In Lehmann's terms: sugar and oil dilemmas

QUESTION:

What’s the difference between regularwhite table sugar and brown sugar?

ANSWER:

The difference between sugars in a doughrecipe is very little. The only real difference iswith regard to the slightly darker color of thedough with the use of brown sugar, otherwise,they both provide nutrient for the yeastto metabolize. With regard to finished productquality, both white and brown sugar providevery similar levels of total sweetening to thefinished crust, but, the brown sugar, due toits roughly 3% molasses content, will providea slightly darker crumb color and dependingupon the level used, it might also provide aslightly different taste to the finished crust. Wehave found that when the level of brown sugaris at 2% or less of the flour weight, the flavorcontribution is insignificant, but when thesugar level is increased to the 4% to 8% range,aside from the total sweetness, the unique“molasses” flavor is significantly increased.

Other types of sugar that can be used inpizza production include dextrose (corn sugar),which is another white sugar, which lookssimilar to sucrose (table sugar) but perhapsa little finer. Dextrose is only about 93% assweet as sucrose, so it doesn’t provide quitethe same level of sweetness at comparableuse levels. In the finished product, dextrosetypically provides a slightly lighter crust colorthan that provided by sucrose, also known ascane or beet sugar. Then there is the all-timefavorite, honey. Honey is well known for itsunique flavor and overall widespread consumerrecognition. Even when used at typicalpizza levels, honey can impart its unique flavorinto the finished crust. If a more intense honeyflavor is desired, you have two options. One isto simply use more honey, but at upwards of$3.00 per pound, that might prove to be a littlepricey. The other is to use a darker-coloredhoney. Remember, the darker the honey color,the more robust its flavor, so the same amountof a darker-colored honey will provide a morepronounced honey flavor. The only downsideto using a dark-colored honey has todo with the darker crumb color that itimparts to the finished crust. This mightprove to be objectionable with a whiteor lighter-colored crust, but when used ina wheat, whole wheat, or multi-grain typecrust, it might be just the ticket to gettinga nice brown crumb color rather than thedingy grayish-brown crumb color typical ofthese crusts. Keep in mind that these typesof breads sold at your local supermarketprobably contain some caramel colorto achieve the desirable browncrumb color we have cometo expect from thesetypes of breads.

From time to time we hear of malt beingused as a sugar in pizza crust production too.Malt, being a dark-colored material, will havea darkening aff ect upon the crumb color of thefinished crust just like a dark-colored honey, soits use might be best reserved for applicationsin the same wheat, whole wheat, and multi-graintype formulations. The flavor impartedby malt syrup is best described as much likethat of a candy malted milk ball. Onevery important thing to keep in mindwhen considering the use of malt/malt syrup is to make sure youpurchase non-diastatic malt(another way of sayingnon-enzyme activemalt). If you useenzyme-activemalt by mistake, your dough might soon becomeextremely sticky and difficult to handle.Typically, malt syrup is used at levels of 2% to5% of the flour weight.

Another type of syrup that we see being usedoccasionally is molasses. Molasses has a very robustflavor and due to its color, it will have a significant darkening affect upon the crumb color ofthe finished pizza, so again think of using this onein wheat, whole wheat, and multi-grain type doughformulations. Due to the rather significant flavorimpact that molasses has, I suggest starting withlow levels, of not more than 2% or 3% of the flourweight, and then going up or down as the flavorprofile of the finished crust dictates.

I realize that all of these syrups contain a portionof water, normally ranging from 20% to 30% of theweight of the syrup, but in considering the amountsused, you might not need to worry about correctingfor the diff erence in dough absorption until theamount added is at or above 6% of the flour weight,and even at that level, the amount of water contributedby the addition of the syrup will only be about2% (at best) of the fl our weight.

In case you’re wondering why there’s a suddeninterest in using these different, nontraditionaltypes of sweeteners, it’s mostly due to consumerrequest or demand. For whatever reason, white,refined sugar has gotten a bad rap with many consumersleading them to believe that some of thesesyrups (honey) are better for them. There is also the“natural” foods movement that is coming on strong(in case you haven’t noticed). Consumers are losingconfidence in the safety of the foods that they arepurchasing and as a result many are grasping atanything that restores some of that lost confidence.If that means a shift towards more “natural” ingredients,both in the dough, and on our pizzas, so be it.

QUESTION:

Does it really make any differencewhat type of oil I use when I makemy pizza dough?

ANSWER:

From a functional point of view, no, but froma flavor point of view in your fi nished crust,the answer could very well be a resoundingyes. Different types of oil can impart differentflavor profiles in the finished (baked) crust. Forexample, olive oil will impart a very characteristicflavor as will butter oil while oils such ascanola, palm or corn oil have very little, if any,perceptible impact upon the flavor of the finishedcrust. Keep in mind that any type of oilwill impact the flavor of the finished crust bycarrying or retaining other flavors within thecrust, but here we’re just talking about the flavorimparted by the fat/oil itself. In a numberof Latin American countries we see lard beingused as a major source of fat in many productsincluding pizza dough/crust. Lard is no exception;it provides a very unique flavor to thefinished crusts.

Lately, I’ve seen a growing interest in makingdessert and breakfast pizzas. In these applicationsit might be advantageous to look atthe type of fat/oil used in making our crusts.For example, in a dessert pizza, replacing oliveoil with either butter or butter oil, or evenlard, could greatly improve the fl avor of theend pizza by making the crust taste more likea pastry than a pizza crust. The same thing canbe said when making a breakfast pizza. If thehigh cost of olive oil is pulling on your pursestrings, you can get some relief by blendingyour olive oil with up to 80% of a blander oil,such as canola. When used in making pizzadough, the olive oil flavor will still dominatethe finished crust, but your total cost of the oilwill be significantly lower than 100% olive oil.You can also do the same thing with butter.In this case we have found that you can getsatisfactory results by cutting melted butterinto canola oil at the rate of 1-part butter to3-parts of canola oil. If flavor or cost is an issue,be sure to pay attention to the type of oil/fatyou are using in your dough, it can, and does,make a difference.