In Lehmann’s Terms Tom “The Dough Doctor” Lehmann
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Creating a Light,
Airy Pizza Crust
Tom “The Dough Doctor” Lehmann explains
the secret to softer, more extensible dough.
Our crust always seems to be too dense.
It lacks the large holes and airy texture
that we are looking for. We have tried to
attain these characteristics, but nothing
has worked for us so far. What do we
need to do?
There are a number of things that can
be done to impart the characteristics
you’re looking for. Make sure that your
dough is soft enough to freely expand
during the very early stages of baking.
The dough needs sufficient water to have
a soft and extensible feel, which is best
achieved through water absorption. I
suggest that you begin by increasing the
water absorption of your dough in 2%
increments (based on total flour weight),
up to a maximum of about 60%.
Additionally, in order to expand
properly during baking, the dough needs
to have sufficient yeast. For typical
pizza dough, I recommend a level of 1%
compressed/fresh yeast, 0.5% active dry
yeast or 0.375% instant dry yeast.
Dough mixing time is another
important factor. Pizza doughs should be
mixed until they take on a smooth, satiny
appearance. Mixing beyond this point
might develop enough gluten to restrict
dough mobility, thus reducing the ability
of the dough to expand freely during the
early baking stage.
Another factor to consider is the
protein content of the flour. In general,
flours with high protein content tend to
produce doughs that are somewhat tough
and elastic, which can often inhibit the
oven-spring characteristics of the dough.
Changing to a flour with a lower protein
content can help by providing a softer,
more extensible dough that will exhibit
better oven-spring traits in the oven,
thus creating a more open and porous
The salt level in the dough can also
contribute to lack of oven spring due
to the salt’s toughening effect upon the
gluten and its inhibiting effect upon the
yeast action. For the best results in pizza
dough, the salt level should be between
1.5% and 2.5% of the total flour weight.
Finally, fermentation can play a
significant role in the crumb structure.
As the dough ferments, it has a
mellowing—or softening—effect upon
the gluten structure of the dough,
giving it a softer, more extensible trait,
which will help to promote oven spring
and a more open crumb structure in the
finished crust. Research has shown that
most pizza doughs require a minimum
of four hours of fermentation at room
temperature ( 70°F) or between 12 and
16 hours under refrigerated storage
(also known as cold fermentation)
to produce a finished crust with an
acceptably open crumb structure and
desirable eating characteristics.
Tom Lehmann is the director
of bakery assistance for the
American Institute of Baking
(AIB). Need more dough advice?
Visit the Dough Information
Center at PMQ.com/dough.