I Can't Get Pizza Dough To Rise!
Let me give you a rock solid guarantee from years and years of experience: Commercial yeast does NOT have to be proofed at all. It does not need warm water. It does not need sugar to come alive. It does not need to be tested to see if it's alive (unless it's more than 2+ years old). You can just pour it dry into your ingredients and mix at room temp. Commercial yeast has very little flavor as it is. Warmth and sugar will speed it up, which is great if you are in a hurry and want to eat cardboard pizza. But if you want it to taste right, you want a long, long slow rise. Instead of 2 hours to double in bulk, shoot for 24 hours and a 50% rise. To do that you should use maybe 1/8 teaspoon of yeast for a batch of about 3 pies, not the 2 teaspoons that come in a package. Or better yet, skip the package and learn to use a 'natural' starter such as those from sourdo.com or other suppliers.
Here's my full recipe for pizza:
Hello Jeff and welcome to the forum. Your pizza making page was brought to my attention in another Chowhound post. I have some feedback regarding some of the points you bring up on your page. At some point I was going to email you what I posted, but since you are here, let me direct you to a link:
I agree with just about everything you say, it's just a few points where you and I part ways.
My decade long obsession has been Vulcan oven (550ish deg.) pizzzas, btw, which is a different animal than the brick/wood/Neopolitan variety. Still, I think we overlap in enough ways to be able to converse/give feedback.
Great page, btw.
Scott123, I read your reponse over in the other thread. The pizza in the link below was made with a battery poolish pretty much as Jeff suggests on his page. The dough sat in the fridge for six days, then I baked it. As you can see, it did brown. The variable here is that this pizza was done in my regular oven at 500F, the highest I can get it to go.
While the browning is inhibited by the acidic dough, it does brown. I think Jeff's outcome is based more upon the temp of his modified oven and the 2.5 minute bake time than anything else.
I am working on contructing a quarry tile chamber that I will use inside my gas grill. With it, I hope to get closer to the 825F mark. When I get it built, I'll repeat the experiment.
BTW, the poolish I used is a San Francisco starter culture that I bought on ebay. And I am not trying to replicate any particular style, other than I want a thin crust pizza that does not flop over.
If you haven't been able to get the dough to rise, I have to respectfully disagree with the poster axes, and would suggest you proof your yeast.
Simple to do, and works with any pizza dough recipe. Warm 1 C. of water to around 105 degrees (centigrade) (use a thermometer), add yeast packet or 1 T. yeast, and stir in 1 tsp. sugar or honey. Let rest until it gets foamy/bubbly. If it doesn't then your yeast is not good. If it does, proceed with recipe.
You aren't waiting long enough or your dough is not properly hydrated. Commercial yeast is just about bullet proof nowadays. Get rapid rise if you want quicker results, but they all work.
There really is no need to "proof" yeast for pizza dough, and doing so adds sugar to your recipe; pizza dough requires no sugar. Not a drop of it.
If you want great pizza dough, read Jeff Varasano's study, mirrored here:
Jeff is a New Yorker, transplanted to Atlanta, who went Don Quixote on pizza. He is on to something.
I urge you to read this entire page if you are really interested in making great pizza dough. I am not claiming that Jeff is right in every assertion, but I will attest just from the pics that he is, like I said, on to something.
Just this very evening, I made homemade pizza using just a few of his tips, and it turned out spectacularly.
I used some sourdough starter that I bought off ebay about a year ago and brought to life last week, (a San Francisco variety) about a cup and a half with the hooch (alcoholic byproduct of fermentation that floats to the top of sourdough starters) poured off first). To that, I added one cup of flour and one pack of expired Red Star yeast. I added enough water to make a mixture a little firmer than pancake dough and let it sit one hour.
Sourdough bakers call this a "sponge".
I then added salt, warm water, and more flour until I got a very soft dough, but still denser than Jeff's. I kneaded it for about 15 minutes in my mixer. I also added a tablespoon of olive oil to the dough, something Jeff eschews, but what can I say, I like a little olive oil in my dough.
Sat it out for a couple of hours while I ran errands, then came back and made glorious pizzas with it. I have a lot of it left, and when it sits in the fridge for a few days the dough will be a lot better.
Knead the dough. Kneading makes the dough loose and elastic so long as you used enough water in the first place. A poolish of starter will kick the flavor and the surface of the crust into high gear, and a package of yeast will fill it with bubbles for you without worries. You do not need to proof it, you do not need to add sugar, just make it loose, like the pics on the page, knead the hell out of it, and let it rise in a warm place. But I am telling you, a sourdough starter added to it makes the crust unbelievably good.
Yes, a sourdough crust is very good. I think a long rise time makes the crust more flavorful. I just knock yourself in the head V-8 moment. You can let it rise for hours, but you are still deflating the dough to shape it into pizza, right? Now you have unrisen dough again. So, being that I also like to make sourdough breads, I tried something different. Just like when making a loaf a bread, let the dough rise, then punch down and shape. this is pizza so my punchdown step is actually forming a flat pizza crust, let it rise again in its desired shape for a few hours, and you now have a delicious chewy thick crust pizza.
I always proof the yeast, as maineater suggests, for 10 minutes. If it doesn't foam I start over again. I'm actually fairly surprised every time how warm I have to get the water. If it seems a little too warm out of the tap, I still let it get a little bit warmer and that does the trick (I know that sounds odd, but I don't know how to better explain it).
I let the dough rise in the unheated oven. I have pilot-light free ignition, so the oven is not much warmer than the room itself, but I always feel like the breezes in the house cool things down. I've heard people have success putting the dough (in a bowl covered w/ a kitchen towel) on the back of the stove (uh, careful if you have pilot lights that it's not too warm and that the dish towel is not a fire hazard) and on top of the fridge (the motor can make that a warmish spot.
Finally, it takes a good hour for the dough to rise. Sometimes I wonder: did it *really* double? I took a picture of before rise/ after rise recently and, yep, after an hour it had, indeed, doubled.
The water should be about 110 degrees, much hotter water will kill the yeast, much colder and it won't activate the yeast. The room temperature could also be a problem; again, if it's too cold that could inhibit the yeast. You don't need a HOT room, but it should not be too chilly. I also wonder if your yeast is old. You can test to see if it's fresh by putting a teaspoon of yeast in a cup of warm (110 degree) water to which you have added a little sugar. Stir until the yeast has dissolved. If the mixture foams up in a few minutes, the yeast is fine. If not, you probably need new yeast. The last thing you might consider is how much kneading you do. If the dough has not been kneaded to develop the gluten a bit, it may not rise as much as if it is kneaded well. The dough should be smooth and shiny and feel almost "alive" when you touch it. Good luck!