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 contained in flour varies by type and can indirectly impact your crust performance. Standard flour, for example, contains relatively low protein creating a breadlike texture in the final product. Typically pizza flour has a higher protein level and will give the pizza a more distinct texture.
Additionally, flour is considered a dry ingredient but can actually have variable moisture depending on the type. If this percentage isn’t factored into crust hydration, your recipe can be thrown off and your dough texture will be compromised.
For rise, yeast is a very important dough ingredient. 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 water that’s warm to the touch but not hot. 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 more yeast – sometimes up to 10% more per batch – be used to achieve proper rise.
- Storage temperature. Fresh or compressed yeast must be stored at the proper temperature to work correctly; too hot or too cold of a temperature will significantly decrease it's performance.
Water temperature plays a large 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 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 key. Check your best practices:
- Proofing: Don’t take shortcuts with the proofing process. Proper fermentation and incorporation of the yeast is the key to 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 perfect pies.
- Storage: Inconsistent refrigeration temperatures and inattention to shelf life will impact crust rise. Aim for 38°F for 2 days in the refrigerator then rest at room temp for 40-60 minutes before using. The dough will have a maximum refrigerated shelf life of 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 a manufacturer to improve crust consistency and results. Contact Alive & Kickin’ Pizza Crust today, or click the button below to download Tips for Tackling 9 Common Pizza Performance Challenges now to learn more.