Overproofed Pizza Dough-[4 Common Mistakes and Easy Fix]

I’d like to preface the article by stating a universal truth – cooking fails to happen, even to the best of us. Making pizza from the scratch is no rocket science, but there are multiple things that can go wrong.

Most of the time, the only solution you are left with is to accept your defeat and start from the top. In today’s segment, we will talk about the sneakiest pizza dough problem of all time – overproofing.

In simple terms, an overproofed pizza dough is a dough that has been allowed to rise too long and has lost its elasticity. In case you are wondering what the heck that means, it is equal to an old man’s body – it doesn’t spring back when you poke it. An overproofed dough can negatively impact the texture and appearance of the finished pizza.

Overproofing the dough is a very common mistake. Although you can still go ahead and bake it, the resulting crust will be dense and chewy instead of light and crispy. In the following sections, I will break down the science and art behind proofing pizza dough to help you avoid this problem.

What Happens If You Overproof Pizza Dough?

First, let’s discuss why we proof a pizza dough in the first place. The purpose of proofing a pizza dough is to allow the gluten to develop, which gives it structure and elasticity.

Overproofed Pizza Dough
Overproof Pizza Dough

When you knead the dough, you are activating its naturally occurring gluten strands by pushing them against each other. This process allows them to form bonds with one another. This process strengthens the dough, allowing it to hold together during baking.

Once kneaded and rested, the gluten strands in the dough will form a cross-linked matrix. When you overproof the dough, too many of these strands will form, making it difficult for steam to escape during baking.

  • As a result, your pizza will come out with an unpleasant texture that’s very tough to chew through.
  • Moreover, an overproofed dough may result in a larger volume of gas being produced. This can lead to large, irregular bubbles in the crust and an uneven rise.
  • Also, overproofing will allow the yeast to gobble up all the sugar inside the dough, leaving nothing much to rise in the oven. This could prevent your pizza crust from puffing up.
  • It can also make your dough too sticky, making it difficult to handle and shape.

If you have faced all these issues mentioned above and didn’t know what went wrong, I hope you have the answer now!

How to Tell if Pizza Dough Is Overproofed?

If you’re not sure whether your pizza dough is overproofed, there are a few simple tests to help figure it out.

Signs of Overproofed Pizza Dough:

The Tear Test: The first thing to do is take a small piece and stretch it. If it stretches thin without breaking, then your dough may be underproofed. If it doesn’t stretch at all or breaks easily when stretched, then it’s likely overproofed.

The dough has risen beyond its original size: Overproofed dough will have a very large volume and may spring out of the container.

The dough is soft and sticky: Overproofed dough will feel very soft and may be difficult to handle.

The dough has large, irregular bubbles: When you press down on the dough, you may see large, irregular bubbles.

The finished crust is too bready: When baked, overproofed dough may result in an overly dense crust that tastes more like bread than a pizza crust.

How to test pizza dough | Städler Made

Reasons Behind Over-Proofed Pizza Dough

Overproofing pizza dough can happen for several reasons, and it can happen to anyone. Don’t be disheartened if you have mistakenly overproofed your dough. You can still bake it, but the result won’t be what it should ideally be.

Reason for overproofingHow to fix
Dough was left to rise for too longPunch down the dough and try shaping it into a pizza crust. If it is still too soft and sticky, refrigerate the dough for a few hours to let it firm up before shaping it.
Ambient temperature was too warmIf the dough was left to rise in a warm place for over 6-8 hours, it may have overproofed. Try refrigerating the dough for a few hours to let it firm up before shaping it.
Too much yeast was usedDegass the dough by gently punching it down and then reshaping it into a ball. Place the dough in the fridge overnight. Low temperature will slow down the yeast activity. 
Wrong type of flour usedUse a flour with 11-12% gluten content. Avoid using higher gluten flours like bread flour. Even if you do use bread flour, mix it with equal parts of 00 or all-purpose flour for best results. 

By understanding the reasons behind overproofing, you can prevent it from happening again. So, here are some of the reasons why your pizza dough might have gone over-proofed:

1. Quantity of Yeast

There’s no special, magical type of yeast specifically made of pizza dough. So, rest assured that the type of yeast you’re using won’t cause overproofing. However, using an incorrect quantity of it might.

Using too much yeast can cause your pizza dough to rise too quickly and result in overproofing. The best way to avoid this is by using a specific recipe that you know works well for your situation.

If you have already added too much, avoid proofing the dough at room temperature. If it’s too warm, then it will increase its activity level and produce more carbon dioxide bubbles faster than usual. This will lead to quicker rising time. Pop it in the fridge instead. The low temperature will significantly slow down the yeast activity.

2. Type of Flour

Using the wrong type of flour in your pizza dough can contribute to overproofing in a few different ways.

Firstly, different types of flour have different protein contents. This can affect how the dough rises and the final texture of the crust. Say, for example, bread flour has high protein content than 00 and all-purpose flour. So, it will produce a stronger, more elastic dough.

So, if you use bread flour in your pizza dough, it may be more prone to overproofing.

Secondly, the type of flour you use can also affect the water absorption of the dough. Different flours absorb water at different rates. Coarsely ground flour absorbs water faster than finely ground flour.

So, if you use coarsely ground flour in your pizza dough, the crust may be more prone to overproofing. That’s because it absorbs more water and can expand more quickly during fermentation.

The ideal type of flour for pizza is the one that is finely ground and has around 11-12% gluten content. That’s why Tipo 00 or Italian pizza flour like King Arthur and Caputo is the best choice for making pizza dough.

3. Ambient Temperature

That’s right! The ambient temperature of your kitchen can have a significant effect on the proofing process of your pizza dough.

During the proofing process, yeast is activated and begins to ferment, producing gases that cause the dough to rise. The rate at which this occurs depends on many factors. Ambient temperature is one of them.

