October 1, 2016 |

Dough Doctor: Full-Court Press

By Tom Lehmann

Here’s how to get a dough press to work for you

Tom Lehmann Dough Expert

Tom Lehmann
Dough Expert

We bought a dough press but we have not been able to get our dough to press out well, as it keeps shrinking back after pressing.

A:  There are a number of things that need to be addressed when formulating a dough that will be formed into skins by use of a dough press (also known as a pizza press). Since high-protein flours tend to produce strong and elastic dough, it is best to use a lower-protein-content flour than what you might use for your regular pizza doughs. A typical bread flour with 10.8- to 11.2-percent protein content will work best, but you can also go as high as 12.5 percent if you need to. Anything over that in protein content will present more of a challenge in getting the dough to relax after pressing so it doesn’t snap back immediately after forming/pressing. The lower protein content doesn’t really address the snap-back issue — it just makes addressing it a bit easier.

The real key to eliminating the snap back is the use of a reducing agent such as L-cysteine or glutathione/dead yeast. There are commercial products available containing either of these reducing agents. Care must be taken when using these products as they are quite powerful in their action. If used in excess they can literally liquefy a dough in just a matter of minutes. While the manufacturers will have a recommended usage level, I always recommend starting out using half of the minimum recommended level if you are managing the dough through the cooler for 24 to 48 hours and working up the amount used based on the dough performance achieved by your formula and dough management parameters.

dough pressAfter the snap-back issue has been addressed, if you still find that the dough is still a little difficult to press out well, then you can adjust the dough absorption to create a softer dough with better pressing properties. In most cases I find that a dough absorption of around

63 percent gives the best performance at the press. But always keep in mind that the dough absorption is highly variable, so don’t be afraid to either increase or decrease the dough absorption depending upon how the dough is handling/performing.

Here is a typical dough formula for dough that will be formed into skins using a dough/pizza press with a heated head.

Flour: 100 percent

Salt: 1.75 percent

Sugar: 2 percent (optional)

Instant dry yeast: 0.4 percent

Reducing agent: half of minimum recommended level (variable)

Oil: 2.5 percent

Water: 63 percent


Adjust water temperature to give you a finished (mixed) dough temperature of 75 to 80 F. This will usually require the use of water at about 70 F.

Add water to the mixing bowl followed by the salt and sugar (if used). There is no need to stir.

Add the flour and the remainder of dry ingredients on top of the flour. Mix at low speed for about two minutes or until you don’t see any dry flour in the bowl, then add the oil and mix one more minute at low speed. Finally, finish mixing the dough at medium speed for about six minutes (or until the dough begins to take on a smooth, satiny appearance). Take the dough directly to the bench for scaling and balling. Place dough balls into plastic dough boxes and oil the top of each dough ball. Take them directly to the cooler and cross stack for 2½ hours, then down-stack and allow to cold ferment in the cooler for 24 to 48 hours.

To use the dough, remove from the cooler and, keeping the boxes closed, allow to warm at room temperature until the dough reaches 50 F. At that point, begin opening into skins as needed. The dough balls will remain good to use for about two hours. Any dough balls not used within this period of time should be opened into skins, placed on screens and stored in a wire tree rack in the cooler for use later in the day. Be sure to cover the tree rack containing the dough skins after 20 to 30 minutes to prevent drying. To use the pre-opened skins, just remove from the cooler and allow to warm at room temperature for 20 minutes, then dress to the order and bake.

When preparing to open a dough ball using the press, be sure to oil both the top and bottom plates of the press (be careful, the top plate will be HOT). It is also a good idea to lightly oil each dough ball just before placing it on the press platen. The top or heated part of the press should be initially set at 250 F using a dwell time of seven minutes. If you find that the dough tends to cling to the press head, increase the head temperature to 275 F. Remember to use the lowest head temperature that will allow for good dough release from the head with decent dough handling properties.

Contrary to what many might believe, the dough press doesn’t completely de-gas the dough; instead, it just forms a lot of smaller gas bubbles from the larger ones present in the un-pressed dough. It also does not bake or par-bake the dough in any way. The heated head provides heat to ensure a clean release from the head after pressing. And, to some extent, it also provides a skin on the dough that can make the dough easier to handle. I’ve found it best to place the dough skin with the top (heated side) down when placing it on a pan, disk or screen for baking.

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


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