Dear friends, I would like to share with you the results of an experiment I conducted last Wednesday. The experiment pertained to using wooden, instead of plastic, dough trays in proofing pizza dough balls. For this experiment, I built a makeshift semi-wooden dough tray by lining the bottom of my plastic dough tray with a layer of pine wood, 3/8 inch thick. (See the first three pictures below.)
By the way, pine is not the right wood for the task because it is a softer wood with higher moisture absorbency than hard woods such as beech or oak. I ended up using pine because that was the only available wood at the local hardware store.
To put my semi-wooden dough tray to test, I prepared a batch of pizza dough with about 67% hydration and used fresh baker's yeast to ferment the dough. After 12 hours of bulk fermentation at natural room temperature, I formed dough balls (about 250 grams each) and placed them in the dough tray lined with the pine wood. Next, I let the dough balls proof for 7 hours at room temperature.
First, after the 7-hour proofing, I noticed that the dough balls leavened (rose) more than usual without horizontally spreading as much as they usually do within the same timeframe and temperature range. (See the fourth picture below.)
Second, I noticed that it was much easier to extract a dough ball out of the tray. My dough scraper almost effortlessly slid under the dough balls inside the tray.
Third, I noticed that I had to use less dusting to open my dough balls into dough discs.
Fourth, likewise I had to use very little flour to no flour at all on the pizza peel. It was much easier than usual to slide the pizzas from the peel onto the oven floor.
Why? A possible explanation that comes to my mind at this point is that, the wooden surface absorbed some moisture from the dough balls, hence dehydrating—not drying—and sealing the bottoms of the dough balls, which I usually use as the bottom of my pizzas. (See the 5th and 6th pictures below.) Take notice how smooth and unsticky the bottom surface of the dough ball is. In contrast to the dough ball proofed on the pine wood, take a look at the 7th picture, below, which exhibits the bottom surface of a dough ball proofed in a plastic dough tray without the wooden surface. Notice how rough and sticky it is. Naturally, it is going to require more flour to smooth it out. I think using wooden dough trays can prove to be quite practical when the dough hydration is high.
At last, I do not know much about the physical properties of different types of wood, but it appears to me that wood might be a better regulator of dough temperature. If anyone is knowledgable in this area, please share your knowledge. Good weekend!