Freedom of the Dough Press: How to Choose the Right One For Your Pizzeria

Tom “The Dough Doctor” Lehmann explains the key differences between hot and cold presses.



 

Making pizza dough is both a science and an art, but technology has its own role to play. If you’re looking to save time in the kitchen, a dough press can be a very useful tool, but choosing the right one isn’t always easy. Here’s what you need to know about the difference between hot and cold presses:

 

Hot Presses

Hot presses use a heated head to press a dough ball into a die cavity or onto a flat platen. A hot press can create various shapes, including round and rectangular crusts, and hot presses work especially well for forming oven-rising (take-and-bake) pizzas with a well-defined, raised edge.

But formulas for hot-pressed doughs typically call for a relaxing agent of some kind to help the dough stretch and to reduce shrinkage or dough memory after pressing. In some hot presses, only the top head of the press is heated—in these cases, the dough will have to be put on a pan or tray after pressing since the bottom of the dough will still be raw and sticky.

It’s also important to remember that the heated platen will activate the yeast to some degree, so the dough will need to be baked immediately after it’s pressed when making thin-crust pizzas. However, when making thick-crust or deep-dish pizzas, the heated dough can work in your favor by helping to reduce the rising/proofing time needed to give the desired finished crust characteristics.

Additionally, hot pressing of the dough imparts an open, somewhat coarse internal cell structure that’s quite uniform, resulting in more uniform baking characteristics for the finished crust. If you use a press that’s heated at the top and bottom, a dry skin can be formed on the dough, imparting the potential for a unique crispiness to the crust. This dry skin also helps to control browning so that the crust can be baked longer—or at a slightly higher temperature—for an even crispier texture.

 

Cold Presses

Cold presses, unlike hot presses, don’t rely on heat to help form the crust or to help form a skin to retain the shape of the crust (especially raised edges). For cold pressing, you need a very soft and “flowing” dough, which can be achieved through a high water-absorption process, high finished dough temperature (90° to 100°) and reducing agents. The softness of the dough makes it much harder to achieve a well-defined, raised edge for the crust.

Cold pressing is a great way to make focaccia bread and can produce a unique, fried-bottom pizza crust, a characteristic that cannot be achieved through any other forming method.

Possibly the greatest negative factor in the cold press forming method is the need for special pans onto which the dough is pressed and increased difficulty in producing a crust with a pronounced raised edge.

 

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