If the temperature is too warm, the yeast will be more active, and the dough will rise faster. This can cause the dough to overproof if it is allowed to rise for too long.

But, if the ambient temperature is too cold, the yeast will be less active, and the dough will rise more slowly. This can result in underproofed dough that is difficult to work with.

To avoid overproofing or underproofing, pay attention to the temperature in your kitchen. This will help ensure that your dough rises at a consistent rate and does not overproof.

If your kitchen is too warm, adjust the proofing time accordingly.

4. You’ve Left the Dough to Rise for Far Too Long

More often than not, this is the numero uno culprit behind overproofed dough. During the proofing process, the yeast activates and begins to ferment, producing gases that cause the dough to rise. If the dough is allowed to rise for too long, it can become oversaturated with gases.

Next Read: Revolutionize Your Pizza Making with Professional-Grade Dough Proofing Container

Ideally, you should not leave the pizza dough out at room temperature for more than 8 hours. For longer fermentation, place it in your fridge to slow down the yeast activity. If it’s too warm in the kitchen, proof it for 1-3 hours max and then either bake it or put it in the fridge for 24-72 hours.

What to Do With Over-Proofed Pizza Dough?

I have recently discovered an easy trick to salvage an overproof dough. All you have to do is gently punch the dough to release all the trapped gas. Then, cover it with a damp towel and leave it out at room temperature for 1-2 hours. It will continue to rise slightly but won’t get too gassy.

How to use Over Leavened Pizza Dough. (Massimo Nocerino)

Some pizza experts also recommend folding the dough repeatedly in ball shape. This will take a little more time than punching the dough but is also an effective method. Do remember that you shouldn’t punch a refrigerated dough, as this will cause it to lose its shape.

How to Check if the Pizza Dough Is Proofed, Overproofed, or Underproofed?

There are a few different ways to check the proofing status of your pizza dough:

1. One of the easiest ways to check the proofing status of your dough is to simply look at it. Proofed dough will have doubled in size and will be soft and pillowy.

Overproofed dough will rise significantly beyond its original size. And underproofed dough will be smaller than its original size.

2. Another easy way to check the proofing status of your dough is to use the “finger poke” test. Gently press your finger into the surface of the dough. If the dough springs back immediately, it is underproofed.

If it slowly springs back and leaves a small indentation, it is adequately proofed. If it does not spring back at all and the indentation remains, then I’m sorry, mate. It’s overproofed.

3. Do a windowpane test. Simply take a small piece of dough and gently stretch it between your fingers. If the dough breaks easily, it is underproofed.

If it stretches without breaking and you can see a thin “windowpane” of dough, then congrats! It’s well-proofed. If it stretches very easily and becomes very thin without breaking, then, unfortunately, it’s overproofed.

State of DoughAppearanceTextureHow to Check
ProofedPuffy and slightly domedSoft and slightly springyPress gently with a finger; the dough should spring back.
OverproofedVery puffy and domedVery soft and stickyPress gently with a finger; the dough will not spring back and will leave an indentation.
UnderproofedFlat and not risenTight and densePress gently with a finger, the dough will not spring back and will not leave an indentation.

How to Proof Dough Quickly

If you’re in a rush and don’t have time to proof dough slowly, there are ways to speed up the process.

  • One way to speed up the proofing process is to use warm water (around 105-115°F) when mixing the dough. This will help activate the yeast more quickly and cause the dough to rise faster.
  • Proofing the dough in a warm environment will also help it rise faster. You can place the dough in a sunny spot, near a radiator, or in an oven that has been turned off but is still warm.
  • Using a high-quality, fast-acting yeast can also help the dough rise more quickly. Look for a yeast that is specifically labeled as “rapid rise” or “fast-acting.”
  • Use a dough conditioner. For those who don’t know, a dough conditioner is a food-grade product added to the dough to help it rise more quickly. It can be especially useful when working with whole grain flours, which tend to rise more slowly.

Related FAQs

Can you leave pizza dough out overnight?

Not unless the ambient temperature is around 37-39.2 degrees Fahrenheit. Pizza dough shouldn’t be sitting at room temperature (68-77 degrees F) for more than 4-8 hours.

For longer fermentation, place the dough in a bowl, cover it with plastic wrap, and pop it in your fridge. Let it rest overnight.

How long should pizza dough proof at room temperature?

In general, 4-8 hours is the acceptable amount of proofing time at room temperature.

The longer it sits out, the more sourdough-like your crust will taste and feel. This is due to natural yeast growth and acidification, which happens during fermentation.

Do you cover dough when proofing in oven?

Yes, it’s very important to cover the dough with a damp towel or plastic wrap while it’s proofing in the oven. This prevents any surface dryness or cracking. Plus, it helps maintain its moisture content during fermentation.

How long should you proof pizza dough?

Depending on the type of yeast and flour you are using, you can proof the dough for 3-72 hours.

A lot of easy, homemade pizza recipes call for 3 hours of proofing time. Some recommend leaving the dough in the fridge for 24 hours. High hydration doughs generally require 2-3 days of rest to reach their optimal potential.

Conclusion

Overproofed pizza dough happens to the best of us. We’re all trying to make the perfect pie, but sometimes it just doesn’t happen. Don’t let overproofed pizza dough turn you off from making pizza ever again. With a little bit of patience and some TLC, you can still salvage your batch and make really delicious pizzas.

Tim Anderson
Tim Anderson

Tim Anderson is the founder of pizzapeopleaz® and has been in the pizza industry since 1998. Since then, his mission has been to make a pizza lover's guy into a personal pizzaiolo. And each year, he continues to help more people with Pizza chemistry, pizza Crust, pizza oven, and oven troubleshooting.

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