How one young pizza maker uses different techniques to produce top-tier dough
It’s hard not to notice that the pizza world has been a male bastion for hundreds of years. Save for Sophia Loren’s memorable performance as a beautiful pizzaiola in the film L’oro dI Napoli, female pizza makers have been largely ignored. All too slowly that is starting to change. Over the past decade women such as Leah Scurto, Laura Meyer, Nicole Bean and Sarah Minnick have been making bold contributions to our industry. Anyone who has been watching closely can tell you that the incredible women of pizza are finally getting the recognition they deserve.
Enter Audrey Kelly, founder of Boulder, Colorado’s game-changing pizzeria named Audrey Jane’s Pizza Garage. Audrey has had an enviable pizza career, cramming a lifetime of experience into just 10 years. Her journey has taken her from San Francisco to New York and finally to Colorado, along with multiple trips to compete in Italy. At every stop Audrey has made a lasting impression on everyone she has worked with.
How talented is Audrey?
Here’s what 13-time World Champion Tony Gemignani had to say about her: “From the minute I met Audrey I knew she was very special. I’ve trained thousands of pizza makers over the last 30 years and when I saw her handle and open dough for the first time without any previous training, I was blown away.”
Along with many of today’s superstar pizza makers, Audrey is a graduate of a pizza school … but even there she made an impression. Tony observed, “Her expertise is uncanny and extraordinary .”
Audrey is a fierce competitor, but like many of the best of our industry she gets the most satisfaction from seeing her team succeed. She states: “When a customer says they had an amazing experience when I wasn’t there, that is one of the most rewarding feelings.”
Over the past several years Audrey has become renowned for both her technique and her dough making methods. Due to the limited space available in her pizzeria she has developed a unique way to offer a variety of pizza styles using only one dough formula. She achieves an array of textures and flavors by modifying the fermentation time and using different methods in handling the dough when making the pizzas. She describes her perfect dough as “having a varying crunch on the outside and pillow soft in the middle. It should have great mouth feel and not sit like a rock in your stomach.”
These qualities, which are the Holy Grail of modern dough making, can only be achieved with an understanding of how fermentation affects both flavor and texture. Everything begins with knowledge of the science behind our craft. A strong foundation in established dough making principles is critical, but Audrey is also constantly experimenting and modifying based on her experiences and research. When developing a new dough, she likes to “work backwards”. She starts by envisioning her finished product and proceeds to thinking about how to modify her basic dough to achieve the desired result.
Like many of her champion colleagues Audrey is an advocate of long, slow fermentation to develop flavor and texture. She starts with a six-hour bulk ferment before dividing and rounding. This method encourages the bacterial development that is crucial to flavor complexity. Her method also adds strength to the dough, which is particularly important with today’s movement towards higher hydration levels.
Here is a formula based on Audrey’s principles.
5 pounds flour
5 pounds water
¾ ounce instant yeast
- Combine ingredients and cover.
- Let poolish sit at room temperature for 12 to 18 hours.
Then make dough using recipe below.
50 pounds high-protein flour.
32.5 pounds water at 55 F
10 pounds poolish
24 ounces salt
20 ounces oil
4 ounces instant yeast
- Place water in mixing bowl. Add poolish and whisk until fully dissolved. Add yeast. Add flour. Sprinkle salt on top of flour.
- Mix on slow speed for 3 minutes and then slowly drizzle in oil with mixer, continuing to run for additional 6 minutes.
- Increase to speed 2 for 3 minutes.
- Return to speed 1 for 1 minute.
- Place dough in bulk fermentation tub. Cover and allow to rise at room temperature for 6 hours.
- Divide and form into balls. Place in trays. Cover and place in refrigerator for 24 to 48 hours.
- Remove dough from refrigerator and let it come up to a minimum of 55 F before using.
John Arena co-owns Metro Pizza in Las Vegas.