Q: Can I use an artificial sweetener in my dough to replace the sugar?
A: It all depends on what function you want the artificial sweetener to have in your dough. Artificial sweeteners are not fermentable, so they will not support fermentation and neither do they make a significant contribution to the finished crust color. In fact, most artificial sweeteners are not heat stable so they are destroyed during the baking process, having no function in the dough at all. There is one sweetener that we like to refer to as a “high intensity” sweetener that does tolerate the temperatures achieved during baking so it still functions in the finished/baked product. This product is referred to as “stevia.” Since stevia survives the baking process, unlike other sugar substitutes, it will provide a sweet taste to a baked pizza crust but for all practical purposes that’s about all it will do. Unless you are trying to impart a sweet taste to your crust I see very little application for any artificial sweetener or sugar substitute in a pizza crust dough formulation.
Q: I have a sample of a product that I got through Pizza Expo several years ago which has been sitting in my store room ever since I got it. The product is called PZ-44 and I was told that it would reduce the need to ferment my dough balls. Is this correct?
A: PZ-44 is a commercial blend of dairy whey and L-cysteine. The whey is used as a carrier for the active ingredient L-cysteine, which would otherwise be extremely difficult to use due to its very low use level — measured in parts per million (ppm) based on the total flour weight in the dough. The L-cysteine (a protein amino acid/building block) functions by breaking the protein chain formed during mixing (gluten) at very specific points on the protein chain, which results in a softening or mellowing of the gluten. We typically see this mellowing effect first occurring in the mixer in the form of a shorter-dough mixing time and then as a softer, more extensible dough during bench handling and opening of the dough into pizza skins. We also see a reduction in dough memory, or snap-back, after the dough skin has been formed.
All of these effects can also be achieved through fermentation, but in some circumstances we may not have the luxury of allowing the dough to ferment for a longer time and this is where the PZ-44 comes into play. One of the more common complaints is that the dough exhibits excessive snap-back after forming. In this case, a small amount of PZ-44 can be used to effectively eliminate or reduce the snap-back. Since every dough is different you will need to experiment to find out how much to use in this application. My suggestion is to start at .5 percent and work up in .5 percent increments until the snap-back is either reduced to an acceptable level or eliminated entirely.
While PZ-44 will effectively reduce the mixing time of a dough, I cannot recall any time this was ever needed with a pizza dough as they are already mixed for a relatively short period of time. Additionally, unless a frozen dough is being made, full development of the gluten is generally not something that we look for in mixing pizza doughs.
One of the greatest benefits of PZ-44 is its use in making an emergency dough. If you ever had a power loss to your store during the night and came in the following morning only to find your store smelling like a brewery due to your dough over-fermenting in the cooler, you can appreciate an emergency dough. In a case like this we need to prepare new dough for use during the day, so any thoughts of fermentation are nothing but a dream. We can make a very effective emergency dough by applying these guidelines to your standard dough formula:
- Reduce your dough size to include not more than 25 pounds of flour. It is better in this case to make several doughs at staggered intervals than to make one large dough.
- Double the yeast level.
- Increase the temperature of the water added to your dough byapproximately 15 F. You are looking for a finished (mixed) dough temperature of 90 to 95 F.
- Include two percent PZ-44 (based on flour weight) in the dough formulation and add it on top of the flour.
- Reduce the sugar level in the dough formula by half.
- Watch the dough mixing time very carefully and mix the dough just until it begins to take on a smooth appearance. This will take less time than a regular dough.
- After mixing, immediately scale and ball the dough, place into dough boxes and wipe the dough balls with oil (this is important, failure to do so will result in crusting of the dough).
- Stack/nest or cover the dough boxes and allow to remain at room temperature to ferment until they can be easily opened into skins by your regular method. This may take from 60 to 90 minutes.
- The dough balls can be used as soon as they are opened or they can be opened, placed onto lightly oiled screens and placed in a wire tree rack in the cooler for later use. Be sure to cover the rack with a plastic bag to prevent drying. All of the dough balls should be opened within 45 to 60 minutes of opening the first dough ball to prevent the dough from becoming excessively soft and sticky.
- To use the dough skins from the screens, be sure to invert the dough skins off of the storage screen onto a baking screen if you bake on screens (to prevent the dough from baking into the screen). If you bake on the oven deck, turn the skins off onto a dusted prep peel, dock if necessary, dress the dough and bake as normal.
Emergency dough is just as its name implies — for use during an emergency situation when dough is immediately needed to keep the store open. All emergency dough should be discarded at the end of the day. Emergency dough is never as good as a fermented dough, and you will need to keep your bubble popper handy at all times. But most operators agree that it beats the alternative of closing the store.
Tom Lehmann is a former director at the American Institute of Baking in Manhattan, Kansas and Pizza Today’s resident dough expert.