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Mar 25, 2007 05:47 PM

Help me improve my pizza dough

I tried making pizza for the first time. It was pretty good but there are a few things I'd want to improve. I basically followed a "Joy of Cooking" book recipe where you proof the yeast, then combine 3 cups flour, olive oil, salt and knead until it's translucent when stretched out, then let it rise for an hour or so, cut it, rest 15 min, shape and bake.

I baked at 500 deg for about 14 min (I didn't want it to burn and didn't want the raw taste). The crust was too dense and I would have liked to see more air bubbles. Also there was a slight raw taste to the dough although it came apart and looked done on the inside. Where did I go wrong?

Note, I kneeded by hand for about 20-25 minutes. I don't have a mixer.


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  1. I usually let mine rise three times. The first rise for 45 minutes in the bowl. Then punch down, cut and rise for ten minutes. Shape by hand (stretching with my two fists in mid-air) and let rise again for ten minutes. Then I top and bake.

    Did you bake with or without toppings?
    Did you cook it on a pizza stone or baking sheet? I find that sometimes with the baking sheet, the dough doesn't get that crispy, "done" feel, and feels more "raw".
    Also, how long did you preheat your oven? I would recommend preheating for an hour to get the oven's temperature hot and stable.

    1. You may have kneaded too long.

      Did it rise enough the first time before you punched it down?

      Did it roll or stretch out easily for putting in the pan (without immediately retracting)?

      What was your kneading technique? Firmly pushing away and downwards from you, folding, turning a 1/4 turn each time? Good feel for the dough?

      7 Replies
      1. re: Sam Fujisaka

        Thought of something else. Sometimes dough will lose it's rising ability if it's risen too long also. But, at only one hour, I doubt this is the case.

        And another thing...rolling the dough out will always push air out of your crust, causing it to be flatter. If you want a puffier crust, you need to stretch the dough out with your hands.

        1. re: Sam Fujisaka

          I also watched Alton Brown's program on making pizza and he said something along the lines of kneading in a mixer for 15 minutes or 2x as long by hand. So I sort of did it for 20 minutes and checked and it stretched out without breaking...

          I would say it doubled in size. I cut it and let it rest for 15 minutes and it expanded a bit more although very little. It didn't stretch out that easily though and it retracted, but I pulled it out and it shaped fine at the end. Fairly thin without breaking.

          I kneaded by pushing down and away a few times, then turning folding and repeating.

          I used a stone to bake and preheated the oven about 30 minutes. The bottom of the pizza wasn't as brown as I would have liked but it was dry and starting to crisp up. Maybe more time pre-heating next time.

          QueenB, I did pretty much the same thing you describe in terms of rising.

          P.S. I used active dry yeast in packets. Couldn't find any other type in the grocery store (like instant yeast).

          1. re: budric

            Did the dough feel alive whan you kneaded it?

            1. re: Sam Fujisaka

              I have no idea what that means. It's the first time I've worked with dough.

              1. re: budric

                Sorry, a bit hard to describe: the dough will have a slightly springy quality, be well and smoothly integrated, will give like living tissue if you cut or tear it, and will be responsive to what you're doing. In the end, your hands are clean, the dough is uniform and neat--smooth to the touch, solid and consistent inside and, you can feel the yeast waiting to get (or get back) to work. When you shape it, it is pliable and willing to assume the shape you want.

                I read this and it sounds really goofy.

                1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                  But it's true, Sam. Not goofy at all.

                  When you knead dough, you can actually feel it at some point change consistency. That's how I know I'm kneading correctly. The dough becomes smooth and supple and stops sticking. It goes from a lump of flour and water to something definitely almost "alive".

                  1. re: QueenB

                    Yeah that's pretty much how the dough felt when I was done.

        2. I'm not familiar with the recipe but I've never kneaded that long with any recipe and I don't use a mixer. Also, maybe the dough wasn't thin enough? At 500 degrees, 14 minutes would be too long and probably burn a thinner crust. I had been using a recipe that, like QueenB's, had it rise three times. I recently tried Bon Appetit's latest one from Giada and liked it better. It only had one rising and was much easier. It calls for a mixer but I mixed the ingredients by hand and then kneaded 5-7 minutes until the dough is smooth and elastic. I also didn't roll the dough, just stretched.

