Pizza Dough Not Rising: Here’s What You Need to Do


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Having your homemade pizza dough not rising can be a crushing feeling, but it’s not the end of the world. If you have had similar proofing problems, you can learn to avoid future proofing problems that may come up.

So. let’s find out what you need to do!

What to do if your pizza dough is not rising

The old expression of saying keep calm’ or don’t worry’ should automatically be applied to making pizza dough.

Let’s face it, kitchen mistakes can happen for any reason, and if they do, you need to find out what’s going wrong. Just from what you can see visually, you can fix pizza dough mishaps very quickly.  

Just like any other situation in life; first, you need to:

Identify the Cause of the Problem if your Pizza Dough is Not Rising

Pizza dough in bowl not rising

Why did my pizza dough didn’t rise? 

The main reason any yeast dough won’t rise is improper or no dough fermentation. It could be caused by a faulty or inadequate quantity of ingredients or a mismanaged dough process. 

So, let’s take a quick look at what is the fermentation process.

To learn more about pizza dough hydration, check our article The Ultimate Guide to Dough Hydration

Fermentation Process

Fermentation is the process by which yeast metabolizes or consumes simple sugars to produce carbon dioxide and alcohol.

Fermentation occurs as the yeast in dough becomes active, this is what causes the rising of the dough, or proving.

So, why do we need to ferment the dough to make pizza? Fermentation improves the structure, texture, and flavor of the dough.  To learn more about the fermentation process, check our article the Discover the Ultimate Guide to Pizza Dough Fermentation.

As you can see, the star ingredient of the fermentation process is yeast!

Do you want to know what is happening to your pizza dough? Always start by checking the yeast.  We will discuss this in more detail later on.

But if something isn’t happening because of problems in your essential ingredients, look for the most obvious signs.

The process of identifying what happened with your unrisen pizza dough begins by looking at each ingredient and method process one by one to see what has failed.

Possible Causes Why the Dough Didn’t Rise

Many factors attributed to causing the pizza dough not to rise:

Yeast

Yeast is what will help your pizza dough rise, but it will require a little extra care. It needs warm temperatures, food, and just the right conditions. If any of these variables are off, you can end up with a flat dough that just doesn’t rise the way it should.

Flour

Using the correct type and amount of flour will certainly, determine your success. Too much flour may result in a dry stiff dough. Or using flour that is not intended for pizza-making can make the whole difference in the world.

Water

The water content of any pizza dough is measured by the hydration percentage or the ratio of water to the total flour. Also the flour’s ability to absorb water. So too much or too little water will certainly determine the potential of the dough to rise.

Temperature

When making pizza dough, a good thermometer will be your best friend. Temperature plays such an important role that is something you can’t live without. Sudden changes or extreme temperatures will contribute to the dough not rise.

These factors will affect the formation of the gluten network and the fermentation process achieved through proofing.

Gluten

pizza dough gluten web

Gluten Network

Gluten is a viscous and elastic substance, which is formed during the mixture of flour, yeast, and water. Flour contains two proteins called “gliadin” and “glutenin” that are insoluble in water.

When these two proteins come in contact with water and stress by the energy of mixing, they bind to each other, forming the gluten network.

Gluten, also known as “mesh gluten” because just like a web or network, holds together the dough.

Gluten is what helps the dough take shape and create a structure. It acts like glue in the mixture. Some flours do not contain any gluten, which is very difficult to handle because they have the consistency of a cream.

Pro Tip

When using proofing containers to ferment dough, use a container that is at least two or three times the size of the dough. Bigger containers allow dough room to rise without overflowing.



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Pizza Dough Troubleshooting Process

Here are the steps to follow to check why your pizza dough is not rising

Step 1 – Check Your Ingredients

Even though you have your pizza recipe, it’s the ingredients that count the most for getting pizza dough to work correctly.

In most cases, yeast is the dry ingredient that plays the most critical part in developing the appropriate pizza crust by using quality ingredients.

To find which is the best yeast for pizza dough check our article Yeast: Here’s What You Need to Know.

Check Your Yeast

different types of yeast

Here are some of the causes why the pizza dough is not rising that might be related to yeast.

Not Enough Yeast

If you’ve added too little yeast to your dough mixture, the dough will still rise it just will take longer to proof.

Oddly enough, longer proofing results in more vital gluten, which can make a better crust.

The hard part is waiting for your pizza dough to proof appropriately so you can eat your pizza right away.

Dead Yeast

It’s a horrible thought, but yeast does have a shelf life that can result in yeast that doesn’t react when you try to activate it.

