Damn those look good! great job !
Omid Napoli72 think they [Da Michele] use leftover dough maybe that can help you.
Dear Sub, thank you! I think Napoli72 might be right, although I have not yet studied his works in depth. For some time, I have been of the belief, only a belief
, that L'antica Pizzeria Da Michele (hereinafter "DM") uses leftover dough
or old dough
—not in a direct manner (i.e., not directly mixing a portion of the old with the new dough), but in an indirect manner, which I will describe.
In my estimation, the DM dough technicians are calculatedly mindful of the strength
of the dough they produce everyday. We have seen, either in person or in the DM videos available on Youtube, the peculiar strength and consistency possessed by their dough. Here, I am using the concept "dough strength" in much the same way as Mr. Didier Rosada, a professional baker, did in a summary fashion in his article quoted below. Although the article pertains to the sphere of bread making, it relates, in pertinent parts and to various degrees, to the type of dough produced by DM, in my opinion.
Dough Strength: Evaluation & Techniques
(By Didier Rosada)
A. Dough Strength
It is very important for bakers to have a clear understanding of dough strength. At the same time, it is one of the most difficult dough properties to assess. It is almost impossible to learn how to judge the strength of the dough by reading a technical book. Only much dedicated, practical work with dough at the bakery will educate a baker’s hands. With continued practice and guidance, a baker can learn to evaluate the strength of the dough by feel, and learn how to make corrections when necessary to achieve appropriate bread quality.
Strength is responsible for many dough and bread characteristics. An improper balance of strength can result in dough that is difficult to work with. . . . Improper strength balance can also lead to a mediocre final product quality.
Many variables can effect dough strength during the baking process. The goal of this article is to cover the main issues in order to help bakers understand what can go wrong; how to troubleshoot; and how to achieve more normal dough characteristics for optimum product consistency and quality.
B. Definition of Strength
Strength is a balance among three physical dough characteristics: extensibility, elasticity, and tenacity.
1) Extensibility is the stretching property of the dough. Dough with good extensibility is easy to stretch. This is a fairly important characteristic for manual shaping of long shapes like baguettes, and, to a lesser extent, for the production of laminated dough.
2) Elasticity is the property of the dough to return to its initial position after being stretched. Dough that noticeably springs back after being stretched is judged too elastic.
3) Tenacity is the property of the dough to resist, more or less, a stretching action. This property can have some influence during the elongation part of the shaping process. If the dough resists a lot when a baker tries to make it longer, it can be described as tenacity.
There is a very close relationship between elasticity and tenacity. Elastic dough naturally resists the stretching action; dough with a lot of tenacity has the tendency to retract to its initial position very quickly. For this reason—at a bakery level—strength is often described as a balance between dough extensibility and dough elasticity. However, in a laboratory environment, all three characteristics (extensibility, elasticity and tenacity) are taken into consideration.
C. Strong Dough vs. Weak Dough
It is very common to hear in bakeries the terms elastic dough, extensible dough, strong dough or weak dough. Quite often, there is confusion about these important dough descriptions. We will now focus on the exact definitions of strong and weak dough.
1) Strong dough can be defined as dough with a lack of extensibility and an excess of elasticity. This translates into dough the baker will find difficult to stretch during hand or machine shaping. Also, once the desired length is achieved, the dough will have the tendency to retract from its original length. Strong dough can result in shorter breads with rounder cross sections and inferior cut openings. These defaults can easily be explained by the lack of gluten extensibility, inhibiting the development of the bread during proofing and/or oven spring.
2) Weak dough will be very easy to stretch (excessive extensibility), and won’t spring back at all (lack of elasticity) during the shaping stage. Despite a good machinability because of its lack of strength, the gluten will be too weak to retain a lot of gas during the proofing and the baking of the bread. As a result, finished products have a very low volume, flat cross sections, dense crumb structure and poorly developed cut openings.
