Photos by Josh Keown
Q: Can you tell me how to make a light textured pan-style pizza?
A: This is getting to be a more frequent request all the time. For many operators, thin-crust pizza has been their mainstay. But now it appears that more and more customers are requesting a thicker version of their longtime favorite, leaving some operators asking: “How do I do that?” It seems that for some, the answer was to just double up on the dough weight for the crust and call it good, but this appears to miss the customer expectations as they want something lighter to eat. This takes us to the need to proof the dough, or allow it to rise in the pan for a period of time before dressing and baking the pizza. But now this brings us to another dilemma: once the dough is proofed in the pan, it must be used within a relatively short period of time or the dough can over proof and collapse under the weight of the toppings. The answer to this is to manage the thick crust dough from the retarder/ cooler. To do this effectively we need to begin with the dough formulation. I’m showing a dough formulation as an example of what this dough might look like. you can use the formulation shown below, or you can modify your existing dough formulation.
Flour (11.2 to 12.8 percent protein content):
100 percent Salt:
1.75 percent Sugar:
2 percent Oil/Shortening:
2 percent Yeast: (IDY: 0.25 percent);
(ADY: .375 percent);
(Fresh/ Compressed: .75 percent)
Water (70 F): 55 percent
Note: Ingredient amounts are shown in baker’s percent, with the weight of each ingredient expressed as a percentage of the total flour weight.
The dough can be mixed and managed in the same manner as your thin crust dough, but when the dough goes into the pan, this is where the differences show up.
To make a pan style or deep-dish pizza, place the dough into an oiled or greased dark-colored baking pan and then cover it and set it aside to proof/rise. If the dough will be used
soon after proofing, it can be given full proof, meaning that the dough can be proofed to something between two and three times its thickness when placed in the pan and then dressed and baked.
For most of us though, this will prove to be problematic as we try to maintain a working inventory of dough throughout the day. To address this, we can allow the dough to proof/rise to no more than 75 to 100 percent of its thickness when initially panned. The dough is then taken to the cooler and placed into a tree rack for thorough cooling. During this time, it will continue to proof/rise until fermentation is arrested by the temperature of the cooler. The pans of dough can now be covered to prevent drying. Typically, this takes about an hour in the cooler to accomplish. we can then cover the dough by placing a plastic bag over the tree rack. In this condition, the dough can normally be held in the cooler for up to 24 to 36 hours.
To use, remove a pan of dough from the cooler, dress it to the order and bake. Because this dough may be colder than your normal dough, it might be necessary to adjust the baking time and/or temperature slightly for thick crust pizzas when managed in this manner. If you use a deck oven, I’ve found it useful to begin baking these pizzas with an aluminum screen under the pan for the first two to three minutes, and then finish baking directly on the oven hearth as this allows the dough portion to warm more gradually, thus reducing the potential for bubble formation during baking. If you’re using an air impingement oven and have more than one deck, I would suggest trying to dedicate one of the decks to thick crust pizza production by lowering the temperature to 425 to 440 F, while extending the baking time to ensure a thoroughly baked pizza (typically 8 to 10 minutes). That colder dough just needs a little more time to get thoroughly baked.
In case you’re wondering how much dough to use when making a thick crust pizza, a general rule is to increase the dough scaling weight by approximately 25 percent. Thick crust pizzas can help to improve your bottom line too. When you consider that the only real difference between a thin crust and thick crust pizza is in the amount of dough used for the crust, and that dough is probably your cheapest “ingredient”, if you sell a 12-inch thick crust pizza for a premium, your actual cost was only about five cents more. Rack up that 95-cent profit to the extra handling needed for the thick crust pizza.
Q: How can we make a great tasting, healthier option to our regular pizza crust?
