While making pizza is pretty simple, many problems might come your way when processing everything.
So what to do when pizza dough is not stretchy? We’ll answer that here.
From the start, making pizza means that you need to know the basics.
You need to measure everything and ensure that all the ingredients used are of the same quality and proportion.
Making pizza at home is truly enjoyable. I have made many pizzas in my pizza oven and it does not take professional skills, you just need to make sure that you practice more often.
After a few tries, you will be able to perfect the pizza recipe that you want.
Many things could go wrong when you make pizza even in the initial stages of making the dough.
The raw dough needs to have the right consistency for it to rise properly.
The hydration level should be on point to ferment the right way and be stretched easily by hand or machine.
However, that is not very simple to do and you have to understand exactly what goes into developing the dough for you to know what to do in case complications arise.
What Makes Pizza Dough Stretchy?
When you stretch the pizza dough, what happens inside is that the flour starts to release a kind of protein.
That protein is called gluten and it is responsible for making the dough stretchy. This will stay active before and after rising the dough until it is exhausted, by then, your dough recipe can become soggy.
The more gluten there is in the dough, the stretchier it will get.
The gluten inside the dough is also strong enough so while it is stretchy, it is also elastic which means it holds its shape.
That is why you need to properly balance the hydration in the dough recipe so you can stretch and shape it.
This chemical reaction is triggered by the active yeast you put in the dough.
The strength of the gluten is countered by the yeast making it stretch and lose its shape.
That way, you can slowly manage the dough and stretch it to the shape and size you want it to be.
The stretchiness of the dough will determine how thin you can shape your pizza.
So you need to make sure that you have enough ingredients but not too much to make it too soggy. Soggy pizza is mostly caused by too much weight from the toppings.
What Is Gluten Development?
Gluten, as mentioned above, is a protein that comes from flour.
It is activated once the flour is hydrated and is further projected by the yeast that you use to ferment and develop the dough.
Gluten is activated when the flour is exposed in water or any liquid ingredient.
With proper hydration, the gluten inside the raw dough forms a chemical bond that makes the dough better.
It is the determining factor whether the dough or the crust will be cooked perfectly or not.
The yeast activates the protein chain that the gluten produces to make the crust crispier.
How Is Gluten Related To Elasticity?
Gluten is the type of protein that gives the dough its strength.
That means that the chemical reaction holds the dough together to make it perfect for any type of cooking.
The more you stretch the dough, the more gluten is produced which means that the dough will improve from being not elastic enough.
Before the dough is allowed to rise, it will most likely be too tough.
That means that the gluten is doing its job of holding the dough in shape.
You can test this by poking a freshly-made dough in the center and you will see that the dough comes back to shape.
By allowing the raw dough to rise, you will use the yeast that breaks down the protein.
That makes it easier in terms of how to stretch the raw dough as the strength of the gluten is slightly reduced by the yeast.
Proofing is a term used to describe the rising power of dough. You will see a big difference before and after rising the smooth and elastic dough if it is properly proofed.
It is also used with beverages such as beer and it was initially used to test whether the beer is good for sale or not once it is proofed.
In cooking or with dough, proofing simply means that you allow the dough to rest one last time before baking. Proofed dough should have a stretchy texture and a smooth surface.
This is to activate the yeast in the dough and make sure that the dough rises when proofed.
This process allows the dough to produce gases that help the dough rise properly and make sure that the yeast produces gas inside the dough to leaven it and make it crispy when cooked.
Not allowing the dough to rest or to be proofed will usually result in a tough and dense crust.
The dough will not have air pockets inside, which can also be caused when using a rolling pin for shaping the dough, making it tough and hard even if you know how to stretch properly, without letting it rise.
There is also this phenomenon where the smooth and elastic dough does not change that much before and after rising. The most likely reason is that the dough has been over-proofed.
An over-proofed dough will basically bring the smooth and elastic dough back to its rough form so instead of doubling the size, the smooth and elastic dough will revert back to its original with no difference between before and after rising it.
If you have an over-proofed dough, you can still salvage it but it will be quite hard. An over-proofed dough means that it has exhausted all the gluten that binds the other ingredients in it so you will need to knead it again.
Under Kneading The Dough
So once you have processed the dough and allowed it to rest and rise, you will need know how to stretch and knead it.
This is the process of allowing the gluten to develop more after letting it rise.
The most common mistake made by beginners is under kneading.
There are clear signs of under kneading on the dough and you can spot them with your eyes and hands when stretching it.
The dough will most likely have rough surfaces when folded or formed into a ball.
When you pull the dough, the dough will rip apart as the gluten is not activated and will not hold the dough together.
The loose texture on the dough probably means that it needs to be kneaded more. Under kneaded dough will also not rise as much as you want it to when cooking it in the oven.
