Dough Doctor: Staging ingredients impacts dough

Q: I’ve seen any number of different ways in which the dough ingredients are staged/ added into the mixing bowl. Is there really a difference, or is it a case of just whatever you are taught to use?

A: I think some ingredient staging procedures can actually cause harm to the dough while others may not harm the dough. But they can be more labor intensive, thus detracting from other things we have to do in the shop. Here are some examples:

  1. Adding the water to the mixing bowl followed by the salt and sugar, and then mixing for several minutes to dissolve the salt and sugar. This serves no useful purpose, as the salt and sugar will completely disperse as the mixing commences. It just adds additional time onto the total prep time for your dough.
  2. Adding the compressed yeast to the water in the mixing bowl and then mixing for several minutes to thoroughly suspend the yeast in the water. Again, this serves no useful purpose. It only adds additional time to make dough. The compressed yeast will be thoroughly dispersed throughout the dough if you simply crumble it onto the flour just before you begin mixing.
  3. Adding the salt, sugar and oil to the water in the mixing bowl and then mixing for several minutes also has no useful purpose. In this case again, the salt and sugar will be thoroughly incorporated into the dough without the need to put them into the water. And in this case, as soon as you stop the mixer to add the flour, the oil will immediately separate from the water, float to the top and soak into a portion of the flour rendering it impossible to develop gluten when the dough is mixed.
  4. Adding instant dry yeast (IDY) to the water in the mixing bowl and mixing until the IDY is completely suspended in the water. In addition to adding time to your dough preparation, this can also have an adverse impact upon the functionality of the IDY as it should not be hydrated in water colder or warmer than 95 F. Doing so can result in a release of glutathione from the yeast. Glutathione is an amino acid present in all yeast, but it can be washed out of dry yeast by hydrating it at the wrong temperature. Because glutathione is also a reducing agent much like L-cysteine (think dead yeast), it can cause an unexpected softening or weakening of the dough, especially if it will be held in the cooler for several days. If you must pre-hydrate IDY, do it in a small quantity of water at 95 F, stir well to suspend, then allow to hydrate for five minutes before adding it to the dough, either in the water or into the dry flour.
  5. Adding active dry yeast (ADY) to the water in the mixing bowl along with the salt, sugar and possibly the oil, then mixing at low speed to suspend the yeast. This is not a recommended practice for a couple of reasons. First, the water temperature in which the ADY is hydrated should be between 100 and 105 F. If the water is colder than this there is a probability that some glutathione will be leached out from the dry yeast cells, resulting in less than optimal yeast activity, plus an added bonus of a potentially softer, more extensible dough than planned. Since you may see the softer dough condition while the dough is still in the mixer, you might reduce the absorption of following doughs to correct this (erroneously thinking that the dough absorption was too high). You might also add a little additional flour to the dough to help dry it up. In both cases, you will only compound your dough problems, as your dough may still not perform well over several days in the cooler despite your “corrective” action. In the event that the water temperature in the mixing bowl was adjusted to the recommended ADY rehydration temperature of 100 to 105 F, your resulting finished dough temperature will probably be much higher than desired, resulting in a rapidly fermenting dough that is difficult to manage in the cooler. This can lead to a reduction in the yeast level to a point where the dough can now be managed without it “blowing”, but the yeast level is now so low that finished pizza crusts may not have the desired raised edge (or, in some cases, there might not be sufficient yeast to raise the center of the pizza, resulting in a collapsed center or an extremely soggy center).
  6. The weather influences the amount of water (absorption) added to the dough. This is a totally false observation, but we still see it, so what is really happening is that when the oil is added to the water (a common procedure) the oil separates from the water as soon as the mixer is stopped, allowing for the flour addition. Now we get a situation where a portion of the flour absorbs the oil and not the water. That portion of the flour will not create gluten as the dough is mixed, thus creating a dough that may appear to be softer than normal, leading to the addition of more flour to the mixing bowl to correct the condition (when in fact, the amount of flour was just fine). The best way to eliminate this problem is to use what we refer to as the delayed oil addition mixing method. By this mixing method, the oil is not added to the dough until it has had a chance to mix for about two minutes with the water. This allows the flour to more fully hydrate before the oil is added, thus significantly reducing the problems resulting from the oil soaking into the flour. Once you begin using this mixing method you may find the weather really doesn’t have the impact upon the dough absorption that you once thought it had.

As you can see, the way the ingredients are staged, or added into the mixing bowl, really can have an impact upon the finished dough/crust quality.

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