A: I was recently on an assignment where that very same question was asked. I normally suggest a multigrain type crust. But in this case, we couldn’t get a multi-grain blend so we had to make our own from ingredients available at the local supermarket. To make our own multi-grain blend we purchased a bag of whole-wheat flour, old fashioned oatmeal, flax seeds and sunflower seeds. Using their regular thin crust dough formula, I replaced 25 percent of the flour with our home brewed multi-grain blend, consisting of 100 percent wholewheat flour, 17.6 percent oatmeal, 17.6 percent flax seeds and 17.6 percent sunflower seeds. This was combined in a bus tub where we added an equal weight of warm (90F) water and stirred the mix just to allow for hydration. It was set aside and allowed to hydrate for one hour. The hydrated multi-grain mix was added to the mixer along with the remainder of the dough ingredients. (Note: The dough water was reduced to 37 percent of the weight of white flour added. The hydrated multi-grain blend was added as an ingredient in this application).
The dough was mixed for 75 percent of the regular dough mixing time. It was then immediately taken to the bench for scaling and balling. We adjusted the scaling weights 15 percent heavier to allow for the multi-grain blend in the dough. From this point on, the dough was managed in the same manner as their regular pizza dough. The resulting pizza crusts had a wonderfully nutty flavor and slightly rough appearance that was well received by their customers.
Tom Lehmann is a director at the American Institute of Baking in Manhattan, Kansas.
Photos by Josh Keown
Q: What are the advantages to showing a dough recipe/formula in baker’s percent?
A: The advantages are that it allows you to determine, at a glance, if the dough is in correct balance. It also allows you to manipulate the size of a dough recipe with 100-percent certainty that all of the ingredients are used at the correct amount. Lastly, if you are managing your dough ball inventory against a fixed quantity, it means that you can easily determine exactly how much flour will be needed to make a dough batch of any specific size. Here are some examples of what I mean for each of these.
It can be difficult to determine if 3 cups of salt is the correct amount to use for a dough that is based on 25 pounds of flour weight … but if you change this to baker’s percent by dividing the ingredient weight by the total flour weight and multiply by 100, you will readily see that 3 cups of salt (28.8 ounces, or 1.8 pounds) is 7.2 percent of the total flour weight, which is way too much salt considering that the normal level of salt might be around 2 percent and the maximum around 3 percent. As for manipulating the size of a dough batch using baker’s percent, this is also very easy. For example, here is a typical pizza dough formula shown in baker’s percent:
Flour: 100 percent
Salt: 1.75 percent
Sugar: 1.5 percent
Instant dry yeast: 0.375 percent
Olive oil: 2 percent
Water: 58 percent
If you want to base the dough size on 40 pounds of flour, just plug in 40 pounds (or 640 ounces) next to the flour since the total flour weight is always equal to 100 percent. To find the amount of each ingredient needed to complete the dough, use your calculator and enter the weight of the flour, then press “x” and enter the percent of the ingredient that you want the weight for followed by the “%” key.
This is what the entries will look like. Salt: 640 x 1.75 (press the “%” key) and read 11.2 ounces in the display window.
Sugar: 640 x 1.5 (press the “%” key) and read 9.6 ounces in the display window.
Instant dry yeast: 640 x 0.375 (press the “%” key) and read 2.4 ounces in the display window.
Olive oil: 640 x 2 (press the “%” key) and read 12.8 ounces in the display window.
Water: 25 x 58 (press the “%” key) and read 14.5 pounds in the display window.
Your total dough weight, based on 40 pounds of flour will be 65.45 pounds.
Note: For most of the smaller ingredients it will be easier to show the flour weight in ounces, while larger ingredients, like the water, are best am manufacturing calculated with the flour weight shown in pounds. Remember, the calculated weight of the ingredient will always be in the same weight unit that the flour is shown in.
Baker’s percent can also be used to help manage your dough ball inventory. This is done either through dough ball projections or a fixed dough ball inventory that you will need to rebuild daily. In either case you will need to calculate how much dough will be needed to make a specific number of dough balls.
As an example, let’s say you need to make 55 dough balls at 17 ounces each and 107 dough balls at 14 ounces each. To make these, you will need a total of (55 x 17 + 107 x 14 = 2,433 ounces — or 152 pounds –– of dough). If you take the sum of the baker’s percent in your dough formula and divide it by 100, you will have a factor that you can use to determine how much flour you will need to use to make this number of dough balls. Using the above sample dough formula, the sum of the baker’s percent is 163.625. When divided by 100 it becomes 1.63625. All we need to do now is to divide the total dough weight by 1.63625 and we get 92.895 pounds of flour that will be needed to make the dough balls. Now all you need to do is to divide 92.895 by the pounds of flour you use to make a dough and you will know how many doughs you will need to make.
