all gone (a day-day and a half) or being put in the walkin cooler overnight.

Here’s where it gets dicey as i have to learn the management procedure from scratch and i feel its a bit different than what i got used to recently (mainly CF with a lot more yeast)

Using my apparently weaker-than-normal-protein flour it all turns out great, smooth and satiny just like in the videos i’ve seen of you, the dough balls take 1-2 hours to warm up in the morning and they’re good to go, the pizza comes out great (not too thin after i learned how to properly open it, carefully and without leaning too much into it to squish it and thin it out) but the only thing that’s still off is the flavor.

It pretty much tastes bland, it’s alright but not great, can’t seem to get that aftertaste from the crust, almost like eating fries or something, i dont know how to describe it. I’ve eaten quite a few bits of the crust edges side by side to compare it, it’s totally different. So i was wondering if it might be down to the pans not being washed regularly and all that garlic-infused oil they’re doused in. Could that contribute to a fried-like taste in the bottom of the pizza?

Have a good day,

Not having the opportunity to taste or evaluate the flavor of your crust or that of your target makes it hard/impossible to day just what you might need to do to achieve the flavor you’re looking for. Since salt is extremely important in the flavor profile equation I would begin by increasing the salt level, first to 2% and then to 2.5% to see if that helps any. Then I would begin looking at the yeast level (fermentation is responsible for essentially all of the flavor, especially those lingering after tastes), do this by incrementally increasing the yeast level in 0.1% increments. I’ve got one other idea but I suggest doing this and letting us know if you see any improvement first. My other idea is a bit more radical in that it involves taking you back to “square-one” with a whole different formula and procedure. By the way…anybody got any idea of how much a “knife tip” of garlic and pepper actually weigh?
Tom Lehmann/The Dough Doctor

:):slight_smile: ‘a knife tip’ is the way it’s been described to me so i guess that’s why it stuck. i basically take a simple kitchen knife and stick the tip in some pepper and whatever’s still there after i lift it, i throw that in the mixer. i’m doing quite small batches of dough (2-3 kilos of dough) so i’m told i dont need to go over the top with the pepper and garlic powder. my scale isn’t that great so i can’t measure by half a gram but i guess that’s how much i’m using of each.

I made a batch with 2.5% and it did alter the taste, i could feel it’s saltier but that’s about it. That ‘smoked’ after taste is something completely different. I’ll try doing some more batches with more yeast as well, my friend swears by that recipe and insists it’s 0.2% and a (mostly) room temperature ferment except for storage. I’m told they sell a thousand pizzas a day in that place and make batches of ~170 at a time so they never have to worry about leftovers, they just stick whatevers left at the end of the day in the walkin and use it first thing next morning and that’s that.

In any case, i’m curious as to what else i might try as i’ve run all out of ideas. I’m starting to think there’s a secret ingredient i might be missing here (that’s being kept away from anyone save a few key employees) , since i 100% use the exact same ingredients (from the same suppliers too! what a hassle that’s been)


Actually, you’re making fairly large batches compared to what a lot of folks here make. A good level for garlic powder is about 0.15% so based on 2500-grams (2.5 Kg.) flour weight you would need to use at least 3.75-grams of garlic powder and for pepper, you can go to twice that amount or more. Remember, it’s not the ingredients that make a great pizza, it’s what you do with them that makes the pizza.
You mentioned something about a “smoke” flavor (“That smoked aftertaste is something completely different”). When commercial pizza ovens are really crank’in they’re a smokin’ too, it’s possible that this is where the smoke flavor is coming from, it can also come from debris that is getting charred on the deck and transferred to the pizza as it bakes. Just something to consider.
Tom Lehmann/The Dough Doctor

Yeah…i might need to get a new oven. The one i have now is kind of old and beat up, i can see some steam coming out from the joints when i bake (mainly the doors, they dont seal perfectly) and other such issues…uneven heat distribution, etc. It’s an old oven, i got it used. I think it’s time i buy a new one, been looking at a Zanolli deck oven, mainly their Citizen range, it might be what i need to get started properly.

My questions is this, though. Could the type of oven have anything to do with the flavor? If i were to solve the heat loss issue and whatever else might be happening, would that affect the bake so much so as to give me the flavor i’m looking for? It’d be quite a hefty loan for me to take and i’m trying to convince myself it would make a difference :slight_smile:

That’s a question that I cannot answer as I have no idea of where you’re presently at flavor wise or exactly what your expectations are. From what you describe though it sounds as if your present oven might be ready to be put out to pasture so a new oven might be in your future one way or another.
Tom Lehmann/The Dough Doctor

And i did just that. I got a new oven right before christmas, a Zanolli Citizen EP70 ( and it’s made quite a big difference, it goes up to temp a lot quicker and it seems to spread the heat evenly unlike the old oven. No more two-tone pizzas. I’m pretty happy with it so far. I get the taste of the crust just the way i want it. But i still have a few hiccups to overcome.

One is that i have a cold shop. I had no idea what i was getting into so the place i rented (and have to make due with now) doesnt keep warm overnight, i turn the heating on in the morning. As a result, it gets down to 8-10c overnight. I gave up on using the walk-in for now since it’s been below 0c outside and everything is a lot colder. I started using more yeast to make up for it and i hold it in a regular fridge for now (5-8c) But i have trouble with getting the dough to ferment properly, i can barely get it to be 22-23c indoors after an hour or two. Still workable…

And my other issue is i can’t get the temperature right. For some reason the pizzas come out raw on the bottom. A bit soggy and soft. The rim seems to cook fastest while the center of the pizza is almost raw most times. To confuse me even further, if i crank the stone heat higher(on the bottom), it’s the top of the pizza that gets cooked faster and comes out burnt. Currently doing 320c bottom, 310c top at ~6:30 bake.

