Hello Tom:

Thirty years ago I was taught by an old Italian baker how to make par-baked pizza crusts.

I would prepare dough & bake the shells early in the AM to be baked into pizzas later.

These were the old Italian style square & rectangular shells.

They were absolutely incredible.

The shells were so tender and light that even 8 hours after baking you could fold it into quarters and it would unfold and normally after a few seconds it returned to normal with no fold lines showing.

After adding toppings and baking, these shells turned into the most delicious pizzas, crisp & light yet with enough structural integrity to hold up under substantial toppings.

Here’s the problem.

I was taught to measure the flour and water by volume with a prticular container I had in my pizzeria way back then.

I hope you can help me duplicate this fine product if I describe the process I was taught.

I would like to be able to use the “Baker’s formula” so I can alter batch sizes.

1] I was taught to use the blocks of yeast which I “measured” by eye cut & placed in the warm water in the hobart mixer bowl. I would prefer to use the newer style yeast that needs no refrigeration & can be mixed with out proofing.

2] After the yeast began to “cook” I would measure my flour by volume into the bowl, add a little salt, again by eye, and mix.

3] After the dough was nearly done mixing I would stop mixing and cut off a piece of dough to save for the next day’s dough. This piece would be refrigerated until then, and I would take yesterday’s piece out of the cooler and cut it into smaller pieces. I would turn on the mixer & add those small pieces of yesterday’s dough one at a time.

4] I would then add olive oil by eye and mix until it was incorporated.

5] Now the dough is done mixing I would splash a small amount of oil into the bowl & roll the dough so it was completely coated. The bowl would be covered with cloth and left to rise.

That’s the process I was taught.

After rising in the bowl, the dought was weighed & balled & left to rise in pine proof boxes
on floured cloths. { I weighed & balled by hand, but the old baker did it by machine}

After rising in the proof boxes they were “slapped down”, and hand pressed into the pizza pans. { I did this by hand, but the old baker did with a “pizza press”}

[In the pizzeria I will open, I will be using a dough divder/rounder and a pizza press]

I’m at retirement age and have had five children and five grandchildren since my pizzeria was open.

But, I guess you never get the dough out of your blood.

I’m working on my business plan to open again.

If you can help me with a recipe to produce those wonderful pizza shells I would be most grateful.

Thank you in advance for you help
rabtj (Tom)

Sounds like a stroll down memory lane.
With not much more than memories to go on, I think I can get you to something close to where you want to be. Keep in mind though that you’ll probably need to do some homework to get the final product just where you want it, or where you remember it being, as the case may be.
Here’s a dough formula:
Flour: Typical bread flour (11.2 to 12% protein content, such as General Mills Harvest King) 100%: 25#
Salt: 1.75%
Sugar: 2%
Oil: 5%
Instant Dry Yeast (IDY): 1%
Water: (65F) 58%

  1. Put water in mixing bowl, add salt and sugar, then add the flour and the IDY.
  2. Mix for about 2-minutes at low speed or just until all of the flour is hydrated (can’t see any white, powdery flour), then while mixing for another minute at low speed, pour in the oil and continue mixing until the minute expires.
  3. Switch to medium speed and mix the dough for 8 to 10-minutes. The dough should be just starting to take on a smooth, satiny appearance.
  4. Pour about 2-ounces of oil into the mixing bowl while the dough is mixing at low speed and allow to mix just long enough to fully coat the dough with the oil.
  5. Using a thermometer, check the finished dough temperature. I should be between 80 and 85F. If you missed this target, adjust the water temperature of your next dough up or down in 5F increments to achieve the targeted temperature (80 to 85F).
  6. Cover the mixing bowl with a sheet of plastic and allow the dough to ferment for 2.5 hours, knock the dough down (punch it) by pressing it down in the center if necessary to keep it in the container (mixing bowl).
  7. Take the dough to the bench and scale into desired weight pieces and immediately form into balls.
  8. Place the dough balls into plastic dough boxes and lightly oil the top of the dough balls with salad oil.
  9. Put the dough boxes in the cooler cross stacked (this is critical) or the dough will “blow”. Allow the boxes to remain cross stacked for 2.5 hours, then doen stack and nest the boxes to prevent drying of the dough balls.
  10. The dough will be ready to use on the following day. To use the dough, remove a two hour supply of dough from the cooler, leaving it in the covered boxed. Allow the dough balls to temper at room temperature for 90-minutes, then begin shaping. The dough will remain good to use for about 2 hours after you first begin shaping it.
  11. Put the shaped dough into oiled pans and allow to proof/rise for about 60 to 75-minutes (depending upon hoe thick you want the crusts to be).
  12. Par-bake in a deck oven at about 400 to 425F until the crust is just beginning to turn a light gloden color, and is fully set (about 3 to 4-minutes).
  13. Remove par-baked crusts from the pan immediately after baking and place on wire racks or screens to cool. Note: It is generally better to cool the crusts inverted as this will give the crust a flatter top for dressing.
  14. To finish baking, we like to put the par-baked crust back into the same size pan that it was par-baked in, with a little salad oil, then dress the crust and bake at 475 to not more than 500F until browned and crispy. This makes for a wonderfully light and cruspy textured finished pizza that retaind it;s crispy nature quite well.
    If you want, you can reserve a sufficient number of dough balls (their combined weight should equal about 20% of the flour weight) for addition back into the next dough.

