September 10, 2012 |

Sizing Dough

By Tom Lehmann

Dough Handling

By Tom Lehmann

When it comes to sizing, do you need to change your dough recipe depending upon how big the crust or pizza is going to be? What if we wanted to offer an 18- or 36-inch pizza?

Because our pizza crust will always have roughly the same thickness across its entire size, it really doesn’t matter what size we make our pizzas from a dough standpoint. When it comes to baking that pizza, though, it’s an entirely different matter. Most pizzerias will use the same dough to make a variety of different sized pizzas, but they will all be baked for different times, and sometimes even at different temperatures. The reason for this is because the larger pizzas will sink more heat from the oven than a smaller pizza. This is most graphically seen when we put a single pizza into a conventional deck oven and it takes about eight minutes to bake. But then, when we put 10 of those same-size pizzas into the oven, the baking time goes out to maybe something closer to 12 or 14 minutes. We even see this same thing happening in the air impingement ovens, where a 10-inch thin crust pizza might bake in four minutes, and a 14-inch pizza made from the same dough might require nearly 10 minutes.

Due to its smaller mass, the 10-inch pizza is heating up much faster than the 14-inch pizza, so more of the heat becomes available to further raise the temperature of the smaller pizza to a point where it becomes over-baked with the longer baking time of the 14-inch pizza. The converse is also true, where the larger pizza would be under-baked if it were baked under the same conditions as the smaller, 10-inch pizza. To bake some of those really large, party size pizzas, the only thing that you will need to do is to determine the correct baking time and temperature for your particular oven.

As a side note: If you were to prepare an endless ribbon of dough and sauce and top it continuously as you fed it into any of the conveyor ovens, the oven cavity would be continually exposed to the same amount of material to be baked (pizza). The oven could be set-up and continually operated in this manner, without needing to make any further time or temperature adjustments, just so long as the oven cavity is completely full. Application of this principle also explains the reason why conveyor ovens will bake more pizzas per hour than most deck ovens. Of course, you’ve got to keep the conveyor oven completely full to get that maximum production figure out of it, but that’s what they are designed to do.