I’ve heard that there is a way to calculate the amount of dough needed to make any size of pizza. Can you explain how this is done? A: What you are referring to is the use of our old friend “pi” to calculate the surface area of a circle, and then using that number to develop a dough density number. It may sound confusing, but it really isn’t. Here is the way it’s done.

Let’s say you want to make 12-, 14-, and 16-inch diameter pizzas, and you need to know what the correct dough weight will be for each size. The first thing to do is to pick a size you want to work with (any size at all will work). We’ll assume we opted to work with the 12-inch size. The first thing to do is to make our dough, then scale and ball some dough balls using different scaling weights for the dough balls. The idea here is to make pizzas from the different dough ball weights, and then, based on the characteristics of the finished pizza, select the dough ball weight that gives us the pizza that we want with regard to crust appearance, texture and thickness. Make a note of that weight. For this example, we will say that 11 ounces of dough gives us what we were looking for.

We’re now going to find the dough density number that is all-important in determining the dough weights for the other sizes. Begin by calculating the surface area of the size of pizza you elected to find the dough weight for. In this case, it is a 12-inch pizza. The formula for finding the surface area of a circle is pi x R squared. Pi equals 3.14, and R is half of the diameter. To square it we simply multiply it times itself.

Here is what the math looks like:

3.14 x 6 x 6 (or 36) = 113.04 square inches

To calculate the dough density number, we will need to divide the dough weight by the number of square inches. So, now we have 11 ounces divided by 113.04 = 0.0973106 ounces of dough per square inch of surface area on our 12-inch pizza. This number is referred to as the “dough density number.”

Our next step is to calculate the number of square inches of surface area in each of the other sizes we want to make. In this case we want to make 14- and 16-inch pizzas in addition to the 12-inch pizza.

The surface area of a 14-inch pizza is 3.14 x 49 (7 x 7 = 49) = 153.86 square inches of surface area. All we need to do now is to multiply the surface area of the 14-inch pizza by the dough density number (0.0973106) to find the dough scaling weight for the 14-inch pizza — 153.86 x 0.0973106 = 14.972208 ounces of dough. Round that off to 15 ounces of dough needed to make the 14-inch pizza crust.

For the 16-inch pizza we multiply 3.14 X 64 (8 x 8 = 64) = 200.96 square inches of surface area. Multiply this times the dough density factor to get the dough weight required to make our 16-inch crusts. 200.96 X 0.0973106 = 19.555538 ounces of dough. Round that off to 19.5 ounces of dough needed to make the 16-inch pizza crust.

In summary, the following dough weights will be needed to make our 12-, 14-, and 16-inch pizza crusts: 12-inch (11-ounces); 14-inch (15-ounces): and 16-inch (19.5-ounces).

In addition to being used to calculate dough weights for different size pizzas, this same calculation can be used to find the weights for both sauce and cheese, too.

In these applications, all you need to do is to substitute the dough weight with the sauce or cheese weight found to make the best pizza for you. This will provide you with a specific sauce or cheese weight, which can then be used in exactly the same manner to calculate the amount of sauce or cheese required for any other size pizza you wish to make. As an example, going back to that 12-inch pizza, let’s say we really like the pizza when it has 5 ounces of sauce on it. We already know that a 12-inch pizza has a surface area of 113.04 square inches, so we divide five-ounces by 113.04 = 0.0442321 ounces of sauce per square inch of surface area. Our sauce density number is 0.0442321. We know that the 14-inch pizza has a surface area of 153.86 square inches. So all we need to do is to multiply 153.86 times the sauce density number to find the correct amount of sauce to use on our 14-inch pizza. 153.86 x 0.0442321 = 6.80-ounces of sauce should be used on our 14-inch pizza.

For the 16-inch pizza, we know that it has 200.96 square inches of surface area. So all we need to do is multiply this times the sauce density factor — 200.96 x 0.0442321 = 8.88 ounces of sauce should be used on our 16-inch pizza.

To calculate the amount of cheese to use, again, we will use the 12-inch pizza and experiment with applying different amounts of cheese until we find the amount that works best for us. Then divide this amount by the surface area of our test pizza (a 12-inch, which has 113.04-inches of surface area). Lets say that we found six ounces of cheese to work well in our application. six-ounces divided by 113.04 = 0.0530785-ounce of cheese per square inch of surface area. Our cheese density number is 0.0530785.

A 14-inch pizza has 153.86 square inches of surface area. Multiply this times the cheese density number to find the amount of cheese to add on our 14-inch pizza — 153.86 x 0.0530785 = 8.16-ounces of cheese should be used on our 14-inch pizza.

A 16-inch pizza has 200.96 square inches of surface area. Multiply this times the cheese density number to find the amount of cheese to add on our 16-inch pizza — 200.96 x 0.0530785 = 10.66-ounces of cheese should be used on our 16-inch pizza.

By calculating your dough, sauce and cheese weights for each of your pizza sizes, you will find that your pizzas will bake in a more similar manner, regardless of size, this is especially true if you are baking in any of the conveyor ovens, in which the baking time is fixed, and you want to be able to bake all of your pizza sizes at similar baking times. Typically, this allows us to bake pizzas with one to three toppings on one conveyor, regardless of size, and those pizzas with four or more toppings on another conveyor, again, regardless

of size.

If you use a deck or conveyor oven, you will find that your pizzas will bake with greater predictability, and your cost control over your different size ranges will be enhanced, and that can’t hurt in today’s economy.

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