Q: On my flour bags it says: “bleached, enriched and bromated.” What does this mean?
A: The bleaching of the flour is done only to remove its yellow pigments, making it brighter and whiter in color and appearance. Aside from that, there is no other importance to bleaching the flour. Today, much of the flour is being milled without bleaching as there is a preference for the yellowish color — some prefer as they feel it makes the baked product look more natural and richer.
“Enriched” means that a vitamin and mineral enrichment has been added to the flour to provide the same nutritional value as it would have if it were milled as whole-wheat flour. Enrichment of flour has been a standard practice since the time immediately following World War II. Aside from the nutritional aspects, enrichment has no other impact upon flour or its performance.
Bromate is added to provide strength to the performance characteristics of the flour. This effect is especially evident during baking where bromated flours may exhibit improved rise, or oven spring characteristics. This can be an important performance feature in bread production, but in pizza production it has little or no benefit, and in fact, it can even induce a negative performance as it may contribute to increased dough memory or snap-back characteristics, thus potentially making the dough more difficult to open and maintain size/diameter during baking. I try to avoid the use of bromated flour in pizza production if I can.
Additionally, there are some rather specific health concerns regarding the use of bromate in flour as demonstrated in California’s special labeling requirements for foods made with potassium bromate, as well as Canada’s ban of its use in all foods. My own personal take on bromated flour is that it is safe as used, but I like to try to avoid it if at all possible. We now have some good substitutes for bromate in applications where bromate might be considered a highly functional and important additive.
Q: Does it really make any difference if I mix my dough in first or second speed on my mixer?
A: No, not really, since pizza doughs made in pizzerias are seldom ever mixed close to anything even resembling full gluten development. It is under-mixing the dough that provides a good part of that nice open, “airy” internal crumb structure that helps to develop that desirable crispy bottom crust characteristic. When mixing at low speed, most dough seems to be sufficiently developed after about 15 minutes of mixing. Longer mixing times serve little purpose, and are just harder on your mixer — bringing you just that much closer to inviting your local mixer repair man out to your store for a friendly, but costly visit. When mixing at second or medium speed, the total mixing time is usually reduced to something in the 8- to 10-minute range. The objective in dough mixing is to just mix the dough long enough to develop an extensible skin on the surface of the dough. This skin will make scaling and rounding/balling of the dough a lot easier as it will not feel as sticky at the bench.
Q: We recently got a dough press that has a heated head for forming our pizza skins, but the dough keeps shrinking back an inch or more as soon as the head is raised. Aside from increasing the dough weight, what can we do to eliminate this?
A: All dough presses are notoriously dependent upon the use of some type of reducing agent/dough relaxer to reduce or eliminate this characteristic of a pressed dough skin. The reducing agent most commonly used is PZ-44, which includes L-cysteine in its formulation to relax the dough and reduce or even eliminate the snap-back. Another additive that can be used with equal effectiveness is what is commonly referred to as “dead yeast” available from most yeast suppliers or manufacturers. The dead yeast product contains an amino acid called glutathione, which is very similar to its first cousin amino acid –– L-cysteine –– and they both work with equal effectiveness. Just make sure you use the product of choice within the manufacturer’s recommended use level range since an excessive dose of either product can quickly turn a dough into something more closely resembling a batter, with more than a little pronounced stickiness.
Aside from the addition of a reducing agent, it may also be beneficial to use a warmer than normal dough if your dough management procedure doesn’t call for refrigeration of the dough. We have found that dough temperatures of 90 to 100 F will press out much more easily, and without as much snap-back as colder dough temperatures, but these doughs can be problematic in handling and don’t have a very long useable life on the bench. If you happen to be one of those making par-baked crusts, this might be a trick that you can incorporate to reduce the amount of reducing agent used in your dough formulation.
One last thing to keep in mind when using a dough reducing agent is that, for the most part, the addition of a reducing agent to the dough will pretty well limit the life expectancy of your dough in the cooler to about 24 hours. If you hold it much beyond this the dough will become excessively soft and difficult to handle.
Q: We make pan pizzas and we use margarine in the pans, but what would the difference be if we used soybean or olive oil instead?
A: Assuming that the margarine you’re presently using is flavored as well as colored, it will impart a slight dairy hint to the crust as well as a slight yellow color to the outside of the baked crust. If you were to change over to soybean oil there would be essentially no flavor or additional color imparted to the baked crust. The olive oil would not impart any additional color either, but it would impart some of the characteristic olive oil flavor to the finished crust. Also, the margarine might be helping to hold the dough in place in the pan, making it easier to fit the dough to the pan, while the soybean oil and olive oil would have no effect on the way the dough adheres to the pan, thus possibly making it a little more difficult to fit the dough to the pan.
Tom Lehmann is a director at the American Institute of Baking in Manhattan, Kansas.