Using our above example dough formula, let’s say you use 40 pounds of flour to make your doughs: 92.895 divided by 40 = 2.32 batches of dough needed to make this number of dough balls. Here is where the real fun begins. So we don’t have any surplus of dough balls beyond what we need to rebuild the inventory, we can make two full size batches and one that is 3/10ths of our regular size. Here is how we make that 3/10ths size dough:
Multiply the full size dough weight by 0.3 to find the new dough weight (0.3 x 65.45 = 19.635 pounds of dough). Remember, by dividing the dough weight by the total baker’s percent divided by 100 we can find the flour weight needed to make this dough (begin by rounding the dough weight off to the next nearest pound — 20 pounds). 20 pounds divided by 1.63625 = 12.22 pounds of flour will be needed to make the dough.
It is suggested that the flour weight be rounded to the next nearest pound to allow for any dough loss resulting from scaling error when portioning the dough for the dough balls. With a flour weight of 13-pounds, again using the above dough formula the amounts of ingredients needed to make the dough will be as follows:
Flour: 100 percent = 13 pounds/208 ounces.
Salt: 1.75 percent = (208 ounces x 1.75 press the “%” key) and read 3.64-ounces.
Sugar: 1.5 percent = (208 ounces x 1.5 press the “%” key) and read 3.12 ounces.
Instant dry yeast: 0.375 percent (208 ounces x 0.375 press the “%” key) and read 0.78 ounce.
Olive oil: 2 percent (208 ounces x 2 press the “%” key) and read 4.16 ounces.
Water: 58 percent (13 pounds x 58 press the “%” key) and read 7.54 pounds
Adding up the weights of the ingredients we get a total calculated dough weight of 21.27 pounds (very close to our targeted 20 pounds). Ain’t math great?
Tom Lehmann is a director at the American Institute of Baking in Manhattan, Kansas.
Photos by Josh Keown
Q: Do you use the same flour in your starter as in your batch?
A: Not necessarily. In some cases I may not use a Caputo starter with a Caputo batch. I might use a Central Milling starter, “Keith’s Best”, and use 20 percent of the starter in my batch. It really all depends on your final product and what tastes best. There is no real right or wrong when it comes to the flour you choose for your starter. Some flours taste great together and others don’t. It is up to you as an operator to decide what tastes great.
Q: Is oil necessary in making dough?
A: Not always. Historically, pizza was a peasant food. Since oil was very expensive, it was left out. Several places, like many New Haven, Connecticut, pizzerias, don’t like to use oil because it is a fat. One advantage to using oil in your recipe is that it helps emulsify and bind your dough together. It also helps with the manageability and the elasticity of the dough. In some styles of pizza (namely Sicilian), as well as foccaccia, oil is extremely important and is one of the major components. When it comes to putting oil on the outside of your dough while it sits on trays or in boxes, that’s not really necessary. If your containers are air-tight, it does not matter if you use a wooden box or a metal tray to hold your dough. Oil will not be necessary and can become costly to use. In some cases the use of oil can leave a residual flavor that can become very unappealing. In your dough recipe, olive oil is not the only fat that can be used. Others include: lard, butter, vegetable oils — ranging from soybean to corn and nut oils, including pine, walnut, almond and pistachio. All of these can be used in replace of olive oil but can become quite costly, depending on the flavor profile you like.
Q: Is water that important?
A: Yes! Water is very important in making dough. Ideally, moderately hard water is best. If your water is too hard the dough will become very dry, unconditioned, and may make the dough snap back when you attempt to open it. I would also check the Ph levels of your water. Between .05 and .07 is best. Chlorinated water should also be avoided. To counter or correct problems with your water you could use a filtration system, reverse osmosis, or even bottled water. At my restaurant in Sacramento, Pizza Rock, we use reverse osmosis to correct any issues with the water. Another rule of thumb is that if your water is too hard, or high in minerals, you can cut back slightly on the amount of salt in your recipe. These are a number of ways which should help countering any problems with water, but always remember … If you won’t drink the water don’t use it when making your dough.