It is critical for the baker to maintain a good balance between dough elasticity and dough extensibility in order to achieve adequate dough and final product characteristics. In baking, it is important to understand that the ingredients and process used can have a direct impact on the strength of the dough.
D. Factors Affecting the Strength of Dough
a) Flour, being the main ingredient, has a direct impact on the strength of the dough. Protein quantity and quality is, of course, a key factor in the strength of the dough. Flour with a high level of protein will provide a higher amount of gluten in the final dough, resulting in dough with a tendency to be very elastic and not very extensible. On the other hand, low protein flour will result in more extensible and less elastic dough. Very low protein flour will generate dough with a lack of strength.
b) Protein quality also has a direct impact on the dough. An easy way to understand this is to compare flour made with soft wheat—pastry flour, for example—and flour made with hard wheat, such as bread flour. Proteins from soft wheat don’t have the same gluten forming ability compared to the proteins naturally found in hard wheat, leading to dough with poor strength and poor gas retention. But even when comparing hard wheats—depending on their protein quality—dough and final products can have very different characteristics. The quality of the protein is a very important factor to take into consideration and, because of that, it is difficult to give an exact desirable amount of protein. However, on average, flour between 10.5% and 12% protein should provide a good ratio between extensibility and elasticity.
c) Ash content also has an impact on the strength of the dough. A lot of bran left in the flour after the milling process will interfere with gluten formation and generally lead to dough with lower strength. A good way to illustrate this is to compare whole-wheat flour and regular bread flour. Whole-wheat flours create doughs that are always more extensible and with lower gas retention. Conversely, low ash content flour (such as patent flour) will generate dough with the tendency to develop a light excess of strength. Again, it is difficult to give precise ash content, but, in general, ash content around .5% is desirable to achieve good strength properties.
h) Water quality and quantity used in the final dough may also effect dough characteristics. The hardness or softness of the water is due to the level of minerals that it contains. These minerals in a dough system are used as nutrients by the yeast and play an important role during fermentation activity. Hard water, because of its higher mineral content, generates dough with higher fermentation activity, which leads to dough with higher strength compared to dough made with soft water (lower mineral content).
i) The hydration of the dough (in direct relation to the amount of water used in the formula) also affects the strength. Under-hydrated proteins create gluten with a lack of extensibility and an excess of elasticity. Overly hydrated proteins create very extensible dough with a lack of elasticity, requiring some changes in the baking process (such as longer mixing time, stretch and fold or longer fermentation time) to achieve good final product quality.
This very important step in the baking process can also effect the strength of the dough. . . .
a) Mixing time also effects the strength of the dough. Longer mixing time mechanically stretches and folds the gluten strands for a longer period of time. As a result, the chains of gluten will be longer and more bonded together, creating a more organized gluten structure. Because of the extra bonds created by a longer mixing time, the gluten network will be stronger. As a result, the dough will be more elastic and less extensible. On the other hand, shorter mixing times generate weaker gluten structure (fewer bonds are created). The dough obtained will have a lack of elasticity and, most of the time, an excess of extensibility. The baker must compensate by increasing first fermentation time and using one or several stretch and folds to improve the strength of the dough.
b) Dough temperature has an indirect impact on dough strength. Warmer dough temperature generates more fermentation activity; cooler dough temperature generates lower fermentation activity. As we will see in the next section, more fermentation creates stronger dough, while less fermentation produces weaker dough.
In a dough system, fermentation is responsible for the production of gas, alcohol, and—in advanced stages—acidity. Acidity is responsible for three important reactions for the properties of the dough and the quality of the breads.
a) Some types of acids, such as organoleptic acids, will participate in the flavor of the final products by creating aromas.
b) In addition, acids, by lowering the pH of the dough, slow down staling and inhibit mold growth, increasing the shelf life of the bread.
c) Lastly, acidity will physically and chemically reinforce the gluten bonds, reinforcing the elasticity of the dough while decreasing its extensibility.
