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Why is my pizza dough tough?

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  • vvv03 Nov 9, 2013 06:33 PM
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Today I made pizza using Marcella Hazan's recipe. The basic premise is dissolve yeast in small amount lukewarm water, add small amount of flour, add small amount of Olive Oil and salt and then keep mixing amounts of flour and lukewarm water until it's still slightly sticky, but a formed ball. Then you knead it on a floured surface for about ten minutes. It all went quite swimmingly and the dough itself seemed lovely. I put it in an oiled bowl, covered it in plastic wrap and let it rise room temperature. Again, all great. Spread the dough in the pan, still going swimmingly. Put it in a preheated oven 450 degrees, can't wait till it gets out. The pizza wasn't bad, actually pretty tasty. But the dough was hard, kind of chewy. The bottom crust was also on the crunchier side, but I guess that beats the alternative of soggy. But the crust itself was the sort of thing no one ever eats, not even crust lovers. Where do you think I went wrong? I felt like I did some really good kneading. i used regular flour, could that be it..?

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  1. Hm-mm...

    Dough too dry?

    Dead yeast?

    Overkneaded?

    Baked too long at too low of a temperature?

    Hard to say...

    1. I had similar results with Bobby Flay's pizza dough tonight. It was not crispy with that chew one would expect with NY style dough. I think I went wrong with mixing bread and AP flours; AP was for crispness & bread flour for chew - his recipe used AP but bread could be subbed. I kneaded a few minutes, covered in plastic wrap and allowed it to rise a couple hours. It was pretty dough but it didn't brown or rise right. I cooked mine in a preheated oven on the highest setting which is 550F. I'm a crust lover but this didn't do it for me and I wont use the recipe again, although the flavor was there.

      I don't think it was your flour; what temp did you have the water at? Did your yeast bloom or did you add the flour before?

      1. Sounds like dry dough and/or overcooked.

        1. One key is fermenting, which is best if it sits in a refrigerator overnight.

          There is more gluten in the bread flour, so we tend to use that flour more. The A&P flour alone can come out a bit hard.

          Try adding a little baking powder to your dough mix, and a little sugar

          Ours tends to take 2-3 hours in the mixing, with it rising 30 minutes in between. Also knead the dough if you can three times. This is currently in fashion with a few chefs in Italy, as is adding milk ( liquid or powdered ).

          There is a very fine line between thin crust and normal crust depending upon the topping moisture content. If you might be using a thick, wet topping, add more flour. The dough ball should be spongy, and not stick.

          1 Reply
          1. re: SWISSAIRE

            I buy high gluten flour and use it for about 1/6th of the amount of all purpose flour. No kneading. Just form into balls and cover and refrigerate overnight. Then bring to room temp before using.

          2. Getting a good chewy-but-airy texture in finished pizza is a tricky subject. Your dough could be fine but end up bready, tough or dry because of how you cook it; your cooking could be fine but destined for failure because of a badly made dough; or you have problems on both ends.

            As for the dough itself, here are the likeliest problems:

            - You pressed the air out of the dough when forming the pizza by either handling it too roughly or by rolling it out with a pin (if you used a pin). Forming a pizza should be done gently, by hand, being careful not to mash down the dough as you're doing it.

            - You didn't have enough moisture (water) in the dough for it to hold up to the longer, cooler, slower cooking in a home oven. Slower cooking tends to dry out pizza crust, and cooler oven temperatures slow down the expansion of gasses trapped in the crust that make it rise. Dryer doughs - even those used by many of your local pizza parlors - exacerbate this problem in a home oven, because they're not elastic enough to keep rising in the slower, cooler cooking of a home oven. How much moisture do you need? That's a tough question to answer if you don't yet have a feel for what works best - even recipes that weigh out ingredients often have to be adjusted slightly for feel as you're making pizza dough, since factors like humidity can throw off a moisture %. Next time, try to get the dough just the slightest bit more moist than the last time. Adjust with trial and error.

            - Dead yeast. Not super likely, but a possibility.

            Likely contributing as much or more were factors in your oven itself:

            - If your oven goes above 450, I'd recommend doing so. Professional pizza ovens generally operate above 600; Neapolitan pizza can be cooked as high as 900 or so. The more heat you deliver to your pizza, the quicker it will rise, translating to a lighter, more airy crust with a coarse crumb (bigger air pockets). And also the quicker you'll cook the pizza, giving the dough less opportunity to dry out. There are various tricks to get a hotter cooking environment, such as cooking under a broiler, cooking in a charcoal grill, or even modifying the self-cleaning cycle of your oven.

            - The stone is a very important part of this equation. You want a heavy (thick) and very hot stone under the pizza to deliver a lot of heat directly to the crust. There are a number of tricks that can help you here, such as preheating the stone in stages and under a broiler, or using a thick metal slab rather than a stone one (more conductive).

            - It is of course possible that you overcooked the pizza. This will dry out any crust. But on the other hand, if you were using a stone and oven hot enough for ideal pizza-esque texture, then your pizza likely would have burnt in places if overcooked.

            There are a few things, by the way, that I DOUBT were your problem. Too little gluten formation can be a problem, but I doubt it was yours. Bread flour, 00 flour, or even all purpose flour can easily form enough gluten to make a good pizza. Make sure your dough passes the windowpane test, but otherwise your problem was likely elsewhere.

            Also, your problem was probably not that you didn't ferment (age) your dough. Fermented dough has a pleasant sourness. It might even be a little more resistant to burning at high cooking temperatures. But IME it has minimal effect on the texture of a crust. It may be more important in some recipes that use very little yeast and call for a long warm fermentation, but that doesn't sound like it applies to you.

            1 Reply
            1. re: cowboyardee

              This is incredibly helpful. Thanks for all your responses!

            2. No need to make your dough in this fashion. Just mix it all together and knead. I knead my thin crust in the bread machine (mix/knead for 10 minutes total).

              Your yeast might not have been activated properly; your dough might not have risen enough (I let mine rise for 4 hours, and if it's cold inside, I put the bowl in the oven and heat it to 200 degrees for one minute every hour or until the bowl retains enough residual heat (the yeast need warmth). I also add cream of tartar to my dough (the yeast like the acidic environment); you could have overcooked it; your flour might have been old; you might have used too much or too little water.

              I always use AP flour and par-bake my crust before adding toppings. Once in a while my crust is tough and the reason is always excess water from the sauce (if I've frozen the sauce, I always forget to drain it first). Excess water cam come from vegetables, too. If you pre-heat your oven to a high temperature, this can help to boil off excess liquid. I also cook mine on parchment paper.

              1 Reply
              1. re: stevel6

                Yeast does not need to be activated and does not need warmth to rise.