Autolyse The Dough To Improve The Elasticity
Autolyse is a process that involves mixing the flour for the pizza recipe in water gently. This is really helpful if the dough is not elastic.
You only mix the two to activate some of the gluten inside and rest after mixing them.
The rest usually takes around 20 to 60 minutes.
By that time, the dough will not start to rise as the yeast is not added, after letting the dough rest, you add the other ingredients.
What it does is that the gluten is activated without kneading it.
That means that it will be easier on your part as the kneading time will be reduced so you do not have to stress your arms with it.
Autolyse also slows down the fermentation process which means that more flavors are developed within the dough. This helps to add more taste and texture to the pizza crust later on.
How To Tell If The Gluten Has Developed Enough?
It might seem hard to tell whether or not the gluten is activated properly since it is a chemical reaction.
However, there are very simple step-by-step processes that you can do to test the dough.
The windowpane test is one of the most commonly used tests to ensure that the gluten is activated. It is not much of a step-by-step process as you are only to do one thing.
It helps by making sure that the dough is stretchy enough but does not rip easily apart.
By kneading the dough, you will start to strengthen the gluten inside.
It will start to develop more gluten and the dough will be strong enough to hold its shape when you stretch it without tearing.
The windowpane test is very simple.
You just need to get a ball of dough about the size of a golf ball and then stretch it using your fingers until you can fit the ball of dough between your hands.
Lift the stretched dough and then slowly stretch it apart with two hands without tearing it.
The dough should begin to stretch into a thin paper-like film without tearing, if it does, you need to keep kneading.
You can look for many signs to see whether the dough is kneaded enough or not.
The first one is the smooth surface when you create a ball with the dough.
It should also be able to hold its shape and when you press the dough, it springs right back into shape. That is why it is recommended that you use your hands to test it instead of shaping the dough with a rolling pin.
You will also feel it easily when you knead the dough by hand, which I recommend doing.
Kneading the dough requires about 10 minutes of continuous kneading.
That is tiring and once you feel tired, you can then test the dough and see that it is not tearing and is most likely ready for baking.
Over kneading is something that you do not usually experience when you knead the dough by hand.
You will get tired of kneading before you experience over-kneading on the dough. If you follow the step-by-step guide on kneading by hand as well as the timer, it is less likely that you will over-knead the dough.
This phenomenon usually happens when you knead the dough with a machine. This can cause tears when stretching, you can see these tears when stretching or testing the over-kneaded dough with the windowpane technique.
That is because the machine, usually a stand mixer, does not get tired and is powerful when working.
The step-by-step kneading process when a stand mixer is used will take only a few minutes until the over-kneaded dough begins to show tears when stretching.
It is faster so you need to be careful when using the machine to not over-knead the dough and time it properly.
Over kneading can cause the dough to just stay flat as the gluten is overworked.
That means that the over-kneaded dough does not have the strength from the gluten to hold the shape of the dough ball. You can still fix this but the tears when stretching the dough will be quite hard to remove.
Using a rolling pin can also cause some other issues aside from over-kneading. A rolling pin pushes the air bubbles out of the dough and will make it flat, which in turn, make the dough either soggy or stiff when cooked.
Too Much Pizza Flour
Too much pizza flour can hugely affect the dough itself in a bad way.
It will turn into a crumbly and dry dough that is hard in terms of how to stretch plus it will most likely retain the shape due to stiffness and not elasticity.
These types of dough are tough to manage and the only way to fix them is to add more water. When cooked, the dough will stay flat and tough with a bad and dry interior, and not thin and crispy.
This is caused mostly by the type of flour you use and the lack of water in the dough.
So you need to properly balance the water with the flour to create the proper hydration. It is quite easy to fix it but it is better if you avoid the fixing part and balance the ingredients from the get-go.
How Dough Hydration Affects Elasticity
As we have talked about above, the gluten inside the flour is activated when the flour is mixed with water and other liquid ingredients which improves the dough if it is not elastic.
That means that you need to balance the hydration,
The hydration level in pizzas is usually 65% to 70%, although 70% is sometimes too much.
Bad hydration affects the texture of the dough and will give you problems if there is less flour or less water. You need to make sure that the dough does not turn too dry and is bad for kneading.
The smaller the water content or hydration level on the pizza is, the less stretchy it will get.
However, there is a threshold that you need to follow for the dough to not break down and stay stretchy. The dough should not be dry but it also should not be too wet so calculate properly.
Temperature Of The Dough Affects The Elasticity
Once the dough is ready to rest, you need to find a place to allow it to rise.
The temperature is a huge factor as it will determine whether the process is fast or slow.
At warmer temperatures, the elasticity of the dough will be lessened.
This means that the dough does not develop fast elasticity but will eventually get to the right stretching power.
If you leave the dough at colder temperatures like in the fridge, the dough will show more stability in retaining its shape and make it more elastic in the end.
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