Dough Management

Hi, I’ve got a few questions about dough for you experienced pizza shop operators. First, do you leave your dough out (unrefrigerated) that you plan to use for the current day? If so, for how long before you cook it do you leave it out and how do you keep it? I.e. on racks on a sheet pan? Also, how long is too long to keep it out?

I’m also curious how long it took to figure out the right amount of dough to make for a particular dough. Did you run out a lot or waste a lot or have to make “emergency” dough a lot? Lots of questions I know but thanks in advace.

Just a little history about me, I own two restaurants that specialize in wings and we are adding a third restaurant this fall where we will add pizza. We’re planning to do New York neighborhood style pizza and plan to offer slices. I appreciate any input.

Our dough recipe is usable the first day, best the second day, and just fine on the third day. With some history to base forcasts on, it is not hard to estimate the next two days requirement and build to that. We make dough every day so ideally we are always making the next days supply. If we need more we use some of what we made earlier that day, if we need less our prep requirement for the following day is reduced and the leftover dough is still fine to use.

We keep the dough in the walk-in until about an hour before dinner rush and then bring out a few trays.

Almost like Steve, but we make on day one, use on day two and three, and if any is left it’s tossed after the last shift on it’s third day. By day four it’s starting to blow and just doesn’t provide the same crust we’re looking for.

For a shift, we take out a small assortment of ball sizes so they will start to warm up a bit before service. Once the initial rush is over, these go back to the walk in still in their boxes but marked with the time they were taken out, and put back. The time stamp simply gives me an idea how much life will be left in the ball, as well as to keep an eye on my boys.

As an aside…for my personal preferences, the crust from the 3 day is our best. I’m sure it’s b/c it’s had more time to “talk” to itself and build extra flavors and character. I’d very briefly considered not using it till day three but logistics and common sense took over.

One of the key elements of our dough managment process is our sales forecast.

We have an excel sheet where daily sales are forecasted out into the future. I produce that sheet and the manager uses it to know what sales he needs to schedule and buy for. The forecast is based on how we are trending, same day sales from last year and other factors like advertising and when holidays fall etc.

That sales forecast is linked to another spread sheet that calculates the dough prep requirement.

A long time ago (10 years) I took 120 days sales and using data from the POS figured out how many 12", 14" and 16" pizzas we sold on average per $1000 in sales. We apply those ratios to the sales forecast. To make it easy for the crew, I divide the number by the number of doughballs in a tray so what they see when I print it out is how many trays of each size should be in the walkin when they finish prep. In other words, it is a “build to” sheet. If the sheet says 10 trays of 14" dough and there are 6 in the walkin, they need to make 4. Our batch produces about 4 trays of any size since the count in the tray varies by size. Extra dough after the needed count is rolled is made into the best selling size.

In the last decade, we have tweaked the ratios of the sizes slightly, but they have not changed much.

The build-to number is the result of taking today’s sales forecast PLUS tommorow’s forcast and multiplying that by the ratios for each size mentioned above. That gives us a two day supply in the walkin.

We have found that leaving the dough balls out of the cooler (sealed in the dough boxes) for 1 to 2-hours before using them helps significantly to reduce the bubbling problem. Smaller weight dough balls (under 14-ounces) seem to do pretty well at 1-hour, but heavied weight dough balls typically need 2-hours or possibly a little longer. Once this tempering period has been achieved, the dough balls can continue to be stored at room temperature for another 3-hours without any problems. Any dough balls remaining after this time can be opened into skins, lightly brushed with oil and placed into the cooler for use during the next rush/slam period. To use the pre-opened skins, just remove from the cooler, and allow to temper at room temperature for about 20 to 30-minutes, then dress and bake in the normal manner. In some cases we also put the unused dough into deep-dish pans and allow it to proof for about 70-minutes, then sprinkle with shredded Parmesan cheese and bake. These (Focaccia) are used to make dipping bread.
If you ever get caught without enough dough pulled from the cooler, take some dough balls directly from the cooler, and place them onto lightly oiled trays, being sure to lightly oil the top of the dough ball(s) too, and place onto a heated shelf, or under a heat lamp for just a few minutes. Prarie View Industries <> makes a heated shelf with a special sleeve that is designed specifically for this application. We demonstrate this at out annual pizza seminar each October.
Since the dough balls will keep for 2 to 3-days in the cooler, you should never run out of dough that is already made, so emergency doughs are hopefully reserved only for those rare instances when you might have lost power to the cooler and all of the dough blew during the night. The emergency doughs will then allow you to have dough in a very short time with which to make your pizzas, that is providing you didn’t loose everything in the cooler, such as sauce, cheese, and all of your other refrigerated toppings.
Tom Lehmann/The Dough Doctor

Thanks for all the detailed responses. Very helpful.

My Alto Shaam warming cabinet is a spectacular tool for speed tempering dough. Know that once it is fast/heat tempered, you gotta use or lose in most cases. That yeast gets to fermenting, and it doesn’t slow down short of a blast freezer.