Want to pack a punch? Consider herb-infused dough
One aspect of pizza dough production that just doesn’t go away is that of flavored or herb infused dough. A number of years ago, several of the big box chains offered herb-flavored doughs. Then a lot of the independents got into the act, too. The trend waxed and waned over the years, but this time it appears to have come with some baggage –– today, herb and flavored doughs have captured the attention of industrial suppliers who want to make the use of various herbs and flavoring materials easier and more flavorful than ever before. If successful, flavored doughs may take on a whole new personality and level of acceptance in the months to come.
When making flavored doughs we must keep in mind that both garlic and onion need to be used in moderation as they can soften or weaken the dough. It is suggested that the combined level for both of these ingredients not exceed 0.15 percent of the total flour weight in the dough. To find what this weight should be, use your calculator and enter the flour weight –– preferably in ounces –– and then press “x” followed by 0.15. Next, press the “%” key and read the answer in the display window. Remember, it will be expressed in the same weight measures that the flour was given in. For example, if you are using 25 pounds of flour, the calculation would look like this: 25 x 16 = 400-ounces of flour; 400 x 0.15 press the “%” key and read 0.6 ounces of combined onion and garlic powder. If a level greater than this is added, you will need to make adjustments to the way you handle and manage your dough to accommodate the increased softness and weakness. If you are already using an L-cysteine, or dead yeast-based dough softener, you should be able to replace all or a portion of it with the onion, and/or garlic powder, thus getting the flavor and dough softening all at the same time and (possibly saving you a few pennies in the process).
No such precautions need to be taken with any of the other ingredients commonly used to flavor the dough/crust such as oregano, basil, pepper, sun-dried tomato, Parmesan cheese, Romano cheese, olives, rosemary, red and green peppers, etc. Sun-dried tomato is the only one of these that comes to mind as needing any special handling or treatment prior to addition to the dough. These need to be presoaked in oil (preferably olive oil) for several hours or overnight. Failure to do so will result in the tomatoes having all of the textural properties of little pieces of leather in the dough. Any of the other herbs can be added just as they are. They will hydrate from the moisture in the dough and give off a wonderful flavor and aroma as a result of the baking process. All of those little pieces of red and green will also provide an interesting and somewhat rustic appearance to the dough that compliments its unique flavor.
There is another side to flavoring of doughs that we don’t hear about, or even see very often, but deserves mention. That is the use of traditional flavoring materials such as cinnamon, nutmeg, vanilla or even butter or butter flavorings. Cinnamon is the one flavoring material that takes consideration because it can dramatically slow down or even stop the yeast activity when added directly to the dough. This is the reason why we see such things as cinnamon swirl bagels, and cinnamon swirl bread. In both of these cases, the cinnamon is added to the dough as opposed to being incorporated into it. This greatly nullifies the adverse effect of the cinnamon on the yeast. In a pizza dough we can blend the cinnamon with a butter flavored oil or plain salad oil and add it to the dough during the last 30-seconds of the mixing time. This will allow the cinnamon paste to be swirled through the dough, creating a cinnamon swirl crust that might be just the ticket for making a dessert pizza. Or, you might find that blending the cinnamon into a quantity of melted butter to make a thin paste consistency can be easily spread onto a regular dough skin and then topped with pieces of fresh fruit, or drained fruit cocktail.
On an even easier note you can simply take one of your regular thin- crust dough skins and brush it with water, then sprinkle on a combination of cinnamon and sugar (16-ounces of granulated sugar and 1½ to 2 ounces of cinnamon). Dock the dough well and bake until it is set and just begins to brown. Cut the baked crust into strips 1 to 1½-inches wide and about 3 inches long and serve with a simple powdered sugar-water dipping icing to which a little vanilla flavoring has been added for a very fast and easy dessert offering.
While we’re on the topic of dough for dessert pizza, the addition of vanilla flavoring to the dough is often overlooked, or in many cases never even heard of. Vanilla or a blended vanilla-butter flavor can be added to the dough to create a unique and rich tasting crust flavor for any of your dessert pizzas. No other dough changes are needed, just portion out the needed amount of flavoring and process the dough in your normal manner. Due to the vast differences in the concentration of vanilla flavors, it is recommended that you experiment with a reputable brand product to find the amount that works best in your specific application.
When using fresh or dried herbs in your dough, begin using them at 10 percent of the flour weight and go up from there to a maximum of about 25 percent. Depending upon the composition of the herb mix that you elect to use, you will probably find that the best flavor, aroma and appearance characteristics are had at around the 15 percent level. If cheese is the only material being added to the dough, the best levels seem to be around 8 to 12 percent of the flour weight. And if cheese is included in an herb blend, you will probably find that an addition level of 15 to 20 percent works well. When fresh herbs such as fresh basil, oregano, onion or garlic are used in the herb blend, it is not uncommon to see the blends being used at levels approaching the 25 percent level. Like everything else though, you will need to experiment to find what works best for you in your specific application.u
Tom Lehmann is a director at the American Institute of Baking in Manhattan, Kansas.