August 31, 2017 |

Knead to Know: Downward Spiral

By Tom Lehmann


Tom Lehmann talks oils, spiral mixers

Tom Lehmann
Pizza Today Resident Dough Expert

Q: What are the pros and cons of using a blended oil as opposed to an extra virgin olive oil?

A: When used in making the dough or sauce, you don’t see any significant difference between a quality olive oil and a blended oil from a flavor or performance standpoint. The greatest difference will be in the price paid for the oil (with olive oil being significantly more expensive than blended oil).

When it comes to post-baking application of oil to the pizza, however, a quality olive oil is hard to beat as it releases a bouquet of wonderful aromas when it comes into contact with the hot pizza. This makes for a great sensory experience.

The same can be said for use in making a dipping oil or salad dressing. Here again the flavor imparted by a high-grade olive oil reigns supreme over that of other oils. From a personal standpoint I like to have dominant olive oil flavor as part of the finished/baked crust flavor profile, and for that reason I like to use a pomace grade olive oil. It has a lower cost and a much stronger (more robust) flavor than any of the other forms of olive oil (which make it unsuitable for use as a standalone oil); however, when used in a dough formulation it provides a desirable olive oil note to the flavor profile of the baked crust.

Q. We are thinking about purchasing a spiral mixer for mixing our dough. What should we look for in a spiral mixer?

A: Spiral mixers are great for use as a dedicated dough mixer. But like everything else, there are some things you want to make sure you have on your mixer to get the greatest benefit from it. In my opinion, multi-forward speeds, as well as a reverse speed, are game changers. If the mixer is sized for making doughs based on 100 pounds of flour or less, a removable bowl is nice to have (but not required).

Also, a plastic drain plug in the bowl is a very nice feature to have that all too many manufacturers have not thought to add. The drain plug is great to have to facilitate cleaning the bowl, primarily in draining the water out of the bowl after the bowl has been cleaned. It sure beats bailing the water out of the bowl like bailing out a sinking row boat. But like everything else, there is a drawback to the plastic plug (namely forgetting to put it back into the bowl after draining…oops!). Then, too, there is losing the drain plug, which is easily addressed by having a spare on hand. The good news, though, is that both of these issues are easily addressed through employee training — so it really shouldn’t be a problem at all.

One thing that I’ve seen on some of the new spiral mixers is a lack of provision for adding anything while the mixer is running. The mixer will have a safety shroud covering the bowl opening, but in many cases there is no opening in the solid metal shroud to add anything (such as oil for a delayed oil addition method of mixing). See if the manufacturer can provide an opening in the shroud to do this, but if they can’t, it is an easy task to have a metal shop cut an opening and protect it with small diameter metal bars running across the opening. Just be sure to retain the designed safety integrity of the shroud when doing this.

For cleaning the spiral mixer, I’ve found that if you pour several gallons of very hot water into the bowl and drape a piece of plastic sheeting over the bowl and allow it to set for 20 to 30 minutes, the moisture released from the hot water will soften any dough remaining in the bowl, making its removal much easier for faster and more effective cleaning. Remember that drain plug we discussed earlier? This is now where you will wish you had it if you don’t have one.

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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