Dough Hooked: Turn Pizza Dough into Sandwich Dough
“Pizza is dough with something on it, and a sandwich is dough with something in it. So, they’re really like kissing cousins.”
Peter Reinhart, Award-winning Author of Perfect Pan Pizza
And so, the story goes: The invention of the sandwich is usually attributed to John Montagu, 4th Earl of Sandwich who was a degenerate gambler. In 1762, during an all-night wagering binge, Johnny told the cook to prepare him a meal which he could eat with one hand and would not impede his game. The cook (the real inventor) came back with meats and cheeses in toasted bread, so the word sandwich stuck. Little did the Earl know that the use of bread baked with or without ingredients inside, sliced or not, rolled around ingredients or even half-baked and filled, had been constructed for centuries since the beginning of bread.
After years of baking bread in my pizzeria, I’ve concluded that calling an item a Sandwich, Calzone, Stromboli, Man’oushe’, Trucchia, Tramezzini, Panini, Spirali, Pane Bianco, Crescentine or Tigelle, Mille-Feuilles, or even Tarte Tatin and Stuffed Fougasse can get a baker in trouble. There are so many variations on the “Sandwich” theme; it’s always better to present these wonderfully delicious items on their own merit and not get yelled at by the appropriation police of the world. Let’s do a deep dive into sandwich bread types you can make in your pizzeria.
- Batards: Long batards made into ginormous subs using 32-ounce dough are a joy to behold when cut horizontally. Short ones using 8-12 ounces of dough are good for individual subs but cost more in labor. Your pre-existing pizza dough can be re-balled and rolled out to proof in a couche, or flour covered linen used to keep a shape. Sesame and poppy seed are good toppings as well as asiago, provolone or smoked gouda added at the end of the bake.
- Boules: These round loaves vary in sizes from 8 ounces to 16 ounces. We make our signature “Boulder” sandwiches from the latter size and from our pizza dough recipe. The benefit of the boule baking process is the re-kneading in a ball shape can easily be proofed on the parchment covered tray you plan to bake them on. Small round loaves don’t have the “eye appeal” that the same size submarine roll has but look better when filled with meats and cheeses.
- Ciabatta: These wonderous airy loaves named after the Italian slipper shape are the easiest to make using your existing proprietary pizza mix of flour, salt, cold water and yeast, (See recipe.) If you add more water to the mix for an 85-100 percent hydration, this bread benefits from a long, slow mix and retardation in your refrigerator to facilitate a strong gluten net. I prefer Peter Reinhart’s Pain a’ l’ Ancienne way of mixing and the “Blob” method for forming in my busy pizzeria, (See Recipe.)
- Baguette: The usual baguette mix contains almost half all-purpose flour and most bakers I’ve seen in France were using a Pate Fermentee’, or old dough, at an amazing quantity compared to the flours. The use of diastatic malt, and a hydration of 60 percent, sends the sugars on hyperdrive to the crust. The crisp crust and the airy interior are indicative of a great baguette.
Here are some things to think about before starting a sandwich bread program.
What is your dough like? Does it have a higher hydration that will lead to an airy bread or a lower hydration that can lead to easier shaping and a crisper crust. Do you use a natural pre-ferment like poolish or biga or just make it with a direct method?
Do you know about proofing? Bread dough exhibiting a crisp crust and airy crumb is best aged, then re-kneaded, then proofed until the gluten net is capturing carbon dioxide and the bread starts to rise. This cannot happen well in the winter cold or if it is over-proofed in the summer heat. A good proofer works wonders for consistency — it all depends upon your pizzeria set-up.
Do you only have conveyor ovens? Conveyor ovens blast air upon breads and work best with flatbreads and na’an because of the instantaneous oven spring. These breads work best on a parchment covered tray and a diluted egg wash makes them shiny instead of dull. Toppings like sea salt are great but some seeds will burn. Na’an can get caught in your small heating cavity as it expands so be vigilant with na’an. The best advantage of conveyors is they are fast, fast, fast.
Are you baking with a deck oven? Deck ovens make delicious large springing loaves if they are equipped with differing temperatures, steam and lack hot spots. Steam makes for a great shiny and crisp crust during the initial higher-heat oven spring. Lowering the heat ensures that the cell structure in the middle of the loaf cooks to a temperature of 200 F/93 C.
Equipment is important but you don’t have to travel to the moon to find mise en place to bake some killer breads. Here are some very important items you will need.
- Trays. Large trays can hold a lot of ciabatta, rolls, and other breads. (Note: I’ve found that baking large breads on trays impedes the oven spring from the bottom because the heat transfers to the loaf too slowly.) Smaller buns, thinner baguette, and highly hydrated doughs do well on trays.
- Parchment. Silicone parchment works best for temperatures over 500 and long bakes as well as conveyor bakes. They also catch seeds, oils egg wash and other stuff that falls off during baking, saving the trays. (Remember, always keep dough off the side of trays or it will stick.)
- Loader. (If going directly on the bricks.) There are some small loaders out there that can load 7-9 baguettes or 5-6 large batards. They are small profile and easy to store.
- Couche linen. This is linen used for proofing breads especially like baguette and ciabatta which are great sandwich breads.
- Bannetons. This wicker and plastic baskets are great to keep the form for boule and batards.
- Tables with backsplash. Flour gets everywhere. Need I say more?
- Bread bakers lame or bread knife. Scoring breads gives the oven spring a controlled expansion instead of bumps blasting out the side of your loaf and thus misshaping it.
- Water spritzer. If you want the benefit of adding steam to a deck oven, the battery powered lawn sprayers work best and sending a blast to the back of the oven will fill the chamber with steam.
- Metro wire shelving. Bread must have time to cool down, otherwise if bagged, it will go limp.
- Gloves. Good gloves that can handle 500-600 degrees and hot trays is important.
The “Red October” Giant Pizza Submarine
I make many of these loaves every weekend from my direct-method, aged proprietary pizza dough with a 60 percent hydration. After baking and cooling, I fill with Capicola, Mortadella, Prosciutto di Parma, Genoa Salami, and ham, with Provolone, arugula, tomato, oregano, peppers, extra virgin olive oil and sea salt. I cut each into 6-8 sandwiches that sell out in an hour.
This recipe for Ciabatta had its beginning when I read Peter Reinhart’s the Bread Bakers Apprentice almost 15 years ago. I like the simplicity of this recipe and the use of time over technique or preferments. The magic happens when the cold mix and holding produces delayed fermentation enabling fuller wheat flavor and the sugars produce a better crust. My customers love this bread filled with a “Caprese” style of fresh mozzarella, tomato, and fresh basil with plenty of extra virgin olive oil and sea salt.
John Gutekanst owns Avalanche Pizza in Athens, Ohio.