As regular readers and followers of the Lehmann thread know, the basic Lehmann doughs use very little yeast, a common amount being 0.25% IDY (by weight of flour). Recently, I conducted an experiment in which I lowered that limit even further, to 0.17%. As part of that experiment, I also decided to lower the finished dough temperature from the 80 degrees F that I usually use to 75 degrees F. This was done in an effort to prolong the fermentation period beyond the usual 24-48 hours, to over 72 hours. I chose to retain a high hydration ratio, at 63%, with the objective of achieving an open and airy crust and crumb, and I chose not to add any sugar to increase either browning of the crust or to prolong the useful life of the Lehmann dough beyond the typical 48-hour period.
The idea to use a lower finished dough temperature came to me somewhat as an epiphany from a Tom Lehmann piece I recently read in which he indicated that originally the targeted finished dough temperature for a cold fermented (refrigerated) dough was 75 degrees F. And this worked well for many years until he started receiving complaints from pizza operators that their doughs weren’t rising as well as they had before. When he investigated the matter, he discovered that the newer models of coolers had become more efficient and were operating several degrees cooler than their predecessors. That prompted him to increase the targeted finished dough temperature by 5 degrees to 80 degrees F. I theorized that my refrigerator is perhaps more like the coolers of old and that maybe I should really be using the old finished dough temperature target of 75 degrees F. This would mean using even cooler water in making the Lehmann dough. So, that is what I did. I used bottled water right out of the refrigerator.
As it turned out, that still wasn’t cool enough, and my finished dough temperature was around 77 degrees F. So, to remedy that, at least for the current dough batch, I placed the finished dough (lightly oiled and in a metal container with a snap-on lid) in the freezer for about 15 minutes before moving the dough into the refrigerator compartment of my refrigerator. The brief time in the freezer compartment brought the finished dough temperature down to around 75 degrees F. Next time, I will more than likely use even cooler water. However, it is good to know that I can also use the freezer to lower my dough temperature.
The formulation I used for the latest experiment, for a 16-inch Lehmann dough (using a thickness factor of 0.10), was as follows--with baker’s percents and gram equivalents.
16-inch Low-Yeast, Low-Temperature, Lehmann NY Style Dough Recipe
100%, High-gluten flour (King Arthur Sir Lancelot), 12.12 oz. (343.55 g.), (2 3/4 c. + 2 t., level measurements)
63%, Water, 7.63 oz. (216.43 g.), (between 7/8 and 1 t.)
1%, Oil, 0.12 oz. (3.44 g.), (3/4 t.)
1.75%, Salt, 0.21 oz. (6.01 g.), (a bit over 1 t.)
0.17%, IDY (instant dry yeast), 0.02 oz. (0.58 g.), (1/5 t.)
Thickness factor (TF) = 0.10
Finished dough weight = 20.11 oz. (570.01 g.)
Finished dough temperature = 75 degrees F.
What is most significant about the above formulation is how little yeast is actually used—0.02 ounces, or about 1/5 teaspoon for a dough ball weighing over a pound (20.11 oz.). To put that into perspective, one-fifth of a teaspoon is equivalent to filling up a 1/4-teaspoon measuring spoon by about 80 percent. Looking at it another way, a single 1/4-ounce (7 g.) packet of IDY as sold in the supermarket can make 12 dough balls using the above formulation. As good and efficient and economical as this might be, I doubt that Fleischmann’s or SAF will be telling bakers anytime soon to dramatically cut back on the amount of yeast they are using.
The dough was made in the usual fashion, with my KitchenAid stand mixer. However, to be sure that the 1/5-teaspoon of yeast was properly combined with an enormously greater amount of flour (almost 3 cups), I was sure to stir the mixture thoroughly with a whisk to disperse the yeast uniformly throughout the flour. It would have been simpler and more convenient to stir the yeast in with the water, but I know that yeast doesn’t like to be shocked with cold water, so I nixed that idea.
After about 72 hours in the refrigerator, the dough had risen by about 50 percent. Prior to this, the dough had slumped (as the gluten structure relaxed) but was still very firm and had hardly risen at all. The dough started to rise noticeably between 48 and 72 hours. After I removed the dough from the refrigerator to make a skin out of it, I let it set for about 1-2 hours at room temperature on my kitchen counter (while covered with a sheet of plastic wrap). The dough was soft but I had no problem shaping and stretching it into a 16-inch skin. The dough was fairly extensible (stretchy), but I somewhat expected that because of its age and high hydration. I’m fairly confident that the dough would have been less extensible after 24 hours, or even 48 hours. As noted above, up to about 48 hours, the dough was still quite firm. I believe that the lowered finished dough temperature may have contributed to this firmness by slowing down the degree and rate of fermentation of the dough.
The dough skin was dressed in usual fashion, in this instance using pureed/drained Muir Glen canned tomatoes with Penzeys pizza seasoning, fresh basil, oregano, summer savory and parsley, red pepper flakes, olive oil and grated Parmesan and Parmigiano-Reggiano cheeses; shredded part-skim, low-moisture mozzarella cheese; and a mixture of sautéed and fresh sliced mushrooms; sliced, raw green peppers; roasted red peppers; and caramelized onions. The pizza was baked on a 16-inch pizza screen for about 6 minutes on the middle oven rack position and then for a final 2-3 minutes on a pizza stone that had been preheated (at the lowest oven rack position) for about an hour at 500-550 degrees F. The photos below show the finished product.
The pizza turned out well. What especially impressed me was that there was very good oven spring, as the slice photo below shows. This seems to me to put to rest the notion that in order to get good oven spring and an open and airy crust and crumb you need to use large amounts of yeast. Proper kneading of the dough (leaning more toward underkneading than overkneading) and high hydration seem to be more important in that respect. The crust color was also quite good, considering that no added sugar, honey, dried dairy whey, dry milk or anything else like that were used. Given enough time, the enzymes in the dough will do their job and extract the natural sugars from the flour needed to feed the yeast, provide sufficient residual sugar to promote crust coloration, and produce the byproducts of fermentation that contribute to crust flavor.