Great pizza takes a good dough recipe, high quality ingredients – but perhaps most importantly, it's all in how you prepare it. The first step in preparing any pizza is called proofing. Proofing is the act of allowing your pizza dough to properly rise at room temperature for one (or up to 3 or 4) hour(s) before you shape it into a pizza. While it seems like a simple task (and really it is!) it’s something that's often overlooked. In this blog we’ll talk about how to properly proof your pizza dough and why it’s so important to the pizza making process.
Dough Rise and Yeast
If you read our blog about yeast, then you already know that yeast produces carbon dioxide as it feeds on sugars in your dough ingredients. To accomplish this, yeast needs time to do its thing, which is also known as “proofing.” So what happens if you don’t proof your dough? You’ll still get your pizza, but dough that’s cooked while in a cold state can have one or more undesirable qualities. First, your dough will most likely bake flat and dense. Since the yeast didn’t have proper time to feed before being baked, you won’t get those large bubbles in the crust that makes pizza so airy and fluffy. Second, you may end up with a giant balloon-shaped pizza crust (assuming you’re using a high-temperature oven to cook your pizza). I can’t say I know the science behind this second undesirable effect, but when I’ve used dough in the Pizzeria Pronto that hasn’t properly proofed the whole thing inflated like a party balloon – not cool!
Achieving the Proper Proof
So how do you properly proof your pizza dough? The answer depends on the answer to this question: how active is the dough you're using? Whether you’re using store-bought pizza dough or homemade pizza dough, each recipe will behave uniquely. Some doughs are very lively and can proof in as little as 30 or 40 minutes. Other doughs take much longer and need anywhere from 1 to 4 hours to properly rise.
Using dough that’s too cold isn’t the only way to make a mistake when preparing your pizza, because you can also over-proof the dough too! Letting dough sit out too long before using it can have the same effect. If the yeast expends all of its gas-producing energy and the dough continues to sit, it may deflate as you prepare your pizza, once again leaving you with a flat and dense pie.
The best way to find your ideal proofing time (providing your recipe doesn’t provide one) is to experiment. Make a batch and proof two or three dough balls for different lengths of time. Inspect each pizza after it's cooked and see which increment of time worked the best. Take notes! After some trial and error, you’ll soon find out what works best for you and your recipe. Each pizza (and each pizza maker!) is unique and special – creating your perfect pie takes personalization and testing. With results as delicious as a fresh-baked pie, I don't think you'll mind trying out your results.