Some people have accused me of making my dough formulas too complex and difficult to make because I insist upon giving the ingredient amounts in percentages. Actually, they're given in what is called "baker’s percent". I must admit, I'm guilty as charged, but before you condemn me, allow me to plead my case for using baker’s percent.
With baker’s percent, all ingredient amounts are expressed as a percentage of the total weight of the wheat flour contained in the formula/recipe, and the total flour weight is always given as 100 percent. For example, if a dough formula contains both white (pizza flour) and a whole-wheat flour, the total weight of the two flours will equal the total flour weight. Or, if a formula contains vital wheat gluten, the gluten weight will be added to the weight of the flour to arrive at the total flour weight. Do not include any other types of flour, such as soy flour, or corn flour, in the total flour weight.
Now for the fun part. Let’s say we want to determine the ingredient amounts to use for the following dough formula:
Flour 100 percent
Salt 1.75 percent
Sugar 2 percent
Olive oil 3 percent
Instant dry yeast 0.35 percent
Water 60 percent
The first thing to do is to ask yourself how much flour do I want to use? Or better put, how much flour will my mixer handle? Let’s say we have a mixer than can safely mix doughs based on up to 50-pounds of flour in the mixer. So we elect to use 50 pounds of flour, which is equal to 100 percent. Now we will turn to our handy calculator for a little assistance. To determine the amount of salt to use, press in 50 X 1.75, and then press the “percent” key. You will be able to read the amount of salt to add in the display window. In this case it will be 0.875 pounds of salt. If you need to convert this to ounces, just multiply it by 16 (the number of ounces in a pound) 0.875 X 16 = 14 ounces.
For the next ingredient, sugar at 2 percent will look like this: 50 X 2, press the percent key, and you’ll see the answer is 1 pound of sugar. Olive oil at 3 percent will be 50 X 3, then press the percent key and you’ll have 1.5 pounds of olive oil. Instant dry yeast at 0.35 percent will be 50 X 0.35, then press the percent key and you’ll have 0.175 pounds of instant dry yeast (0.175 X 16 = 2.8-ounces). Water at 60 percent will be 50 X 60, then press the percent key. You’ll have 30 pounds of water.
If you want to express a formula in baker's percent. All you need to do is divide the weight of each ingredient by the total weight of the flour and multiply by 100. Let me show you an example of how it's done. Here is a typical dough formula for a honey-wheat pizza dough:
35 pounds White flour
15 pounds Whole-wheat flour
14 ounces Salt
3 pounds Honey
2 pounds Butter flavored oil
4 ounces Instant dry yeast
30 pounds Water
Remember, we're going to divide the weight of each ingredient by the total weight of the wheat flour(s) and multiply by 100. In this formula the total weight of the wheat flour is 50 pounds, but it is comprised of both white and whole-wheat flour and we must show the proportions of each as a percent.
• White flour (35 pounds) divided by 50 (total flour weight) = 0.7 X 100 = 70 percent
• Whole-wheat flour (15pounds) divided by 50 (total flour weight) = 0.3 X 100 = 30 percent
• Salt (14 ounces). In this case you should show the weight as a decimal part of a pound (14 divided by 16 = 0.875 pound) 0.875 divided by 50 = 0.175 X 100 = 1.75 percent;
• Honey (3-pounds) divided by 50 = 0.006 X 100 = 6 percent;
• Butter flavored oil (2 pounds) divided by 50 = 0.004 X 100 = 4 percent
• Instant dry yeast (4 ounces). Here again we must change ounces to a decimal part of a pound (4 divided by 16 = 0.25-pound) 0.25 divided by 50 = 0.005 X100 = 0.5 percent
• Water (30-pounds) divided by 50 = 0.6 X 100 = 60 percent.
