Halo Products Group burst onto the scene earlier this year when they brought the Versa 16 into the outdoor pizza oven world. A few years ago, it appeared that Ooni had a stronghold on the outdoor pizza oven, but these days there are so many options to choose from if you are delving into making pizza at home.
The problem with most of the outdoor pizza ovens on the market is that they are geared towards making pizzas in the range of over 850 degrees. Perhaps that is what you are looking for, which is great if you want to cook a Neapolitan pizza in 90 seconds, but to me, there are two problems with that. Those ovens are one dimensional right out of the box (without some fine-tuning of the heat settings to lower the temperature), for one, and the other problem is a personal one: I like Neapolitan style pizza, but it is not my favorite.
New York style pizza is my favorite. However, up until recently, I have never been able to create it at home. My home oven is inadequate; it is old, the heating is uneven and spotty, and the crust has never come out the way I want it to, despite using a pizza stone (I have never tried to make it with a pizza steel). My outdoor Bertello pizza oven runs far too hot (and is too small) to even bother attempting an NY style pie.
Enter the Halo Versa 16, which entered the outdoor pizza oven market earlier this year. As of my most recent post, I have not minced any words about the Halo Versa 16 being an optimal vehicle for creating New York style pizza.
To make this pizza dough, it is imperative that you own a scale that can weigh flour and water, and a gram scale that can weigh minuscule amounts of yeast and salt. Kitchen scales are inexpensive and will upgrade your pizza game tenfold.
What Makes a Great NY Style Pizza Dough
My first taste of NY style pizza has its roots from my childhood in the 1990s in southwestern Virginia. Raymond Schiano, along with help from his brother Geno, opened a restaurant called The Italian Village about 40 or so years ago. The long, thin slices and the slightly crisp but chewy texture of the pizza was featured in every bite.
New Yorkers might tell you it is in the water. That is absolute hogwash. Countless scientific studies have proven otherwise, and in blind taste tests people have not been able to tell the difference from pizza dough made with water from New York or otherwise. You do not need New York water to make a great New York style pizza. Claiming that, “it’s in the water!” is a slap in the face to all the preeminent pizzaiolos today and the generations of pizza-makers who taught them the craft.
The principle ingredient that gives New York style pizza its taste is the use of high gluten flour. A horde of NY pizza restaurants are in possession of a great deal of General Mills’ bromated All Trumps flour. This flour is made from hard red spring wheat and it features a 14.2% protein content. This is higher than what you will find in a general grocery store, but the high protein is what delivers that classic chewiness, which is what you are looking for in an authentic New York style slice. All Trumps also has diastatic malt in it, which not only achieves more rise in the crust but also aids in browning.
If you are wondering, “what the heck is ‘bromated’ flour?” Hey, I wondered the same thing when I ventured into the use of All Trumps flour. Bromated flour refers to the ingredient potassium bromate, and it is a compound that strengthens dough and provides increased oven spring* and higher rising in an oven.
(*Oven spring: The rapid increase and final burst in the expansion of dough once it is loaded into the oven. The dough expansion will cease as soon as the temperature of the dough reaches about 140℉, at which point the yeast dies. There are many factors that influence the degree and quality of the oven spring when baking pizzas, including overall dough quality (it should not be stiff or overkneaded, and it should have good hydration), the degree of fermentation (it should not be underfermented or overfermented), and oven temperature. The manner in which the pizza is baked, that is, whether using a pan, stone/tiles, or pizza screen, will also be a factor. Source.)
You can find All Trumps flour at, perhaps, a restaurant supply shop. That is where I found mine, at a place called The Stock Pot in Johnson City, Tennessee. You can order it online from various retailers as well. In the event that you cannot find it, elect to use King Arthur bread flour. It has lower protein content (12.7%) but still delivers on the chewiness. I use All Trumps flour with my recipe, but feel free to give bread flour a shot. I have used it in the past for this same recipe, and it is similar enough.
Hydration, Salt and Yeast
There is a small debate online over the hydration level of a New York style pizza. Some say that 58% is authentic while others argue that 65% is the way to to go. My recipe is a 65% hydration dough, because that is what I personally prefer. I like the puffy rise of the cornicione (rim of the pizza) and I feel that the higher water content protects the dough from drying out during the longer bake. I say these two things as a pizza enthusiast, as I am not a scientist nor an expert baker, so take my words with a grain of salt.
Feel free to lower the hydration percentage (I will provide a lower value for those of you who want to do so, because lower hydration dough is easier to work with) if you feel more comfortable doing so. Because you can bake a New York style pizza in the Halo Versa 16 in about four or five minutes, I wouldn’t worry about the hydration percentage values as a hard rule.
I use 2.1% salt (fine sea salt) in my dough. I feel like this is the best of both worlds. The salt is not too low nor is it too high. If your salt is too low, the yeast can go crazy and your flavor will be lacking. If the salt content is too high, the yeast can be inhibited from doing its thing and you will have a tough time stretching the dough because the salt will cause it to become more elastic. Salt provides flavor and aids in the fermentation.
You can use whatever kind of yeast you want, but this recipe is geared towards instant dry yeast. It is easy, can be mixed right into the flour and — unlike active dry yeast — you don’t have to activate it in water to get it ready.
