Saturday, February 8, 2020

What Calvel, Forkish, and Degas can teach You about Pizza Dough!

Raymond Calvel was born in 1913 in the Tarn region in south-west France. In the 1930s, he apprenticed as a baker in Toulouse, then studied at the Ecole des Grands Moulins de Paris. In 1935, he accepted an offer to become professor of baking at the Ecole Nationale Superieure de Meunerie et des Industries Cerealieres (ENSMIC) in Paris. In addition to authoring many books on bread baking, he also taught Julia Child and Simone Beck for their chapter on bread in Mastering the Art of French Cooking. Calvel has been credited with creating a revival in French-style breadmaking, researching and improving technique, and the development of the "autolyse." Autolysing is a process where flour and water are mixed together, then allowed to rest, which hydrates the flour to relax gluten, making the dough easier to knead and easier to stretch, perfect for making pizza dough!

Ken Forkish is a Silicon Valley software engineer turned bread baker in Portland, Oregon. He runs three of Portland's most acclaimed eateries: Ken's Artisan Bakery, Ken's Artisan Pizza, and his newish tavern and bakery called Trifecta. Ken is the author of  the James Beard Foundation Award Winning and International Association of Culinary Professional Cookbook Award Winning Flour Water Salt Yeast. After picking up his cookbook from my local library, I was inspired to make his recipe for "Same-Day Straight Pizza Dough." Although, My Basic Pizza Dough recipe is excellent when you're rushed for time and are craving pizza right away, I still wanted to find a recipe that recreated the exceptional crust that I fell in love with in Philadelphia, New Jersey, and New York. This recipe fits the bill! It's crisp yet soft and chewy inside, filled with air bubbles and perfect to satisfy my urge for really good pizza dough!

I learned a lot about bread making from Flour Water Salt Yeast, like the process of autolysing and the process of squeezing the dough between your thumb and pointer finger all along the dough to fully incorporate the yeast and salt mixture, which Ken calls the "pincer method." Unfortunately, the recipe in his book makes enough dough for five pizzas, too much for my needs. So, after careful experimentation, I was able to break down the ingredient amounts to successfully recreate enough dough for two pizzas, just the right amount for my family! Finally, after feeling quite pleased with myself, it was time to shape the dough into balls when I stumbled across his instructions "not to 'degas' the dough." Hmmm? Sounds like some fancy French baking term? After searching and consulting all my bread books, I realized this term has nothing to do with French baking terminology or the master painter Degas, it simply means not to break the air bubbles in the dough....don't "de-gas" the dough! I'm an idiot... 

*Try Ken's fabulous recipe, and one of my new favorite pizzas, The New Yorker!

Same-Day Straight Pizza Dough

Makes enough for two 12" pizzas. 

**Note: You need to start this recipe first thing in the morning and allow at least 8 hours before baking! Don't worry, it's well worth your time!

1/4 teaspoon instant dried yeast
1 1/2 tablespoons warm water
3 1/2 cups unbleached, all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups warm water
1 1/2 teaspoons fine sea salt
Olive oil, as needed

Hydrate the Yeast
Mix the 1/4 teaspoon yeast with 1 1/2 tablespoons warm (90-95 degrees) water in a small bowl. Set aside.

Autolyse the Flour
Combine the 3 1/2 cups flour with 1 1/2 warm (90-95 degrees) water in a large bowl. Mix by hand just until incorporated. Cover and let rest for 30 minutes.

Mix Yeast/Flour Together and Salt
Sprinkle the salt over the autolysed dough. Stir the yeast mixture with your finger, then pour it over the dough. Use a small piece of dough to wipe the remaining yeast goop from its container, then throw it back in the dough.

Mix by hand, wetting your working hand before mixing so the dough doesn't stick to you. (It's fine to rewet your hand three or four times while you mix.)

Reach under the dough and grab about one-quarter of it. Gently stretch this section of dough and fold it over the top to the other side of the dough. Repeat three more times with the remaining dough, until the salt and yeast are fully enclosed.

The Pincer Method!

Use the pincer method (see above) alternating with folding the dough to fully integrate the ingredients. Cut and fold, cut and fold. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let rest in a warm location. (My oven has a "proof" setting that is designed to proof dough.)

Fold the Dough
This dough needs one fold. It's best to apply the fold 30-60 minutes after mixing. (I wait 60 minutes.) After folding, lightly coat the dough and the bottom of the tub with olive oil to help prevent sticking.

When the dough is about double it's original volume, about 6 hours after mixing, it's ready to be divided.

Divide the Dough
Moderately flour a work surface. With floured hands, gently ease the dough out of the tub. With your hands still floured, pick up the dough and ease it back down onto the work surface in a somewhat even shape. Dust the entire top of the dough with flour, then cut it into 2 equal-size pieces with a dough knife or plastic dough scraper.

Shape the Dough Balls
Shape each piece of dough into a medium-tight round, tucking seams down on the bottom of each ball, working gently and being careful not to degas the dough.

Put the dough balls on a lightly flour baking sheet, leaving space between them to allow for expansion. Lightly oil or flour the tops, cover with plastic wrap, and let rest at room temperature for 30-60 minutes. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes to make the dough easier to shape. The dough is now ready to be used. Stored in the refrigerator and tightly covered, any leftover dough will keep for up to 2 days.

Recipe adapted from Flour Water Salt Yeast, by Ken Forkish.

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