Making your own homemade pizza dough can be a lot of fun and give you great control over your toppings and ingredients, but when your pizza dough is not stretchy, it can go from fun to frustrating.
What should you do if your pizza dough is not stretchy? There are four reasons why your pizza dough may not be stretchy enough: the wrong flour, poor gluten development, and the dough is too dry or too cold. You can fix this by letting your dough rest or warm up, or by using olive oil instead of flour when you roll it out.
There is nothing more frustrating then going to roll out your homemade pizza dough and finding your dough to be to dry, hard, or impossible to stretch.
Don’t worry, there are a few ways to fix it. Read on to learn what might have gone wrong and what you can do to fix it.
What Makes Pizza Dough Stretchy?
The biggest factor involved in making pizza dough stretchy is gluten. Gluten is a wheat protein that serves as the binding agent for dough, keeping all the ingredients together.
Too little gluten means your dough could fall apart, while too much gluten means your dough will be too tight.
Gluten, which occurs naturally in wheat flour, becomes developed when it is hydrated with water and kneaded.
Kneading your dough causes the gluten to develop into gluten strands, which are responsible for keeping your dough together. This is called gluten development.
The more you knead your dough, the stronger these gluten strands become, which means you are continuing to develop the gluten.
To get your pizza dough to the ideal elasticity, you need to control the level of gluten development. You can under or overdevelop your gluten strands.
Underdeveloped gluten strands can cause your dough to have issues staying together. Your dough may rip or tear when you are trying to shape your pizza.
Underdevelopment can also lead to issues during the proofing stage. To fix this, just knead your dough more.
Overdeveloped dough will result in different issues, namely a strong dough that is difficult to stretch and non-elastic.
In this situation, the gluten strands have become too tight and are stopping the dough from becoming elastic. The best way to fix this is to let the dough relax.
Why Is My Pizza Dough Not Stretchy?
There are four reasons that your dough may not be stretchy enough.
The most common issue is typically related to gluten development, but the type of flour, hydration, and temperature of your dough can also impact how stretchy your dough is.
1. Overdeveloped Gluten Strands
As we mentioned earlier, if your dough is not stretchy enough, it is most likely due to the elasticity of your gluten strands.
A tight and firm dough implies your gluten strands have been overdeveloped. After gluten has been developed, it needs time to rest. This resting period allows the strands to become soft and elastic.
A shortened resting period is typically the most common reason that your pizza dough will not be elastic enough to shape into a pizza. Pizza dough needs to rest for at least 30 mins after kneading.
It is important to note that it can be difficult to overdevelop your dough when hand-kneading, but overdeveloping can happen easily when using a mixer. Instead, you may want to use your hands or a danish dough whisk.
If your dough is too tight and you kneaded by hand, then the issue is probably something else.
If you are using a mixer to knead your dough, we recommend that you only run the mixer for 5-10 minute increments, allowing the dough to rest for about 10 minutes between runs.
A great way to determine if your dough has the ideal level of gluten development is commonly referred to as the poke test. Just poke your ball of dough with your index finger. Your dough should immediately spring back to its original shape.
If your pizza dough bounces back to normal, you are good to form your pizza crust. If a fingerprint remains in the dough, or you are unable to push on the dough, then your gluten strands are not at the ideal elasticity.
While overdevelopment usually results from over kneading, there are other factors that could cause your doughs gluten strands to be too tight.
These other reasons may relate to the type of flour you are using, the level of hydration of your dough, or the temperature of the dough.
2. Type of Flour
The first other factor that could lead to overdeveloped gluten strands is the flour you are using. Different types of flour have different amounts of gluten.
There is a specific flour for pizza that so happens to be named pizza flour. It has the ideal percentage of gluten, which is 10-12%.
There are many different types of pizza flour out there, so you should not have any issues finding it.
Some of the best types of pizza flour to look for are 00 pizza flours. The number refers to the size of the grains. The more zeros, the finer the texture of the flour.
If you are having issues finding it, and do not have time to order it online, you can use bread flour. Bread flour has more gluten than pizza flour.
It is also common to use all-purpose flour, which also has a heavy amount of gluten but often less than bread flour.
3. Moisture Content
Another possible reason your pizza dough is not stretchy is that the hydration level is too low. The hydration level of your pizza dough simply refers to how much moisture is in the dough and is determined by the ratio of flour to water.
The more water in your dough, the more hydrated it will be. Higher hydration leads to a softer and more stretchy dough.
A poorly hydrated pizza dough will be dry and break apart easily. It will also tear and crack when you try to stretch it out.
There is an ideal balance with hydration just like there is with gluten development, which can be over or underdeveloped.
It is possible that your dough can be overhydrated or underhydrated. Both of which will cause different problems.
You will notice the dough starting to stick to your hands and your work surface when the hydration is too high. To fix sticky dough, we have another article waiting for you.
We’ll provide a fix for dehydrated dough in the next section. It is not advised to add water to your dough so late in the process. A little extra flour can be incorporated, but the water may not be so easily incorporated into the dough.
4. Dough Temperature
The last variable that could be ruining the stretchiness of your dough is the temperature.
While storing your dough in the fridge is always a good idea, it will always be difficult to work with when cold. This issue can be easily solved by leaving the dough out for 2-3 hours, which will allow it to come to room temperature.
When gluten strands are cold, they tend to be tighter and firmer. Kind of like how our muscles work. If you go out on a run with cold and tight muscles, you could tear a muscle.
If you try to stretch out cold and tight pizza dough, it could also tear. Warm gluten strand will be loose and elastic.
How to Make Pizza Dough Stretchy
There are a few ways to salvage your pizza dough if you find it is either too dry or not stretchy enough.
The first and easiest fix is to let the pizza dough sit out. This could take anywhere from 2-4 hours depending on how cold the dough was and the ambient temperature of the room.
We would recommend placing your dough in and oiled mixing bowl and covering it with a towel or piece of plastic.
Leaving it uncovered could cause some moisture to escape and allow bacteria to get in, causing new problems for you. Solving the hydration issue requires a different fix, so be mindful.
After letting your dough come to room temperature, if you notice it is still a little dry, then you’ll want to add some hydration to your dough.
As we mentioned, you should not add more water at this point, but you can use fat. The best fat to use is olive oil.
The way this would work is to drizzle a little olive oil on your board or work surface (instead of flour). We would also recommend using some olive oil on your hands.
The added fat will help increase the hydration and also stop the dough from sticking.
Adding more flour at this point will make the problem worse, while the fat from the olive oil will help rehydrate your dough. The oil will also help give your pizza a nice golden color after baking it.
If you’re still having trouble stretching your pizza dough, here’s a helpful video from YouTube.