Tom Lehmann: In Lehmann's Terms

In Lehmann’s Terms: Put a Little Spring in Your Dough

Q: We’re trying to get more oven spring out of our dough without changing the dough formulation. Can you recommend an additive ingredient to increase oven spring?

A: Although there are commercial products that promote increased oven spring (also called oven rise), they’re all designed around white pan bread. I’m not aware of any such additives created with pizza in mind. These products typically boost volume through increased oven spring by about 10% to 15%. That’s great for a pan bread, which has a height of 100 millimeters, or about 4”, or more. In that case, the volume/height increase might be to the order of 10 to 15 millimeters, or about 5/8”.  A pizza crust, however, has a height of about 6 millimeters, or ¼”, for a thin crust and 24 millimeters (about 1”) for a thick crust. Thus, you’d only get a height increase of between 0.9 millimeters (about 1/24”) to 3.6 millimeters (about 1/8”).

Based on these numbers, we can rule out the additive approach. So how do we go about increasing oven spring? The answer is to make the dough softer, more extensible and easier to expand during those first few critical seconds in the oven, which is when the majority of the oven spring occurs. Below are some of the options known to help increase oven spring in pizza crust production. Not all of them will be applicable in your specific case, but one or more might improve the oven spring properties of your dough.

  • Increase the baking temperature.
  • Optimize dough absorption for maximum oven spring. (This might be a viable option, as many doughs could benefit from a slightly higher absorption.)
  • Optimize the yeast level.
  • Allow the dough to proof/rise prior to dressing and baking (even a couple of minutes can be helpful).
  • Increase the dough weight.
  • Add a coated (fat-encapsulated) chemical leavening system to the dough to slightly boost the amount of leavening gas during baking. This is how many “bake-to-rise” pizzas are made.
  • The addition of oil to the dough formula (even just 1%) can both lubricate the dough for improved expansion properties and help to seal the internal cell (crumb) structure. This approach helps better retain leavening gas, which can contribute to an increase in finished crust height/thickness resulting from improved oven spring.  

Tom Lehmann was the longtime director of bakery assistance for the American Institute of Baking and is now a pizza industry consultant.