As you can see, baker’s percent will only work with weight measures, it will not work with volumetric measures (cups, teaspoons, tablespoons, etc.). There are some really great advantages to working with your formulas in baker's percent. For instance, you can tell, at a glance, if the formula is in proper balance (correct proportions), you can also easily increase or decrease the size of the dough without the need to "fiddle" with ingredient amounts, and you can easily size your dough to fit any mixer capacity.
If your dough is presently given in volumetric measures, it doesn't take too much to convert it to baker’s percent, but you will need to have a good scale available for weighing your ingredients. Begin by portioning out each ingredient as you normally do, but put each ingredient into its own separate container. When all of the ingredients have been portioned, weigh each container with the ingredient, then empty the ingredient into the mixing bowl and weigh the empty container. Subtract the "tare" weight of the container form the ingredient weight for the true ingredient weight. Do this for each ingredient that you portioned out. Now prepare a dough from the portioned ingredients and ask yourself if this is "my normal " dough. If the answer is yes, repeat the portioning and weighing procedure for two more doughs. If each one produces your normal dough take — the average weight for the three weights of each ingredient (add up each of the three weights and divide by three) — you will now have your formula shown with the correct ingredient weights and all that is left to do is to write down 100 percent next to the flour weight (remember flour is always 100 percent). Then divide the weight of each ingredient by the weight of the flour and multiply by 100. Do this for each of the ingredients and you have your formula in baker’s percent and you can manipulate it up or down in size without making any other changes to the ingredients.
Now that you have heard my side of the story, and you now know how to work a formula given in baker’s percent and understand the advantages of doing so, I trust that you will go easy on me the next time you see a formula given in baker’s percent.
Technology is like the forces of Mother Nature –– you may or may not like it, but once it begins heading in your direction there isn't much you can do about it. You can either embrace it or step aside and let it pass you by. Usually, embracing it is the way to go. By doing that, you learn to harness it put it to work for you.
During my 38-year love affair with pizza, I've seen a lot of new technologies come along, and I’ve even had a hand in the development of a few of them. More recently, though, we’ve seen new technology manifest itself in ovens. Air impingement ovens are an example, as are those ovens that utilize more than a single baking technology to bake our pizzas faster than ever before. These are appropriately called multiple technology ovens. They combine a mix of two or more of the following baking technologies: air impingement; convection; radiant; microwave and magnetic resonance baking technologies. The technology is there, and it has been proven to work. Now all that is needed is the ability to further harness it into an oven format that can put out upwards of 100 pizzas per hour in a space not much bigger than the average office desk.
We've also seen the transition from plain steel and spun aluminum pans to steel and aluminum pans and disks with a super durable, anodized finish and proprietary, non-stick coatings that make seasoning your pans and handling them with kid gloves a thing of the past.
Through CNC machining technology, we have seen a dramatic improvement in the quality of our equipment and tools. CNC machining has allowed manufacturers to produce things on a custom basis that would have been far too cost prohibitive just 10 years ago. At a cost today of just slightly more than a standard production item, we can have baking pans/disks, tools and racks that work best in our specific shops, under our specific conditions for the task at hand. We're beginning to get away from the philosophy of “one size fits all.” I was recently working with a pizza chain where we found that we had to modify the number and pattern of holes in their baking disks to achieve the bake they wanted. We drilled holes in a few of the existing disks, and after determining what we wanted a single telephone call and a few days of waiting resulted in commercially made sample disks for us to try.
Gone, too, are the days of the 72-inch high racks that would only hold 30 or so pizzas due to the excessively wide spacing between the shelves to accommodate bread and pastry items rather than pizza. Today, the same racks can be bought or manufactured with much tighter shelf spacing, thus allowing for the storage of many more pizzas in the same space. Thanks to CNC machining, the manufacturer doesn't need to inventory all of those racks either. Upon an order, the product specifications are fed to the automated machinery and the product is made to order — faster, more accurately, and of overall better quality than it could ever be made by hand. And because the racks do not need to be inventoried for months, it can be sold at a lower, more competitive cost.
