Why Dough Balls? Mr. Lehmann?

for experimental purposes, let’s say you make a batch of dough and divide it into two portions (a & b). portion (a) is left to proof/rise in bulk and is used for “on the fly” (per order) dough balls. portion (b) is divided into dough balls and then left to proof/rise. all other conditions being equal (temp, proof times, etc.), will the final cooked crusts be almost identical?

in other words, other than convenience, is there a scientific reason why it’s better to prepare dough balls (and let them proof) in advance of skin shaping? would the additional surface area of the pre-portioned dough balls, when compared to the bulk dough, cause the final crust to be substantially different from the “on the fly” dough balls? or would the pre-portioned dough balls proof/ferment faster than the bulk dough?

There is a lot more happening than first meets the eye. First, to answer your question. If you made a single dough and divided it in half, then left one half in tact, and set it aside to proof, the other half was subdivided into individual dough balls and set aside to proof under the very same conditions, the resulting finished pizzas from each dough piece would be essentially the same with regard to fermentation. HOWEVER, going back to the intact dough, when an order was placed for a pizza you would need to cut a piece of dough from that large dough piece and manipulate it in some way to form it into a dough skin of the correct size and weight. This takes time (a precious commodity at 7:00 p.m. on a Saturday night) and the handling that goes into shaping the dough will have a decided toughening affect upon the dough, actually making it harder to get into the desired shape. This can be a real “killer” if you are hand forming or using a press. If you are using a dough sheeter it won’t present too much of a challange, providing you want the type of finished crust provided by a dough sheeter. Back in the 50"s it was a common practice to mix a pizza dough and just leave it in the mixing bowl, covered with a damp towel to keep it from crusting. When an order was placed, a piece of the dough was cut off and taken to the sheeter where it was sheeted out to something larger than needed, it was then trimmed to the desired size/diameter, and placed onto a prep-peel for dressing and finally taken to the oven for baking.
The main advantage to sub-dividing a dough into individual dough balls is to allow the dough to be quickly and uniformly cooled, allowing it to be held under refrigeration for up to several days withoiut significant loss of quality. This method of dough management allows a store to easily maintain an ample inventory of dough to meet any order demands. It also allow a store to ship dough from one store to another so dough doesn’t need to be made at each and every store when multiple stores are owned. It can be quite a convenience factor.
Tom Lehmann/The Dough Doctor

I originally thought, intuitively, that a small amount of dough would ferment faster than a much larger amount of dough. However, that turned out not to be true. According to Didier Rosada, a highly regarded artisan bread maker who at one time was the chief instructor at the San Francisco Baking Institute, there is a phenomenon referred to as the “mass effectâ€

Summary of what I’ve gotten out of this so far:

Make large batches to control temperature in the mixing phase (keep it lower and consistent) . . . and divide into smaller portions to control temperature in the cooling phase (cools faster).

Simpler portioning, shaping, storage, and trasportation are added avantages when portioned prior to rise/frementation.

Well…Lets just say that everything being equal, dough temperature, ambient temperature, and dough formulation, fermentation will proceed as quickly with a smaller piece of dough as it will with a smaller piece, yes, even as small as just a few ounces. The reason why some believe that a large dough ferments faster than a smalled sough is due to heat of fermentation. Since yeast is metabolizing nutrients it is also generating heat as a by product of that metabolism. The heat generated will cause a dough to rise approximately 1F for every hour of fermentation. Smaller size doughs/dough pieces also experience this very same heat generation and temperature rise, BUT since the dough is smaller and will have more surface area from which to lose heat, in relation to its weight, it will tend to lose the generated heat. This is where “all things equal come into play”, if the ambient temperature is equal to or greater than the dough temperature at any given time, the doug will not give up the generated heat, and it will continue to rise in temperature just the same as a large dough will. This is not chemistry, its just plain old physics.
If it was any other way, then, when a large wholesale bakery makes a large dough, weighing upwards of 2,800-pounds, it would actually ferment at a faster rate than the very same dough after it has been divided into 20-ounce pieces, molded, put into a bread pan, and placed into a proofer where it will rise to three to four times its bulk/size within 60-minutes just prior to baking. We do this by accelerating the yeast activity through increased enviormental temperature in the proofer (100 to 105F) and a little additional humidity to prevent the dough from drying out at the higher temperature. This is where proofers come in handy when making deep-dish pizzas.
Tom Lehmann/The Dough Doctor

this seems to contradict the quote attributed to evelyne slomon (“about dough mass–yes it is true, a larger mass of dough will rise faster because the heat given off during fermentation actually makes a large piece of dough rise faster than a small one, it will also over-blow faster than a small mass.”) - or am i misreading your explanation?

if the above is true then it would seem that there would be at least several distinct advantages to allowing the dough rise in bulk (faster strength development and shorter fermentation times), especially if one intended to employ a room temp rise (no refrigeration).

assuming a room temp rise (no refrigeration), would there still be an advantage to sub-dividing the batch into balls in order to allow for quick and uniform cooling? or might it be more advantageous to allow the batch to rise in bulk (per reasons pointed to by didier rosada above) and then shape into balls an hour or two before preparation?

speaking of “all things being equal” tom, i found your comments (pmq article dated 08/06) regarding adding water to flour to adjust for outside weather extremely interesting and contrary to about 99.9% of what others have said on the subject! did i misread your answer to the question?

