Stop Pizza Dough Shrinking With These 5 Tips

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Trying to roll or stretch a pizza dough that keeps shrinking back is very frustrating. Getting that base thin is crucial to a great thin-crust pizza, so don’t give up yet.

A pizza dough that keeps shrinking is caused by an overly strong gluten network in the dough. This can be fixed in the following ways:

  • Proofing the dough for longer as gluten relaxes over time.
  • Bring dough to room temperature as gluten is tighter when cold.
  • Reduce the protein in your flour as this forms gluten.
  • Learn to stretch by hand for more control.
  • Weigh your ingredients so they are accurate.

If you’re struggling with making your dough or stretching it out, check out my pizza making video course which covers dough and the other ingredients and tools in depth.

Quick Fix For Now

If you’re halfway through opening your pizza base and need a fix right now then try this:

Get the dough as flat as you can, then cover it with an upturned mixing bowl to become airtight. Leave it for 10 minutes to allow it to rest. The time will allow the gluten to relax, and the bowl will stop it from drying out. Try again and repeat as necessary.

You can prevent this from happening next time by following these steps with your pizza dough to stop it from shrinking.

1. Proof The Dough For Longer

Kneading dough causes flour and water to build up a stretchy network called gluten. You then proof the dough to allow the yeast to do its work, but this also allows this gluten network to relax.

Gluten needs rest as it degrades over time to become more stretchy and workable. Follow my pizza dough recipe which has all the instructions to produce perfect dough.

A lot of pizza recipes online are for convenience and will give you a recipe to mix and proof your dough in a couple of hours. They will often have a large amount of yeast and sugar to kick-start the dough.

But in reality, these recipes will never produce the best results as they don’t allow the dough long enough to rest.

Not only will your dough still be very tight and unmanageable. The pizza you create will be below par in flavor and texture as this takes time too.

If you’re serious about pizza then you need to give a slow fermentation a shot. It’s likely this is the reason it shrinks back when you stretch or roll it because the gluten needs to rest for a longer period than is required for yeast activity.

You can try giving your dough an extra few hours at room temperature, but a better way is to give your dough a cold, slow-proof.

You can do this in the refrigerator overnight (or better, a good 24 hours or more), and it will give you a dough that is relaxed and easy to work with.

Cooling the dough down slows yeast fermentation so it can allow the gluten to rest for longer without the dough over-proofing. Just remember to take it out an hour or two before you want to stretch it, so it can warm up.

It also has improved flavor and texture from this longer fermentation. See my guide on proofing.

You can use less yeast with this method which will give you a crust without an overly yeasty-bready taste which isn’t desirable here.

2. Don’t Stretch Dough That Is Too Cold

Another thing that could be causing you problems is working with cold dough, as this can have more snapback than warm dough. Bring your dough up to room temperature before you start stretching it.

At least an hour is good, but up to two hours is fine too – obviously, your room temperature comes to play here.

If you split your dough into individual balls and let them proof in the refrigerator, then taking them out individually is faster than warming up one big ball, and you can leave the rest for another day.

3. Don’t Use Too High Protein Flour

Wheat flour comes in different protein percentages which are used for different purposes. This is because higher protein content means more gluten.

Higher gluten has more structure and chew and is used for bread, and is sometimes labeled ‘strong bread flour’ or pizza flour. The lower gluten content is used for cakes and pastries.

As it has more gluten, it has more gluten network and elasticity. It will definitely have more spring back, so this dough isn’t ideal for knocking up a quick dough as it needs time to rest.

If you want a short proofing time, then source out flour with a lower gluten content – try a more all-purpose bread flour with around 12-13% protein.

The higher gluten flours stand up well to a long fermentation without collapsing. Use these types of flours for a long fermentation and a nice chewy crust. Ideal for a New York style pizza.

4. Stretching Technique

I would recommend stretching out by hand as you have more control over the process and will produce a better pizza – using a pin tends to just push all gas out and create a dense crust.

If you stretch slowly and firmly, you can pull the dough and hold it momentarily so that it holds its new stretched position. Rolling tends to spring back to its initial position with little way to prevent it from happening.

It’s also good fun to learn doing it by hand. There are loads of videos online to see the proper techniques.

Make a 1-inch indent around the inside of the dough ball for the crust, then use your fingertips to level the inner section of the dough. Then using flat hands facing upwards, pull the dough in opposite directions and rotate the pizza as you move around.