Technology and Ingredients
Technology has also affected the ingredients we use. We have ingredients that can be used to dry the top of a wet pizza, or put under the dough to help impart a crispy texture to the finished crust. Then there are new ingredients to help reduce the snap-back or memory characteristics of the dough. These new reducing agents are what might be called a high-tech blend of ingredients designed to achieve softer, more extensible dough without becoming excessively weak or sticky.
We also have a whole array of different types of yeast to choose from now. There are specific dry, instant yeast types that are designed just for use in frozen dough, and there is even a new type of instant yeast just coming to the market as this article goes to print that is designed to replace protected active dry yeast (PADY) in mixes. This new yeast should certainly be of interest to anyone making dry mixes or preparing “goodie bags” of ingredients.
Within the past couple of years, technology has shown us that the consistency of our pizza doughs really isn't affected all that much by the weather, especially on rainy days. So just why did we see differences in our doughs? Research technology showed us that it was really due to the way we were adding the oil to our doughs. By adding the oil to the dough after it had a chance to mix with the water (hydrate) for a few minutes, it was found that a marked improvement in dough consistency could be achieved. At last, gone are the days of adding a little more flour or a little more water, and then oops, make that a little more flour again.
Lets not forget about another new development in our industry –– take-and-bake pizza. Early in the development of take-and-bake pizzas we advocated the use of chemical leavening agents (sodium aluminum phosphate and baking soda) as a type of “baking powder” to provide a back-up leavening system to the yeast that is normally added. Early reports indicated a problem with this leavening system in the form of the development of a progressively darkening crumb color as the dough aged over a few days, and the development of an acidic taste. It was found that these problems could be prevented through fat encapsulation of the leavening system. Hence, fat encapsulation technology became a part of pizza production through these new take and bake pizzas. This very same technology has now spilled over into the making of frozen pizzas where fat encapsulation technology is allowing us to make better tasting, longer lasting, and better performing frozen pizzas at the retail level than ever before.
As you can see, new technologies have made a significant impact upon our stores and the way we make pizza, or with the pizzas that we now serve to our customers. Having spent most of my professional career working in research, I think it would be safe for me to say that where problems or challenges exist, a technology will eventually be developed to address the issue. Like all good things, though, sometimes it just takes a little time to develop the necessary technologies.
Flour protein is probably the most misunderstood thing about pizza making. For many of us our definition of flour is "pizza flour." The prevailing thinking is that 'If I'm making pizza, I need pizza flour to make it with.' Well, not exactly.
You see, pizza flour came about in the mid to late '50s when many pizzerias were making their dough by mixing it and placing it into a large container where it was allowed to ferment for several hours before and during use. As one might imagine, there were days when sales were slow and the dough was allowed to age to a significant degree before it was used. This fermentation causes significant weakening of the dough. If allowed to progress far enough it results in collapsed (or flat) pizza crusts.
It didn't take long for both operators and flour suppliers to realize that flour with high protein content was better able to withstand the rigors of uncontrolled fermentation than flour with a lower protein content, such as that for making breads and buns. Hence, it became known that a very strong flour with a lot of protein is needed to make pizza dough.
Typically, pizza flour maxed out at about 14 percent protein content. As time progressed and we got better at making pizzas, we began to manage our doughs differently. Now, we manage it for shelf life. Out of this grew the present-day method of dough management, where the dough is formed into balls soon after mixing and taken to the cooler. The dough balls are efficiently cooled and can be kept under refrigeration for up to three days or more with this process. Gone are the days when we had to mix another dough in the middle of the day.
How has all of this changed our flour? For one, we no longer allow the dough to continue fermenting at an ever-faster pace until we use it. Instead, we control the fermentation rate through refrigeration of the dough. As a result, the process is not nearly so abusive on the dough/flour. Lower protein content flour is, in many cases, more appropriate for use in making pizza dough than the old traditional high protein pizza flour.