          1 Reply
          1. re: chowser

            Looks very similar, same amount of yeast and a lot less flour and water. I added the sugar when proofing the yeast hence didn't mention.

            I didn't roll it out but used my hands to shape.

            I baked for about 14 minutes and it didn't burn for me. It was golden brown - a lot - but not burned. It's 500 degrees but not under a broiler, so I don't know...

          2. Sounds like a straightforward and typical yeast dough recipe. The problem I have with recipes like these are similar to your comments: dense, raw tasting. I find that the answer to this is a longer fermentation, and for this you'll need a sponge, (you'll see other names like biga). Basically you take a small amount of yeast, flour, and water and let it ferment for up to 24 hours, add the rest of your flour, yeast and water, mix, let ferment again for a few hours, cut, shape, proof, etc...

            The breads and pizzas I've made with sponge doughs are generally lighter, crispier, and have a much better flavor. I'm no baker so I can't explain in perfect detail why, but it makes sense for yeast to develop better flavor over time.

            Sorry I don't have any recipes on hand, but I know there's a few floating around on the web that use a sponge.

            5 Replies
            1. re: fooddude37

              Interesting...I've seen on more than one occasion people mention that you let the dough rise in the fridge for a day or two which develops better flavor - but that's only for the flavor, not for texture as far as they explain it.

              That's according to Alton Brown, and this other article by (I can't find ingredients used in both recipes and that's too hardcore for me)

              1. re: fooddude37

                I recently typed and sent my personal recipe to a very good friend so I had this recipe already for the next person. I hope you it enjoy it.
                For one large pizza
                1 packet of yeast - they are all good, I 've used them all but probably use Fleischmann's most of the time rapid rise is ok
                warm water - 7/8 cup no hotter than 110 degrees maybe 115 - tap water is fine
                1 T of granulated sugar
                1 & 1/2 T oil - olive or canola ( I use the light version of olive oil and not extra virgin.)
                2 2/3 cups of flour - King Aurthers is my flour of choice
                1 tsp of sea or kosher salt
                jar of marinara sauce or make your own
                If you are going to have dinner at 4:30 pm
                Then at 12pm begin to make the dough
                Soften the yeast in the water and add the teaspoon of sugar and set aside 5 minutes
                Flour a wooden board or counter top - prep to roll the dough on

                Put the flour in a warm, but not hot bowl, just make sure it is not cold. If it is, it will affect the yeast and the rise. So I usually warm it with warm water and then dry it out really well so it takes any chill off of the bowl

                At 12:15 pm
                Put the flour into the bowl, add the salt and mix with a whisk to distribute the salt. Then make a little well in the center, and add the oil, and then the yeast mix - should be foamy that lets you know its alive/ so add this to the center of the well with oil and using a wooden spoon or spatula begin to bring the flour into the water a little at a time then mix it getting all the dry flour incorporated into the liquid. Then dump the dough ball onto the board or work surface. And knead the dough pulling it in to you and pushing it away folding the dough over on top of itself. Or you can put it into a KA and mix or a food processor and let it mix until it nice and smooth and elastic. about 5 minutes. If the dough is too wet, add more flour it should not be tacky or sticky at all, you can always add more water but you can't take it out, so add the flour a little at a time. The dough is ready when it feels like your ear lobe - go on feel it! that is the way the dough should feel and it is nice and soft and tender. Clean the bowl and get it ready to put the dough back into it.

                So around 1ish
                Now. your dough is ready for a nap - get the bowl out that you have for rising and put some oil in the bottom, canola or olive -put about a Tablespoon you can't put too much. then drop the ball of dough in, and turn it all around so the dough is nicely covered in the oil. Then place a clean tea towel over the bowl wrapping the ends under the bottom so no air can get into the bowl.
                I place the bowl inside the oven and leave it there anywhere from 1 & 1/2 to 2 hours. The dough should double.

