Large air pocket / pliable finshed dough edge

First, let me say that this is a fascinating forum. I am a business owner (not food service) and my only experience with restaurants was almost two decades ago as the man behind the bar. The level and qualtiy of discussion ranks right up at the top of web based discussions.

That said, I have been on a personal quest for good pizza dough, and have run into a dough I enjoy, but cannot seem to reproduce. It is the (infamous) PJ standard dough. I’ve looked in the forum, archives and recipe bank - as well as countless other places on the web - and haven’t found what I’m looking for, but I suspect someone here might set me on the right track.

Specifically, I enjoy the large air pockets connected by the pliable/chewey dough in the crust of these pizzas. I have tried several “recipes”, which nearly always result in a much finer crumb (except for the occasional large air pocket), and a bread-like crust. It is almost a not-quite-fully-cooked feel that I’m lo0king for. I believe Tom has mentioned in an older post that part of the secret - or perhaps most - lays in the dough management, not the ingredients. Every pizza recipe it seems focuses on what goes on the pizza, and throws a generic high protien dough underneath it all - very few explore what really goes onto making the crust and how to affect the outcome.

Would anyone offer some direction towards producing this type of crust? If anyone could shed insight as to how dough manangement affects the dough (variation in temperature, speed of cooling, duration of cold hold, final working temperature), or if there is a really good dead-tree reference I would be greatful. A pizza dough book along the lines of Bernard Clayton’s book on pastry, or Shirly Corrhier’s book on, well, everything (cookwise) would be great, if such a creature existed.

Thanks, in advance, for any help you can provide, and for humoring this “outsider” enthusiast.

When going for the open, coarse crumb structure dough management and forming have the greatest affect upon the finished internal crumb structure. For example, if you do everything right up to the point of forming, and then use a sheeter to form the dough and immediately dress and bake the dough skin, you will end up with something more closelt resembling a slice of bread. Here are a few things to keep in mind:
If using a sheeter to form the dough skin you must allow time for the shaped dough skin to proof/rise after forming. Normally, something in the 45 to 60 minute range is sufficient. If you are going to use a press, the same thing applies. Will this give you the finished crust that you want? Can’t tell, but it will help to open the internal crumb structure if all of the pieces are in place. If you want a fairly thin crust with the open crumb structure hand tossing is the way to go. This forming method retains the gas bubbles in the dough so you really don’t need to allow the dough to proof to regain the large gas bubbles. Don’r over dock the dough either. A single pass of the docker is sufficient. I see so many operators make three or even four passes with the docker and they end up with a “poker chip” type of crust. I think hand forming is the best way to go to help get the characteristic you are seeking.
Here are the other things that also contribute to the open crumb structure.

  1. Use enough water in the dough to form soft dough. Typically, a dough absorption of 56 to 58% works quite well. If the dough is too dry and too stiff it will not open well during baking and a dense crumb structure wil lbe the end result.
  2. Keep the dough mixing time short. Once the dough has a smooth appearance it doesn’t need any more mixing.
  3. Maintain your finished dough temperature in the 80 to 85F range. for consistency in fermentation. If your dough temperature varies, so wil lthe rate of fermentation and you won’t consistently get the desired characteristics in your finished crust.
  4. Give the dough plenty of fermentation. 24 hours in the cooler is sufficient.
  5. Allow the doughy to warm at room temperature for 90 to 120 minutes before you begin using it. Cold dough giong to the oven doesn’t open up very well and it has a decided tendency to bubble. Which, in turn causes one to over dock the dough which, defeats the purpose.
  6. Bake in a hot oven with good heat transfer properties. If you are using a deck oven start you baking at 525F and bake right on the deck. A screen or disk will only slow the baking and reduce the large holes. If using an air impingement oven go with something in the 450 to 465F range and use a preforated baking disk. This is even better than a screen.
    Since there are so many different formulas I cannot say what will work in your specific formula, but these are a few things that are responsible for those sought after large holes ans web-like crumb structure.
    Tom Lehmann/The Dough Doctor