Those are all good questions. Knowing what I know about what you have been doing, if you were to talk to the food scientist at Clabber Girl (his name is Pat Jobe, at pjobe.@clabbergirl.com
), or an expert at any other place for that matter, I think that there would be several questions he or she would ask you, from which he or she might be able to offer you technical assistance.
First, I think the food scientist (or other expert) would want to know what you want, or are trying, to do. In your case, I believe that you would like to come up with a pizza crust mix based on a formulation of your own design (or with help from someone else) and doing all of your own blending and mixing without using "goody bags" and the like combined with commercial products. Given your success to date using the General Mills mixes for different types of products, all of which contain a specific chemical leavening system, you might even want to use the same chemical leavening system in your own formulation.
Second, the food scientist would want to know when the dough is to be used, that is, whether it is to be used soon or considerably later. There might also be other questions as to other ingredients to be used in the formulation, such as yeast (which can affect fermentation performance and time) and acidulants like buttermilk powder that can affect the balance of the ingredients used in the overall chemical leavening system. These questions are important since the answers can dictate the types of acids to use and their performance rates (e.g., slow-acting or fast-acting) and also how the specific ingredients are to be balanced to neutralize the alkaline component (the baking soda) and avoid off flavors because of an imbalance. You can see an example of a chemical leavening system from a baker's percent standpoint at the bottom of the page at http://dwb.unl.edu/Teacher/NSF/C12/C12Links/www.cosmocel.com.mx/english/c-leave.htm
. The duration of use of the dough might also dictate the percent of the chemical leavening system to use (although that is something that might best be determined through testing).
In your case, you have been making doughs with fermentation periods of a few hours. Just about every pizza crust mix that I have studied is intended to be made and used within a period of minutes, not hours, and their formulations are designed with this in mind, as by using L-cysteine, dextrose, etc. This presents an important decision point for you since the duration of use of the dough can define the market. For example, consumers have been conditioned to making pizza doughs from mixes in a matter of minutes. They may not be interested in waiting up to four hours to make their pizza, no matter how much better the pizza might be. I suspect that the consumer market for the short-term mixes is considerably larger than the market for the long-term mixes (which is perhaps more in the province of large chains like Shakey's, Round Table and Godfather's Pizza that use pizza dough pre-mixes). Of course, it might be possible to have two formulations to cover both markets. Or you might decide to develop and use a dough formulation strictly for your own purposes to offer unique products at market (like some of your dessert style pizzas), rather than marketing it to consumers, in which case you would have complete control over the way the product is used. In such a case, any dicussion of market segmentation becomes moot.
I think you have a good enough grasp of the basic chemistry involved to be able to hold your own in discussion with the food scientists and other specialists engaged in chemical leavening systems. They also know that most end users of their products are not chemists. However, as comfortable as you may become with technical aspects of leavening systems, in discussions with professionals on this matter you will want to be prepared to answer questions that might relate as much to the business side of what you would like to do as the chemistry involved since the answers can dictate the course of your formulation. There will also be a fair amount of testing and experimentation with formulations and preparation times. I also believe that you will find that food scientists knowledgeable about specific parts of a formulation, such as the chemical leavening system under discussion or partially hydrogenated oils to use in a mix, aren't likely to be able to develop an overall formulation for you to use. They might, however, give you some insights in how GM and others develop their formulations or parts of them.
With respect to your question as to whether cornstarch is used by GM in its chemical leavening system, my best guess after discussing these matters with the people I spoke with recently, is no.
For a good discussion on some of the topics mentioned above, see http://gcingredients.com/leavening.html