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First few times I thought it was coincidence but now I'm puzzled. I'm baking two pizzas, one after another, made from the same dough and with the same ingredients. Every time, the second pizza base is much better: thinner crust, more elastic, you know, closer to perfect pizza.

I have two pans and I tried them in a different order, same result. Only difference is that the second pizza gets 15 minutes more dough raising, but raising 3 hours or 3 hours and 15 minutes shouldn't make such a difference.

Any idea what is happening?

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Are you letting the dough rise with the ingredients on it or putting them on closer to baking. If the latter, then it may be that the timing really is making a difference. –  kevins Sep 1 '10 at 18:11
    
@Kevin, @Hugo - I learned at a class (for non-professionals) at culinary school that for thin-crust pizza you put the ingredients on max one minute before baking rather than risk a soggy crust. –  justkt Sep 1 '10 at 18:13
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3 Answers 3

up vote 25 down vote accepted

I think it might be the humidity inside the oven that's making the difference. After cooking one pizza, the oven is filled with the steam given off by the cooking dough, sauce, etc.

The humid air in your oven is probably heating the pizza up faster and more evenly (which is what you want for pizza).

Try putting a pan of hot water in your oven for a few minutes before you cook the first pizza and see if that makes the difference.

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The Bread Baker's Apprentice suggests this for many of the breads in the book. Works amazing things for exterior crusts. –  justkt Sep 1 '10 at 19:31
    
I'll definitely try this. Climate in the oven could be responsible. –  Miroslav Zadravec Sep 2 '10 at 6:15
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That's it, I've just eaten one of my best home made pizzas –  Miroslav Zadravec Sep 5 '10 at 7:16
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Maybe its your oven and not the dough? Are you letting it get fully heated?

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I do, but maybe the oven performs better when longer at full temperature. –  Miroslav Zadravec Sep 1 '10 at 17:48
    
Agreed. For your second pizza, the oven has been hot for a while and so it may have reached a higher temperature. Try baking nothing for the time it takes you to bake a pizza but with the oven on, then baking your first, then your second pizza. See if they both come out better. –  Erik P. Sep 1 '10 at 17:53
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A pizza stone should help smooth out temperature differences in your oven: cooking.stackexchange.com/questions/4012/…, cooking.stackexchange.com/questions/2502/… - if you aren't using one for NY or Neopolitan pizza, you are making life more difficult for yourself. Also, the hotter your oven the better your pizza for those two types. –  justkt Sep 1 '10 at 17:55
    
@justkt : if you have a pizza stone, make sure you also get an oven thermometer -- I've heard of some cheaper ovens using a timer to report they were 'ready' (not necessarily at temperature), and the extra thermal mass is going to possibly make the problem of pizzas cooked one after another even more a problem. –  Joe Sep 1 '10 at 20:28
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Also, never put a stone in a hot oven. Put it in before you turn the oven on (or, better yet, leave it in all the time). –  Dennis Williamson Sep 1 '10 at 21:38
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What style of pizza are you making? The perfect Chicago pizza is different than the perfect NY-style pizza is slightly different again from the perfect Neopolitan pizza?

Since you mentioned the perfect pizza crust is thin and elastic, I'm assuming you mean an NY or Neopolitan style pizza, as the perfect Chicago-style pizza crust isn't all that thin. When you say pan, though, I think deep dish.

By elastic it sounds like you mean when rolling out. If that's the case, it sounds like your dough needs a bit of resting time before you roll it out to let the gluten relax after dumping it out of whatever container you are letting it rise in.

For an NY-style or Neopolitan pizza, you want to be baking at as high a temperature as possible. You ideally are doing this on a pizza stone, sliding dough in and out onto it. For these pizzas you want to be putting them on something hot. You only need to bake a pizza around 10 minutes, maybe even less, in a traditional oven at 550 degrees F (~ 278 C)

For Chicago style, I follow the most recent Cook's Illustrated recipe (from January of this year, not the older one that I definitely don't like) with a few adaptations to the crust (as, IMHO, the ideal Chicago style pizza crust is 80% bread flour, 12% semolina flour, and 8% rice flour by weight) and I bake at 425 degrees F (~ 218 C) with the rack in the lowest position of my oven for about 30 minutes.

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