Question: What is the rule for adjusting the amount of water added to the dough as a result of outside weather?

Answer: Actually, there isn’t any rule. The reason why there isn’t any rule is because the outside weather conditions don’t have any affect upon the amount of water added to the dough. I know this might be hard for some readers to believe, but it is true.

We have conducted work along these very lines and we have found that you will be far ahead of the game by subdividing the dough and forming it into balls. If the room temperature is cooler than might possible be desired, this can be taken into account by adjusting the finished dough temperature slightly higher, or if it is warmer than desired, the finished dough temperature can be easily lowered to correct for this. The major benefit wil be that the dough will be easire t shape into a circle since it is already in a ball shape, and the dough ball will have had a significant amount of time to relax, making it easier to form into a dough skin, this will be especially true if you shape your dough by hand or with a dough press. If you want to see first hane how this works, take a piece of dough, you can even take a dough ball that is ready to begin shaping and reshape the dough back into a dough ball rather than forming it into a skin. Now, see how much longer you will need to allow that dough ball to set and relax before you can shape it into a dough skin by your perferred forming method.
Tom Lehmann/The Dough Doctor


The laws of thermodynamics predate this bread expert being quoted :slight_smile: The time in which a thermal mass dissipates its stored heat is actually directly related to the mass to which is is sending its heat . . . . if you put something in the freezer, it will cool WAYYY faster than in an oven 5 degrees below the dough’s tempertature. AND it will dissipate more heat in the freezer as the one in the oven will reach homeostasis (temperature equalization.

If the room temp is 100F, dough will dissipate heat at a different rate than an ambient air temp of 70F . . . .and the 70F room will allow more heat to escape eventually than the 100F room. No contradiction, just following the laws. In fact, it actually explains why the larger mass of dough will rise faster. Heat dissipates more slowly from the large mass, so the yeast get more heat to act quicker, and crreate more heat, etc. Wamrer room means the larger heat mass cools still slower and rises still quicker.

If you finds the faster strength development and fermentation advantages, then yes. I find that ‘rapid fermentation’ provides a wholly different texture and flavor profile than rapid fermentation. The by products of rapid, higher temp fermentation include higher order, feusel alcohols as well as diacetyl and other byproducts that can affect flavor and dough performance and shelf life.

Slower fermentation provides different by products and flavor profile. The texture and crumb is completely different and more desireable to my operation and goals of pizza making. Your desired characteristics may be completely different, which means that bulk fermenting may be your magic bullet.

i guess “faster” is somewhat ambiguous given the above context - i mean i don’t think many would consider a one hour fermentation process resulting from a bulk rise (if even possible) as advantageous. but if, for example, dough strength and fermentation occurred at 16 hours instead of 24 hours because of a room temp bulk rise, the advantages would be a “faster” slow fermentation process plus the added strength development, no?

such a bulk rise might be advantageous for those using very wet doughs; the type of high-hydration doughs often used for neapolitan pizzas. from what i understand firm bigas are often introduced into these doughs to produce added dough strength and extensibility. could a room temp bulk rise maybe perhaps offer the same benefits as firm biga, i.e., added dough strength? and could a room temp bulk rise also offer a “faster” slow room temp rise/fermentation for these type of wet doughs (16 hours instead of 24+ hours)?

just wondering.

That is all correct, and it also explains why if you store the smaller dough pieces in a warmer room, they can ferment at exactly the same rate as the larger dough mass. When we run a Gas-O-Graph test on a dough to measure the fermentation rate we use only a very small piece of dough and the temperature is carefully controlled. The results are accurate and applicable to a dough of any size. Here is the thing to keep in mind, due to the large mass of a large dough, the ambient temperature has little impact upon its temperature (this is why we divide a dough into smaller dough balls before putting it into the cooler) so the way we control its fermentation rate is through finished dough temperature. For all practical purposes, we can control dough temperatures to within the range of about 55 to 100F. Actually, we can easily get temperatures above 100F, but even at 100F the dough will have extremely soft and sticky characteristics, making it more than a simple challange to get out of the mixing bowl, much less doing anything with the dough once you have accomplished getting it out of the bowl. I hold firm to the fact that, all things being equal, both large and small size doughs will ferment exactly the same. Within the “all things” is included “dough temperature”, this is why the temperature of the dough has such a significant bearing upon the dough management procedure. If you want to read up more on fermentation and fermentation processes, check upt Baking Science and Technology, by E.J.Pyler. This is the textbook for the baking industry around the world.
Tom Lehmann/The Dough Doctor