To change the baker’s percentages to weights you will need a calculator, and just follow these steps:

  1. Decide how much flour you want to use, pick a weight, any weight, and write it down.
  2. Enter the flour weight into the calculator, then perss “X” followed by the percentage you want the weight for, then press the “%” key and read the weight of that ingredient in the display window. Do this for each ingredient and you will have you new formula with all of the ingredients at the correct weight. Remember, your ingredient weights will be shown in the same weight units as you show your flour weight in. So, if you show the flour weight in pounds, the weight of each ingredient will also be shown in pounds, if you opted to show the flour weight in ounces, the ingredient weights will also be shown in ounces, same for metrics where we would use kilograns or grams.
    Example: Flour weight 25-pounds.
    Salt: 1.75%
    25 X 1.75 press the “%” key and read 0.4375-pounds or 0.4375 X 16 = 7-ounces.
    OR You could do it this way:
    25 X 16 = 400-ounces
    400 X 1.75 press the “%” key and read 7-ounces in the display window.
    Pretty easy, Huh?
    Tom Lehmann/The Dough Doctor

Tom, Thank you for taking the time to help me.

May I impose on your valuable time once again to help me tweak this recipe a little.

I would like to be able to make my dough and bake off the shells (crusts) the same day, with out having to rest the dough over-nite in the cooler.

I plan to provide the shells for multiple locations which means I’d need a lot more cooler space and extra handling of the dough [read too high a labor cost!].

If memory serves me, the trick the old Italian baker taught me regarding adding some of yesterday’s dough was to give the dough the added flavor it normally acquires resting [fermenting] over-nite in the cooler.

Is it reasonable to expect to bake a quality shell within hours of preparing the dough?, because that really is what I need to do.

Thanks again Tom

No, you’re not going to get the same flavor, or the same tender eating properties, it will be more bread like at best. All you would change to do what you want is to allow the dough balls to proof for about an hour at room temperature after forming into balls, then take the dough balls to the press, or where ever they will be shaped into dough skins., again, allowing the shaped dough skins to final proof/raise before baking will help to develop the desired light texture while contributing to the flavor.
Tom Lehmann/The Dough Doctor


Thirty years ago I was taught by an old Italian baker how to make par-baked pizza crusts.

These were the old Italian style square & rectangular shells.

They were absolutely incredible.

The shells were so tender and light that even 8 hours after baking you could fold it into quarters and it would unfold and normally after a few seconds it returned to normal with no fold lines showing.

After adding toppings and baking, these shells turned into the most delicious pizzas, crisp & light yet with enough structural integrity to hold up under substantial toppings.

After reading your original post and Tom’s informative replies, I am left with the following basic questions.

Other than the attributes you mentioned above, you haven’t actually described the crust.

For instance, how thick or thin is it?

Other than your production considerations, how is the end result different than the traditional hand tossed crust that Tom Lehmann’s basic overnight recipe(s) produces? Please mention flavor. also. You’ve mentioned “tender and light” and “delicious,” but what, if anything, is different about the flavor?

Thanks, PokerDealer

P.S. This is my first post here. I’ve enjoyed reading quite a few threads, and I very much appreciate how helpful all the posters are. It seems pizza people are a very considerate lot, at least here.

I think this is my first post. Don’t know because I’ve always been reading but not really participating. Any response would help. How long will these parbaked crusts maintain their quality? Won’t they dry out over time?

As with any par-baked product, mold is generally the one limiting factor with shelf-life. Since we don’t ty[ically add any calcium propionate, or spray our cursts with a potassium sorbate solution, we should assume that our par-baked crusts will develop mold growth within four to six days. This is the reason why I always say to use the par-baked crusts within three to four days after baking. The crusts won’t dry out if you seal them in an air-tight box or in a food contact approved, plastic bag after they have thoroughly cooled. Yes, the crusts will stale during their storage time, but the final baking of the pizza will re-freshen the crusts and temporarily reverse the staling characteristics.
Tom Lehmann/The Dough Doctor

Can you also use this method with a thin and crispy crust? Thanks

In theory, yes, but the challange is in getting the dough piece par-baked without over baked and under baked areas. The over baked areas will get too baked (dark) during the final baking, and the under baked parts will collapse, resulting in what appears to be a translucent, or grease/oil spot in the finished baked crust. Those spots will also have a hard, flinty texture. About the best you can hope for is about what you see the frozen pizzas made on at the supermarket, something about 1/4-inch thick.
Tom Lehmann/The Dough Doctor

RE: “Thickness”
Thickness will be based upon weight of dough & rise time in the pan.
Our product was allowed to fully rise in the pan before baking.
We used just a bit more dough than needed to cover the pan.
This resulted in relatively thin crust in the 1/4 inch range.

By adding the dough from the previous day and allowing the initial rise (up to 2&1/2 hours) as well as the rise in the dough box & rise in the pan before par baking, a great flavor develops.