December 1, 2015 |

Dough Doctor: Adding a thick-crust pizza

By Tom Lehmann

Tom Lehmann Dough Expert

Tom Lehmann
Dough Expert

They say that variety is the spice of life, and it is no different with pizza. While your customers may love your present offering, they might also be interested in something a little different from your mainstream pizza. It’s easy to change the toppings to make a different presentation, but it’s still just your regular pizza. What we’re discussing here today is remaking your entire pizza into a different style with minimal effort.

If you don’t offer thick-crust pizza, now might be the time. In my simplistic view, I see only two types of thick-crust pizzas that can be categorized into a number of different styles. The two basic versions are what I like to refer to as “thick crust” and “deep-dish pizza.” The difference is that the thick crust is made without the need of a pan while the deep-dish needs to be baked in a pan. This is important since not everyone has a supply of deep-dish pans, nor do they want to make the investment in the number of pans that they’ll ultimately need. With that said, let’s get started.

dough, shaping, make lineWhen changing a dough over from thin crust to thick crust, you might need to adjust the absorption if you are making a cracker-type dough. A good dough absorption is in the 55- to 60-percent range. And, to help with the proofing of the dough, doubling the yeast level is a good place to start. If your formula contains oil or shortening, that can be doubled as well. Or just add between four and six percent oil or shortening to the dough. Mix the dough in your normal manner, but increase your thin-crust scaling weight by 50 percent and then manage the dough in your normal manner keeping in mind that you will most likely get the best crust performance from dough that has been cold fermented for 48 to 72 hours.

After the fermentation period, remove the dough from the cooler and allow it to warm at room temperature to 50 F. Then open it into the same size as you do your thin-crust pizza. Place the opened dough skin on an oiled pizza screen, lightly brush the top of the skin with oil and set aside to proof/rise for 30 to 70 minutes. The longer the proofing time, the higher the finished crust will be. After the dough has proofed, remove it from the screen and place it on a prep-peel for baking on the oven deck, or place it on another screen if you bake on screen. Do not leave it on the screen it was proofed on. The dough will bake into the screen openings, making removal all but impossible. The proofed pizza skin is now ready to dress in your normal manner using the same amount of sauce, cheese and toppings that you would otherwise use on a thin-crust pizza of the same diameter.

Due to the vast difference in ovens and temperatures used to bake thin-crust pizzas you will need to experiment with baking times and possibly temperature to get the best finished bake on your thick-crust pizzas. If you are using an air impingement oven there is a good chance that no adjustments to time or temperature will be needed. But if you use a deck or stone hearth oven, starting the pizza out on the deck for a couple of minutes and then finishing it on a screen generally works well with no change in temperature required. The best part of a pizza like this is that the only additional cost is in the amount of dough used, but on your menu you can charge anything from an additional $2 or more for the thick-crust option.

MORE on thick-crust pizza at

When changing your formula over to make deep-dish pizza, the same formula adjustments are needed as outlined above for the thick-crust pizza. In this case, you can increase the dough absorption to as high as 65 percent to get a lighter textured and crispier finished pizza. A similar dough management procedure is used as described above, but this time the dough will be in its prime and ready to use after 24 to 36 hours in the cooler. We can take the dough directly from the cooler and roll it out to fit the pan. I’ve found that if you use oil in the pan it is much easier to roll the dough out or fully shape it outside of the pan and then place the fully opened skin into the pan. If you will be pressing the dough by hand to fit the pan, it is better to use shortening in the pan as it will greatly facilitate your efforts to fit the dough into the pan. Once the dough is in the pan, lightly oil the top of the dough and set it aside to proof/rise 60 to 90 minutes, depending upon how thick you want the finished crust. The skin is then ready to be dressed normally again using the same amounts of toppings that you would use on your thin-crust pizzas. Pricing of the deep-dish pizza is normally the same as for a thick-crust pizza, but some operators opt to make this a special offering using generous amounts of toppings and charging a premium price.

Tom Lehmann  is a former director at the American Institute of Baking in Manhattan, Kansas and Pizza Today’s resident dough expert.