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I often make homemade pizza making the bases by hand from scratch. I'm going away with a group of friends and plan on making a very large batch of pizzas one night. I'll use a full 5kg (11 pound) bag of bakers flour.

With a pile of dough this large, would it need to be broken up into smaller balls while rising or is it fine to leave in a single large ball (I have a very large saucepan that would fit it)? I'm concerned maybe air wouldn't make it into the base of such a large mass of dough or that the weight would prevent the dough at the bottom rising.

Commercially, how are large quantities of dough proved?

  • Air doesn't need to reach the base ... it's actually better to go in one large batch for the first proof, as you don't have as much surface to dry out (because air can't reach it). – Joe Sep 25 '14 at 14:39
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Almost every type of yeast bread dough is allowed to rise twice after kneading. The first rise is called bulk-fermentation - after kneading, all of the dough (the bulk) gets set-aside to allow the yeast to do its job. After this rise is complete, the dough is deflated (some people call this punching down), portioned and appropriately shaped, then allowed to rise a second time which is called proofing.

So: first rise in bulk (bulk fermentation), second rise portioned-out (proofing).

The gas that expands the dough is carbon dioxide and it will form throughout the dough mass from yeast activity without any problem during bulk fermentation.

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You can proof it all in one big container if you want, there's no reason not to and it's done all the time in the industry. I doubt a big saucepan is going to do it for you, this dough is going to rise at least 3 times its size, maybe more. A very large stock pot may work. The other option is no container at all, if you have a large flat surface you can rise it as a big blob, just be sure to oil it really well first and cover the entire dough to keep it from forming a skin.

The real consideration is how you're going to make that much dough in the first place as 5kg is an awful lot. If you are going to do it all at once you'll either need access to a commercial mixer and dough hook or have very strong arms. More likely you will need to make it in batches to keep it manageable in which case you will want to rise them separately, so you can monitor their progress individually. If you make them separately and put them together for their first rise you will get a very inconsistent product as some will be more proofed than others.

You can make it in batches ahead of time, once a batch has tripled in size stick it in the fridge to slow it down, you can then leave it until you need it. Make it into balls and let them do their second rise while they get back up to room temperature. Note with pizza dough a second rise isn't necessary, you are going to knock all the air out anyway when you roll and stretch it.

  • I have a small army of toddlers who will be 'assisting' in kneading the dough, so hopefully there's enough available arm power to get the job done. – Bogdanovist Sep 30 '14 at 5:13
  • You are an optimist @Bogdanovist, I can tell. I get my kids to work when kneading pizza dough sometimes, and they are great at it but can lose interest. I'd suggest getting the dough past the sticky point before giving them some to work with! Also, have a plan B in case you can't get them going on it. – GdD Sep 30 '14 at 8:04

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