Pizza Dough

Pizza is basically an open-faced sandwich made on a leavened flat bread, in which the topping and the bread are baked together. It has become a popular baked food worldwide, and although the familiar tomato sauce/sausage/ cheese topping is the most popular, fish, ground lamb, pureed legumes, and a wide variety of chopped vegetables are also used. The possible variety of pizzas is limited only by the availability of ingredients and the ingenuity of the chef.

Pizza crusts are of two types—thin cracker-type crusts and thick bread-type crusts—and are mixed shortly before use or are mixed and retarded in a commissary for later use. These variations lead to differences in dough formulas and handling. The flour used for pizza dough should be a good grade of bread flour with 12.0 to 12.5% protein. The thin-crust dough for immediate use requires even more protein, so rather than carry a 14% protein flour for this dough and a 12% flour for thick-crust doughs, it is more convenient to add 2 to 3% of vital wheat gluten to the 12% flour. Gluten generally is not used in commissary doughs unless flour of an adequate strength is not available. The gluten protein forms a seal at the crust/topping interface, minimizing formation of a soggy layer during baking.

Dough for immediate use receives little fermentation time beyond a 10 to 15-min floor time. It should be somewhat undermixed (just beyond the "cleanup" stage) and quite warm (33-38°C, 90-100°F). These doughs often resist sheeting and tend to shrink back in the oven. To counteract this effect, a reductant, either L-cyteine or sodium bisulfite, is used. Cornmeal also reduces dough elasticity. Adding it does away with the need for reductants and improves crust color, flavor, and eating properties. Sodium stearoyl lactylate improves the crust volume of thick-crust pizzas, giving closer grain and a more tender crust.

The variations in water absorption between the two types of crusts are consonant with the descriptions of cracker-type crust and bread-type crust. If absorption is too high, the dough is sticky, whereas if it is too low, the dough tears when it is sheeted.

Commissary pizza doughs are mixed, divided, rounded, and immediately placed in the retarder at 5 to 8°C (40-45°F). The dough ball should double its volume in 24 h at this temperature. If the volume increase is greater than this, the dough temperature (usually around 25°C, 78°F) should be reduced; if the volume increase is less than double, mix the doughs to a warmer temperature. Slight adjustments in yeast levels may be made to get the amount of fermentation to the desired point, but too much yeast in the dough may result in large blisters on the crust when it is sheeted and baked in the pizza shop.

Frozen pizza is a common supermarket food item. The consumer does not thaw the pizza and allow it to proof; rather, the piece is simply placed directly in the oven and baked. For this application, chemical leavening rather than yeast is used to give the desired texture to the crust. The leavening is of the double-acting baking powder type.

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