Q: I’m opening a small pizzeria soon, but due to the small space we will not have a walk-in cooler. Instead we will have two reach-in coolers for the bulk of dough storage. Is there anything I will need to do to my dough to better accommodate the reach-in coolers?
A: Since reach-in coolers are not as efficient when loaded with dough as a walk-in cooler, the finished dough temperature should be adjusted to between 70 and 75 F as opposed to between 80 and 85 F when using a walk-in cooler. This lower finished-dough temperature reduces the load on the reach-in cooler and results in more efficient cooling of the dough for improved dough management.
While I have worked with dough boxes using a reach-in cooler, I have to admit that they are not very efficient or user friendly and are just a pain to work with under these conditions. The reason for this is because the dough boxes cannot be properly cross-stacked for effective cooling. Instead they usually have to be placed in the cooler with alternating ends off-set (which is not as efficient as cross-stacking in allowing the dough to cool efficiently). To get around this we have found that the use of bread bags or commercial food bags is a great alternative to the traditional dough boxes. Immediately after balling the dough, lightly oil each dough ball and place into individual bags, twist the open end into a pony tail and tuck it under the dough ball as you place it on an 18 by 26-inch sheet pan (which fits the rack shelves in most reach-in coolers very well). Leave about a one-inch space between dough balls and place filled trays in the reach-in as soon as a tray/sheet pan is filled. Using this method, there is no need to cross stack or otherwise move the dough once it has been placed in the cooler. By following these basic procedural changes you should be able to effectively manage your dough for up to three days in your reach-in cooler.
Tom Lehmann is a former director at the American Institute of Baking in Manhattan, Kansas, and Pizza Today’s resident dough expert.