Bakers must remember that fermentation produces all of these reactions at the same time. For example, we can’t use fermentation for aroma production only, without taking the strength factor into consideration. This means that bakers who want to get good flavor characteristics by fermenting dough a long time will also automatically get stronger dough. To avoid that, some adjustments must be made in the baking process. Longer first fermentation time means shorter mixing time and higher hydration used in the formula (to achieve a soft dough consistency, therefore more extensibility).
When “no-time” doughs are made (no first fermentation is involved in the process), longer mixing time and, sometimes, dough oxidizer are needed. This is necessary to build up enough strength in the dough to compensate for the fact that no acidity will be produced after mixing (and therefore no strength will be developed).
The quantity or “mass” of dough that is allowed to ferment also plays a role in the strength of the dough. A larger piece of dough has the tendency to increase in strength faster compared to a smaller piece of dough. This is due to the fact that in larger masses of dough, all the chemical reactions happen faster and a better environment is created with conditions more favorable for microorganism activity: temperature, availability of nutrients, etc. This is what we refer to in the baking industry as the mass effect. This mass effect is particularly important to take into consideration when applying formulas developed for home baking to production or vice versa. For smaller batches of dough (up to 6 lbs.), longer fermentation time might be necessary, while larger batches (50 lbs. and up) might require shorter fermentation time.
Using preferment in the final dough will also effect its strength properties. As a general rule, anytime a preferment is added, the strength will increase. During the pre-fermentation, some acidity is produced, increasing dough strength. However, other factors concerning preferments must also be taken into consideration: the type of preferment, the quantity used in the final dough and their degree of maturation when incorporated in the final dough.
a) Type of Preferment
Consistency of the preferment will have an effect on the dough extensibility. Because of the large amount of water involved in their formulas, liquid preferments, such as poolish, will develop more enzymatic activity during the pre-fermentation time.
Protease activity is particularly interesting for its ability to make the gluten more extensible, delivering all the advantages of the autolyse listed previously. Preferment allowed to ferment at room temperature and without salt also creates some protease activity (like sponge). If consistency is stiff, then less enzyme activity is generated, but still enough to see positive effects in the final dough.
When a sourdough process is used to make the final product, the dough automatically develops more strength, due to the higher level of acidity produced by these preferments (because of the activity of the bacteria present in the culture). This increase in strength can be an advantage for the baker who decides to retard some dough (stronger dough will retard better).
As explained previously, liquid sourdough promotes dough with better extensibility. Its use in the production of “long-shaped” breads like baguettes is recommended.
b) Quantity of Preferment Used in the Final Dough
The increase in strength brought about by the use of preferment is proportional to the quantity of preferment used in the final dough. A higher percentage of fermented flour causes more acidity and, therefore, an increase in strength. This is a factor that bakers must take into consideration when developing formulas.
It is well known that higher amounts of preferments improve flavor, but it is important to remember that strength will also be increased and the rest of the baking process will have to be adjusted accordingly.
The amount of preferment is, in general, related to the length of the first fermentation. When only a short first fermentation time is possible, a larger amount of preferment can, and should, be used. If a long first fermentation time can be achieved, then the amount of preferment should be lowered to avoid an excess of strength.
This is a common mistake found in some bakeries. Many bakers think about preferment only in terms of flavor and forget that preferments also have an effect on the strength of the dough. The addition of preferment in formulas can also be used for troubleshooting. For example, flour with a lack of fermentation tolerance, or flour with a lack of maturation benefits from a higher percentage of fermented flour in the formulas (more acidity brought to the final dough).
c) Degree of Maturation of Preferment
In order to get the maximum benefits from preferments, bakers need to use them when they are properly matured and will bring a good balance of strength to the final dough, improving flavor, and shelf life in the finished product.
i) Over-mature Preferment
The extra level of acidity developed by an over-matured preferment can lead to dough with excessive strength, making the dough more difficult to handle and producing breads with lower volume, inferior cut openings and tighter cell structure. Off-tastes can also be noticeable.
