Ah, pizza! We all love a delicious slice of that classic Italian delicacy. Whether you’re walking beside the canals in Venice, grabbing a slice from a street vendor in New York, or just heading out to your favorite restaurant for a bite to eat, there really is nothing that hits the spot quite like pizza.
Which makes it all the more frustrating just how hard pizza can be to get right at home! From an undercooked middle to an overcooked crust, pizza is a surprisingly challenging thing to get right and the truth is that most of those problems start in one place: the dough. Getting your pizza dough just right is an art that a lot of people dedicate their entire lives to! Now, you don’t need to go quite that far, but here are just a few helpful hints that might let you know why your pizza dough isn’t living up to your Neapolitan ambitions!
It’s not rising
As with most doughs, a good rise is absolutely essential. If your pizza dough isn’t rising, that means that the necessary fermentation process isn’t taking place. The yeast in the dough needs to eat the sugars from the flour and convert it into CO2 to give you that wonderful rise. Not only will a dough that hasn’t risen properly lead to a flat, dry pizza crust, but it’s also not going to develop those wonderful flavors that make classic pizza crust so utterly delicious. There might well be a few reasons why your pizza dough isn’t rising. The most common is that it’s simply not warm enough. If you’ve added water to your dough that’s too cold, or you’re letting it rise in an environment that isn’t warm enough, that’s going to slow down the yeast. The yeast will start doing its thing eventually, but you could be waiting a while. If you want to get a better rise, start with ensuring that your water is between 105° and 110°F.
The crust is too hard
There are few things more disappointing than biting into a perfect looking pizza and realizing that the crust has essentially turned into a cracker. It’s an incredibly common problem and it’s one that a lot of people struggle to find a solution for. After all, you followed the recipe for classic Italian pizza dough, so why isn’t it like the real thing? The most common answer? Your oven is too cold. The average kitchen oven simply doesn’t get hot enough to allow for the cooking time that a classic Neapolitan pizza crust needs in order to cook properly. In a regular oven, by the time the cheese is melted and the crust is cooked, the whole thing will have completely dried out. The truth is that the best option here is to get a genuine pizza oven. Something like the outdoor pizza oven, Ooni Koda 16 can reach those high temperatures you need. That way, you’ll have perfect pizza ready in minutes every single time.
It won’t stop shrinking
We’ve all had that experience where you’re finally ready to start shaping your pizza dough into a perfect circular pie and it just won’t cooperate. No matter what you do, the dough seems to just spring back and shrink. What was supposed to be a 16-inch pie is a lump of dough that’s barely half that size. The reason: gluten. As you knead dough, gluten strands develop which give the dough its springy texture. However, if you try to shape your dough right after kneading it, you’re going to end up fighting as it tries to shrink back down. Just set your dough aside for 30 minutes or so and that will allow the gluten to relax a little bit and will make the dough far more pliable and more easily shaped. Of course, if it’s just a matter of your dough being too stiff and not flexible enough to begin with, then you might be better off adding some water and kneading it for a little bit longer to develop those gluten strands a little more. And, of course, temperature is a factor. If your dough has been rising slowly in a cold environment then it’s going to be a lot less forgiving. Bringing it up to room temperature can make a big difference.
Of course, when it comes to the perfect pizza dough, there is no single, foolproof technique that will make sure that it never fails. Pizza making is often more of an art than a science, just ask any Italian! But, with practice and these tips, you can at least give yourself the best possible chance to create some truly great pies! And, the best part? Even if the dough doesn’t work out perfectly, chances are that the results are still going to be pretty delicious and you get to enjoy the tasty fruits of your labor every time!