In the Kitchen
From the crust up
By Diana Coutu
We make the dough so we can make the dough
By Diana Coutu
Never underestimate the importance of great dough. As
few as six simple ingredients become the base of your pie. Good or bad,
it all starts here.
Never underestimate the importance of great dough. As few as six simple ingredients become the base of your pie. Good or bad, it all starts here.
Most of us pizza operators can get the same toppings and cheese as the next guy down the block. Not much differentiation there – other than quality and freshness. This leaves it up to your dough to flatten or enhance the flavours of your pie.
Pizza dough is actually quite easy to make, once you know what you’re doing. Salt, sugar, yeast, water, olive oil and flour, it’s not rocket science. Never mix your dough more than nine minutes, and only then, gently roll your dough into balls. I’ve seen too many new guys work the dough over something nasty when rolling it into balls.
Over mixing/over kneading will result in a tough, chewy crust, no matter what quality ingredients you start with. Unless you’re making your dough entirely by hand, you only need to gently tuck the dough into a ball – making sure there aren’t any bubbles in your tuck. This would become a thin spot when you slap it out.
Managing your dough is an art in itself. There is a ‘sweet zone’ in every dough patty’s life when it’s a breeze to slap it out and it bakes up the perfect golden crisp brown. Over-proofed dough won’t rise as well and will have burn spots if used for a pizza, but will make excellent breadsticks. For best results, keep a well maintained, clean walk-in at a consistent temperature (34 – 38°F) and allow your dough time to proof – usually 24 hours will do.
At my shop, we specialize in dough. We make four styles of crust (medium, thick, thin & crispy thin) available in white or whole wheat plus we also make our award-winning Moosehead beer dough. Pizza crust preference is a very personal taste.
A lot of people love thin, some like it crispy, some don’t. Others like a balance between cheese and toppings.
Depending on the week, whole wheat accounts for at least 30 per cent, and up to 40 per cent, of our sales. We’d carry more kinds of dough, or even feature a new crust every couple of months, if we had the room. We’ve had requests for multigrain, flax seed, Moosehead beer whole wheat and even spelt.
The Canadian consumer’s tastes are definitely evolving, we’ve just run out of space on our menu. And that’s a good problem to have.
Once you have a great recipe, you can turn your dough into another revenue stream. We sell our dough balls fresh and frozen fresh. As long as you wrap un-proofed dough balls and put them in freezer-grade bags, they can stay in the freezer for up to four months. When our customer is ready to use them, they simply leave them on their counter for two hours, or they leave it in their fridge overnight to use the next day.
We give out free dough ball recipes in our area and in my newsletter, which includes Simple Sticks, with olive oil and sea salt, an herb foccaccia, homemade pizza – of course – and cinnamon rolls. Each recipe is tried and true, and in fact the cinnamon rolls recipe was shared with us by one of my clients who sends her husband in once a week for frozen whole wheat dough balls.
You see, he can eat cinnamon rolls only if they’re whole wheat, so he doesn’t mind coming in. Who knew our dough recipe also made great whole wheat cinnamon rolls?
Think of how much work we save our client by selling her ready-made dough. There are a lot of people out there that love to cook. They love those quick, easy recipes, which give them hot and fresh results from their oven. And some of them have huge beautiful kitchens in their homes, and like to entertain. It’s a whole different market.
I love creating new dough recipes. There are endless possibilities.
But, I’m somewhat surprised that there isn’t more variation out there in our industry. Even when competing in Las Vegas and New York last year, the other competitors used plain, basic, white dough as the base of their creation. They relied on more exotic toppings and sauces to provide all the flavours and textures; the crust was simply the “white serving plate.”
I tend to think of pizza from the crust up, being that it’s usually the majority of the bite. I like to incorporate a great tasting crust into the creation. My latest creation, Honey Wheat Beer Dough bakes into a crust that’s hearty yet still light and tasty. It works with both pizza toppings and dessert toppings. I’ll be bringing it with me to Vegas and Italy this year as a gourmet member of the Canadian Pizza Team. Who knows, maybe it’ll make great cinnamon rolls too.•