In Lehmann's Terms



Question: We operate a small commissary providing par-baked pizza crusts to our stores. We used to make the dough fresh at each store. Now that we are producing the dough at the commissary, it seems our crusts don't have the same flavor they had before. What has happened? Can we get the original flavor of our crust back?

Answer: The main difference between the dough that was made at the store and that made at the commissary is in the amount of fermentation that the dough receives before it is baked in the oven.

When the dough was made at the store it was allowed to ferment for nearly an hour before it was divided, scaled, balled and placed into dough boxes for one to two days of refrigerated storage. During this time the dough was being slowly fermented by the yeast. This fermentation, combined with the affects of acids, alcohol (produced by the yeast as by-products of fermentation) and enzymes naturally present in the yeast have a denaturing effect upon the flour proteins. These reactions all come together during baking to form an extremely complex thing which we call "flavor".

When you changed over to producing your dough at the commissary, the dough making procedure did not include this important aspect of pizza crust production. Instead, it utilized a process where the dough went from the mixer to forming and then on to baking in a relatively short period. I commonly see this error made when changing from store to commissary crust production.

Sadly, we do not yet have a flavoring material that can be added to the dough to replace this lost flavoring so we must resort to the old fashion method of developing flavor "fermentation". Rather than following a procedure like we had in the store where the dough might be aged for 24 hours or more before baking we can take a cue from the bread bakers and use one of their favorite procedures for obtaining that great fermentation flavor. It is known as the "sponge and dough" procedure. It consists of two separate parts as its name implies; The "sponge" and the "dough". In par-baked pizza crust production a sponge is made with 75 percent of the flour, all of the yeast and half of the salt. To this, three-fourths of the total formula/recipe water is added. The water temperature should be adjusted to give the sponge a temperature of 80 to 85F after mixing. The sponge is normally mixed just to the point where it forms a ball in the mixing bowl. Remove the sponge from the mixing bowl and place it into a suitably large container, cover to prevent drying and allow it to ferment for three hours at room temperature. Then, return the sponge to the mixing bowl, add the remainder of the ingredients in the formula (this is called the "dough"). Mix the sponge and the dough ingredients together until your normal dough appearance is achieved. This will normally take only four or five minutes. The dough can be taken directly to make-up for forming into par-baked crusts, or it can be incorporated into almost any other commissary method for making par-baked crusts.

This procedure will significantly improve the flavor, eating properties and crispy texture of a par-baked crust. No, it won't be the same as you might have been producing previously, but it will be much better than a crust made with a minimum of fermentation.

Question: We are in the process of looking for a new, larger mixer. Will the mixing time be the same with the new mixer? If not, what is the best way to determine the correct mixing time with the new mixer?

Answer: If your new mixer is of the same design as your old mixer you'll be pretty close by using the same mixing speed and time. For example: You're replacing a 60 quart bowl capacity planetary mixer with an 80 quart bowl capacity planetary mixer and they both have the same number of speeds and are made by the same manufacturer.

If the mixers are different speeds, you should contact the mixer manufacturers to determine what the agitator speed (rpm) is in each of the mixer speeds. For example: One is a three speed and the other is a four speed, or the mixers are manufactured by different companies. You can then compare the agitator speeds and determine which speed(s) on the new mixer most closely correlate to the speed(s) used to mix the dough on the mixer being replaced.

Another method that can be used is to calculate the number of agitator revolutions in each mixing speed for the mixer being replaced, then divide this number by the new mixer's agitator rpm in a speed closest to matching that of the old mixer.

In cases where a mixer is being replaced with a mixer of an entirely different design, such as replacing a planetary design mixer with a spiral mixer, the only effective way to determine the correct mixing time in the new mixer is to carefully mix a dough. Stop occasionally to observe the appearance and to stretch a piece of the dough in your fingers. When doing this, observe the way the dough stretches and the degree to which the dough can be stretched between the fingers to form a gluten film. These observations will help in determining the correct mixing time in your new mixer.

If everything else fails here's something I do to at least get a dough that will perform and make relatively decent pizzas. When mixing your dough pay close attention to its appearance. At first the dough will have a dull and rough appearance, but as mixing progresses it will begin to develop a smooth, satiny appearance. Once the dough reaches this appearance it should be sufficiently developed to make a good pizza. You can then fine-tune the mixing of the dough as needed to the following dough(s) to give you just what you want.

Remember, that these are only guides to getting you close to the same mixing point. You will still have to carefully look at the dough, and stretch it in your hands and assess its performance to determine when you have duplicated the original level of dough development through mixing.

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