Pizza Dough FAQs
Answers to your questions!
I often get questions about my pizza dough video/ recipe, so I am sharing my answers here. If you're looking for my easiest and most accessible pizza method and video, check out my latest offering, Pizza for Two. No special equipment is required and it makes two individual size pizzas, which are great for the beginner and to experiment with different toppings, etc.
Please keep in mind that to be a successful baker, experimentation is often necessary. Your ingredients and baking equipment may be quite different from mine. The good thing is that it's not too expensive to make pizza and usually the results of your experimentation will be edible. Have fun - don't be afraid to go your own way and change my recipe to suit your needs. It is good, however, to have an understanding of the ingredients, their function and the methods for yeast dough preparation. Happy Baking!
Can I use all purpose flour instead of bread flour?
Bread flour has a higher protein content compared to all purpose flour. When combined with water, this protein forms gluten in the dough. The gluten formation is enhanced by kneading. This enables the dough to stretch better and gives the pizza a chewier crust. I prefer King Arthur bread flour which is high in good quality protein and is not bromated or bleached. If you prefer to use all purpose flour, less liquid is usually needed. For my pizza dough recipe, try 1 cup + 2 tablespoons water, instead of 1¼ cups water. If the dough feels dry, add a little more water at a time. If it feels too wet, add more flour, 1 tablespoon at a time. I my opinion, a good quality flour is worth paying extra for.
If bread flour is not available where you live, another option is to strengthen your flour with wheat gluten, which can be purchased in some grocery stores and online. It is often called "Vital Wheat Gluten". You can try adding 1-3 tablespoons of wheat gluten to the 1.5 pounds of flour in my pizza dough recipe. You may need to add more water. Keep track of the exact quantities you use, so that you can make adjustments the next time. Don't be afraid to experiment. Flour (and water) qualities can vary greatly by region and country, so a little trial and error may be necessary.
Why doesn't my yeast get foamy or dough rise like yours does?
Your yeast may not fresh enough. This can be hard to tell as I have purchased yeast where the expiration date was fine, but the yeast was not. Try buying yeast from a different supplier, hopefully one with a higher turnover.
Even if your yeast doesn't get foamy when mixed with the warm water and sugar (Step one ), it still may be fine. Sometimes the reaction time is slow and/or the water is too cool. It's up to you whether you want to take the chance on it! Some of my pizza recipes don't call for getting the yeast foamy at all, e.g., Pizza for Two. I just wait a short period of time to soften it instead.
Another problem with yeast growth can be temperature. Yeast likes warmth just like us. In a cool place, the dough will take a long time to rise. If the water is too hot, it will kill your yeast. Don't use water above 110°F (43 Celsius) to be safe.
Water quality can be an issue as well. Your water may have a high chlorine content or contain other elements that inhibit yeast growth. I often use spring water when making yeast doughs. I have also had luck boiling tap water to remove chlorine. Just be sure to let it cool to a warm temperature, before using it, as not to kill the yeast.
Note: Too much yeast will ruin your dough, even if it does make your dough rise quickly. I strongly advice against excess yeast. It gives an off taste and dry texture to yeast baked products.
What if I don't have a pizza stone?
I have a video and blog article, No Pizza Stone? No Problem!, that goes into depth on this subject. One solution is to use an aluminum sheet pan, preheated in the oven, instead of a stone. You can see this being done at the end of my pizza sauce video.
Another method is to preheat your oven to 400°F. Place the stretched out dough on a oiled (I prefer extra virgin olive oil) baking sheet. Place the toppings on the dough. Bake immediately or cover loosely and let the dough rise a bit more for a lighter pizza (uncover before baking). Baking time may vary, due to the thickness of dough. It usually takes about 20-25 minutes. The bottom should be evenly browned when done (check carefully, because the pizza will be very hot).
What is the weight of the finished dough?