The same applies to fresh, active dry yeast or instant yeast. You can kill the yeast by using water that is too hot to activate it.

Activating Yeast

Activating Yeast

You should be able to see if your yeast is still good when you proof your yeast. If it’s bubbling and expanding with a yeasty smell, then it’s good.

Expired yeast

Expired yeast will cause your dough to rise slowly, and you can remedy this issue very quickly.

Essentially, all you do is add more fresh “not expired” yeast that will help your dough to rise without any problems.

Expired yeast won’t ruin your pizza dough or change the flavor of the dough one single bit.

Water temperature

Water temperature is going to play a significant role in proofing your yeast. The same can be said about the type of yeast that you’re using.

To activate the yeast, the water needs to be lukewarm (95-to 105 degrees F) enough to cause the yeast to react with the water and sugar chemically. This process is what causes it to bubble up.

Adding yeast mixture to pizza dough to make it rise

Adding Yeast Mixture to Flour

When adding the yeast mixture to the flour, also add the water, mix for 1 minute and let rest so the flour can absorb the water mixture appropriately.

Here’s What You Can Do if the Problem is the Yeast

You can always use fresh yeast (“Fresh” as in not expired, not cake yeast) to counter this problem if the yeast has expired or is dead.

Even if yeast is expiring, you can easily add more yeast to your dough to get it to rise normally. You won’t have any problems with your dough rising after that.

If the water is too hot, it will kill the yeast and the dough will not rise. To fix this, just add more yeast, to the dough mixture, knead it for about 5 minutes and let it rest.

If the water is too cold, just be patient, the dough will rise it just will take longer, or place the dough inside the oven without turning it on or in another place where the temperature is about 80 degrees F.

Check Your Flour

Most homemade pizza recipes call for different kinds of flour, depending on your pizza style or sometimes on your dietary needs.

If you end up using the wrong flour, you will also have problems with forming gluten.

Also, with so many people sticking to Vegan diets, this makes making good pizza dough even more problematic.

So what exactly do you need to check with your flour?

Flour Protein Content

Bread Flour Protein Content

Protein Content

Pizza dough needs high protein content flour. To get excellent rising dough, you need to have 12% gluten as a minimum.

Good bread flour will do the job as well. Gluten helps to provide stretch when you start to form your pizza shape.

But more importantly, gluten helps give your cooked dough a great crunch or satisfying chew. You cannot get this by using ordinary all-purpose flour.

Here’s What You Can Do if the Problem is the Flour

If you used the wrong flour, maybe you used all-purpose, cake flour, or any other grain flour such as chickpea flour or rice flour with low protein content, you can quickly fix the problem by adding vital wheat gluten to the pizza dough mixture.

This additive contains the supplemental protein that helps to form gluten. That is, of course, if you aren’t gluten intolerant. To learn more about how to use vital wheat gluten, check our article Vital Gluten: The Magic Touch for Pizza Dough.

To make pizza dough, you’ll want to look for a finely ground wheat flour that’s in the 0′ or 00′ grade, with high protein content, so you get better hydration in your dough.

To find which is the best flour to make pizza dough, check our article The Top Pizza Flour that will Give You the Best Results Every time

Check the Water Content or (Hydration Percentage) and Water Quality

Tap water will have natural elements that include minerals that can be essential for creating gluten in your pizza dough.

With natural calcium and magnesium found in hard water, this aids the strength of gluten that helps it be more robust and tougher yeast dough you can achieve.

Not enough water can make your dough stiff and dry. And we all know what happens if there’s not enough liquid present for the yeast to use: It doesn’t work the way it should! You want the dough to be slightly sticky and elastic.

Too much water can lead to sticky pizza dough, which can also be of concern.

To learn more about pizza dough hydration, check our article The Scientifically Proven Formular for Pizza Dough.

* Water Substitute for Pizza Dough

One expert tip if you don’t want to risk using tap water is safe to use milk. The calcium found in milk is perfect for making a strong gluten network as well as hydrating pizza dough, which yields excellent stretch and rise.

It can also add a bit of sweetness and dough.

Here’s What You Can Do if the Problem is the Water

In terms of quality, you would want to know what’s in your water, you can learn more about this in our article Astonishing Secrets Water can Reveal about your Pizza. 

Also, try to avoid using distilled water as all minerals have been removed during the filtration process.

You might not have expected that higher hydration can affect the amount of elasticity that you’re looking to have.

The starting point is 65-70% hydration based on the amount of flour vs. water. If you have 1000 grams of flour and 650 grams of water, this is 65% hydration.

So if the dough is too dry, try to calculate how much water you used and compensate for the difference by adding more water to bring the dough to the correct hydration percentage.

