How To Soften Hard Pizza Dough

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Are you tired of struggling with rock-hard pizza dough that just won’t cooperate? You’re not alone! Many pizza enthusiasts have faced the same challenge when trying to create the perfect pie at home. But don’t worry – we’ve got you covered.

In this blog post, we’ll explore the causes of stiff pizza dough and share some tried-and-true techniques to help you transform your unyielding dough into a soft, pliable canvas for your delicious toppings. Say goodbye to tough crusts and hello to the perfect homemade pizza with our guide on how to soften hard pizza dough!

Why Is Pizza Dough So Hard?

Oh, the struggle of tough pizza dough! We’ve all been there, expecting a heavenly slice of pizza only to be met with a stubbornly hard crust. But why does this happen? Well, my pizza-loving friends, there are a few culprits that can turn your dreamy dough into a chewy nemesis.

First up, over-kneading: giving your dough too much elbow grease can lead to a dense, tough texture. Remember, moderation is key! Knead just enough to make it smooth and elastic, but don’t go overboard.

Next, not enough hydration: a dry dough is a recipe for a hard crust. Ensure you’re using the right proportion of water to flour, and don’t be afraid to make minor adjustments if needed. Your dough should be slightly tacky but not sticky.

Thirdly, let’s talk fermentation: rushing the proofing process or using too little yeast can result in an under-risen dough that bakes up hard. Give your dough ample time to rise and double in size, and it’ll reward you with a tender, airy crust.

Lastly, temperature matters: if your oven isn’t hot enough, your pizza dough won’t puff up and crisp properly. Preheat your oven to a high temperature (around 475°F or 245°C) and use a pizza stone if possible for that perfectly baked crust.

So, the next time you’re crafting a homemade pizza, keep these tips in mind, and you’ll be well on your way to banishing those hard dough blues forever! Happy pizza making!

What Influences Pizza Dough Hardness?

How To Soften Hard Pizza Dough
How To Soften Hard Pizza Dough

Pizza dough hardness can be influenced by various factors, which can significantly affect the texture and overall quality of the final product. Understanding these factors is crucial for achieving the desired consistency in your pizza dough.

Flour type

High protein flour, such as bread flour, results in a firmer and chewier dough due to the increased gluten content. Using all-purpose or pastry flour will yield a softer, more tender dough.


The amount of water used in the dough affects its hardness. Higher hydration leads to a softer, more pliable dough, while lower hydration results in a stiffer, firmer dough.


Proper kneading develops gluten strands, providing structure and elasticity. Under-kneading can cause a dense, hard dough, whereas over-kneading can result in a tough, rubbery texture.


The fermentation process, or proofing, allows yeast to produce carbon dioxide and alcohol, which contribute to the dough’s flavor and texture. Insufficient fermentation may result in a denser, harder dough, while over-fermentation can cause the dough to become overly soft and difficult to handle.

Baking temperature

Baking at a high temperature promotes rapid expansion of gas bubbles within the dough, creating a light and airy crust. Lower temperatures may lead to a denser, harder finished product.

How to Knead Hard Pizza Dough?

Kneading hard pizza dough can be challenging, but with the right technique and a little patience, you can achieve a smooth and elastic dough. Follow these steps to effectively knead hard pizza dough:

Prepare your work surface

Lightly flour a clean, flat surface to prevent the dough from sticking. Avoid using too much flour, as this can make the dough even harder and drier.

Start with a pressing motion

Place the dough on the floured surface and use the heel of your hand to press and flatten the dough. This will help to distribute the moisture evenly throughout the dough and soften it slightly.

Begin kneading

Fold the dough in half toward you and use the heel of your hand to press it down and away from you. Rotate the dough 90 degrees and repeat the folding and pressing motion. Continue this process for 10-15 minutes or until the dough becomes smooth and elastic.

Rest the dough

If the dough is still quite hard and difficult to work with, allow it to rest for 10-15 minutes. This will give the gluten time to relax, making the dough easier to knead.

Check for elasticity

To test if the dough has been kneaded enough, perform the windowpane test. Pinch off a small piece of dough and gently stretch it between your fingers. If it forms a thin, translucent membrane without tearing, the dough has been kneaded sufficiently.

Shape and proof

Once the dough has reached the desired consistency, shape it into a ball and place it in a lightly greased bowl. Cover with a damp cloth or plastic wrap and allow it to proof until doubled in size, typically 1-2 hours depending on the recipe and ambient temperature.

By following these steps and adjusting your kneading technique, you can successfully work with hard pizza dough and achieve a desirable texture for your pizza crust.

Softening Hard Pizza Dough: How?

