Acting poolish

QUESTION:

How can I incorporate some type ofpoolish/biga or ferment into my regularpizza dough for improved flavor?

ANSWER:

There are two pretty easy ways to accomplishthis. I’ll explain the first here;the second can be found at PMQ.com/dough. Make your dough by what iscalled the “sponge and dough” process.This process requires that you prepare asponge by mixing 50% to 70% of the totalflour with all of the yeast and an amountof water equal to 50% of the weight offlour in the sponge. The water temperatureshould be in the 75°F to 80°Frange to give a finished (mixed) spongetemperature of 75°F to 80°F. Typically,the sponge is mixed for only 5 minutesat low or medium speed, the idea beingto incorporate the ingredients, ratherthan develop gluten. The mixed spongeis set aside in a suitably sized containerand allowed to ferment for 3 to 3.5 hours.This time can go as long as 4 hours forincreased flavor, but remember: Onceyou have settled on a fermentation time,always use the same time, and be sure tocontrol the finished dough temperature,making sure to keep as close to yourtarget temperature as possible.

Place the fermented sponge into themixing bowl along with the “dough side”remainder of ingredients. The amount ofwater added will need to be calculated asfollows: Start with a total dough absorptionof 56%. This may be adjusted, ifnecessary, to improve dough handlingproperties. To do this, use your calculatorand enter the total flour weight usedin the dough—let’s say it’s 40 pounds.Then press “X” and enter 56, then pressthe “%” key and read the total dough absorptionin the display window (40 X 56,the “%” key = 22.4 pounds of water). Remember,we have already added some ofthe water to the sponge, so we will needto subtract that amount from the total.If we used 70% of the total flour in thesponge, the weight of flour in the spongewill be 28 pounds. Since the amount ofwater added to the sponge was 50% ofthe sponge flour weight, the amount ofwater in the sponge is 14 pounds. Thismust be subtracted from the total absorption(22.4 pounds): Therefore, 22.4– 14 = 8.4 pounds of water to be addedto the dough at the dough side.

If you’re using oil in your dough, I liketo hold it out initially, and add it only afterthe dough has been allowed to mix forabout 2 minutes, as this allows for morecomplete and uniform flour hydrationproperties. Note: Since the sponge will befairly warm (about 85°F), the temperatureof the water added at the dough sideshould be as cold as possible (ice water)to give us a finished dough temperaturein the desired 80°F to 85°F range.Remember to mix the dough just untilit takes on a smooth, satiny appearance.Because of the fermented sponge, thiswill take less time than a normal doughmade without a sponge. As soon as thedough is finished mixing, take it directlyto the bench for dividing, balling andprocessing in your normal manner.

QUESTION:

We get very busy on Friday and Saturdaynights. To help us keep up withthe demand for pizza, we prepare ourdough skins ahead of time and placethem onto screens in the cooler. Theproblem we have is that the dough runsinto the screen openings and ends upsticking to the screen. What advice canyou give us?

ANSWER:

The simplest solution to your problem:Remove the dough skin from the screen asyou get ready to use it, then invert it, placingit back onto the screen upside down.You can now sauce and dress the doughwithout fear of it sticking to the screen(assuming the screen has been properlyseasoned). Another option: Place yourpre-opened dough skins onto cardboardpizza circles with a little peel dust underthem. I like to make my peel dust byblending together equal parts pizza flour,semolina flour and yellow cornmeal. Thiswill prevent the dough from sticking tothe cardboard circles. Place the pre-openeddough skins in the cooler on a wire treerack and cover with a rack cover or a plasticbag. The dough skins can be easily heldfor up to several hours in this manner.To use the pre-opened dough, just removethem from the cooler about 20 minutesbefore you plan on using them. This willallow them to warm slightly; remove theskin from the cardboard circle and fit itto the baking screen, and you’re ready tosauce and dress it. The cardboard circlescan be wiped off with a clean towel andreused a number of times.

Tom Lehmann is the directorof bakery assistance for theAmerican Institute of Baking(AIB). Need more dough advice? Visit the DoughInformation Center at PMQ.com/dough.