This article was originally published in November of 2016 and has been updated for 2018.
Like a hundred times before, you consult your favorite recipe, mix your pizza dough and let it proof. This time, though, you return to dough that hasn’t risen. Perhaps the discovery of flat, lifeless crust happens when taking your pizza out of the oven. In both instances, what happened?
The answer lies in the balance of ingredients, climate and preparation. Too much or too little of any or all of these and your made-from-scratch pizza dough won’t rise to the occasion.
Don’t let the simplicity of your pizza dough ingredients — flour, yeast, water — fool you. Mishandling the basics can really complicate crust rise.
The protein and moisture content in flour varies by type and can indirectly impact your crust performance. Standard flour, for example, contains relatively low protein which creates a bread-like texture in the final product. Pizza flour, on the other hand, typically has more protein and will give the pizza a more distinct texture.
Although flour is considered a dry ingredient, it may contain moisture. The actual percentage of moisture content varies depending on flour type, but even tiny amounts must be factored into crust hydration. If not, your recipe can be thrown off and your dough texture will be compromised.
For rise, yeast is imperative. Three major factors can impact its effectiveness:
- Improper activation. While instant yeast can be added directly to the flour, active dry yeast must be activated first. This entails placing the yeast in a small bowl and combining it with a little sugar and tepid water. If the yeast froths and expands in 10-15 minutes, it’s a good batch; if not, start again or your crust won’t rise.
- Not enough yeast. Colder temperatures sometimes require that up to 10% more yeast be used per batch to achieve proper rise.
- Storage temperature. Fresh or compressed yeast must be stored at the proper temperature (usually no higher than 45°F) to work correctly; temperatures running too hot or too cold will significantly decrease it's performance.
Water temperature plays a pivotal role in yeast activation. Warm is a good thing; hot is too much of a good thing. Warm water will encourage fermentation and, by extension, crust rise. Excessively hot water will actually kill the yeast, impede fermentation, and ultimately your crust will not rise.
Temperature is not limited to water when it comes to crust rise. Pay attention to your kitchen conditions, carefully monitoring humidity and temperature levels.
If circumstances aren’t ideal, you can control them to maximize crust performance. In hot and humid weather, for example, refrigerating the dough longer may do the trick. Too cold? Scout out warm areas in your kitchen – perhaps next to a stove or heater – where you can place your dough bowl. Or, you can put the dough bowl in a hot water bath to speed rising.
Working with your dough properly is essential. Check your best practices:
- Proofing: Don’t take shortcuts with the proofing process. Proper fermentation and incorporation of the yeast are the keys to optimal crust rise.
- Docking: Crust bubbles result from a lack of proofing, a lack of proper docking, or both. Equip your kitchen with the tools for producing perfect pies.
- Storage: Inconsistent refrigeration temperatures and inattention to shelf life will impact crust rise. Aim for 38°F for two days in the refrigerator, then a 40-60 minute room temperature rest before using. Refrigerated dough shelf life is 4-5 days, depending on the recipe and quality of proofing.
- Baking: Maximize rise by leaving dough warm to room temperature before putting it in the oven.
If you’ve addressed these considerations and your scratch-made dough is still failing to perform, it may be time to consult with a manufacturer to discuss the benefits of pre-made dough balls. Click the button below to instantly access the Get Started With Pre-Made Dough Balls: A 3-Step Guide to learn more.