If you have ever found your dough exhibiting excessive memory/snap-back during forming, or almost impossible to hand form, this might be an indication that you are using flour with excessive protein content. Using these newer dough management practices, I have very successfully used strong bread-type flour for making all but a New York style pizza dough/crust. The reason for using the high protein, traditional pizza flour for the New York style crust is that it provides the characteristic tough, chewy eating properties common to New York style pizza crust. For just about every other type of crust, though, a strong bread type flour with 12- to 13-percent protein content works great. The doughs hold up well in the cooler for an extended period of time and possess excellent handling and forming properties. To booth, the finished crust has the potential to achieve excellent crispy characteristics. (As a side benefit, you may find that the lower protein content flour sells for significantly less than the super high protein content "pizza flours." This should save you a few dollars in the long run.)
If you are making thick or pan-style pizza, you may find that your finished pizzas have a much more desirable, tender (not tough and chewy) eating characteristic when made with a typical bread flour having a protein content in the 11 to 11.8 percent range. While protein content is at least partially responsible for the crispiness of the finished crust, flour with 11 percent protein can give a finished pizza crust with a remarkably crispy characteristic. So it is not ideal to use a high-protein flour in hopes of achieving a crispy characteristic in the finished crust. That elusive crispiness might be more easily had through careful attention to the dough forming and baking process.
All flour proteins are not created equal. It is possible that in some cases, you can have a high protein content flour that acts more like that of a low protein content flour, and visa-versa. This is due to the issue of protein content as opposed to protein quality. It is completely within reason to have two different flours that have the same or similar protein levels end up performing very differently when making dough. This is a common problem, but one which flour millers/suppliers are well aware of and really go to great lengths to work out.
If you feel like you need to take a step down in protein content but don't want to change your flour, an alternative is to add a reducing agent to help relax the dough. This is effective, but it also increases your dough cost. By contrast, a reduction in your flour's protein level can actually decrease your overall dough cost.
When looking to purchase a lower or different protein content flour, you might need to go back to your flour milling company rather than the sales rep that sold you the flour. I've found in many cases that the sales people are just merchants in food and food ingredients, and they really don't know the specifics of their ingredients - especially when it comes to things like protein content in flour or solids content in tomato products. A quick call to your friendly flour miller should give you the information you need on protein content to make an intelligent purchasing decision.
That is definitely an option. When I ran my three pizza shops in Massachusetts, I had a great set up. This guy actually made my dough balls the two different sizes that I wanted. He stored them and stacked them in his own dough trays and delivered them to my shops and put the dough away and rotated the dough. He had a key and alarm code since he did this very early in the morning. Now if you can’t find a set up like that, then you can certainly do the running around to pick it up and portioning of the dough. What’s most important is making sure that the bakery makes the dough to your specifications and is consistent with the product.
Oil or shortening, in general, seem to be those ingredients used in pizza crust production that many know little (if anything) about — except that they are an integral ingredient. What oil actually does, to most people, is somewhat of a mystery. Lets see if we can uncloak that mystery and unveil the reasons why oil or shortening is used in pizza crust production.
For this article, I will define oil as a liquid form of fat and shortening as any other form of fat. Oils can come from any of a number of sources, but it will always be in a liquid form and contain 100 percent fat. As a liquid it will be in a pourable form. Shortening can also be made from any number of plant or animal sources, but it will always be in a semi-solid, or plastic, state. Unlike oil, it may contain some water, as is the case with margarines and butter, which are roughly 20 percent water by weight. So, when replacing oil with shortening, one would use an equal amount of shortening as oil, but if replacing oil with butter or margarine, one would need to use 20 percent (1/5) more butter/margarine than oil to retain the same overall fat content.
There are some types of shortening and margarine (and yes, even butter) that are specially treated (hydrogenated) to give it a very solid characteristic. These are known as “fat flakes”. Fat flakes are designed to retain their integrity (size/shape) when mixed into a dough so when the dough is heated during the baking process the fat flakes melt and the fat is absorbed into the surrounding dough. This helps to create a more open, porous internal cell structure desirable in some instances, such as when dough is processed using high-speed automated equipment in a wholesale or commissary environment.
Fat can contribute flavor to the finished crust in either of two ways. It can provide a unique flavor based upon its source, such as olive oil, sesame oil, butter or lard. It can also act to entrap or hold flavors, too. In this case, the fat will take on the flavors released during the baking of the pizza, giving the finished pizza a more balanced flavor profile. All types of fat exhibit this unique characteristic.
