Dough storage –– this is one of those topics that I continually get questions about, so it’s probably time that we go back and revisit the basics. The way in which we store our dough has changed over the years. Back in the 1950s it was common to allow the mixed dough to remain in the mixing bowl and then store it in one piece at room temperature until we were ready to us it. This was fermentation in the truest sense of the word and it worked well for us at the time.
As the popularity of pizza grew, we needed more dough, so we would make two or more doughs and store them in the cooler in hopes of controlling the rate of fermentation and allowing the dough to last longer in the store. What actually happened was that the outer portion of the dough was chilled, but the center portion, the core, remained warm due to the heat of fermentation. It actually continued to get warmer as time went on, resulting in doughs that had different baking properties, depending upon which part of the dough the crust was being made from. In essence, the outer portion provided dough that performed pretty well over a 24-hour period, while the center portion, which continued to ferment, provided dough that was burned out, light in color and had poor rising properties.
To get around this problem, it was soon discovered that subdividing the dough into smaller pieces, one piece for each pizza skin, would allow the dough to cool more quickly and consistently, resulting in improved performance and consistency. This process was so effi cient that it allowed the dough pieces/balls to be stored for up to several days in the cooler while still retaining decent performance and fi nish. As our business continues to grow, we are faced with the task of making enough dough to meet all of our needs, not just for one day but for several, and we want all of our pizzas/ crusts to be of the best quality.
Producing pizza dough that can be stored in the cooler and produce essentially the same quality product from days one through three is where the challenge lies. The key here is to control the finished (mixed) dough temperature to 80 F to 85 F, then take the dough directly to the bench for scaling and rounding (balling). Taking the dough balls directly to the cooler is an important part of the process. If allowed to remain out of the cooler for any length of time, the dough will begin to ferment, making it less dense and more diffi cult to cool uniformly. The dough balls should be lightly wiped with oil prior to going into the cooler to prevent drying in the cooler.
Next, the dough should be placed in the cooler in such a way as to allow for maximum airflow around the dough balls. If they are placed in plastic dough boxes, it is recommended that they be cross-stacked when first placed into the cooler. The length of time that the dough balls are cross-stacked, or exposed to the airflow, will depend upon the size/weight of the individual dough balls. As a general rule, dough balls weighing 16 ounces or less should be cross-stacked for at least two hours. Dough balls weighing 17 to 22-ounces should be cross-stacked for two-and-a-half hours, and anything over 22-ounces should be cross-stacked for three hours.
After being cross-stacked for the requisite time, the dough balls should be sealed tightly to prevent drying. If the plastic dough boxes are used, this means that the boxes should be down stacked. This is where the top box is placed at the bottom position of a new stack, with the stack being assembled in reverse order. As the boxes are stacked, they will seal the box below it; then, only the top box on the stack will require a lid. If the dough balls are not placed in plastic dough boxes, they should be covered to prevent drying.
It is always a good idea to try to have a dedicated place in the cooler to store dough, preferably one away from the front of the cooler where opening and closing of the door will typically affect the operating temperature of the cooler, potentially leading to inconsistent dough performance. When made and stored in this manner, you can expect to
have your dough last up to three days in the cooler.