Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Pizza for 150+

I decided to try making Pizza for our monthly SoulFood dinner. We're baking them on full sheet pans (18x26). The plan was for about 150-160 people, so we made 12 trays, cutting each tray into 24 pieces. At 288 pieces, it's enough for some people to have seconds, but the slices are big enough that some people won't need seconds. We did simple tomato, cheese, and bacon pizzas.


Per tray, I used the following recipe for the dough:

  • 640g water
  • 1020g flour
  • 150g sourdough starter/poolish (yeast)
  • 20g salt

At about 1.8kg of dough per tray, the total recipe is the above times 12. However, to make it fit in the 20qt mixer, I had to divide the dough into two batches of 6 trays per batch. My rough method for preparing the dough goes something like this:

  1. Add the water and an equal amount of flour to the stand mixer's bowl and another large bowl. Add the appropriate amount of sourdough starter to each bowl. Mix with a wooden spoon until barely combined.
  2. In two other smaller bowls, measure the remaining amount of flour for each batch.
  3. In two more bowls, measure the salt for each batch.
  4. After about 20 minutes has passed, begin kneading the stand mixer bowl with the dough hook attachment. Add the salt, and mix on a higher speed for a minute or two.
  5. Reduce the speed to low and gradually add about half of the remaining flour. Once the flour is incorporated, increase the speed and mix until the dough smooths out. It's easier to develop the gluten in the dough while the dough is still very wet.
  6. Gradually add the rest of the flour, and mix until the dough looks smooth again. The dough will not totally pull away from the sides of the bowl as it does when you make it at home. It's just too much dough! If you were using a larger mixer it might though.
  7. Remove the dough from the mixer and scale into gallon-size, oiled bags of 1.8kg per bag
  8. Repeat the process for the other bowl
  9. Refrigerate for 3 days

To make the pizzas, take dough out of the fridge for at least 30 minutes to take the chill off. Pour some olive oil on a sheet pan and dump a dough ball on top. Lather it up and start to press and stretch. Stretch as far as it will easily go, and then let it rest (and warm up) while preparing the other ingredients. It will stretch farther after a rest.


I made a simple tomato sauce using canned whole tomatoes. Normally I follow the procedure I outlined in How to make Pizza, but it would take too long to remove the seeds from that many tomatoes. So we took cans of whole peeled tomatoes and just pureed them in the Vitamix blender. It just decimates the seeds, stem, and all. Then add olive oil, salt, pepper, and herbs to taste. Add a splash of wine if you have it. We used about 1 1/2 - 2 large cans worth (I think they were 38 oz. cans). We sliced fresh mozzarella and baked a few trays of bacon for the rest of the toppings.


By now the dough should have warmed up and can stretch over the entire sheet pan. The first time we made these pizzas, I put shredded dry mozzarella on the bottom and added sauce on top because I was afraid the dough would get soggy as it waited to be baked. Because of our schedule, the pizzas have to sit for an hour (during the service) before we can bake them. The next time, I put the sauce on the bottom and I think it turned out fine. I think the oil on the dough helps keep it from getting too soggy. But it's important not to put too much sauce on, to maintain a good balance of toppings.


The first time, I baked the pizzas at 400 degrees in our convection ovens. I'm not sure how long it would have taken; they were removed at 20 minutes and were overcooked. The next time, I upped the temperature to 500 and they were done in about 10 minutes or less. The center slices could have been cooked a little longer, so I think next time I'll try 400 degrees again. But overall, the reaction was very positive.


I'm not sure how many people we had. We were counting on roughly 15 people per sheet tray, with 24 slices per tray. We had about two trays leftover (one which I burned!) but I don't know what the actual headcount was. It was probably around 150, so next time I could possibly make less dough.