Are Dough Balls A Must?

I worked at a small pizza place in college and we just made dough, put it in a rubbermaid container, let it sit for two hours, punch down, place in cooler for next day use, pull out a few hours before we opened and that’s it. We would grab a handful of dough need for each pizza, sheet it thru a double pass acme and place it on a perforated pan then add sauce, toppings, cheese.

All I hear about it scaling the dough and cross-staking in dough boxes, etc. Do I have to make dough balls? What’s the difference between the two methods?

I’ve seen plenty of places who use sheeters that simply cut a chunk of dough from a bin of bulk dough.

We do only do hand-tossed here, so I need a properly portioned, properly kneaded, nice round dough ball to start with so I can get a nice round pizza to hit the oven deck

when I first began wholesaling pizzas, we used a round zip lock bowl that we sprayed pan release in, dropped in a weighed hunk of dough & stuck in the cooler…brought it out the next day, ran it thru the sheeter, tossed & proofed, then par-baked…some shifts we had multi 100’s of skins proofing…

I grew up in the NYC metro area pizza world of the 60’s-70’s. The nature of the NY pizza calls for balling the dough. I balled a lot of dough over the years :slight_smile: 7.5 years ago we moved to Ohio. I have seen a whole different way to do pizza that involves a same day or 24 hour bulk dough. The dough is torn off, sheeted/rolled, and baked on pans in conveyor and deck ovens. I guess it all depends on what kind of pizza you are after. Walter

Can I just bulk ferment in the retarder for 24 hours, pull out of fridge a few hours before we open and just rip pieces of dough off the bulk to sheet and place on a pizza pan then send in the conveyor?

The main difference between the two dough management procedures dough ball v/s bulk dough ferment is that the dough ball procedure when properly implemented has the capability of giving the same dough/crust characteristics time after time whereas the bulk ferment procedure gives dough/crust characteristics that vary as the dough continues to age. Putting a bulk container of dough in the cooler serves little if any benefit, and it may even introduce an unwanted variable especially when using air impingement ovens. By putting a bulk container of dough in the cooler only the outer portion of the dough is cooled down while the center/core of the dough continues to ferment and create additional heat (heat of metabolism). As the yeast ferments, one of the many things created is acid. The acid content will be higher in the core of the dough as opposed to the outer edges due to continued fermentation as well as fermentation at a greater rate. Since acid inhibits crust color formation when baked for a set period of time at a specific temperature as it is in an air impingement oven, or any other “conveyor” oven, you end up getting a finished crust with a mottled color, depending upon where the dough was taken from in the fermenting mass. Additionally, there can also be a change in flavor from crust to crust or even within the same crust due to this same reason. When using a deck oven the color issue is a moot point as we have the ability to leave the pizza in the oven to bake a little longer to develop or improve the crust color. The bulk ferment process as you might imagine is also quite hard on dough itself due to the long and unknown length of time the dough will be allowed to ferment until completely used, this was a problem back in the 1950’s as it is today and the only real solution to the problem is to use a high/higher protein content flour better capable of tolerating the fermentation that the dough will be exposed to. This is the reason why high protein flours have become known as “pizza flours”. With better fermentation control using the dough ball management procedure a lower protein content flour can be used very effectively and since flour is sold on a protein basis a lower protein content flour will cost less. A side benefit to the dough ball management procedure is that unused dough balls can be stored in the cooler for up to several days without significant change, this means that we can make more dough than is required for the day (so we will never run out of dough) and still be able to effectively use those extra dough balls over the next day or two.
If you search the archives “In Lehmann’s Terms” you should be able to find an entire article devoted to the different methods of dough management.
Tom Lehmann/The Dough Doctor

I agree with Tom- I think the “bulk method” is a remnant from long ago, before refrigeration was available (and cooling at different rates wasn’t a concern).

Tom touched on the temperature related proteolysis issue, but the bacteria and yeast also behave very differently at a lower temperature, producing flavor compounds at different rates (in addition to and partly because of the lower pH discussed in Tom’s post). A warmer temperature will produce more “alcohol” and “sour milk” flavors, while a lower temperature will produce a much richer and more complex flavor. When baked, the lower pH will also inhibit Maillard browning, which is what contributes the complex toasted flavor and aroma.

In other words, improperly cooling the dough will effect both the flavor of the dough itself and the flavor contributed by the bake.

The short answer is that weighing the dough balls to 19 ounces (for example) is much more precise and consistent than “grabbing a handful of dough”, and will give you much better control over your food cost and your bake. The smaller dough mass will also cool much quicker.

The rolling and cross-stacking that you mentioned are in aid of rapidly cooling the dough. Rolling the dough also helps to align the gluten network.

A quickly cooled dough will provide a better structure, a better flavor, better texture and crumb, better browning, and better workability.

Sorry for the long, rambling post- I didn’t have time to write a shorter one.