Q: I have a 50-quart capacity spiral mixer. Can I mix a dough based on only 25 pounds of flour with my mixer?
A: I did a rather extensive study on spiral design mixers a number of years ago for a major manufacturer. What we found was that spiral design mixers are capable of mixing doughs based on as little as 25 percent of the rated bowl capacity. A mixer with a 50-quart capacity will be right at home mixing doughs based on 40 pounds of flour weight and can even mix doughs based on as much as 50 pounds of flour. Based on this, your mixer should be able to mix doughs based on as little as 10 to 12½ pounds of flour weight without any problem.
When mixing doughs using minimum flour weight, you may need to increase the total dough mixing time slightly due to reduced contact of the spiral mixing arm with the dough.
Q: Can you add old dough not used during the day to fresh dough that is being made at the end of the day for use on the following day or days?
A: Yes, you can. The recommended maximum amount is 15 percent of the total dough weight, so if you are mixing a dough based on 50 pounds of flour weight it will yield about 80 pounds of actual dough weight. Based on the 15-percent rule, you could add as much as 15 percent of 80 pounds (12 pounds) of old dough to your new/fresh dough, just be sure your mixer is capable of handling the additional dough weight.
When used in this manner, the old dough will have a minimal impact upon the performance of the dough over the next several days. If you opt to use more than 15 percent old dough it will impact the performance of the new dough. Some will say that it improves the flavor of the crust, and that it does, much like using a well-fermented sponge or biga when making bread; but, it comes at a price. The more old dough that you incorporate into the fresh dough the shorter the refrigerated shelf life will be so you may lose a day or more of your shelf life in the cooler, plus due to the flavor impact (it’s actually quite good) you will need to maintain the same addition of scrap dough with each dough to have a consistent flavor profile from day to day.
When it comes to managing scrap or leftover dough I think it is a better idea to use it to make things like garlic knots or breadsticks that can be made and stored for use on the following day or days. This way your flagship dough is never compromised in any way, and you can always give the garlic knots or breadsticks away as a freebie to further promote customer relations. It is cheaper and most of the time more effective than buying advertising to promote a slow day or time period.
Q: We are a new store operation using a dough press to form our pizza skins. The press is working well but we are experiencing shrinkage of the dough after pressing. What can we do to eliminate or reduce this shrinkage?
A: With few exceptions, dough that will be opened into pizza skins using a pizza press will need to have some type of reducing agent included in the dough formulation. Dough reducing agents in common use are based on L-cysteine, dead yeast (glutathione) or de-ordorized vegetable powder. Their effect upon the dough is to relax the dough, allowing it to be pressed to shape without the annoying snap-back or shrinkage after pressing. When using these materials keep in mind that more is not better and only use as much as is needed to correct the problem. In some cases using any of these products in excess will result in overly soft and sticky dough that is all but impossible to handle. Also, since they are relaxing the protein, the refrigerated shelf life of dough containing any of these materials is usually limited to two days as opposed to the normal three days or more when it is not used.
Tom Lehmann is a former director at the American Institute of Baking in Manhattan, Kansas, and Pizza Today’s resident dough expert.