Fats also improve or enhance the perceived richness of the finished crust. As a general rule, things just taste better when they are made with some form of fat at an appropriate level. They also serve to lubricate the dough structure and seal the cell walls within the dough so they are better able to retain the leavening gas and water vapor during the baking process, resulting in better baked height (oven spring). In crusts that are formed by one of the pressing methods, oil at levels of 3 percent of the flour weight and higher is needed to provide lubrication to the dough. This allows it to be pressed out from a round or squat shaped dough piece to a flat circular shape in just a fraction of a second.
All types of fats are known as “tenderizers,” as they provide a more tender eating characteristic to the finished crust. This can be important if you are a carryout or delivery business. We all know that pizza crusts lose their desirable crispy characteristic and take on a more tough and chewy characteristic during the delivery or take home time. The use of fat at levels of 5 percent of the flour weight and higher will help to reduce some of this toughness and give the crust a more tender eating characteristic. Yes, it will also give a softer crust characteristic at the same time, but who said that a delivered pizza had anything but a soft crust characteristic? Would you rather have a delivered pizza with a soft crust or a tough, chewy crust?
Fat flakes are interesting with a multi functional purpose. They are designed to retain their integrity within the dough and melt during baking as means of creating holes and voids in the baked crust. Some of the new generation of fat flakes are referred to as hydrated fat flakes because they will contain 12 to 15 percent water. This water content is important to the functionality of the flakes. As the fat melts and is absorbed into the surrounding dough, the water is vaporized and creates a much more pronounced and desirable void in the still forming dough structure. To achieve these characteristics fat flakes are used at levels of 10 to 15% of the total dough weight. If you have ever seen a microwave-able pizza or calzone and noticed the open, porous structure of the crust, it is a good bet that fat flakes played an integral role in achieving that structure.
In our industry, we typically use olive oil in our pizzas — but at a significant cost. If you want to reduce the cost of the olive oil, yet still retain the flavor characteristics, you can blend olive oil with salad oil at the rate of 1-part olive oil to 4-parts vegetable oil (my personal preference is to use canola oil due to its universally bland flavor). You can buy readymade blends. If the flavor aspect of the oil isn't of great importance you can take your pick from many of the different salad/vegetable oils available, as they will all perform in a similar manner.
You can select the type of fat used in the dough formulation to compliment the type of pizza that you are making, too. For example, if you are making an Asian-style pizza, the use of sesame oil might provide the crust with just the right flavor profile or, if you are making a pizza with a Latin American flair, you might consider using lard as the source of fat in your crust for the unique flavor that it imparts to the finished crust. Since lard is a widely used fat type in much of Latin America, its flavor would be readily recognized and right at home in this specific application.
While many of us would like to reduce the amount of fat in our diet, the fact still remains that fat is both functional and good tasting in pizza crusts. So, we should take great care so as not to reduce the amount of fat added to our dough formulas to the point where it will adversely affect finished quality. Remember, even at levels of 3 to 5 percent of the flour weight the amount of fat in a pizza crust isn't considered excessive when you look at the amount of fat contributed by the meat and cheese toppings. So if you are trying to control the amount of fat in your pizzas it might be better to look at the cheese and meat toppings rather than your crust for fat reduction avenues.
Three years ago we did a study to answer this very question. We found we could use the dough on the same day, if we allowed the dough to ferment for two hours after it was mixed and formed into balls. With fermentation times of less than two hours the dough exhibited a pronounced tendency to blister and bubble during baking. But, as time approached two hours the blistering and bubbling problem diminished. Overall, we found the dough could be held at normal room temperature (70 F) for about 3 to 3.5 hours before the dough balls became too gassy to work with.
Keep in mind though, the flavor of a finished crust made from a same day dough is never as good as that made from a dough allowed to ferment slowly in the cooler for a day or more. These same day doughs are something good to keep in mind just in case you happen to come in to your shop one morning to find the cooler has gone down. You can always make a same day dough to limp by until you can get your regular dough up and running again.