If the dough is too wet, add more flour at 1 tablespoon at a time, allowing the dough to rest and absorb the extra water until is at the desired consistency.

Check our guide on the  7 Hydration Percentages that Actually Make the Best Pizza for more on this subject.

Pizza Pun

What holiday celebrates the rising of dough?

Yeaster.

Check Your Salt Content

Adding salt to pizza flour

Adding Salt to Pizza Dough

By adding too much salt to your dough, it will slow down the fermentation process. In most cases, it can kill the yeast and stop the proofing from happening.

The overly salty dough will ultimately cause the yeast to be less active and make your dough weaker or not rise at all.

You need to have enough salt added to your dough recipe to give it flavor, but the salt content should not be more than 5% of your flour.

This ratio is calculated based on a percent of the flour weight. The ideal percentage of salt ranges between 2.5% to 5% depending on the type of pizza you are making.

Here’s What You Can Do if the Problem is the Salt

Salt can slow down or even kill your yeast production and fermentation.  If you added too much salt, you may want to start a new batch or use this dough for making flatbread instead.

It will be suitable for other applications that don’t need rising involvement. Ultimately, you’ll end up making new pizza dough aside from this.

For more information on salt content, check our article The Role of Salt in Pizza Dough.

Check Your Oil Content

Adding oil to mixed pizza dough

Adding Oil to Pizza Dough

Adding oil to pizza dough helps improve the dough’s texture and adds flavor to the finished crust.

Oil will help increase the dough’s volume during fermentation. However, too much oil may add too much weight to the dough making rise slower.

Here’s What You Can Do if the Problem is the Oil

We can all agree that there is a limit to how much oil can go into a pizza dough recipe. Some recipes call for an average of 2-3% based on the hydration of your flour.

When it comes to weighing out your ingredients for pizza dough, the oil percentage is then calculated at 2 to 3% but not exceed more than 5% of your total flour.  Always start at a low percentage and test your dough, remember that is always easier to add than to subtract.

When you notice that you used too much oil in your pizza dough, is when the situation gets a little problematic. However, you can quickly fix this problem by adding making some adjustments. 

For detailed calculations on how to fix the oil content check our article Here’s Everything You Need to Know About Oil in Pizza Dough.

Step 2 – Check Your Temperature

Temperature is one of the key variables that you need to pay close attention to. The temperature of the dough, the refrigerator, and the kitchen all make a huge difference in your end result.

The humidity in the air is of equal importance. The flour in your dough will absorb more or less water depending on the humidity of the air. As a result, you can have wetter or drier dough.

Checking temperature for baking

Checking Temperatures

Proofing time and temperature work closely together and varies based on different types of doughs, flour strength, dough formulation, the degree of fermentation, and treatment received by the dough during mixing, and kneading.

Check Your Water Temperature

Water temperature plays a vital part in fermentation but isn’t limited to helping yeast to become activated. No matter what kind of yeast you use, fresh yeast or dry yeast will react the same way if the temperature is optimal. Here’s what you’ll need to know to get effective results.

The best temperature for the water you are using should be 95-105F degrees. You want to get your yeast into the water as soon as possible, so this will help your yeast become active. Anything cooler will not activate your yeast at all, so always use water somewhere at this desired temperature.

Check Your Fermentation Temperature

The best temperature while your dough begins to ferment is going to be 80F degrees. This proofing process is usually in a part of your kitchen that is warmer and keeps your rising dough at a constant temperature while it begins to rise.

Check Your Dough Temperature

The temperature of the dough as it begins to proof, or rise, affects the rate of fermentation and, in turn, the flavor and texture of the finished crust.
The optimal dough temperature for most pizza doughs is 75 degrees F.

Here’s What You Can Do if the Problem is the Temperature

If your kitchen is cooler than usual, you need to increase the room temperature.

This can be done by turning on your oven and cracking the door a little bit. This will give your kitchen increased warmth and allow your dough to proof as it should.

Step 3 – Review Your Fermentation Process

Fermentation is also called proofing and can be completed either by using warm temperatures or through cold proofing.

If you’re cold proofing, these times take longer inside your fridge and are specific to a particular type of pizza dough. You’ll also find that when the dough is proofed twice, it will change the overall texture of your crust.

Bulk pizza dough fermentation

Bulk Pizza Dough Fermentation

After the dough is mixed with yeast, it’s allowed to rise before the shaping of the dough balls occurs. This process causes the dough to stretch and relax as the strength of the gluten develops.

The two most essential components of bulk fermentation are:

Time

More time requires less yeast, but you get more flavor while less time requires more yeast and you get less flavor.

