February 3, 2013 |

2010 May: Dough Doctor

By Tom Lehmann

Tom LehmannQ: Can you please explain to me how to correctly season my new pizza screens?






A: Pizza screens and many pizza pans should be seasoned before they can be used. Failure to do so will result in the pizza (crust) and the pan or screen becoming as one — not to mention a poor bake quality.

To season new pans or screens, first wash them to remove any protective oil or residue from the manufacturing process. Then thoroughly dry with a clean towel and pass them through the oven for a couple minutes to evaporate any remaining water. Next, wipe the pan/screen with any type of salad oil. Be sure to wipe both the top and bottom surfaces. Then, brush on the oil. A thin coating will do. Place the oiled pans/screens in an oven set at not more than 425 F. This is important to remember, because the fl ash point (temperature at which the oil ignites) of most oils is at around 440 F. If you season pans at this temperature, or higher, there is a possibility that the oil could ignite, resulting in a bit more excitement than you might have bargained for. Allow the pans to bake in the oven for 15 to 20 minutes.

When the pans have been properly seasoned, they will have a slight golden tint to them. Then, as the screens are used in the future, they will not need to be oiled again. Pans, on the other hand, will typically need to have a small amount of oil applied to them to facilitate release of the baked pizza from the pan and to provide for a uniform baking across the bottom of the pan. As the seasoned pans and screens are used, they will continually darken in color (eventually becoming almost black). This darkening in color helps provide for a better baked pizza.

Note that it is important that the seasoned pans and screens be protected from exposure to water. If it is necessary to wash the seasoned pans/screens, do not allow them to soak in water. Doing so will result in the seasoning coming off of the pans in sheets, much like a bad sunburn. The result will be the need to chemically strip all of the old seasoning from the pans/screens and begin the process all over again. The accepted way to wash your seasoned pans/screens is to grasp the pan in one hand, and a soft, plastic bristle brush in the other. Dip the pan/screen into the soapy water and lightly scrub with the brush, then rinse, and dip into the sanitizer, immediately wipe dry with a towel, and place into a hot oven to evaporate any remaining water. Properly cared for, your seasoned pans should remain in good condition and not need to be re-seasoned for several years.

Can you share one of your favorite “tricks” for making a great pizza?

We all have our own special, little things that we do to make our pizzas just a little better than those made by someone else. Here is my special, added touch. Mozzarella cheese is, in my opinion, somewhat monotone, bland and unexciting. I think it is just begging to be blended with another flavorful cheese. For me, that cheese is Parmesan. After applying the requisite amount of mozzarella cheese, I like to finish the pizza with a sprinkle of shredded Parmesan. If there is a significant amount of crust (heel) exposed, I make sure to get some of the Parmesan cheese onto the exposed heel portion, and then spread the remainder over the mozzarella cheese. This provides for both a visual enhancement to the crust, as well as providing for a more complex cheese flavor to the rest of the pizza.

We are making our pizza slices from a par-baked crust, and we keep having problems with the dough bubbling, sometimes even turning into what looks like a giant pita bread. We already dock the dough, what else can we do to prevent this excessive bubbling?

Since you’re making slices from the crust, the easiest way to control the bubbling of your dough during baking is to apply a thin layer of sauce to the surface of the dough just before you place it into the oven for baking. This seems to do a good job of controlling the bubbling. Since you will probably be holding the sauced, par-baked crusts for a period of time, I like to apply a very thin application of olive oil to the crust before applying the sauce. This helps to prevent any moisture from the sauce from soaking into the crust and contributing to a gum line later on, when the slice is baked for the second time. My own personal favorite is to apply some diced garlic to the crust along with the olive oil, as this will add another dimension of flavor to the finished slice. Also, remember to add a little more sauce, tomato filets, or fresh tomato when dressing the slices as this really improves the flavor of the reheated slices.

We are using compressed yeast but we are thinking of changing over to instant dry yeast. How much instant dry yeast should we use to replace our compressed yeast?

There are a number of different thoughts on this. Many manufacturers will suggest that you use a third of the compressed yeast amount as instant dry yeast. However, I’ve had much better success using a little more of the instant dry yeast. My recommendation is to multiply the compressed yeast level by .375 to find the amount of instant dry yeast needed to replace a known quantity of compressed yeast. Thus, if our dough formula calls for 6 ounces of compressed yeast, we would multiply 6 ounces by .375 to get 2.25 ounces of instant dry yeast needed to replace the compressed yeast. You would then add the difference between 6 ounces and 2.25 ounces (3.75-ounces) as additional water to compensate for the slight drying affect of the dry yeast. ?

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