Dough Snapback

Dough Snapback

Did you ever feel like you were in a “tug of war” with your pizza dough? You form or stretch it out to 12 inches in diameter and before you can say “Mozzarella cheese”, then it magically assumes the rather unwanted shape of a 10-inch pizza skin. Now you enter into the game of stretching it out only to have it snap back again. Don’t go looking for another dough forming method just yet, for all is not lost. What you are experiencing is just a common case of snap-back, otherwise known as “dough memory.”

Excessive dough memory can result from a number of things. The most common cause is excessive flour strength for the dough management procedure. It’s true that historically high protein flour was the order of the day for making pizza. But with the dough management procedures that we use today offering excellent control over dough fermentation and allowing us to hold the dough for three days or more under proper refrigeration, those super high-protein flours are all but a thing of the past. Instead, we opt for flour types with protein levels of 12.2 to 13.5 percent. But every once in a while someone starts out using a super high-protein flour with a refrigerated dough management procedure and ends up complaining about excessive snap-back, or they might take it upon themselves to formulate their dough with too much salt. In this case, the excessive salt level can and will impede fermentation to the point where the dough is not properly fermented to fully mellow or condition the gluten for shaping into pizza skins. Along these same lines, anything that might slow down the yeast activity or fermentation rate of the dough can have a similar effect. Some of these things are: mixing the salt, sugar and yeast together in the dough water (not recommended); hydrating active dry yeast in water that is either too warm or too cold; finished dough with a temperature that is too low (cold), or just plain insufficient yeast level.

So now that we know what causes the problem, how do we go about correcting it? The obvious solutions are to use a lower protein content flour, something more like a common bread flour rather than a pizza flour will do wonders for both correcting snap-back and reducing the dough cost. Using the correct amount of yeast and using it properly is important, as is monitoring and controlling the finished dough temperature to keep it between 80 to 85 F.
But what if none of these actions work for you, or for whatever reason they can’t be implemented? This is where we consider “additive ingredients.” These are highly specialized ingredients designed to address very specific problems. Here, we want to use what are commonly called “dough relaxers.” These are ingredients that function by modifying the flour protein to weaken the protein or to give it a more relaxed or stretchable characteristic. These include L-Cysteine Hydrochloride, glutathione, protease enzymes, and –– more familiar –– garlic and onion powder.

Although L-Cysteine and glutathione may sound intimidating, these are quite natural, being nothing more than amino acids (also known as protein building blocks). Think of them as ingredients making up a protein. Then there is the protease enzyme, a natural enzyme present with the yeast. It works by breaking down, or hydrolyzing, proteins to give the dough a more relaxed characteristic. Many people don’t realize that both onion and garlic are also effective reducing agents in yeast-leavened doughs. By just adding some onion and/or garlic powder to the dough you can effectively reduce some of the undesirable memory characteristics of a dough. If the problem is really troublesome, you might need to bring out the “big guns” in the form of L-Cysteine or Glutathione.

These materials are so potent that the amounts used are only measured in parts per million parts of flour weight (one part per million, “ppm”, is equal to one pound per one million pounds of flour), and they are fully capable of liquefying a dough if used at excessive levels. To facilitate the use of L-Cysteine, it is typically blended into a carrier such as whey, flour or starch, so it is in a highly diluted concentration that makes scaling of the ingredient much easier and a lot more accurate. Commercial products using L-Cysteine are readily available with PZ-44 being well-recognized in the pizza industry. Glutathione is very similar to L-Cysteine in both function and use levels. It is derived from yeast. As such, “dead yeast,” as it is commonly called, is a common dough relaxer used in the pizza industry.

Protease enzymes are also very effective dough relaxers and also have the ability to completely liquefy a dough like L-Cysteine and Glutathione, but they are unique in their function in that they actually hydrolyze or destroy the protein rather than just modify it to achieve a relaxed dough condition. Protease enzymes also continue working in the dough all the way up until the time that the dough is baked in the oven, and the rate of reaction can be influenced by the temperature of the dough at the time of mixing. These characteristics tend to make protease enzymes difficult to control in most aspects of retail pizza production, hence they are seldom used except for rare cases where they might be included as part of an “additive ingredient package”.

Onion and garlic (normally used as a powder) are effective dough relaxers that work in a manner similar to that of L-Cysteine and Glutathione but they have a limited reducing affect making it almost impossible to overdose or liquefy a dough. These ingredients can be added in the form of your regular onion or garlic powder, or if you don’t want to have the accompanying characteristic flavor and aroma you can purchase a deodorized form.

Snap-back or excessive dough memory need not be a problem or source of aggravation once you understand what causes it and what steps can be taken to control it. Hopefully, this article has given some insight into the causes and measures that can be taken to correct this common problem.

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