2013 January: Dough Doctor

Photos by Josh Keown

Q: We are making a thick-crust pizza but it doesn’t maintain any crispiness after we put it into the box. What can we do to make a crispier pizza?

A: One of the most commonly encountered causes for a thick crust pizza to lack or loose crispiness is lack of sufficient bake. Sure, you can “bake” a thick-crust pizza in five minutes, or a little more, and it will probably work well for you in a dine-in application, but when the pizza goes into
a box, it is a whole different game played by a different set of rules. Nothing much good happens to a pizza when it is placed into a box, and it is even worse when that box is placed into an insulated delivery bag for 20 minutes or more. This is where the longer baking time at a lower temperature comes into play. Due to the number of different oven options available, as well as the number of different baking profiles (air impingement ovens), I can’t give any specific baking directions, except to say that utilizing a longer bake time at a lower temperature will give you a thick-crust pizza that will hold up better to the rigors of delivery and carryout. Keep in mind, too, that when using an air impingement oven, you may need to alter the top finger profile to allow you to bake the pizza longer for a crispier eating characteristic without over baking the top of the pizza.

Q: We are opening a new store that will be primarily delivery and carryout. What are some of the things that we could do to our pizzas to provide our customers with the best possible product?

A: There are a number of things that can be done to enhance delivered or carryout pizza. while addressing these issues won’t assure you of the best del/co pizza ever made, it will give you the peace of mind that you are doing all you can, with what you have, to provide your customers with the best quality pizza available from your store.

    • Try to limit the amount of vegetable toppings used, as they can be responsible for releasing water onto the pizza, resulting in a wet, soggy pizza. If you must use a lot of vegetable toppings, an oven that provides good top heat that will help to evaporate moisture from the top of the oven can be beneficial.
    • Set your oven up to provide a longer bake as this will both help to allow for evaporation of moisture from the top of the pizza and to develop
    • a thicker, crispier bottom crust characteristic that can tolerate the rigors of delivery and carryout without becoming overly soft too soon after the pizza is placed in the box.
    • Allow the pizza to set on a wire rack or screen immediately after baking for a minute or so, allowing the pizza to “steam-off”beforecuttingandboxingit.
    • Utilize one of the mats designed to hold the pizza up off of the bottom of the box and provide for some airflow under the pizza to prevent or slow down the steaming of the bottom crust.
    • While this might sound a bit silly, make sure your pizza boxes have steam vents, and that the vents are opened.

Q: Is it true that there is a difference in crust flavor when yeast from different manufacturers is used?

A: No, it is not true. The yeast manufacturers go to great lengths to make sure their product is compatible with that of their competition in all aspects. There have been cases where an “improved” yeast is developed and commercialized, but in those cases the new yeast is given a new or different name.
I’ve had some operators swear that when they used fresh yeast (aka compressed yeast) they saw differences in both flavor and fermentation activity between brands, but when further investigated we found the differences to be due to the age of the yeast, not specific to the manufacturer. To this, I might add that there was one major yeast manufacturer, who for years was thought to have the most active yeast of any of the major manufacturers. So being curious as we are in research, we tested the different brands of yeast against the proclaimed superior product using the latest industry accepted procedures. what we found was that there was no significant difference in fermentation capability between the different brands tested,but why were people saying that they saw a difference? Surely they couldn’t all be wrong.

What we ultimately discovered was that the said to be superior yeast was packaged in 17-ounce, one-pound bricks. That’s right, 17 ounces to one of their bricks, while everyone else used the accepted weight of 16 ounces to the pound. but didn’t that cost them in the end, just giving away so much extra yeast? No, not really because it explained why this particular yeast manufacturer had an advertising budget that could be covered by a schoolboy’s lunch money. A pretty neat trick I would say!

Tom Lehmann is a director at the American Institute of baking in Manhattan, Kansas.