2010 March: Dough Doctor

Q: Can I get a different crust flavor by using brewer’s yeast instead of my regular yeast?

A: The main difference between baker’s yeast and brewer’s yeast is tolerance to alcohol content. Brewer’s yeast has a slightly greater tolerance to alcohol than baker’s yeast, so it will produce about 1 percent more alcohol. This is important if you’re producing alcohol — but when making dough, we never reach the maximum production of alcohol anyway, so it becomes a moot issue. There’s no need to use brewer’s yeast.

To get a crispier crust we have been increasing the amount of sugar used in our dough formula. The crust is getting darker, but not appreciably crispier. Why is this?

Actually, two things are happening here. First, you’re probably baking the crust for a shorter time with the increased sugar level to control the crust color. This is contributing significantly to a less crispy finished crust. Secondly, as the crust bakes, it concentrates the remaining sugar in the outer portion of the crust. This increases the hygroscopicity of the crust, so it absorbs moisture more readily, thus losing any crispy characteristics much more readily than a crust made without the added sugar. To maximize crispiness in your crust, I would suggest deleting much, if not all of the sugar from the dough formula. This will necessitate baking the pizza a little longer to get the desired color characteristics.

We are having an inconsistent problem with our dough having too much snap-back at times. We always make the dough the same way, so we can’t figure out why this happens.

Believe it or not, this is a very common complaint, and the number one cause of the problem is temperature control. If your finished dough temperature varies by as little as 5 F, it can have a rather dramatic effect on the way the dough handles at the time of forming. Most shops don’t measure the finished dough temperature for each dough — they just mix it by their regular procedure and begin processing it without thought to the temperature. You should be measuring the temperature of the water that you add to the dough, and then measure the temperature of the finished (mixed) dough to ensure that it is within some specified temperature range. I generally recommend that the finished dough temperature fall within the range of 80 to 85 F, but this may vary with your specific shop conditions. You should strive to achieve a consistent finished dough temperature by making slight changes in the temperature of the water that you add to the dough. By maintaining a consistent, finished dough temperature that is correct for your shop conditions, you should find that your doughs perform more consistently with little or no snapback characteristics.

I’m trying to get more of a fresh tomato flavor in my sauce. Do you have any suggestions?

The last garden fresh tomato that I had was straight from my home garden, and it tasted great! The one thing that it didn’t have, though, was added oregano, basil, and garlic flavors. Over the years, I’ve noticed that the sauce many pizzerias use is so heavily flavored with these main seasonings that it is virtually impossible to taste anything but them. I have been quite successful at restoring a more natural, tomato flavor profile to the sauce by dramatically reducing the amount of dried basil and oregano used in the sauce. This allows the flavor of the tomato in the sauce to become more dominant. If you want to add complexity to the sauce by adding oregano and basil, try adding them sparingly as green leaf basil and oregano. You would be amazed at the difference in flavor. ?

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