Everybody loves pizza and a lot of people even try to make it at home, but this can often end in failure on many first attempts If you haven’t been successful in your pizza-making attempts, you need to know what went wrong and why.
Due to a lack of experience, it’s easy to make plenty of mistakes when making pizza dough, so it’s important to figure out where you went wrong and fix it next time.
If your pizza dough hasn’t risen, it’s either because the yeast you used was dead or you simply didn’t give it enough time to rise. Your yeast might be dead if it’s old and inactive or it can be killed by water above 120°F. Some dough needs to be given more time to rise, especially if it’s in a cold environment.
Whether your pizza dough has risen or not, it’s not the end of the world. Fortunately, pizza dough can still be baked even if the dough didn’t rise. The pizza crust will just be denser and slightly tougher than what you would normally get.
With that said, if your pizza dough didn’t turn out well, you’ll most likely want to do better next time, so here are the reasons that could explain why your pizza dough didn’t rise.
Reasons Why Your Pizza Dough Didn’t Rise
The most important thing you can do to fix your problem is to figure out what caused it in the first place. Once you’re able to identify what went wrong, you can learn from your mistake and aim to avoid making the mistake again in the future.
Here are the common mistakes that may be preventing your dough from rising.
If your yeast has been sitting in your cupboard for months on end or it’s not been stored properly, it may be dead and your dough won’t do anything but remain as a solid lump of glutenous dough.
Since yeast is the only form of leavener in the dough, it’s arguably the most important component of the pizza. Without it, nothing will happen to the dough.
A good way to test if your yeast is still alive is to pour it into some warm water with a large pinch of sugar and wait 5-10 minutes. By 10 minutes, the yeast should have activated and covered the surface of the water with bubbles. This is a good sign that the yeast is still well and strong.
If there’s no reaction after 15 minutes, there’s a high chance that the yeast is completely dead and you need to replace it.
I recommend testing the yeast every time before you use it. This just prevents any uneccesary doubt and you know that the dough will be able to rise properly.
The Water You Used Was Too Hot
For the yeast to get to work relatively quickly, you want to make sure that the water is warm, but not hot. To an inexperienced baker, the term ‘warm’ may be hot in some else’s eyes, which is going to cause problems unless we clear up the confusion.
Using hot water is likely to damage or kill the yeast cells, which is exactly what you don’t want if you’re aiming for good pizza.
Active dry yeast begins to become damaged and die at around 120°F (48°C) and instant yeast at 130°F (54°C). You want to get the temperature considerably lower than this at around 98°F (37°C) for better results.
As a rule of thumb, the water should feel warm to the touch and comfortable to hold your fingers in. You’re aiming for around body temperature, so it shouldn’t feel hot.
Not Enough Gluten Development
Gluten is what allows the dough to be elastic and extensible. In Layman’s terms, it allows the pizza dough to stretch without tearing.
In order for the dough to be able to trap the gas being produces by the yeast, there needs to be enough gluten development.
A dough that lacks gluten development will tear or burst as the gas builds up, which means that the dough may rise to a point, but quickly collapse again.
For the best results, the dough should be kneaded until full gluten development is achieved. The length of time it takes the gluten to fully develop varies, so it can be a bit tricky to know when you’re done.
Here’s a quick video that shows you the tests you can do to see if the gluten is developed in your dough:
You Didn’t Use The Yeast Properly
This one only applies if you used active dry yeast. If you’re using instant yeast or fresh yeast, feel free to move onto the next mistake.
If you’re confusing active dry yeast with instant yeast, you’re definitely making a mistake. Most instant yeast recipes just call for the yeast to be added to the dry ingredients because it’ll dissolve when the water is incorporated. However, this won’t work with active dry yeast as it needs to be dissolved separately.
Active dry yeast is made up of larger granules of yeast, which need to be hydrated before being added to the dry ingredients. This is generally just done by mixing it in with the water you’re using before adding it to the flour.
When the yeast in your dough completely runs out of food to eat, it’s overfermented and won’t be able to rise anymore. In some dough, like sourdough, the gluten structure will breakdown when it overferments, meaning that it will just become a gloopy mess.
When it overferments, the dough may collapse (overproof) and lose all of its gas.
Overfermentation will generally happen on the second rise as this is when the yeast have already consumed most of their food. When this happens, the pizza dough can be shaped and baked, but it may be denser than normal since it won’t be able to rise during baking.
Make sure that you check your dough regularly so you can know when it’s ready to be degassed and shaped again. If you’re not checking on it every 15-30 minutes (timing varies depending on the temperature of your room), you may run the risk of it overfermenting, which will be very disappointing.
You’ll know that it’s fully proofed when it’s doubled in size and it doesn’t spring back right away when pressed with your fingers.
Here’s a quick video showing you how you can check:
It Was Too Cold
It may be that your dough is actually completely fine and will rise given enough time, but the room it’s in is cold, so the activity of the yeast is slowed.
You see, warmer environments speed up the activity of the yeast whilst cooler environments slow it down.
Whilst a cooler environment is better for developing flavor in the bread since it provides a long fermentation, a warm environment is often favored since it produces bread and pizza quickly.
If you’re not wanting to be patient, you can find a warmer environment like your oven with just the light on or a warm room.
You Let It Rise In The Wrong Container
Okay, so there’s not necessarily a wrong container, but it’s difficult to see how much your dough has risen in some containers.
Containers that are very wide can cause your dough to spread out very thin rather than rise upwards, so you might not be able to see if the dough has doubled in size or not.
In my opinion, the two best containers you can use are bowls or tall dough buckets for larger quantities of dough.
You Added Too Much Salt
Salt is a necessary part of dough as it limits how quickly the yeast can work and also brings out the flavor of the pizza. Without any salt, the dough would rise too quickly and aggressively. It’d also taste very bland.
The problem with salt is that too much of it can also cause the dough to stop rising almost completely. Too much salt can overwhelm the yeast and start to break down the yeast cells, causing it to become ineffective.
You’re aiming for a salt content around 2-3% of the flour’s weight. This provides enough salt to control the rise of the dough whilst also making it flavorsome.
You Added Too Much Sugar
Sugar acts in a similar way to salt as it draws moisture away from the yeast. Adding too much of it will deprive the yeast of water, meaning that it won’t be able to rise.
Dough that contains a lot of sugar often uses a special kind of yeast that can stand up to high sugar environments.
Sugar isn’t necessary for most dough, especially pizza dough. Although many people do like to add it for its ability to increase browning, it’s not a traditional ingredient.
Whether you add it or not is completely up to you. The benefit of it is that it can help the crust caramelize more in a home oven, but too much could also cause the dough to burn. You won’t need sugar if you’re using a very high heat pizza oven.
If you are adding sugar to your dough, try to keep it to a minimum as you don’t need much at all. There is already naturally occurring sugar in the flour, so not much extra is needed. Less than a tablespoon of sugar should be sufficient for the average dough recipe.
The Surface Of The Dough Dried Out
If the pizza dough isn’t covered well enough, the surface of it is likely to dry out.
You want to avoid the surface drying out as this can limit the amount of rising your dough can get and ruin the extensibility and texture of the pizza.
Dough that isn’t tightly covered will dry out, especially if it’s left in a drying environment like the fridge.
The best thing you can do to prevent it from drying out is to tightly wrap it with cling film or use a container with an airtight lid.
If you are wondering “if my dough didn’t rise can I still use it” read more on what to do with it.