Once stretched out, move the dough on top of your clenched fists and allow gravity to finish any thicker areas for a nice even base.

And remember to not overwork the dough as it will build more gluten strands and cause excess chewiness.

If you need to give it a moment to relax – if it’s feeling very tight after you just handled it, then you can give it a 15-minute rest before you continue.

Just don’t leave your dough out uncovered to the air for too long otherwise it will build up tough skin.

5. Weigh Out Ingredients Properly

Baking is a science and you really need to make sure you get the right amount of flour, salt, yeast, and water otherwise your dough won’t ferment as it should and this will only make it inferior.

It won’t make it develop and relax properly to stop your dough from being too elastic to stretch out.

To be sure that you’re dough is in proper quantities, you need to use a scale to weigh out your ingredients instead of using cups to measure volume. See my article on my recommended pizza equipment for a good one.

This is because flour can take on different volumes if it’s more compressed – a cup of flour taken by me might be pressed down more than a cup of flour taken by you.

By using weight you ensure that you get consistency every time you mix your dough. Get yourselves a scale and you will never look back.

How Gluten Works

Wheat flour is a grain ground up to a powder. When hydrated, this grain would usually germinate – but in its powder form, the chemical reactions still take place.

Two wheat proteins, glutenin, and gliadin, stick together when coming in contact with water, and this forms the stretchy, elastic network known as gluten.

It’s this network that can hold CO2 gas from the fermentation process, and allow the dough to rise when being proofed and baked.

Think of the process like bubble gum. An inactive hard gum gets hydrated in your mouth, chewed into a stretchy mass, and then can be inflated into a bubble.

Summary

I hope you have a better idea about your dough now, and how to keep pizza dough from shrinking.

You should try my dough recipe, and I encourage you to get to know the ‘feel’ for your dough through practice, as this is the only way you can really get it right.

So in summary:

  • Try a slow proof
  • Get your dough to room temperature
  • Get the right flour
  • Hand stretch your dough
  • Weigh your ingredients

My best tip for making pizza in a home oven is to use a pizza “steel”. It adds intense heat from below for amazing crusts – I have this size steel from Amazon which is lower priced than other brands but works perfectly. Steel conducts heat better than stone, they don’t shatter and are easier to clean.

If it’s out of your price range then the 2nd best option is a pizza stone made from cordierite. To see a round-up of the most important pizza equipment check out my essential pizza equipment list.

Tom Hambly

Tom Hambly is the founder of Crust Kingdom. As a self-taught cook, he has been perfecting making pizzas at home for over a decade. Now he runs this site to help millions of people make pizza every year. About Tom Hambly.

5 thoughts on “Stop Pizza Dough Shrinking With These 5 Tips

  1. Thanks for a deeper understanding of the nature and structure of making pizza dough.
    I will find a recipe and start a batch tonight for the weekend. That should be a good start of proofing for a less shrinking pizza dough.

    1. I now have a recipe which you can find here! Thank you
      https://www.crustkingdom.com/recipe/pizza-dough

  2. I’m a newbie at pizza making and am learning to make it in a cast iron skillet. My problem is just the opposite of a dough that continuously snaps back., at least in my mind. When I think I have the dough to the size I need and try to put it into my cast iron skillet, it stretches out like crazy when I lift it and doesn’t shrink back at all. By the time I get it into the skillet it’s nearly twice the size I started with and all out of shape ie, no longer a circle. Do I have too much dough? I use bread flour. Do the rising in a slightly warm oven. I realize that your way is a whole lot different from my way so maybe I should just try your way. what do ya’ think?

    1. Jane – try and build gluten from kneading which will give strength. And also don’t rise in a warm oven which should help you.

  3. I recently set out to learn how to make a neapolitan pizza. I have a Roccbox pizza oven and I’m on my fifth try, once a week. I started making dough with a modified biga (two days) and my latest was with a poolish and extended fermentation in the refrigerator(four days). I will try your tip on letting the partially formed pie rest ten minutes to counter the resistance to stretching. I just learned from other sites how to deal with an overly wet bottom. I use Cento whole peeled San Marzano tomatoes which I crush by hand in the can, but now I will try dumping them into a sieve and roughly crushing them by hand.

    Thank you for your tips.

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