Edit ModuleShow Tags

Quick-Fire Questions with The Dough Doctor

Tom “The Dough Doctor” Lehmann provides rapid-fire responses to operators’ minor dilemmas.


I tried making my pizza dough using malt syrup rather than the usual white sugar but, over time, my dough became very sticky. Is there a solution?

You are most likely using a diastatic malt syrup, which is enzyme-active and is nothing more than a malt-flavored sugar syrup. The diastatic malt syrup contains amylase enzymes, which hydrate a portion of the starch into sugar, and that’s responsible for the stickiness you’re experiencing. Check the product label to see if it mentions anything about being diastatic or enzyme-active. If so, replace it with a nondiastatic/non-enzyme-active malt syrup.


I see that some operators add the flour first to the mixing bowl, while others add the water first. Does it really make a difference which is added first?

Yes. When water is added first, you get more consistent hydration of the flour, which reduces mixing time. In tests that I did many years ago, I found that by adding water first, the total dough mixing time was reduced, on average, by a full minute. When we were making doughs with very short mixing times, such as cracker-type doughs, the flour was always more uniformly hydrated when water was added to the bowl first. 


I am using a planetary-type mixer, and the dough keeps climbing up on the hook, where it doesn’t get any kneading action at all. What can I do, aside from stopping the mixer to cut the dough off the hook?

This is a common problem with the type of hook that’s referred to, because of its shape, as a J hook. The problem is usually worse when mixing very small or large doughs, or when mixing at low speed. Try reducing the dough size by about 25%, and mix the dough at medium speed if possible. In the case of small dough sizes, the dough just wraps onto the hook and rides around the bowl, with the hook getting little or no mixing action. In this case, you will need to increase the dough size and again mix at medium speed. You might also try oiling the top 1/3 of the dough hook. If these tactics fail to address the problem, your only option will be to see if you can buy a reverse spiral dough arm for your mixer. With this, you can mix any reasonably sized dough, and the mixing action will be more efficient, resulting in shorter mixing times, as well as improved consistency between doughs.


I attended one of your presentations some time ago, and I remember you saying that all-purpose flour should not be used for pizzerias. Why is that?

I’m not against using all-purpose flour, but it tends to be quite variable between different manufacturers. Therefore, it’s difficult to say with certainty how any one brand will perform when making pizzas. I like to look at hotel and restaurant flours as the lower end of the strength spectrum and work up from there. Those flours are generally equal between different manufacturers, just as their bread and high-gluten flours are consistent. This means that you have the ability to change brands, knowing that there won’t be any huge surprises in store for you.


We have been experimenting with making cracker-type doughs and are seeing a lot of inconsistencies between them. Is this common with cracker doughs, which are low-absorption with a short mixing time?

No, it is not common. If you are using instant dry yeast (IDY) in the dough formulation, this might be where the inconsistency is coming from. While IDY is a great product, it does need to be used correctly. In a cracker-type dough with less than 50% absorption and only about two minutes of total mixing time, this would not be the best of conditions to add the IDY in its dry form. Instead, try putting the IDY into a small amount of 95˚ to 100˚F water, stirring to achieve a complete suspension of the yeast. Pour the yeast suspension into the cold water in the mixing bowl. By doing this, you will see more consistent results between the dough—and possibly a better finished crust, too.


I’ve heard and read that spiral mixers work really well for mixing pizza dough. What is your opinion?

I really like them for mixing pizza dough. They’re strong mixers, nearly bulletproof in all aspects of longevity and operation, and they will effectively mix a wide range of different dough sizes with ease. However, there are some issues with spiral mixers. They’re dedicated dough mixers, and few have an attachment hub, so they can’t do double duty—for example, mixing sauce or powering an attachment for slicing, dicing or shredding. Some have a removable bowl, which is a nice feature to have, as is a plastic drain plug in the bowl. (If I had my way, every spiral mixer would have a removable plastic drain plug in the bottom of the bowl to facilitate cleaning. Without one, you will need to bail the water out of the bowl as if you were in a sinking rowboat.)

Then there is the issue of speeds. Some spiral mixers have only one speed, while others have two speeds, and some even have a reverse speed. I’d opt for a two-speed model, but if that wasn’t an option, I would be just as happy with a single-speed machine. Finally, if you’re thinking of upgrading to a spiral mixer, consider keeping your old mixer for light-duty “retirement” chores, like mixing your sauce and powering your attachment. Then you’ll have the best of both worlds!    


Edit Module

Tell us what you think at or email.

Edit Module
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Related Articles

Eight Ways to Jump-Start Spring Sales

From Easter through Mother’s Day, here are 8 ways to ring in the spring with seasonal flings and give your sales a jump start.

Tips from the Team: Serving Up the Suds

Sean Dempsey explains how to pour on the profits by adding craft beers to your operation.

Preventing the Pita Effect in Par-Baked Pizzas

Par-baked crusts offer some time-saving advantages, but keep these tips in mind to prevent the formation of pockets.

Old-School vs. Online Marketing: Getting the Best Out of Both

From flyers to Google Ads, Think Tankers share tips and tricks for marketing your pizzeria.

2019: Already a Year to Remember

The U.S. Pizza Team shines on ESPN3

Product Spotlight-March 2019

Maintain a Good Relationship With Your Oven to Avoid Later Heartache

Buying an oven is like getting married—weigh the pros and cons carefully before rushing into a long-term commitment.

Milwaukee-Style Pizza Offers Up Great Options for Pizza & Beer Pairing

You can’t go to Milwaukee and not drink beer. Fortunately, Milwaukee-style pizza was designed with beer drinkers in mind.

Paying Your Pizzeria's Employees Well Can Yield Big Dividends

Derrick Tung, owner of Paulie Gee’s Logan Square in Chicago, details his innovative approach to paying and incentivizing employees—and why his opening night was such a stinker.

Adding Deli Sandwiches Can Kick Up Your Pizzeria's Sales

Thinking of adding a deli component to your pizzeria? These two creative operators explain how sandwich success has kept their pizza businesses booming.
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit Module
Edit Module
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit Module
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags