Q: We are baking garlic knots in our air impingement oven, right along with our pizzas, but the bottom of the knots are getting too dark. Aside from pulling them out of the oven a little before they fully exit the oven, is there anything we can do that might correct this problem?
A: The problem you describe is due to the excessive bottom heat, which is needed to properly bake your regular pizzas, so unless you have a split conveyor, it is not practical to reduce the baking time by speeding up the conveyor, and adjusting the baking conditions is out of the question as you would not be able to bake your pizzas while the garlic knots are being baked. The best solution will be in either of the two following approaches:
1) Double pan the garlic knots for baking. This means placing an extra pan under the knots when you place them into the oven. The second pan will help to reduce heat to the bottom of the baking pan, hence reducing the bottom heat (and, hopefully, no more excessively dark bottoms).
2) You might try using an Air Bake pan, available from any supermarket or discount house. These pans are constructed with two layers of metal on the bottom, thus creating a dead air space between the product and the bottom heat of the oven. This is very similar to the double panning described above.
We have a potential market for our dough at a nearby bar, but they want the dough already formed and frozen. What is the best way to go about this?
If you don’t already have a walk in or reach in freezer with some extra space, you may need to invest in a small chest type freezer, then get a couple dozen expanded aluminum baking screens (they don’t need to be seasoned as you won’t be baking on them) and a couple wire tree racks that you can fit into your freezer. Use your regular dough, and open it up to the desired diameter, and place it onto a screen, then put the screen into the rack, which is in the freezer. When the rack(s) are filled, make a note of the time and allow the dough skins to thoroughly freeze for 2-hours, then transfer the frozen dough skins to a food safe plastic bag, fitted inside of a corrugated cardboard box, also stored in the freezer. Just slide the dough skins off of the screens and stack-up inside the lined box. As soon as the box is filled (do not stack more than 12 to 15 skins in a box to prevent damaging the fragile dough skins) twist the open end of the bag to close it, and tuck it down, alongside the dough skins to secure it. Close the box flaps and tape closed. Place an adhesive label on the box showing the product and size, production date, and use by date. The use by date should be projected 10-days beyond the actual production date. Commercially frozen dough can have a shelf life of 12 to 20-weeks, but these doughs were frozen at much lower temperatures than your dough was frozen at. Commercially made frozen dough is frozen at -25 to -40 F, and sometimes even as low as -55 F, but your dough is only being frozen at 0 F, or slightly below that. The higher freezing temperature has a significant, harmful effect upon the yeast. That’s why, in this case, we’ve got to limit the shelf life. Once you have your dough skins bulk packaged, it’s important to keep them frozen at a temperature as close to -5 F as possible. To use the dough skins, we recommend that whatever quantity is needed be removed from the case and placed directly onto the baking tray. Allow it to sit at room temperature for about 30 minutes, then dress and bake in the normal manner.
We presently use two deck ovens to make our thin and deep-dish pizzas, but we are contemplating changing over to using conveyor ovens for their increased production capacity. Will we need to have dedicated ovens for each type (thin and deep-dish) of pizza?
When you say conveyor, I’m going to assume that you mean air impingement ovens.
If you are planning to buy any of the new, high-efficiency air impingement ovens, there is a possibility that you will not need to have dedicated ovens for each of your two pizza types. I’ve personally evaluated all but one of the new generation ovens, and have found –– to my amazement –– that they do a fine job of baking both thin and thick (deep-dish) pizzas side by side in the same oven, at the same time and temperature, using the same finger profile. However, since there are so many different dough formulations, pans, topping concepts, etc., I cannot say for sure that the oven of your choice will bake both of your pizza types side by side, but I do know that the same top and bottom finger profile will work for both, so at the very worst, a split conveyor, allowing for two different baking times, simultaneously, in the same oven chamber should do the trick. To be sure, I would highly encourage you to contact the oven company you’re interested in and ask them if you can test bake your dough/ pizzas in their oven at their test facility. It is a small expense for the security of knowing that your new ovens will indeed be set-up and profiled correctly for your product, and perform as expected right from the start. I just assisted with a start-up of a new, triple deck oven at Kansas State University. We did the homework, and the ovens performed flawlessly from the start.
If, by chance, you are planning to buy older ovens, used or refurbished, you’re probably going to need to go the dedicated deck route, with one oven dedicated to each type of pizza. This is due to the fact that in most cases, the deep-dish pizzas will need to be baked at a different time and temperature than the thin crust pizzas.
A couple of things that you should be aware of: When I did the evaluation of the new ovens, I used the deep-dish pans (dark, anodized finish) and cloud patterned baking disks for all of the testing. So if you encounter problems in baking both pizza types side by side, you might want to give these a try to see if it works for you. Also, I would highly recommend that you consider getting at least one, if not both, ovens set up with a split conveyor configuration. This will allow you much greater flexibility for baking other products along with your pizzas (such as breadsticks, wings, or calzones.) ?
Tom Lehmann is a director at the American Institute of Baking in Manhattan, Kansas.