In Lehmann's terms: pan and dough dilemmas

QUESTION:

We want to start making personal pan pizzas, but we’re putoff by the high cost of the pans; do you have any suggestions?

ANSWER:

You may find a more reasonably priced alternative to buyingnew pans for personal-size deep-dish pizzas. Check around withyour local used bakery equipment suppliers to see if they haveany dark-color (the bakers call them “bake prep”) cake pans intheir inventory. These will usually be available in the common7-inch- or 8-inch-diameter sizes, which is perfect for an individuallysized pan pizza. Most of the time, they will be assembled inrigid straps, with six or eight pans per strap. These can be easilycut into groups of two pans each so that you can avoid sendingfive or more empty pans through the oven just to bake a singlepan pizza. And if you get lucky and fi nd a source of individualpans, grab all that you can get!

Remember, these will probably be steel pans, so don’t let themsoak in water during cleaning any longer than necessary, and drythem as quickly as possible after washing. First wipe them dry,and then put them through the oven for one minute or so to finishdrying them.

For the best deal on used pans, check your local newspaper forbakery, restaurant or consignment auctions, or search on eBayfor used cake pans to see if you can find something that fits yourneeds without breaking the bank. Two years ago, at a garage sale,I purchased several boxes that contained nearly 100 assorted individualcake pans in 7-inch and 10-inch sizes. They were roughbut easily salvageable. The seller said they were leftovers froma small bakery that the family owned many years ago, and I gotall of the pans for $25. And, no, I didn’t feel guilty; that was theasking price.

QUESTION:

We’ve been open for only about three months, but we’re alreadyhaving some major problems with our dough. We can’tkeep it in the cooler for more than one day, and once we bringit out and begin prepping the dough, it doesn’t last for muchmore than an hour. Can you tell us what we’re doing wrong?

ANSWER:

A quick review of your dough formula tells me what you’redoing wrong. The formula itself looks good, but the problemlies with your water temperature. You’re using active dry yeast(ADY), which must be hydrated in warm water (100° to 105°F).Actually, only a small portion of the water needs to be at thattemperature. About fi ve times the weight of ADY is enough warmwater in which to hydrate the yeast; the remainder of the watershould be sufficiently cold to give you a fi nished dough temperatureof 80° to 85°F (this normally means the remainder of thewater will need to be in the 60° to 75°F range).

I think the mistake occurred when someone misconstrued thedirections for using ADY, which reads something like this: Putthe yeast in 100° to 105°F water and allow to hydrate for 10 minutes,or until bubbles appear on the surface of the yeast suspension,and then add to the dough. Someone mistakenly thoughtthat this meant all of the water had to be at 100° to 105°F. Oops!This resulted in a much warmer than desired finished dough temperature,which in turn was much more diffi cult to efficiently cooldown in the cooler; then, after removed from the cooler, as soonas the dough began to warm, it was off and running at the fermentationraces again and soon completely out of control. Thisunderscores the point that I’ve made for years now: Temperatureis the single most important aspect of dough performance anddough management. If the finished dough temperature had beenmonitored, you would have realized that your dough temperaturewas significantly higher than what you’ve probably seen inmost of the published dough formulas. I’m guessing that yourfinished dough temperature was running in the 95° to 100°Ftemperature range.

What happens many times with this problem? The yeast levelis reduced in hopes of getting back control of the dough. But thatonly leads to a finished crust that doesn’t rise properly duringbaking, resulting in a thin, dense texture—and sometimes evena nasty gum line—in the finished crust. It doesn’t appear thatyou have progressed to that point yet, because your ADY level iswithin the normal range of 0.5 to 0.75% of the flour weight, so allyou should have to do is to adjust the water temperature, exceptfor the small amount in which the yeast is hydrated, and thingsshould fall nicely back into line. (If you had made reductions inthe yeast level, we would have seen unusually low ADY levels,in the 0.2 to 0.3% [of the fl our weight] range. In that case, youwould need to also increase the ADY level up to something closerto the 0.5 to 0.75% range as part of the corrective measures.)

Tom Lehmann is the Director of Bakery Assistancefor the American Institute of Baking (AIB).
Need more dough advice? Visit the newDough Information Center at www.pmq.com/dough.