Big Dave Ostrander talks dough consistency

abdWeightControlQ: Dave, I make my dough fresh every day. Some days it’s perfect and others it’s either too soft or too firm. Since I hand stretch, this is a big deal. What am I doing wrong?

Tony S.
via e-mail

A: Hey Tony! Early on, I also suffered from this dough problem. Back in the Dark Ages, when I was taught to make dough, we used No. 10 empty tin cans as scoops for the flour as well as the water. If the phone didn’t ring and break your concentration and cause you to lose count, the batch was probably going to be useable. For a small investment, I have made this problem go away forever. First you have to toss out your teaspoons, tablespoons, cups, and gallon measures and trade up to measuring ingredients the precise way … with a scale.

Not every 50-pound bag of flour contains 50 pounds. Some will be spot on, some will be light and some a little heavy. I never assumed that the bag was filled to the exact weight at the mill. I do know that the paper bag the flour comes in weighs the same every time.

The best scale I know for the money to weigh out both the flour and water is a digital electronic platform receiving scale. The features I would look for are as follows:

  • Platform size of at least 10 inches by 10 inches.
  • LED remote display that can be wall-mounted at eye level. I do it with Velcro tape.
  • A ‘Zero Tare’ function. Place a plastic water bucket on the platform. The scale will display the weight. Press a button and the scale resets to zero. Now fill with water. Place a bag of flour on the scale. It should read 50½ pounds. The 8 ounces is the empty paper bag weight. I scooped out 4 pounds of flour and made a 46-pound batch. I used the four pounds as dusting flour on the make line.
  • The display will need to be fairly sensitive. The scales I like have .2 of a pound sensitivity.
  • Weight by pounds and fractions of a pound are common. If the scale has both English as well as Metric displays, that’s a plus.
  • I like a scale that can be powered by either AC wall current (110v) or DC batteries. Batteries will eliminate running extension cords and the possibility of electrical shock when near water.

I also highly recommend purchasing a 0 to 32-ounce dial platform scale. You probably already have one now and use it to weigh out dough balls and hopefully cheese portions. Most dial platform scales have needle bounce. Put something on the platform and watch the indicator needle bounce for three to five seconds. For a few bucks more you can get a scale that has a zero-bounce feature. This scale will complement the other scale for weighing out smaller ingredients like yeast, salt and oil, etc. Whatever formula you use now can be converted from its present form to weights. I assure you that if you start weighing out ingredients your batches will be very consistent.

Big Dave Ostrander owned a highly successful independent pizzeria before becoming a contributor to Pizza Today.