Help Speeding up Dough Production

I have been making small Sicilian pizzas at my church for a while now, and we are starting to sell enough pizza to make the slow nature of the preparation a problem for me. I expect to be cranking out a minimum of 20 9" x 12" pizzas every Sunday.

I’d like to speed up dough preparation. Optimally, I’d like to take dough straight from the mixer, divide it in portions, mash the one-pound portions into 9" by 12" oiled pans, and leave them alone until it was time to bake. The way things work now, I have to handle the dough several times. I just want to handle it once, cramming it into the pan.

When the dough comes from the mixer, it’s fairly hard to work. If I didn’t mind getting flour all over it, I could use a roller to shape it, but I don’t want flour on it. I’ve been letting it sit in the pans to rise and soften a little before working it, and this adds a labor-intensive stage to the job.

Is there an efficient way to do this in a small operation? I don’t think we will ever get a sheeter.

Yes, there is a much easier way. After mixing, divide the dough into your desired weight pieces, then form into balls, wipe with salad oil and place into suitably sized bags, bread bags generally work quite well. You can buy them from most restaurant supply stores for a very reasonable cost, or check with a local bakery to see where they get theirs from, you might even be able t buy some from them. Put the oiled dough balls into individual bags and twist the open end to close, tuck the pony tail under the dough ball to secure it, and place into a refrigerator for up to 72-hours.
Remove the dough balls from the cooler and press into oiled or greased pans, press the dough out to fit the pan and set aside to rise (about 60 to 90-minutes), you’re then ready to sauce and dress as needed. I recently did this at one of our local churches and it worked great. I came in on Friday night to prepare the dough (only took about 45-minutes total time) and we used it on Saturday night. We could have just as easily used it on Sunday if we wanted to. Remember, its good for up to 72-hours in the cooler.
Tom Lehmann/The Dough Doctor

I appreciate the info, but that’s very nearly what I’m doing now. I described it badly.

Here’s my procedure. I have a small mixer, so I make two-pizza batches of dough. I divide each batch in halves, form each half into a rectangular wad, and put it in an oiled pan, taking care to oil the dough well. I put a sheet of plastic wrap over it and let it rise for at least half an hour. This loosens it up so I can work it.

I take the dough and stretch it to fit the pan. Then I either cover it again or put sauce and toppings on it, and I let it rise for another hour. By then, it’s ready for the oven.

The mixer is one bottleneck, and the need to fool with the dough twice is the other.

If I use rectangular Glad containers, I can put the dough in without shaping it at all, and it comes out more or less rectangular, so shaping is easier. But then I have all those containers to wash, and they really hold onto the olive oil.

I was thinking I might dedicate one pan to rolling out the dough. If I roll every dough portion into the pan it’s baked in, so it will fit, it’s likely to stick because it has been mashed into the surface. But maybe I could use one pan and a roller to form the dough into rectangles, and then I could move the dough gently to other pans to bake.

I think you’re fighting an up hill battle. You have already abbreviated the process to the point where you’re not getting very much fermentation on the dough and I’d expect that flavor could be a very real potential problem. Also, very young doughs tend to be overly tough and chewy, and they may also lack the potential for developing the desired level of crispiness. To press out a dough ball into a rectangular shape takes only a matter of seconds after the dough has spent the night in the cooler, you wil then need to allow it time to proof/rise in the pan before dressing it, but the extra effort is well worh it in terms of finished product quality. If you’re not too concerned about quality and flavor, go to and request a sample of PZ-44 to test. Use the PZ-44 at the rate of 2% of the total flour weight. Use water at 80F, and mix the dough just until it BEGINS to take on a smooth appearance. Do not mix the dough any more than this. Immediately after mixing, portion the dough and place into greased pans (use Crisco, butter, or margarine) do not use oil. After about 10-minutes, begin pressing the dough out into the pans, once pressed out, set aside to rise for whatever time is needed to give you the finished height that you want. You’re then ready to dress and bake as needed.
Tom Lehmann/The Dough Doctor

I guess there isn’t much I can do, since we don’t have the budget for mechanical help.

I know the way I’m doing it sounds odd, but the pizza is phenomenal. It’s thick but light, with a wonderful texture, and there is a nice fried quality to the bottom. The only change I might be interested in is adding more fermented flavor to the crust, but I have to go in, make the dough, and bake, all over the course of a few hours, so I can’t do long fermentations. Anyway, it’s so good, I don’t see the point.

Thanks for the input!

You might consider the method CiCi’s produces their dough for there Sicilian style pizza & garlic/cheese bread…

I think the H20/Flour ratio is the same, but the H20 is a bit warmer & they use more yeast…they mix 30# @ once…

It is then dumped into a buss tub & plastic wrapped until doubled in size…(you might do smaller portions, in a series)

Then it is rolled out onto an oiled prep table & cut into 18oz rectangles (for a 1/2 size hotel pan) and placed into that oiled pan (they use a garlic butter/whirl)…and is pressed in to the edges…

Then each pan is plastic wrapped that is stacked for another hour until doubled in size…then placed into the walk-in…

The dough is quite easy to work with - not sure if this will safe you any time, but…

That’s something I may be able to work with. Thanks for letting me know.

There has to be a way to cut some repetition out of my method, if I keep working on it.

Maybe I could do the first rise in a tub, stretch it out on a full-sheet pan, and then quarter it and put the results in my quarter-sheet pans. I’d only have to do one full “stretch” for every four pizzas.