But What About Sugar and Oil?
If you are making this dough for your home oven, you might want to consider using both sugar and oil, which aids in the browning of the pizza, but the Halo Versa cooks at temperatures over 600 to 700 degrees. I feel that sugar is unnecessary completely for that reason. Furthermore, not every New York pizza restaurant is using sugar in their dough.
Oil is up for more of a debate. Oil can not only help your pizza be more chewy but help you stretch the dough when you get to that point. However, I am leaving it out, at least for now. If you do decide to use oil, do not use more than 2% of the total flour weight.
Troy’s NY Style Pizza Dough Ingredients for the Halo Versa 16
I have droned on for far too long, but I feel like the above explanations are necessary to get to this point. One more thing to know before you get started: this dough is meant to be used as a 72-hour dough. You can use it after 48 hours, but I prefer the flavor of a 72-hour cold ferment.
This recipe is meant for two dough balls weighing 425g each, which results in 15-16″ pizzas.
Flour (100%): 507g
Water (60-65%): 305-330g
IDY (0.4%): 2g
Salt (2.1%): 11g
Mixing/kneading by hand:
1.) Place water in a large bowl
2.) Add flour and yeast
3.) Using a wooden spoon or your hands, mix to combine thoroughly for a few minutes
4.) Add salt and continue to mix
5.) Dump out onto surface and, once the dough comes together, knead for five minutes.
6.) Place the dough into a closed container and allow it to sit on the counter for an hour at room temperature.
7.) Divide the dough into balls, place each into a 6-cup plastic Gladware (or similar) container and toss it into the fridge to cold ferment.
Mixing/kneading with a mixer (my preferred method):
1.) Place water, flour and yeast into the bowl of a mixer
2.) Using the dough hook attachment, mix on low for 1 minute
3.) Add salt and continue mixing/kneading on low or medium-low for four minutes.
4.) Place the dough into a closed container and allow it to sit on the counter for an hour at room temperature.
5.) Divide the dough into balls, place each into a 6-cup plastic Gladware (or similar) container and toss it into the fridge to cold ferment.
48 to 72 hours later, when you are ready to bake, remove the dough balls from the fridge for at least an hour or up to two hours to warm up. I like to begin stretching my dough into skins when the dough temperature reads 55 degrees.
If, after the mixing stage, the dough is crumbly/shaggy or not coming together, allow it to rest — covered — for about 15 to 20 minutes to autolyze or otherwise allow the flour to absorb the water.
You might be thinking, “Wow! That is a short kneading session!” You would be correct. One thing you need to know about using All Trumps flour is that it can quickly be overkneaded. This is more of a worry when it comes to using a stand mixer than by hand, but this point still stands.
A high gluten flour like All Trumps lends itself to a long cold ferment in the refrigerator.
I don’t even bother checking for the windowpane test with this dough. I will do a simple ‘poke test’ to see if the dough springs back when I poke it, which indicates that there is even the slightest gluten development happening, and then stop kneading.
You typically knead to develop gluten, but in a recipe like this, with All Trumps flour, the gluten development happens in your refrigerator more than anything, through the act of biochemical gluten development. The dough strengthens as it sits.
Halo Versa 16 Heating and Bake Settings for a NY Style Pizza
To make a 16″ pizza on the Halo Versa 16, I recommend using a screen. I use this one from LloydPans. I mean, you can build your pizza on a 16″ peel, but it is difficult to launch a 16″ pizza on a 16.5″ stone. Asides from assisting in launching a large pie onto the Versa 16, the screen protects the bottom of the pizza from burning. You have more control over how brown the bottom of your pizza will be.
In addition to that, I do not use a screen for the entire bake.
My cooking process with the Halo Versa 16 when making a New York style pizza is as follows:
1.) Preheat the Halo Versa 16 on low for 20 minutes. I have found this to be the ‘money’ point in which to get the stone temperature to 652 degrees. Be sure to have the stone rotating during your preheat.
2.) While the Versa 16 preheats, I’ll build my pizza and, once adequately stretched, lay it onto the screen. If your screen is brand new, spray it with a little bit of oil so that the dough will not stick.
3.) At this point, after the preheat, I will launch the pizza onto the stone and cook it for about two and a half to three minutes while keeping the heat set to low.
4.) Afterwards, I crank the heat up to high and I’ll remove the pizza from the oven and slide it onto my peel and back into the oven so that the bottom of the pizza is browned while the high heat assists in the adequate browning of the top of the pizza.
You can experiment with removing the screen earlier or later in the cook, but I have had great success with the method above.
If the top of your pizza is not as browned as much as you prefer it to be, then dome the pizza to the top of the oven. By this, I mean lift the pizza with your peel and hold it towards the top of your oven so that the heat radiating from the top of the Versa 16 will reflect back onto the top of your pie.
I sincerely hope you give this recipe a shot. As a lifetime student of pizza slinging, I am forever experimenting and trying to improve, so I may update this recipe in the future, but as of now I have found this recipe to be an absolute winner for the Halo Versa 16 pizza oven.
All feedback is welcome, especially criticism, as long as it is constructive and friendly in nature. If you have any questions, ask away.