How to reduce the gum line: The Pizza Chef
By Diana Cline
The term “gum line” refers to the section of pizza between the crust and the sauce, cheese and toppings. That is, under the sauce, cheese and toppings. Basically if you pull back your cheese and toppings, the white doughy part is the gum line.
A large gum line is not very palatable: it’s like eating raw pizza dough. It doesn’t matter what you put on top of it, it won’t make the raw dough taste any better. Examine a slice of your pie from the side. Ideally there should be less than four millimetres of gum line. Any more than that and you have one doughy pie. For some operators, this area is a big problem.
If your customers have ever complained that the pizza was raw even though you’re positive it was baked to a golden brown before it went out, this is where you need to look. Watery sauce is often the culprit, with the extra moisture separating quickly and leaching into your dough. Coupled with cheese on top, a little steam pocket is created and trapped in between those layers with no hope of escape. This problem is exacerbated by vegetable toppings, especially if you put all the cheese on top of the veggies. The result is that all that extra moisture escapes from the vegetables and gets trapped between the crust and the cheese.
This also contributes to what I call “soggy-bottom pizza crust syndrome.” As soon as you slice your pizza, all that trapped moisture goes straight to the bottom and gets soaked up by the crust.
Another factor is if you stretch and sauce pizzas out ahead of time in order to meet the demand of a hectic lunch or supper rush. Even if your sauce is nice and thick, you may still find there are complaints of “raw dough” from customers. The longer a raw sauced pizza crust sits unbaked, the more likely it is to develop a large gum line. And that will ruin any
There are a few ways to address the problem.
The first is to thicken up your sauce and reduce the water content. For those of you who begin with canned tomatoes, simply strain some of the water out of the can before you add your spices. I always advise you to find a better quality of canned tomatoes to use. The higher the quality of canned tomatoes, the more tomatoes there are, and therefore less moisture to create a gum line. You can also let your sauce marinate overnight to thicken up. This is a good way because it allows your spices to marinate and develop amazing flavours.
At our shop, we start with the best quality canned tomatoes and marinate them overnight with our own special blend of herbs and spices. Our sauce is truly unique and it’s another point of distinction for us versus our “so-called” competitors. You could also cook your sauce, then simmer it for a bit to reduce the water content that way. You will have to adjust your recipe.
Another method is to brush the stretched-out pizza crust with olive oil before you sauce it. This creates a barrier between the crust and the sauce. The olive oil seasons the dough, and even adds a little more flavour to the overall pie. Your sauce will sit on top of this layer and will be less likely to seep into the dough. This is a preferred method to use if you stretch out crusts and sauce them in advance of a rush. You may even want to try this method with those extra-sauce pizzas. I recommend this strategy for “take ’n’ bake” pizzas as well.
Perhaps some of you have been thinking of offering take ’n’ bake pizzas to your clientele. A take ’n’ bake customer has a different mentality than a fresh pizza customer. This person is thinking ahead for a later meal, not necessarily thinking of the now. There’s also the win-win savings benefit of no taxes. None to collect and none any to remit. If you’re not offering take ’n’ bake, why not? Busy families don’t always know when everyone will be home to eat, and having their favourite pizza ready to cook up fresh and hot from their own oven 10 minutes after everyone arrives is a nice benefit of offering take ’n’ bake. So make it easy for them. Get some parchment paper, some cardboard rounds, shrink film and a pizza wrapper. Keep them hooked on your pizzas with the added convenience of having them ready to bake when your customers are ready to eat.
Diana Cline is a two-time Canadian Pizza magazine Chef of the Year, three-time winner of “Canada’s Best Pizza Chef” at international pizza competitions, a judge for international pizza culinary competitions in Las Vegas, Italy and France, and a partner with Diana’s Cucina & Lounge in Winnipeg. In addition to creating award-winning recipes, Diana is a consultant to other pizzeria owner/operators in menu development, creating systems to run a pizzeria on autopilot, along with marketing and positioning to help operators grow their business effectively and strategically. She is available for consulting on a limited basis. For more details, contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org