In the Kitchen
The pizza Chef: September-October 2015
By Diana Cline
Never underestimate the power of great dough.
As little as five simple ingredients becomes the base of your pizza: good or bad, it all starts here. Most of us pizzeria operators can get the same toppings and cheese as the next guy down the block. The level of quality and freshness you each choose determines your standards for your pizza.
This leaves it up to your dough to flatten or to enhance the flavours featured on your pie.
Pizza dough is actually quite easy to make, once you know what you’re doing. Salt, yeast, water, olive oil and flour – sometimes sugar. It’s science, but not rocket science.
Choose a flour that lends itself to the characteristics of the style of pizza crust you want to create. Some operators ask me if the added expense of olive oil over mainstream canola or vegetable oil is worth it. And my answer is always, yes, olive oil gives your crust that authentic Italian bread flavour. If you spend the extra money on better-quality toppings, cheeses and tomatoes for your sauce, then it’s only natural that you’d appreciate the flavour enhancement of a good olive oil.
Be careful not to over-mix your dough. Anything more than nine minutes with an industrial mixer is too much. After your dough is mixed, allow it to rest, covered, for 15 minutes. This allows the gluten strands to realign. Then cut, weigh and gently roll your dough into balls. I’ve seen a lot of new guys work the dough over something nasty when rolling it into balls. Over-mixing or 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 need only 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 stretch it out.
If you want, you can get fancy with your dough recipe by working with a starter and adding it to your regular batch. This is often called a biga or poolish method. It makes a much more flavourful crust, but requires additional work to achieve this result.
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 stretch out and 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 it will make excellent breadsticks. For best results, keep a well-maintained, clean walk-in at a consistent temperature (34 to 38 F) and allow your dough time to proof – at least 24 hours will give it time to develop its flavours. The biga and poolish methods take a minimum of 48 hours to develop their flavours.
At my shop, we specialize in dough. We make four styles of crust (medium, thick, thin and crispy thin) available in white or whole wheat. 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 crust, 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.
Once you have a great recipe, you can turn your dough into another revenue stream. We sell our dough balls fresh and frozen fresh. If you wrap unproofed 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 the dough balls, they simply leave them on their counter for 2.5 hours or leave them in their fridge overnight to use the next day.
We give out free dough-ball recipes in our customer area in my newsletter, including “Simple Sticks” with olive oil and sea salt, an herb focaccia, homemade pizza and cinnamon rolls. Who knew our dough recipe also made great whole-wheat cinnamon rolls?
Think of how much work we save a customer by selling ready-made dough. There are a lot of people out there who love to cook even though their time is limited. They love quick and easy recipes that give them delicious, hot and fresh results from their oven. It’s a whole different market.
Diana Cline is a two-time Canadian Pizza Magazine Chef of the Year champion, internationally recognized gourmet pizzaiolo, owner of Diana’s Cucina & Lounge in Winnipeg, Man., and a director for the CRFA from 2009 to 2013. In addition to creating award-winning recipes, Diana is also 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 information contact her at email@example.com.