Q: Can you share a basic formula for cannoli?
R.K., Tucson, Ariz.
A: This formula yields about 12 dozen shells.
Ingredients Lbs. Ozs. Metric
Pastry flour 4 1.815 kg
Sugar, granulated 7 200 g
Egg yolk 5.5 160 ml
White wine 1 12 795 g
Shortening, vegetable 8 225 g
Total appr. wt. 7 0.5 3.195 kg
Method: Combine ingredients, and mix until dough is well developed, then rest for at least four hours. Divide dough into pieces about the size of a walnut, and roll into a 1/8-in. thick disc. Wrap the dough around a cannoli form, overlapping the ends and pressing to seal. Heat oil to 375°F (190°C) and fry until light golden brown, about 3 to 4 minutes. Remove the forms from the fryer and set on paper towels to drain. Allow to cool before sliding the shell off the form and filling.
Q: Why do I need to be aware of the falling number system?
C.R., East Glen, La.
A: When it rains just before harvest, grain may start to germinate or sprout. The germination causes an increase in alpha amylase, an enzyme that breaks down starch, as well as enzymes that break down proteins. Of these, the starch-degrading enzyme has a greater effect on reducing flour quality. The longer the grain sprouts, the greater the amount of the alpha amylase formed. If well-sprouted grain is milled, the flour can cause problems in the finished baked product. The falling number system measures the alpha amylase enzyme activity in grains and flour to detect sprout damage, optimize flour enzyme activity and guarantee soundness of milled grains. Alpha amylase activity is crucial for product quality of bread, pasta, noodles and malt. Anyone handling wheat, barley, rye or sorghum intended for these applications will benefit from the falling number system to ensure finished product consistency.
Q: What are the disadvantages of using frozen dough?
A.C., Wells, Nev.
A: The quality of frozen dough depends on the stability of the yeast (cryo-resistance) during storage. Storage costs for the frozen dough also should be taken into consideration. In frozen dough formulas, you need to use flour with higher protein content and more yeast and additives. Flavor loss will be noticeable due to lack of fermentation and organic acids, which are partially responsible for flavor development. Poor retention of carbon dioxide results from the gluten stress of the freezing process. The amylase and amyl pectin bind less water in their structure, creating weight loss.
Q: What types of flour do you recommend for breads, cakes and cookies?
M.M., Olympia, Ore.
A: I determine what flour I use by the protein content. Every baker has his own preference, but below is my general guideline.
Product Protein percentage
Pasta 13 to 15
Bread 11 to 12
Pastries 10 to 11
Biscuits 8.5 to 10
Cakes 9 to 9.5
Pies 8 to 10
Cookies 8 to 9
Q: Why is dough fermentation important in bread baking?
Veronica, via email
A: Fermentation is one of the critical and essential steps in bread baking. It is through the various complex biochemical reactions of yeast cells that the following goals for the baker are achieved: improved dough handling characteristics, enhanced gas retention and finished product texture. Also, it provides desirable flavor and extends shelf life of the final product.
Q: We have major problems with flies in our bakery. Do you have any operational tips on how to eliminate them?
R.G., Omaha, Neb.
A: I would not use fly swatters as these spread contamination. One of the safest and most effective methods of fly control is the use of insect light traps. These use a high-voltage, low amperage current on a conducting grid placed in front of a quasi-ultraviolet irradiation source. The light source attracts the flies towards the light source, where they are electrocuted. Some light traps contain a “black light,” which is effective at night, and a “blue light,” which is effective in the daytime. Additionally, you may want to take extra care of cleaning your bakery on a daily basis.
Q: How much bran can we add to our formula and what effect does it have on the mixes?
M.R., Bismarck N.D.
A: Dough with added bran retains more water and needs more kneading time. The bread normally has less volume because bran is not elastic or extensible. The color is darker because of the carotenes and xanthophylls–pigments in the bran. Therefore, bran should be used between 5 to 20 percent in a formula based on the total flour weight.
Dr. Klaus Tenbergen is certified as a Master Baker in Germany, South Africa and the United States. He is currently an assistant professor at California State University in Fresno, directing the Culinology® program, which blends culinary arts and the science of food. For more information about Culinology®, or to submit a question, contact Dr. Tenbergen at firstname.lastname@example.org.