Softening hard pizza dough can be achieved through various techniques, which can help improve its texture and make it more workable. Here are some methods to soften hard pizza dough:

Rest the dough

Allowing the dough to rest for 10-15 minutes can help the gluten relax, making it easier to handle and knead. Simply cover the dough with a damp cloth or plastic wrap to prevent it from drying out during this resting period.

Gradually add water

If the dough is too dry and hard due to insufficient hydration, you can gradually add small amounts of water to soften it. Wet your hands and gently knead the dough, allowing the moisture to be absorbed. Repeat this process until the desired consistency is achieved, being careful not to add too much water.

Incorporate oil

Adding a small amount of olive oil can help to soften the dough and make it more pliable. Drizzle a teaspoon of oil over the dough and knead it in until fully incorporated. The oil will create a smoother, more elastic dough.

Use a warm environment

Placing the dough in a warm environment can help to activate the yeast and encourage the dough to soften. Place the dough in a lightly greased bowl, cover it, and let it rest in a warm area (around 75-80°F or 24-27°C) for about an hour or until it has doubled in size.

Knead gently

Overworking the dough can cause it to become tough and difficult to handle. Instead, knead the dough gently and patiently, using the heel of your hand to press and fold the dough. This will help to develop the gluten structure without making the dough too hard.

By employing these techniques, you can successfully soften hard pizza dough and achieve a more desirable texture for your pizza crust.

How To Soften Hard Pizza Dough
How To Soften Hard Pizza Dough

What Tools Soften Hard Pizza Dough?

While there are no specific tools designed to soften hard pizza dough, there are a few kitchen tools and appliances that can help make the process of working with and kneading hard dough easier. Here are some useful tools for dealing with hard pizza dough:

  1. Dough scraper: A dough scraper or bench scraper can help you work with stiff dough more efficiently. It allows you to easily lift, turn, and fold the dough during kneading, making the process less labor-intensive.
  2. Stand mixer: Using a stand mixer with a dough hook attachment can help knead hard pizza dough more effectively. The machine does the heavy work, making it easier to incorporate additional water or oil to soften the dough as needed.
  3. Rolling pin: A rolling pin can be helpful in flattening and stretching hard dough, making it more pliable and easier to work with.
  4. Pastry mat: A silicone pastry mat or a non-stick baking mat can provide a stable and non-slip surface for kneading hard dough. It also makes cleaning up easier, as the dough is less likely to stick to the mat compared to a countertop.
  5. Parchment paper: If the dough is particularly difficult to handle, placing it between two sheets of parchment paper and rolling it out can help prevent sticking and make it easier to shape.
  6. Microwave: If the dough is too cold, it can become harder to work with. Gently warming the dough in the microwave for a few seconds can help to slightly soften it and make it more pliable. Be cautious not to overheat the dough, as this can kill the yeast and affect the final product.

While these tools can assist in handling and kneading hard pizza dough, it’s essential to ensure that the dough is properly hydrated and rested to achieve the desired softness and elasticity.

What ingredients soften and improve pizza dough?

Several ingredients can be used to soften and improve the texture of pizza dough. Incorporating these ingredients can result in a more pliable, tender, and flavorful crust. Here are some ingredients that can enhance your pizza dough:

  1. Water: Ensuring proper hydration is crucial for a soft and workable dough. A higher water-to-flour ratio typically results in a softer, more pliable dough.
  2. Olive oil: Adding a small amount of olive oil to the dough can help to soften it and create a smoother texture. Olive oil also enhances the flavor and promotes a crispier crust when baked.
  3. Sugar: Incorporating a small amount of sugar can improve the dough’s browning and flavor. Sugar also helps to tenderize the dough by retaining moisture during baking.
  4. Milk: Replacing a portion of the water with milk can create a softer, more tender dough. The fat content in milk contributes to a richer flavor and improved texture.
  5. Eggs: Adding an egg or egg yolk to the dough can enhance its richness, flavor, and tenderness. Eggs also contribute to a better browning of the crust.
  6. Vital wheat gluten: If using a low-protein flour, adding vital wheat gluten can help improve the dough’s elasticity and structure, making it easier to work with.
  7. Autolyse: This technique involves mixing the flour and water (without yeast, salt, or other ingredients) and allowing the mixture to rest for 20-30 minutes before proceeding with the recipe. This process helps to hydrate the flour, resulting in a softer, more extensible dough.
  8. Preferment: Using a preferment, such as a poolish or biga, can improve the dough’s flavor, texture, and extensibility. A preferment is a mixture of flour, water, and a small amount of yeast that is prepared in advance and allowed to ferment before being added to the dough.

By incorporating these ingredients and techniques, you can create a softer, more flavorful pizza dough that is easier to work with and delivers an enjoyable eating experience.

How Long Should Hard Pizza Dough Rest to Soften?

