Friday, May 15, 2009

Bakery scales and pizza

I have long advocated the use of scales in the bakery. Measurement by weight is more accurate the by volume. This is especially true for the dry ingredients like flour.

The actual weight of a cup of flour, for instance, varies considerably. A cup of sifted bread flour weighs about 4 ounces while a cup of unsifted weighs about 4-3/4 ounces. The difference is considerable when working with multiple cups of flour.

For consistent results, bakers weigh most of the ingredients. This includes the water and most other the wet ingredients. Although a "pint is a pound the world 'round," liquid measures vary in capacity, unlike scales.

The dough comes together nicely when weighing the ingredients. You'll achieve the right balance between flour and water (usually in the neighborhood of a 3:2 ratio by weight). If the dough is a little loose, you can work some additional flour into it.

After using a mechanical portion scale for 10 years, I purchased a digital scale last month. The digital scale is convenient. To measure, set a measuring container on the scale, press the tare button and it's ready to go.

To add a second ingredient without removing the first, press the tare bottom again and add the next ingredient. This method is helpful when you're going to sift the dry ingredients together.

I purchased the My Weight 7000DX digital scale (pictured) from Old Will Knot Scales on the Internet. The scale has a capacity of 7,000 grams or 15.45 pounds. With the right-sized measuring container, you can weigh enough flour for 15-pound batch of bread, pizza dough or pastry.

I plan to take the scale with me to camp this summer (without the bowl). Its slender profile easily fits inside a duffel bag with a few other must-have baking tools, like a dough cutter, plastic bowl scraper and lame.


This recipe makes enough for 4 (10- to 12-inch) pizzas. It'll yield 24 to 32 slices, depending on how you slice the pizzas. You can double the recipe when using the 5-quart Kitchen Aid mixer.

I provided baker's percent so you can adjust the recipe to fit the needs at your camp.

1 pound 12 ounces bread flour (100 baker's percent)
1/4 ounce instant yeast (.9%)
1/2 ounce table salt (1.8%)
1/4 ounce sugar (.9%)
3/4 ounce olive oil (2.7%)
1 pound warm water (57%)
3 ounces pizza sauce
4 ounces shredded cheese

Place flour, yeast, salt and sugar into 5-quart mixer bowl. Mix dry ingredients using paddle attachment. Replace paddle with dough hook. Knead dough for 15 minutes on medium speed.

Use widow pane test to determine if dough is kneaded long enough. Pinch off a small piece of dough and slowly stretch it like pizza dough. As you gently pull and rotate the dough, stretch it until a thin, translucent membrane forms. If it tears easily, continue kneading for a few more minutes and test again.

Roll pizza dough into a smooth ball on counter top. Place into a stainless steel or glass bowl. Add a little olive oil to the bowl and toss to coat. Cover with plastic wrap and ferment 45 minutes, until double in size.

Place the pizza stone onto bottom of a cold oven and turn the oven to its 500 degrees F. If the oven has coils on the oven floor, place the tile onto the lowest rack of the oven.

Split the pizza dough into 4 equal parts, about 11 ounces each. Flatten into a disk on counter top and then fold the dough into a ball. Let dough relax 5 to 10 minutes.

Work with 1 dough at a time. Flatten dough with hands on a slightly floured work surface. Starting at the center and working outwards, use your fingertips to press the dough to 1/2-inch thick.

Turn and stretch dough until it won't stretch further. Let relax 5 minutes and then continue to stretch it until it reaches the desired diameter, 10 to 12 inches. Flatten edge of the dough where it is thicker.

Dust pizza peel with light coat of cornmeal. Place pizza on peel. Brush with light coat of olive oil. Spoon on tomato sauce and sprinkle with cheese.

Slide pizza off the peel onto pizza stone. Bake 7 to 10 minutes until cheese is golden and crust has browned. Remove pizza from oven with peel. Rest pizza about 3 minutes before slicing.

Cut each 12-inch pizza into 6 or 8 slices as desired.

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