I also didnt get to install any kind of extraction or exhaust funnel to the oven yet. Could this be a reason for my trouble?

Thanks and happy holidays to all.

It sounds like the stone temperature is too cold. How are you measuring the temperature of the deck (stone)? Do you have any sugar in your dough formula? I would suggest that you continue to use your cooler as it is/should be colder than your room temperature of 8 to 10C/46 to 56F and will give you better control over fermentation. The inability to achieve bottom crust color could be due to an excessively low yeast level (common when less than ideal dough management practices are employed) especially if the low yeast level is used to keep the dough from over fermenting/blowing during the CF period which it very well could do at 8 to 10C storage temperature.
Tom Lehmann/The Dough Doctor

I have a laser gun. I’m using 1.7% sugar and 0.5% yeast. The dough came out raw using the cooler, didn’t rise one bit. I’m trying to make next day dough (i always make it in the evening). At this stage i dream of having overfermented dough, i’m having the opposite problem. Too little yeast, a cold shop, 2c cooler, i can barely get it to warm up before use to at least 16-17c.

As a side note when it comes to FDT i found a video that says to multiply 80F by 3 and then substract the flour temp, room temp and FF, so i’m left with the water temperature i should put in. It says i should factor in about 30F for the friction factor so i just went with it. When i got a cold room and cold flour i actually had to heat up the water to ~115f in some cases. Hope that’s ok.

Actually, I wouldn’t recommend using water that warm, instead go with water at 100F and do this: Put 115F water in your mixing bowl (fill it at least 2/3 full) and allow it to set for a couple of minutes. This will warm the bowl reducing the need to have the water so warm. In view of your VERY COLD shop conditions I also suggest that you target a finished dough temperature of 85 to 90F. Note: I never advocate such a high finished dough temperature but this is an unusual situation and desperate times require desperate measures. The higher finished dough temperature in this case will hopefully provide sufficient latent heat in the dough to maintain a sufficiently high temperature to maintain fermentation for at least several hours (5 to 6-hours) after placing the dough in the cooler. Let us know where the dough temperatures fall using these measures. If you are getting better fermentation but the dough is difficult to open due to its cold temperature begin increasing the total dough absorption until the dough is sufficiently soft and pliable to open into skins with relative ease. Essentially what I’m setting you up with is a process similar to what is used here in the U.S. where the dough will be used directly out of the cooler without any warming period prior to use. On other thing, be sure to use a dough docker on the dough skin after opening to control bubbling.
If you can include pictures of the dough made using the above suggested changes it will help greatly in providing further direction.
Tom Lehmann/The Dough Doctor

A couple of updates;

I got sufficient fermentation using those steps. The dough ferments nicely now. And the cold weather seems to be changing these last few days so i probably wont have to struggle like this for long.

I figured out what was going on in reply #12. Apparently adding oil to my dough makes it break down very quickly. I don’t know if it’s the sunflower oil i’m using but i made some test batches without oil and turns out my flour can hold 62% hydration with no problem, i’d let it mix for 10,15 even 20 minutes(at slow speed, the only speed my mixer has) and it would come out great. satiny and smooth. However, when i add the oil within 2 minutes it would start to break down as pictured. So now i just let everything mix for however long and add the oil at the end. It slides around a lot at first but then it comes together nicely and if i stop it in time, all is well.

Another possible reason for the dry/tough crust was the oven temperature. Aside from raising water % from 56 to 60, I poked around some more and found there’s a huge difference between having the oven run at 300c (for a 7-8 minute bake) and 350c (for a 5-5:30s bake). Once i cranked it up to 350 the pizzas came out great, just as i want them, soft and tender with a great taste.

So if anyone out there reading this had the same problems: increase hydration and get a good oven and try cranking the heat up. It takes a few tests what with having different controls for top and bottom temperature, in my case 350c on top and 370-380c on the stone bottom works best. The only issue i have now is my damn steel pans have started to buckle a little, especially the 40cm ones, and they don’t sit flat on the stone, leaving the middle of the pizzas slightly less cooked than the edges. Oh, and lots of water from the vegetables, which i sometimes have to absorb with a crumpled up napkin. Still trying to work out these minor inconveniences.

When you were previously adding the oil, when were you adding it? The most accepted way to add oil is by using the delayed oil addition mixing method, by this method the dough is mixed until it comes completely together and you don’t see any dry flour in the mixing bowl (once you establish this point visually you can use the time it took to know when to add the oil in following doughs) then add the oil and continue your normal mixing sequence.
Tom Lehmann/The Dough Doctor

I’ve done it lots of ways over the last period of time. I never add it until it’s completely together (and no dry flour can be seen on the edges). If it’s got more than 56% water and i add my 2% oil into it, be it 3 minutes into mixing or 15, it starts to break down and in 2-3 minutes its a gooey mess. Must be the flour i’m using, i don’t even know the details as i import it from a neighbouring country and they don’t even use the latin alphabet, let alone a language i can understand!

Since oil is an optional" ingredient in pizza dough formulas try just leaving the oil out of the dough entirely.
As to why the dough might be reacting as it does to the addition of the oil I’m guessing that there is little gluten development in the dough (either due to lack of gluten forming proteins in the flour or the gluten hasn’t been formed due to the way the dough is being mixed) the oil will then disrupt what little gluten there is actually binding the dough together so the dough appears to just break down. In either case you should see some improvement by deleting the oil.
Tom Lehmann/The Dough Doctor