September 7, 2012 |

Emergency Dough

By Tom Lehmann

Have you ever had one of those nights where a storm kept you awake? Then, after getting a few hours of sleep you go to your store to open and find that your dough has blown courtesy of a power outage. It’s a nightmare come true, and panicking is usually the first reaction. But you can tell customers you’re closed (at least you shouldn’t) when lunchtime rolls around, because that doesn’t pay the bills.

So, what do you do? You enter the world of emergency dough. Every shop should have an emergency dough formula and procedure tucked away for these not-so-special moments. I like to make my emergency dough from my regular dough formula because I’m already familiar with it. Still, we need to make a few changes to our dough formula to allow it to be made quickly and be ready for making pizza skins in not much more than two hours.

I have found that increasing the yeast content to double the normal level helps to speed things up a bit. Increasing the finished dough temperature to something in the 90 to 95 F range really helps to get the dough on line within the two-hour time limit as well. The quickest way to do this is to just increase the temperature of the water that you are adding to the dough by 15 F (assuming you are presently targeting a finished dough temperature of 80 to 85 F). If you are not targeting your finished dough temperature in that range, give it your best estimation for water temperature to get your dough to come from the mixer within 90 to 95 F.

I also like to have a bag of reducing agent, such as PZ-44, on hand for these occasions. By including a reducing agent in the emergency dough formulation you will have a greater assurance that the dough will handle well without excessive snap-back during the forming procedure.

Lastly, adding a small amount of regular household vinegar (white vinegar/50 grain strength) will help to restore at least some of the flavor to the finished crust that you are going to lose due to the lack of fermentation. When adding vinegar, add it at one percent of the flour weight and reduce the water weight by the same amount. This will help to keep your dough formula in proper balance. When mixing an emergency dough, keep in mind that the total mixing time will be about 75 percent of the mixing time used for your regular dough. This means if you normally mix your dough for 12 minutes, you will be looking at a total mixing time of about 9 minutes for your emergency dough.

Immediately after mixing, scale the dough into desired weight pieces and form into balls. Wipe the dough balls with salad oil and place into dough boxes or your regular dough containers. Cover the dough containers to prevent drying and allow the dough to remain at room temperature for approximately two hours before you use it. Once you begin using the dough it will remain good to use for approximately 90 minutes.

After that it will become too gassy to continue using and will need to be discarded. One trick I use with an emergency dough is to watch the way it handles. As soon as I think it is approaching the end of its life, I will shift into high gear and begin forming dough skins that I can put onto screens and place on a wire rack in the cooler. By doing this I don’t need to discard as much of the dough, and I’m building an inventory of dough skins that will be ready to use with a minimum of preparation when I get slammed later in the day. When using these refrigerated dough skins, be sure to pull them from the cooler about 20 minutes before you anticipate needing them. This will allow them to warm slightly, which makes for a better overall bake with less bubbling. While we’re on the topic of bubbling, be sure to dock all of the emergency dough skins just before dressing them to help control bubbling.

You will need to make additional emergency doughs during the day until you can get back into your regular dough again (which will probably be on the following day). When you are making emergency dough during the day, you will probably find that you need to make a batch every 75 to 90 minutes to provide a continual supply of fresh dough. If you are like most shops and experience a slow period during the afternoon, you will probably be able to get away with using your refrigerated dough skins during this time, but you will need to gear back up for the busy evening hours.

Also, when making your emergency dough keep in mind that you can, and should, add back as much of your unused scrap dough as possible. Even if the dough is gassy, you can add it back to your new dough without any problems. Just don’t overload the capacity of your mixer when doing so. Emergency dough is like an insurance policy. You hope you will never need to use it, but when the time comes, you’re mighty glad you’ve got it to fall back on.