This recipe yields approximately 2 pounds and 7 ounces of raw pizza dough. My recipe, calling for 1½ lbs of bread flour, will make three, 12 inch, thin crusted pizzas or two thicker ones (or several mini-pizzas).
Can the recipe be divided in half?
Yes, but I often make the whole recipe and either freeze or refrigerate the leftover pizza(s). I love leftovers! You could also make one pizza and refrigerate the extra dough (see below). If you want to make a small quantity of dough, my Pizza for Two recipe makes a much smaller batch and is quite easy to prepare. It calls for only a 2-3 minute kneading time, but you can knead it longer to make a more elastic dough, as in my original How to Make Pizza Dough video.
Can I use a mixer to make the dough?
You may use a heavy duty stand mixer with a dough hook attachment to make pizza dough and other yeast doughs. First, briefly stir the ingredients to incorporate the dough. (This can be done with the dough hook, so that you don't have to dirty another utensil.) Then, mix on speed two for 5-6 minutes or speed one for 10 minutes. Use the slower speed if your mixer sounds as if it is straining. Important: Read your mixer's instructions so that you don't exceed the amount of dough it can handle. I currently use a KitchenAid Pro 600 6 qt. Mixer. Here's a couple of links to my videos where I use a stand mixer: Bagels and Making Dough with Freah Yeast.
Can I freeze the dough?
You can freeze the dough, but the yeast doesn't survive the deep freeze too well. Don't expect the dough to rise much or at all after coming out of the freezer. The dough will be slack, but it's usable. Below is a suggestion for freezing the entire pizza.
I prefer instead, to either refrigerate the extra dough for up to two to three* days or (this is what I usually do) cook all of the pizzas while the oven is still hot and refrigerate or freeze whatever is left over. Pizzas reheat well and you get a day of not having to cook or mess up the kitchen! If my recipe makes too much dough for your use, you certainly may divide the recipe in half. You can also make other baked goods out of this dough, but that's for another blog article...
You can also make a smaller batch of dough using my Pizza For Two recipe
At which point during the dough making process would it be best to freeze or refrigerate?
You can refrigerate the dough after almost any step, but after the first rise (or a little before) works best. Store it, covered, in the refrigerator for 1-3* days. Allow room for the dough to expand as it will continue to rise. The pizza dough will actually be more flavorful after a day in the fridge, but the dough will begin to deteriorate after the yeast have eaten all the good food available. After taking the dough out of the refrigerator, reshape and let rise again, covered, in a warm place. This may take awhile, because of the coldness of the dough. It is necessary to wait for the dough to warm up and rise or the gluten will be so tight that you will not be able to stretch the dough. It will be worth the wait!
I have had good luck freezing the entire raw pizza on a greased or parchment lined pan, placed in a plastic bag. When ready to use, allow the pizza to warm up to room temperature before baking. You can refrigerate the already rolled or stretched dough, but I would place it in the greased or parchment lined pan that you plan on baking it in and cover with plastic wrap. Don't refrigerate too long once the dough is in the pan, because it will release moisture and begin to stick to the bottom of the pan.*Depends on the temperature of your refrigerator
My dough looks dry.
The amount of water needed can vary depending on humidity, hardness of flour, etc. Next time, if the dough seems too dry as you begin to mix it, add a little extra water (1 tablespoon at a time). Try not to add too much, as the dough may become wet and sticky.
The dough tears when I try to stretch it.The dough may be too dry and/or it has not been rested sufficiently. It is important to round the dough (as in the video) and allow it to rise before trying to stretch it out. When yeast dough has been shaped and/or manipulated, the gluten gets activated and tightens. The dough needs a good rest before it can be stretched out.
My dough seems to sticky.
If the dough seems too sticky, try to add extra flour at the beginning of the kneading process. Flour added late in the game will not get sufficient kneaded. The dough should feel a little sticky or it may be very dry. Kneading and resting helps the gluten to absorb more water, making the dough less sticky over time.
How long should the dough rest before stretching?
