Take-and-bake pizza is growing in popularity, and I constantly get questions on how to make it without preparing special dough. At one time or another, you may have been asked to prepare a par-baked pizza for a customer. What you actually did was make an early version of a take-and-bake pizza. Years ago ,we used to call them par-baked pizzas, or if we got it from the supermarket, it might have been referred to as a deli pizza.
With the advent of dedicated take-and-bake pizza stores, plus the availability of take-and-bake /bake-to-rise pizzas in supermarket frozen-food display cases, the take-and-bake pizza has finally taken on an identity of its own. Today’s take-and-bake pizza is made on a raw, unbaked dough skin, which allows the dough to rise during baking in the consumer’s oven, imparting a more desirable appearance, eating texture and flavor to the freshly baked pizza.
While we can develop dough specific to making take-and-bake pizzas as the take-and-bake chains have done, can we also alter our regular pizza dough to allow it to be successfully employed in this growing segment? There are two basic approaches that we can take. Both call for modifications only to the dough management procedure, so we don’t need to worry about making changes to the dough formula itself.
The first procedure is probably the easiest to implement of the two. Let’s assume that the dough has been through your dough management procedure and has just come out of the cooler. You will need to experiment a little to determine the minimum time to allow the dough to sit at room temperature before opening and shaping it. Then, begin opening all of the dough balls needed for take-and-bake pizzas into pizza skins. Place the opened skins onto wire screens and store on a wire tree rack in the cooler. Try to get the skins into the cooler as quickly as possible after opening them. The object is to keep them as cold as possible.
As soon as you have a rack filled with skins, allow it to remain uncovered for an additional 30-minutes, then cover the rack with a suitable plastic bag to prevent drying. After the dough skins have been in the cooler for an hour, transfer them to a location convenient to the prep table so they are always near at hand when an order is received for a take-and-bake pizza. Keep in mind when making the dough skins that many home ovens may not accommodate pizzas much larger than 14- or 16-inch. Dock the dough skin and place it onto a piece of oven parchment paper, or one of the ovenable trays designed specifically for take-and-bake pizzas. If you use an ovenable tray, it is suggested that it be lightly oiled before placing the dough skin onto it. This will ensure a satisfactory release of the dough from the tray if the consumer holds the pizza in their refrigerator for a longer time than recommended. Brush the dough skin lightly with olive oil, or blended oil, then dress it to order with sauce and toppings as normal. The pizza is now ready to be wrapped and sent home with the consumer. Some stores will send the pizza home with just the wrap on it, while others like to place the wrapped pizza into a box for additional protection. In either case, be sure to mark the pizza “KEEP REFRIGERATED”, “DO NOT FREEZE” and add a use-by date, too. Provide complete baking instructions with the pizza for both gas and electric ovens, and it’s probably a good idea to also mark it with a “DO NOT MICROWAVE” label while you’re at it.
The second procedure is the least intrusive –– it requires the least amount of forethought or preparation to implement. The one drawback to this procedure, however, is that it tends to give the shortest shelf life and is least tolerant to any temperature abuse that the pizza might receive at the hands of the consumer. In this procedure, the dough is handled completely in your normal manner right up to the point where the dough is opened to form pizza skins. As soon as the skins are formed, they are placed on wire screens and stored in wire racks in the cooler. Be sure to leave the racks of dough uncovered in the cooler for at least 30 minutes to ensure adequate cooling of the dough skins, and then cover the racks of dough with a plastic bag to prevent drying. For a take-and-bake order, remove a dough skin from the rack and dock it well, then brush it lightly with olive oil or a blended oil, place it onto a sheet of oven parchment paper, or one of the ovenable trays designed specifically for take-and-bake applications. Be sure to lightly oil the tray before placing the dough skin into it, as this will ensure a satisfactory release of the crust from the tray in the event that the consumer holds the pizza in their refrigerator longer than the recommended time, and then dress it with sauce and the desired toppings. The packaging would be the same as stated above for the first procedure. The reason why this procedure doesn’t give a finished product with quite as much tolerance to consumer abuse is because of the potential for additional fermentation time that the dough can receive when handled in this manner. In the first procedure, the potential fermentation time has been reduced by as much as three hours, which can add substantially to the dough’s tolerance to consumer (storage time and temperature) abuse.
In some cases, complaints may be received from the consumers that the dough/crust doesn’t color up well during baking in their home ovens. If you should experience this, you will need to prepare special dough just for your take-and-bake pizzas. The only formula modification that you will need to make is to increase the level of sugar added to the dough to 5 percent of the total flour weight (flour weight x 5 then press the “%” key and read the amount of sugar to add in the display window of your calculator). The added sugar will contribute significantly towards obtaining a darker crust color in a consumer type oven.
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