Q We make our pizzas using our own par-baked crusts, but he crusts are becoming hard (overly firm) upon standing
after baking. We’ve tried various anti-staling additives, but they
don’t work. What can we do to keep our crusts from staling?
A Crust staling, like bread staling, is a firming of the crumb structure due to crystalline structure changes
in the starch faction of the flour from which the dough
and crust are made. So why don’t anti-staling additives
solve your problem? Because the trouble with your par-baked crusts is not staling at all, but, rather, crust firming
as a result of excessive moisture loss during baking.
Moisture loss can be an issue when using par-baked
crusts in some applications, as the first baking of the crust
(the par-bake) drives off a portion of the water in the
dough. More water is then lost through evaporation from
the crust surface, and, finally, when the par-baked crust
is dressed and given a final bake, even more water is lost.
The resulting crust is quite firm and crispy right after
baking, but after a while—such as during the delivery
period or the time it takes for the consumer to carry the
pizza home—that moisture loss causes the crust to become
dry and hard in texture. For some stores, this is a desirable
characteristic, but for others it is not so desirable.
So how do we address the problem? The answer lies
in the addition of an ingredient that will significantly
increase the absorption of the dough while also retaining
a good deal of that added water after the par-baking stage.
The most effective way to accomplish this is through the
addition of gums to the dough. These are commonly
used in tortilla and pita production to help retain softness and foldability. You can discuss this with any large,
commercial bakery-ingredient supplier and ask what they
can offer along these lines.
Another effective approach is to use some type of fiber
material, such as alpha-cellulose (the fiber material that
was used to make high-fiber bread years ago). Pea fiber
works quite well, too. Basically, any fiber material that
does not interfere with the flavor or color of your crust
can be successfully used in this application. The addition
of sufficient gum or fiber material to the dough will allow
for an increase in dough absorption and retention of that
extra water through the par-baking stage. Thus, when
Moisture Loss Is
Key to a Softer
IN LEHMANN’S TERMS
Tom Lehmann was the longtime director of bakery assistance for the American Institute of
Baking (AIB). He is now an industry consultant dedicated to helping pizzeria operators make
more money. Need more dough advice? Visit the Dough Information Center at PMQ.com/dough.
If your par-baked crust becomes too firm after
baking, several different additives can help.
By Tom Lehmann C A M B