Bready Pizza Dough: Why So Dense?

Pizza and bread aren’t the same thing. Just ask any baker or pizzaiolo (pizza chef). At the same time, they do contain identical ingredients (flour, water, salt, yeast), so you’re totally forgiven if your pizza dough turns out like bread.

By ‘bready’ pizza, we’re talking dough that’s just a bit too doughy, dense, or maybe even tough. In other words, a crust that’s not light, airy and all-round groovy like the perfect pizza you were hoping to make.

Some of us are a bit dense ourselves, and there’s only so much we can do about that, but this almost certainly isn’t the reason behind your pizza problems.

So why is your pizza dough turning out bready? Here’s some potential reasons:

It’s The Type of Pizza

Some pizza is meant to be more bready than other types of pizza, like deep-dish Detroit-style pizza, or Sicilian pizza. These pizzas are just two examples where the base is much thicker compared to a traditional Neapolitan, or New York pizza for instance. So maybe you’ve followed a deep-dish recipe without even realising it.

You’ve Used Bread Flour

If you’ve used strong bread flour to make pizza, it’s hardly a surprise that your dough has turned out bready. Or to be slightly more helpful, try putting the bread flour to one side and using flour with a slightly lower gluten / protein content. Bread flour tends to have a high amount of gluten (typically 12-14%) in comparison to, well, a flour that’s not bread flour, with less gluten.

Too Much Flour / Not Enough Water (Dough Hydration Too Low)

Not only is the type of flour a factor, but the quantity of flour used in pizza dough, when compared to the water in the recipe, will determine the pizza’s hydration level, and how bread-like the dough becomes. The lower the level of hydration (the less amount of water used compared to flour), the more dense the dough will typically be. A somewhat standard level of hydration for proper, traditional pizza is 55-59% (e.g. 55-59ml water per 100g flour).

Yeast Quantities Are Off

Aside from the fact that there’s different types of yeast to consider when baking (and it generally being important to learn about yeast if you want to make great pizza), the quantity of yeast used can influence the consistency and texture of the dough. Depending on your definition of bready, adding too little or too much yeast could be leading to this result.

The Yeast is Dead

Even less groovy than the amount of yeast being off, is a situation where you find the yeast being ‘off’ itself (past its recommended use-by date), or altogether dead. If the yeast you’re using isn’t still fresh or active (i.e. it’s dead), there’s a good chance you’ll find yourself eating some dense dough, rather than a nicely fermented crust.

You’ve Added Sugar & Oil

To make proper traditional Neapolitan pizza, there’s no need to add sugar and oil to your pizza dough recipe (although other pizza styles are available). As verified by one pizza maker at PizzaMaking.com, the addition of sugar and oil to pizza dough will lead to “a more tender, bread-like crumb.” So if you’ve got bread-like dough, the sugar or oil you added might well be why.

Over-Kneaded Dough

Knowing how long to knead pizza dough for can be hard to judge when you first start making pizza. Kneading is what gives the dough strength, by developing the gluten in the flour. But if you overwork the dough, i.e. knead for too long and overwork the gluten, you run the risk of tough dough. Which is where allowing it to relax and proof for longer comes in.

The Dough is Under-Proofed

For the fermentation process to create the best pizza possible, the yeast in the dough needs to be given enough time to feed off of the sugars in the flour, before turning them into carbon dioxide (which is what makes pizza dough airy and bubbly). In other words, if you under-proof your dough, it’ll be less light and fluffy, but more bready. You’ll generally make better pizza by proofing for longer (ideally 24-72 hours).

The Dough is Over-Proofed

Just as under-proofed dough can cause doughy dough, the same can occur with over-proofing. The reason for this is that the dough develops more and bigger bubbles the longer it’s left to prove (the higher the temperature, the quicker this will happen too). If the air bubbles grow too much, the dough is at risk of collapsing and essentially goes back to its original state before the proofing process started, i.e. dense.

Oven Not Hot Enough

As much as anything else, oven temperature is key to turning out perfect pizza crust, whether you like it soft and pillowy, crunchy, or a combo of both. If you’re using a home oven, or the temperature of whatever oven you’re cooking in is too low, you’ll need to turn up the heat (full whack in a home oven, but even then, it’s very difficult to avoid bready pizza in a home oven).

It’s Just Under-Cooked

Being at risk of treating everyone like they’re dense, it could of course just be that your pizza hasn’t quite spent long enough in the oven, i.e. the dough is undercooked. This will probably be unlikely in a decent pizza oven, where it should only take around 60-90 seconds to cook a classic Neapolitan (and several minutes for other styles), but more likely if cooking pizza in a regular home oven.

You’re Actually Eating Bread

Finally, it could genuinely come down to your own personal level of denseness, in the sense that pizza and bread are so similar (but also not), that you might just be eating a sandwich while thinking about pizza. Easily done. If that’s the case, it’ll definitely explain why your pizza is so bready. But there’s really no helping you, except to point you towards a certain groovy guide to making pizza…

In Summary

Pizza is essentially a type of bread (just a better version slathered with sauce, cheese and toppings) but it can still be annoying when it turns out bready. There’s loads of different types of pizza, not to mention breads, so it depends on what you’re eating (and the recipe you’ve used) as to why it’s so bready.

If it’s plain old pizza you’re eating and it’s turned out too bready for your liking, it’s probably something to do with the ingredients you’ve used or how you’ve used them, so understanding how flour, salt, yeast and water work together to make pizza dough is a good place to start. In other words, learning the science behind pizza dough.

Believe it or not, there’s more to making great tasting pizza than you’d think, with topics like gluten, kneading and fermentation also being important to learn, not to mention time and temperature. Whatever you do, don’t be dense and make dough that’s too bready. Be groovy and learn how to make top-notch pizza…

Stay Groovy. Eat Pizza.