Temperature

Higher temperatures increase fermentation while lower temperatures decrease fermentation.

Bulk Fermentation or Rising

The dough’s first rise, also known as bulk fermentation, first fermentation, or the first rise, is the dough’s first resting period after the yeast has been added. 

If you want your pizza to look and taste good, this is a crucial first step. It’s called bulk proofing or bulk fermentation because the entire batch of dough is fermented before it’s divided and shaped into doughballs that will be later shaped as pizzas.

The bulk fermentation is complete when the dough has doubled in size or when it’s substantially larger. 

The first fermentation should be 1 to 1 1/2 hours that have already converted the yeast and sugar into gas and makes your dough rise.

Ensure that your dough rises quickly, and makes sure that your dough is located in a warm area or about 80 degrees F. This proofs your dough in a short period if you’re in a hurry.

Second Fermentation or Dough Proofing

Proofing most commonly refers to the final rise a pizza dough undergoes, which takes place after the dough balls are shaped but before the pizza is shaped. 

During the proofing stage, the yeast produces gas, which imparts a level of aeration to the dough just before the baking stage.

There are pizza recipes that call for your dough to proof a second time to make your dough softer. This can take at least 30-45 minutes after the first proofing.

The risen dough is cut into balls and allowed to ferment further. After this, each dough ball is shaped into your pizza form.

Cold Fermentation or Dough Retarding

Pizza dough that’s proofed in your fridge is called cold fermentation slow rise and takes up to 24 hours.

By retarding the dough, your dough will have more complex flavors, and it allows you to make the dough ahead of time. You can ferment the dough, save it, and use it at a later date.

This slows the production of gas within the dough resulting in a crust that will become dense. This fermentation is best when you want to produce a thinner and lighter crust.

Here’s What You Can Do if the Problem is the Fermentation Process

As usual, you’ll need to increase the temperature in your kitchen to stimulate your dough fermentation. But even with cooler rooms, you’ll have to allow your slow rise dough more time to rest as it proofs.

Rooms that are room temperature around 74-76F degrees will take longer for your dough to rise.

To make sure you have a good fermentation, check the temperature of the ambient or the place where the dough will proof and cover the dough with plastic wrap so it’s protected from humidity or smells from the refrigerator.

Step 4 – Review Your Kneading Process

Mixing pizza dough seems easy enough, but the process of kneading is going to make every bit of difference for the best formation of gluten in your dough.

You knead the pizza dough after the dough is initially mixed and only for a few minutes. Overkneading will turn the dough tough.

Not Enough Kneading

Kneading pizza dough will help build up the right amount of gluten. If you don’t knead your dough, it won’t have the strength to spring back or hold its shape after it’s cooked.

This under-kneading step will result in a limp dough and lacks any internal resistance when cooked.

No Gluten Development

Properly mixed pizza dough is the whole reason that gluten will form as it begins to proof. With no gluten development, you likely did not mix your dough, and it will appear uneven in the overall dough color. An adequately mixed dough will have a satin-like color and natural sheen.

Here’s What You Can Do if the Problem is the Kneading Process

A poorly kneaded dough won’t have better-tasting qualities after it gets cooked. To fix this, knead your dough for an additional 5 minutes and then check for gluten development.

Ensuring that you have adequately kneaded dough helps form good gluten, which is essential for creating chewiness or levels of crunchy crust.

Perform the Following Tests:

Just like any unsuspecting chef will check their cooked pasta by throwing it on the wall, these tricks don’t always work.

You can test pizza dough using proven methods that will immediately tell you – you’ve done your job correctly. Follow these dough testing tips to get the best results.

Pizza dough testing and tearing

Dough Tear Test

This is a clear indication that your dough hasn’t developed enough gluten. To fix this, knead your dough for another couple of minutes and allow it to sit for 10-15 minutes. Whether it’s proofed a second time, it will form enough gluten so that it doesn’t tear when you start to stretch it out.

windowpane test for pizza dough

Windowpane test

There is an easy way to see if you’ve kneaded your pizza dough properly. It involves taking a small piece of dough and stretching it like a little window. If the dough is kneaded thoroughly, it will stretch easily, forming a thin inner membrane that’s almost see-through.

pizza dough ready for shaping image

Spring test

Slightly dent the dough with your finger if it retains the indentation the dough is ready!

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The Last Slice

We hope this guide gives you more information on how to identify and fix your pizza dough and the top reason why your pizza dough is not rising correctly.

While many reasons have been answered, many common mistakes are easily remedied. Now you can make better pizza dough with confidence no matter what mistake you might have made.

Enjoy

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