                Prior to bringing out the dough after the first rise, prep your pizza pan -pour a little cornmeal or polenta on the pizza pan this will help the dough out of the pan after cooking - yes it falls through the holes you might want to put foil on the bottom while you do this so you don't end up with it on the floor - I just run fast to the stove!
                2 pm
                Okay the dough has been rising for almost 2 hours. Then pull it out and dump on the floured surface again. knead add a little flour if you need to, then pat it out into a large disk. With a floured rolling pin roll the dough out forming a circle look at the pan, you need to get it to cover the 16 inch or whatever size you have, and also to have a rolled edge (handle) for the slices of pizza.
                So roll it out stretching it to form your circle, if you have done everything correct, the dough is going to be springy and resist the stretch but it will relax just be patient. Keep the board floured so you don't stick and will be able to lift it off the work surface.
                Now you have the dough shaped well to cover the pan. I usually either fold it or just pick it up and then lay it on the pan stretching it and urging it to fit the pan. Pull the edges up and sort of roll to make the edges. I have a pizza stone, but I prefer the results from the perforated metal pizza pan ( see the picture) The stone has a tendancy in my gas oven to brown the dough too much for my tastes anwyay.
                you should have all the ingredients ready for your pizza - remember that 2 hour span you had for the rise. Get all the ingredients that need cooking or cleaning and sliced while that is going on.
                Heat the oven to 450 degrees
                Marinara Sauce. Use what you like, more or less, using a spoon and use the back of it to smear it around. Add as you like.
                Then I use Herbs de Provence at this point - cover the entire surface with dried basil and herbs de p and a less amount of oregano.
                Then I add a little red pepper flakes. Salt and pepper, 4 cheeses I use mozzarella, provolone, Monterey and fontina
                Probably about 3 to 4 cups total. the least amount of the cheeses is Monterey, its there for texture and a bit of its flavor.
                Pepperoni 2 packages if no other ingredients. Hard for me to say "1 cup of mushrooms" because obviously make the pizza to your tastes, and then you will get creative.
                One pack if there are onions, mushrooms and fresh garlic and olives, or very ultra thin slices of green bell pepper - then I take a pastry brush and brush the edges of the pizza dough with olive oil for a nice brown. Sometimes I salt the edges... AT this point you can cover the pizza and place it aside to cook or in the fridge to cook the next day even. This is like the take & bakes do; so why not us?

                This is a heavy pizza. it will cook at 450 for about 15-20 minutes depends on you oven. I place it in the center ( I have a gas stove) on the middle rack, and after about 10 minutes I peek to see that all is ok. It should be looking pretty darn good, careful when you remove it. Let it sit before you cut it with a good pizza wheel. you want the cheeses to sit up a bit or they'll run. Anyway when it is ready to cut and serve. I serve it with cold sliced tomatoes for the top, and ice cold beer along with a grated parmesan cheese, and red pepper flakes.

                1. re: fooddude37

                  I use the full amount of yeast and water when I make the sponge. add enough flour to make a thick paste( similar to may) and let this work for 6-8 hours, add the remaining flour oil and salt and knead until you can get a window-pain(approx 8-120 minutes).

                  Rising time= flavor in yeast doughs, so I would not let it rise for less than 6-8 hours if possible.

                  shape on a peel or baking pan and let rise for another 45 minutes, covered with a tea towel or cling film.

                  I like to blind bake my pizza crusts on a very hot (450F+) pizza stone for 5-10 minutes, top with desired ingredients and bake till the cheese and crust begins to show color.

                  K-A Sir Lancelot flour is the best for pizza, but their bread machine dough is a very acceptable substitute.

                  1. re: Kelli2006

                    You're the first person I've seen who double bakes their pizza too. I do that and it results in super crispy crust and perfectly cooked toppings. Not very by-the-book but who cares?

                    1. re: fooddude37

                      I do that if I'm grilling the pizza.

                2. It might just be an amount of liquid to flour issue; it takes some practice and experience to know when to stop adding flour, so that once the gluten has developed in kneading, and once it rests through rising, you end up with a dough that is firm enough to work with but not too dense. Really, though, there's no reason why complicated techniques should be needed for pizza dough, it's thin and forgiving and will be topped with tasty ingredients! There's coincidentally a very simple one by Giada DeLaurentiis, very similar to what I usually do, in this month's Bon App├ętit magazine (available at Maybe it has a little less flour per packet of yeast than what you used?

                  Also, once you've punched it down and shaped it, be sure to let it rise again for a little bit before topping and baking it. (I even "parbake" it a bit first, if the toppings have liquid, so it gets a change to start setting up) In fact, for pizza, sometimes I skip the first rise altogether, and just get it together, knead it, and shape it and let it rise in place a little. Really, pizza dough shouldn't be fussy!