February 3, 2013 |

2010 June: Ask Chef Jeff

By Jeffrey Freehof

Q: We just bought a dough sheeter, which makes stretching so much faster now, but we are getting bubbles in our pizza. How do we eliminate this problem?





A: When hand stretching dough we leave more dough around the edges of the pizza, thus creating a thinner middle. A sheeter will create a more even pizza and bring a little more dough to the center of the pie, which creates more opportunity for bubbling. I would sheet the dough a little smaller than you need it and finish stretching by hand. Docking your dough will also eliminate the bubbles.

We’re in a tourist town and only open six months a year. Locals don’t want to spend what we charge, so we are thinking of offering a take ‘n’ bake to them the rest of the year. What do you think?

I hear your questions, but in my mind I keep going back to the locals you are concerned about. The reality is that your costs won’t change if you continue with the fresh dough, sauce and quality ingredients. You’re only changing who bakes it. I don’t think you can lower your price enough to make this work.

What I’d rather see you do is create a value pizza for the locals. Now I want you to offer both the high quality that you offer now, but create a value pizza that they can afford. If you are making your own dough, you can’t get any less expensive. Also, grating your own cheese is certainly the most cost effective way, so I think you simply need to create a limited pizza menu with a little bit less sauce, cheese and topping — and make it a real value for them. Yes, this may mean lowering your profitability. This way you are giving the pizza the kind of bake it needs in your oven, and it will be something the locals will appreciate and can afford.

With unemployment so high and with so many applicants, why can’t I find good help?

I understand your frustration. I promise there are some folks out there who can learn! You may need to be more careful in the selection process. It may be time to consider hiring folks coming from outside of our field. Look at those really reliable folks whose positions were eliminated but are willing to learn a new trade.

I loved the tiramisu you made in the demo at Pizza Expo. I was confused about the ricotta cheese that you used. Isn’t tiramisu made with marscapone?

Yes, traditionally tiramisu is made with marscapone, but that demo was on 10 ways to use ricotta. Creative cooks love to think outside the box and change recipes up a little bit using different, more accessible and more affordable ingredients to create the same great end result. Give it a try! ?

Jeffrey Freehof, owner of The Garlic Clove in Evans, Georgia, is Pizza Today’s resident expert. Send your questions to: Ask Chef Jeff, c/o Pizza Today, 908 South Eighth Street, Suite 200, Louisville, Kentucky, 40203.