Q: We make our own dough as we have been for many years. We use an air impingement oven to bake our pizzas, but for some reason, we can never get the pizzas as crispy as we would like them to be. The edges are crispy, but the rest of the pizza leaves something to be desired. What can we do to help get a crispier pizza?
A: In reviewing your dough formula, I see that it contains whole eggs. Whole eggs contribute significantly to the browning process of the dough during baking, thus allowing the dough to color-up faster, resulting in a shorter bake time. This is all well and fine, except for the fact that the shorter bake time also means that the pizza will not be baked sufficiently to develop the maximum crispy texture possible. My recommendation is to eliminate the whole eggs from the dough formula, and then experiment with the baking time to achieve the same baked color, but with a longer baking time. This will help to develop a greater level of crispiness in the finished crust. If your oven is an older model, more than 10 years old, your pizzas may benefit from a longer baking time at a lower temperature. To begin, I would suggest starting out at 435 F with a baking time of 7½ minutes, and then adjust the time and temperature until you achieve an improvement in overall crispiness of the finished crust.
Q: We are presently making a very good quality thick-crust pizza with a tremendous flavor achieved by allowing the dough to ferment at room temperature overnight. We want to now introduce a very light and airy type of crust. Will the substitution of about 25 percent of our present pizza fl our with cake or pastry fl our give us the light, and airy characteristics that we’re looking for?
A: No, it won’t. Both cake and pastry fl our are much lower in protein content than any bread or pizza fl our, so the addition of either to your dough would only serve to weaken it, possibly to the point of collapse, in view of your long fermentation period. Depending upon your dough temperature, formulation, room temperature and yeast level, your fl our will be able to provide sufficient carbohydrate to support something between five and eight hours of fermentation. After that, the yeast will be pretty well spent, making for a thicker, more dense finished crust. Without knowing how you manage the dough when making your regular pizzas, it might be something as simple as just allowing ample time for the yeast to do its work again. After panning the dough, allow an hour or more for the dough to rise between panning it and dressing/topping it in preparation for baking.
In some cases, we find that the dough must be allowed to rise for a minimum of 45 minutes to a maximum of 90 minutes to achieve the desired finished crust textural properties. We regularly produce what is referred to as a California style deep-dish pizza. That sounds a lot like what you are looking for. To make this type of pizza, we use dough that has been managed through the cooler overnight; it is then allowed to temper at room temperature for about two hours before the dough ball is fitted to a well-oiled, dark-colored, deepdish pan. We normally use 14 ounces of dough weight for a 12-inch pizza of this type. The pan is covered with a fl at pan separator, or multiple pans are stacked one on top of another if they are stacking pans, and the dough is allowed to rise for about 70 minutes at normal room temperature (72 to 75 F). If the room is colder than this, you may need to use a proofing box set at 90 to 95 F / 70 to 75 percent. In this case, you’re looking at a proof time in the 45- to 60-minute range.
Finished crusts can be either baked on the raw dough, or the crusts can be par-baked, and then the pizzas prepared on the par-baked crusts. In either case, the finished crusts will be about a full inch thick, and they will be tender. If the yeast is too damaged to provide the needed leavening for producing this type of crust, you may need to take half of the dough and mix it with the ingredients to make a half-size dough. This is essentially a 50/50 sponge dough process. The introduction of fresh ingredients, as well as fresh yeast, will refresh the dough, allowing it to proof and bake in a more normal manner once it has been placed into the deep-dish pan, while still retaining much of the fermentation flavor achieved by the long, overnight fermentation period. ?
Tom Lehmann is a director at the American Institute of Baking in Manhattan, Kansas.