Making pizzas from scratch is often several times more difficult than it is to heat up a frozen pizza that you found and bought at the supermarket. However, for that extra hassle and struggle that comes with fighting the dough and trying to get the texture just right, it is absolutely worth it for the taste.
If you are someone who is interested in making your own pizzas, you are going to want to make sure that you know how to deal with some common pizza-making problems.
Making pizza isn’t exactly easy when you are doing it from scratch. The pizza dough can be finicky to work with and nobody really appreciates sensitive dough.
With that being said, when you understand what is going on with the dough and know what to look for, you will find that it is tremendously easier to notice and solve problems before they render your pizza dough unusable. One of the most common problems with pizza dough is that it has a tendency to shrink.
Shrinking pizza dough will usually be at its most noticeable when you are trying to roll out the dough to prepare it for toppings and sauces.
You will stretch the dough out, roll it to your desired dimensions, turn your back to grab the sauce for the dough and turn around again only to notice that the dough has seemingly shrunk several inches in size.
This phenomenon is not nearly as uncommon as people believe.
What Is Causing it?
At the core of the pizza dough, the problem comes from the fact that the dough’s gluten network is a bit stronger than it should be. When the dough is having problems with the gluten, it will keep trying to rise upward.
Because there is only a finite amount of dough, if the gluten inside of it is causing it to increase in volume, it is going to begin decreasing in diameter as it uses the dough to go upward.
This can also happen when the gluten inside the pizza dough is cold. When the dough is not warm enough, the dough will be more tempted to snap back into a smaller shape, likely the original shape the dough was stored in.
Because most people do not store their pizza dough in the shape of a pizza, this becomes a troublesome issue.
How Do You Fix the Problem?
There are several ways that you can go about fixing the problem. Some of these aspects are going to be more focused on creating a better environment for you to shape the pizza dough in, while other aspects of the problem can only be fixed with a new batch of dough and more patience.
At its core, you are going to want to make sure that the contents of the pizza dough are where they should be. Many types of pizza dough are designed to be both high-protein and high-gluten to get the proper crust consistency, but in the wrong environment this can cause a whole host of issues.
If you know that you are working with high-gluten flour, you are going to want to try to aim for a flour that also has a lower protein content, preferably one that has a content between 11.5% and 12.8%.
With the lower protein content but the high gluten, you can still get the right texture of pizza dough, but you will not provide enough of the protein for the dough to “memorize” its original shape.
This will then reduce the amount that the dough will snap back into place, allowing you more time to mold the pizza and shape it into what you want it to be.
Because cold rooms can cause proteins to have problems, you are going to want to wait until the dough you are working with is at room temperature. No matter how impatient you might be for your pizza, it will be worth spending the time to wait for the dough to reach room temperature so that you can create a pizza without focusing on the more frustrating aspects of it.
While you are waiting for the dough to reach room temperature, you are going to want to pour a small amount of olive oil on the space where you will be working with the dough.
You will only need about two or three tablespoons total to this, and don’t be afraid to get it on your hands. The olive oil will not only help the pizza to stop sticking to the cutting board as the extra gluten inflates it, but the oil can also help to encourage a crispy crust.
Before you can begin stretching the dough, you are going to need to flatten it. This is a natural part of the process of stretching and preparing the dough. You can think of it as taking stretches to warm up before doing an intense sporting event.
You should use the palm of your hand as well as your middle three fingers to press on the dough out from the center, creating a flat dish that should be no more than half an inch thick.
This will also help as you will be able to use your body temperature to warm up the dough a little bit more, allowing it to be more pliable and not something that is going to keep shrinking the moment you set it down on the table.
A Quick Fix for in the Moment
If you have just noticed that your pizza dough is shrinking more than it should and you are in the process of making pizza and are unable to stop for the time being, you can try and do a quick fix on the dough you are working with.
This may not be as effective as some of the preventative measures mentioned above, but it can get the job done in a pinch.
You will want to first get the dough as flat as you can manage to get it, and once it has reached its flat-most state, you will want to put an upturned mixing bowl over the dough to keep it airtight for a bit. You will want to let the dough rest for about 10 minutes in this position.
If your kitchen is cold and you have a warmer spot in your house, you can move the dough there to wait. Both the combination of extra time to relax and the warmth from the sun will help relax the gluten while the bowl helps retain the moisture in the dough.
Sarah is the founder of Baking Kneads, LLC, a blog sharing guides, tips, and recipes for those learning how to bake. Growing up as the daughter of a baker, she spent much of her childhood learning the basics in a local bakery.