Resting usually takes about 30 minutes to 1 hour, depending on how tightly the dough was rounded, room temperature, dough strength, and other factors. The surface of the dough should remain dented when pressed with the tip of your finger. When making yeast doughs, there are a lot of variables that are difficult to control, so it's hard to give exact times. Experience will help each baker to know when to go on with the next step.
Why is my dough is sticky and collapses when I try to test it to see if it has risen enough?
It's natural for the dough to be a little sticky. You can flour your hand before pressing your finger into the dough to see it the impression stays. The dough deflating, however, means that it is probably over risen or that your dough is not strong enough. The dough will be best when made with a good quality bread flour (like King Arthur) and when kneaded well. Shaping the dough before rising also creates a tight surface to hold the CO2 in the dough, preventing it from collapsing.
How do I use store bought pizza dough?
For best results when using prepared pizza dough, let the dough rest at room temperature in the bag or covered, until it has risen a little, and then try to stretch it out. It's been my experience that the bought dough is usually harder to stretch out than the homemade version. It helps to oil the dough prior to stretching. Olive oil is great, but any vegetable oil will do.
Do I have to use olive oil? What is the difference between extra virgin and regular olive oil?
You may use any vegetable oil in the dough - you can even use butter if you want to. The oil is a fat which makes the dough a little easier to handle and helps the crust not to dry out in the oven, allowing it to rise further and produce a lighter product. You may leave the oil out if you like, but you may need to increase the water a bit. Extra virgin olive oil is an intensely flavored oil that is obtained from the first pressing of olives without using solvents or high temperatures. It is the most expensive olive oil, but the best in quality and flavor. It's the oil I prefer to use.
How can I tell if the pizza is cooked?
Check the bottom and see if it's browned. If your dough is too thick, it could be browning too quickly and you may need to bake longer and even perhaps, at a lower temperature. Also, the top should be bubbling. In my video, No Pizza Stone, No Problem, you can view a bubbling baked pizza!
Can I make gluten free pizza with your recipe?
Gluten is the substance formed when wheat flour (containing gluten creating compounds) is mixed with water (or other liquid) and kneaded. It provides elasticity to the dough, enabling it to be stretched and to give the structure necessary to hold the beautiful air pockets in the dough created by the yeast. So, I'm sorry, but my recipe and technique will not work with gluten free flours or mixes.
Can I use honey as a sweetener in my dough (either regular or whole wheat)?
I don't like to use honey in pizza dough because of its hygroscopic nature, which means it will encourage the absorption of moisture, thereby making the crust softer. Although, I suppose, a little bit, wouldn't make that much difference.
Can I use Baking Powder/Baking Soda instead of yeast?
Baking powder and baking soda are chemical leaveners. They are not the same as yeast, but CO2 is produced with both methods. Yeast is a biological organism, that enables doughs to rise and develop a rich flavor and light texture. The types of bread made with chemical leaveners, i.e., banana bread, are of a totally different texture than most people want in their pizza.
Can I use a rolling pin?
You can use a rolling pin, but I like to stretch the dough v. rolling, because the large air bubbles remain, making the pizza more interesting. It also takes less time.
How come you use sugar in some of your dough recipes and not in others?
Sometimes I use sugar to give the yeast a quick growth spurt during the dissolving (softening) step. This may also give you an indication of the yeast's freshness or deathness. When making yeast dough that begins with a sponge, I don't usually add anything but flour, water and yeast. For a fully developed, slowly fermented pizza or bread dough, adding sugar is not usually beneficial, because the maltose fermentation phase is delayed. A dough made without added sugar and risen very slowly will often yield a product with a beautiful brown crust and airy interior. Most people want a quickly made pizza dough -hence the added sugar, which also gives some browning to the crust. When using fresh yeast, there is no need to dissolve or reactivate it, because it was never inactivated. You may add some sugar to the dough, however, for a sweeter product.
Hope this article enhances your pizza making experience!