# 2010 October: Dough Doctor

Q: I’ve heard you mention that the dough should be mixed to a specific temperature. Do you arrive at this temperature by varying the dough mixing time?

A: The finished dough temperature is varied by making adjustments to the temperature of the water added to the dough. Colder water results in a lower finished dough temperature, and warmer water results in a higher finished dough temperature. For the most part, the dough mixing time will be a constant once you have determined the correct mixing time for your specific dough. For most applications, we recommend a finished dough temperature in the 80 to 85 degree range. This is assuming your kitchen area will have a room temperature in the 70 to 80 F range. Cooler or warmer kitchens may require a slightly warmer or colder temperature range.

There are two common ways to calculate the correct water temperature needed to arrive at a predetermined finished dough temperature. One is the procedure given out by Lesaffre/Red Star Yeast Corporation. This formula simply requires that you subtract the fl our temperature from 145, with the answer being the correct water temperature to use.

The other is a little different in that there are more factors involved, and it goes as follows: three times the desired finished dough temperature, minus the sum of the fl our temperature, room temperature, and friction factor (while this can be calculated, for your specific dough size and mixer, most people who use this method just plug in the number 30 for the friction factor when a planetary type mixer is used). The result is the recommended water temperature. In either case, the finished dough temperature will be close to, or at, the targeted finished dough temperature, and a slight adjustment in the water temperature may still be required to zero in on the desired temperature. When making changes to the water temperature, we recommend that you change it in 5 F increments, either up or down, as necessary.

I keep hearing all these different views on how pizza dough should be mixed. What is your recommendation? Pizza dough, unlike bread dough, should be under mixed to some extent. The under mixing of the dough results in incomplete gluten development, which in turn helps to make the dough a little easier to ball. It also contributes to a more open, coarse crumb structure in the finished/baked crust. Excessive mixing of the dough can result in a tough, rubbery dough consistency while you’re trying to round the scaled dough pieces into balls. But, even worse, it can also result in a finer, more bread-like finished crumb structure in the baked crust. From a personal perspective, I think the only time it is desirable to fully develop the gluten structure in pizza dough is when you are going to produce frozen dough. In that application, you will find that fully developed dough will have improved freezer tolerance and longer shelf life if the gluten is more fully developed.

The best way to ascertain proper dough/gluten development in pizza dough is through visual appearance of the dough during mixing. Near perfect dough development can be achieved by mixing the dough just until it takes on a smooth, satiny appearance. At that point, you can stop mixing and be confident that the dough is properly mixed for 90 percent of our applications.

Another, and probably a little more accurate method of assessing proper dough development is to remove a hen’s-egg piece of dough from the mixer and form it into a ball. Then, bending the fingers of both hands inward at the second knuckle, bring your hands together so the back of your fingers are touching. Orient the dough ball so it is on top of your finger tips, and bring your thumbs down to capture the dough ball between your finger tips and thumbs. Now, roll your hands downward, causing your thumbs to pull on the dough ball, stretching the skin. If the dough skin shows signs of tearing, you might want to mix the dough a little longer. If it doesn’t tear, the dough is properly mixed.

Because of the under-mixed nature of a pizza dough, it really doesn’t make much difference if we achieve the dough development using low or medium speed on the mixer. It just takes less time if we can use medium speed.

At the last Pizza Expo I heard you mention that it isn’t necessary to put the yeast (compressed) into the water to dissolve before adding the fl our and other ingredients. If you don’t do this, how will it get mixed into the dough?

Compressed yeast, a.k.a. fresh yeast, is actually best added directly to the fl our, much in the same way that instant dry yeast (IDY) is added. It actually goes into the dough quite easily, with very little mixing action required. The only time that I ever recommend suspending the compressed yeast in the water is when a VCM type of mixer is used. In this case, the mixing time is so short, measured in seconds, that suspending it in the water is the only sure way to ensure that it is thoroughly and uniformly distributed throughout the dough.

The same recommendation is made when making a cracker type dough, again for the same reason. In this case, the mixing time is even shorter, typically a minute or less, and in this specific case, we go so far as to recommend that the salt, sugar and yeast are all added to the water in the mixing bowl and stirred together for a few seconds prior to adding the flour.

This is one of the few times when I ever recommend mixing the yeast, salt and sugar (if used) together in the water, but it’s the only way to get them evenly distributed throughout the dough in view of the very short mixing time. It isn’t so much a matter of the salt and sugar immediately damaging the yeast and impairing its ability to ferment a dough; but, rather, if the salt, sugar and yeast are allowed to set in the mixing bowl for an extended period of time before the fl our is added and the mixing procedure started (like that never happens), there is a probability that the yeast can be damaged. The result would be a softer-than expected dough consistency, unwanted dough stickiness — and possibly a reduction in refrigerated shelf life. ?

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