When preferments are very over-matured, the acidity level can get so high that it starts to deteriorate the gluten. Dough takes a longer time to mix and starts to break down during the first fermentation, resulting in very low final product quality (almost no gas retention is left in the dough).
If preferment becomes over mature, it is necessary to decrease the percentage in the final dough to avoid an excessive amount of acidity. Baker’s percent of the final dough should be recalculated to take into consideration the lower proportion of fermented flour.
ii) Under-mature Preferment
Under-matured preferment can result in dough with less strength than usual and breads with a flatter cross-section, with a flavor less complex than usual (lower acidity brought to the dough by the preferment).
The use of under-matured preferments requires longer first fermentation time to compensate for the lack of acidity usually produced by a properly matured preferment.
5) Handling of the Dough
The way the dough will be worked (by hand or with machinery) also has a direct effect on the strength of the dough. Tight pre-shaping and shaping will increase dough elasticity and decrease dough extensibility, resulting in dough that is difficult to work with. Light pre-shaping and shaping will preserve dough extensibility, but might penalize dough elasticity, creating bread with a flat cross section and lower volume.
Bakers must learn how to evaluate the strength of the dough in order to handle it properly. Pre-shaping and shaping shouldn’t be done by habit or routine but more as a function of the dough characteristics. Dough with a lack of strength requires tighter pre-shaping and shaping, while dough with an excess of strength requires a lighter pre-shaping and shaping.
We find that the ability to accurately judge dough strength and evaluate the feeling of the dough may be one of the most difficult skills to learn in the baking profession. Experience and practice, i.e., spending a lot of time working with the dough in the bakery, is the best way to master this important technique. Once the skill is acquired, bakers are able to properly adjust hand-shaping or molder settings according to dough characteristics and have much better success at making consistent bread with optimum appearance.
In a lot of bakeries, it is still a common belief that the harder or stronger we work with the dough, the better it is. As described earlier, if a judicious balance between formula (proportion of the ingredients), mixing, and fermentation has correctly achieved the strength of the dough, it is not necessary to tightly shape the loaves. A gentle pre-shaping and shaping will guarantee final product with the desired characteristics. . . .
As mentioned at the beginning of this article, controlling the strength of the dough is crucial to obtaining proper dough characteristics and final product quality. Many factors can effect dough strength; understanding them will make bakers better able to troubleshoot when problems arise.
It is important to remember that all the steps of the baking process are interconnected. Therefore, there are many opportunities for the baker to troubleshoot and return to normal dough characteristics if the strength is off balance.
Dough strength can’t be learned in books. Lots of work with dough, under good supervision, is the only way to teach our hands how to assess dough strength properly and adjust our handling of the dough depending on its unique characteristics.
Let's closely take a look at the very revealing DM video on Youtube (
), from time-mark 1:30 to 4:38. As shown in the video, they ferment their dough batches inside a fairly large metal tub, located to the left of the fork mixer. As you can see, while a new batch of dough is being mixed in the mixer, the DM pizzaiolo takes out a quantity of already prepared and fermented dough from the left end of the tub and begins to make dough balls out of it. My assumption is that the pizzaiolo is opening some room for the new batch of dough being mixed in the mixer. Further, I assume that after the new batch is mixed, it will be placed inside the tub—right next to the old dough
. So, the new dough
is situated next to and is in corporeal contact with the old dough
inside the tub. If so, cross-fermentation and cross-acidification (collectively, if you will, the "pre-ferment effect") may be conduced across the tub, transforming the strength of the new dough, in addition to the texture and flavor of the end products. And, if so, DM must have a very strict schedule
for fermenting old dough batches and making new dough batches on timely basis in this cyclical fashion; otherwise, the dough strength, consistency, texture, and flavor can be negatively impacted.
I have already tried this method several times with limited success. I am still exploring this concept. In my assessment, it is very challenging to devise and conduct this kind of experimentation (which inflates your variables) in a non-commercial setting. In my particular case, my two principal obstacles, amongst others, have been my Santos fork mixer and the lack of "mass effect". Have a great day!