The ideal resting time for hard pizza dough to soften depends on the specific dough and the reason it’s hard. If the dough is hard due to over-kneading or gluten development, a short rest of 10-15 minutes can help relax the gluten strands, making the dough more manageable.

If the dough is hard because it’s too cold or hasn’t had enough time to ferment, you may need to let it rest for an extended period, typically 1-2 hours or until it has doubled in size.

In some cases, allowing the dough to rest overnight in the refrigerator can improve its texture and flavor through slow, cold fermentation. The key to softening hard pizza dough is to give it adequate time to rest, hydrate, and ferment based on its specific needs.

Read more: How To Hand Toss Pizza Dough

How to Prevent Hard Pizza Dough?

To prevent hard pizza dough and achieve a desirable texture, here are some tips:

  1. Proper Kneading: Ensure you knead the dough adequately to develop gluten. This will create a stretchy and elastic dough that results in a softer crust. Knead the dough until it is smooth and springs back when pressed.
  2. Resting Period: Allow the dough to rest and rise after kneading. This resting period allows the gluten to relax and the yeast to ferment, resulting in a lighter and softer dough. Cover the dough with a clean cloth or plastic wrap and let it rise in a warm, draft-free place until it doubles in size.
  3. Don’t Overwork the Dough: Avoid excessive handling or overmixing the dough, as it can lead to a tougher texture. Once the dough has risen, gently shape it without applying too much pressure.
  4. Use High-Quality Ingredients: Ensure you use good quality flour, fresh yeast or leavening agents, and proper measurements. Using expired or low-quality ingredients can affect the dough’s texture.
  5. Proper Baking Temperature: Preheat your oven to the recommended temperature for pizza baking. A hot oven allows the dough to rise and cook properly, resulting in a softer crust.
  6. Proper Baking Time: Bake the pizza for the recommended time, usually until the crust is golden brown. Overbaking can cause the crust to become hard and dry.
  7. Pizza Stone or Baking Sheet: Consider using a pizza stone or baking sheet to evenly distribute heat and promote a crisp yet tender crust. These tools help prevent the bottom of the dough from becoming too hard.
  8. Brushing with Olive Oil: Before adding toppings, lightly brush the crust with olive oil. This helps to keep the crust moist and prevent it from drying out during baking.

By following these tips, you can help prevent hard pizza dough and achieve a softer and more enjoyable texture in your homemade pizzas.

How do you soften overworked pizza dough?

If you have overworked your pizza dough and it has become tough or dense, there are a few steps you can take to try and soften it:

Rest the Dough

Allow the overworked dough to rest for an additional period of time. Cover it with a clean cloth or plastic wrap and let it sit at room temperature for 30 minutes to 1 hour. This resting period gives the gluten a chance to relax, which can help soften the dough.

Add Moisture

If the dough feels dry or stiff, you can try adding a small amount of liquid to moisten it. Sprinkle a teaspoon or two of water or olive oil onto the dough and gently work it in by folding and kneading. Be careful not to add too much liquid, as it can make the dough too sticky.

Gentle Stretching

Instead of aggressively stretching or rolling out the dough, try gently stretching it by hand. Use your fingertips to press and stretch the dough from the center outward. Avoid using excessive force or pulling too hard, as this can further toughen the dough.

Use a Moist Topping

Applying a moist topping, such as a sauce with higher water content or fresh vegetables, can help add moisture to the pizza during baking and potentially soften the crust.

Adjust Baking Time and Temperature

Keep a close eye on the pizza during baking and adjust the time and temperature as needed. Baking at a slightly lower temperature and for a shorter duration may help prevent the crust from becoming too hard and allow it to soften slightly.

While these steps may help improve the texture of overworked dough, it’s important to note that the results may vary depending on the extent of the overworking. It’s generally best to handle the dough gently and avoid overworking it from the start to maintain a soft and tender crust.

Does Temperature and Humidity Soften Pizza Dough?

Temperature and humidity can indeed affect the texture of pizza dough. Here’s how they can impact the softness of the dough:

  1. Temperature: The temperature at which pizza dough is proofed and fermented can greatly influence its texture. Warmer temperatures can expedite yeast activity, leading to faster rising and a softer, more tender dough. On the other hand, cooler temperatures slow down fermentation, resulting in a denser and firmer crust. It’s important to follow the recommended temperature guidelines for proofing and fermenting the dough to achieve the desired softness.
  2. Humidity: Humidity levels in the environment can affect dough hydration. Higher humidity can make the dough more moist and supple, leading to a softer crust. In contrast, lower humidity can cause the dough to dry out more quickly, potentially resulting in a harder texture. If you are working in a dry environment, you may need to adjust the dough hydration by adding a bit more water to maintain softness.

By considering the temperature and humidity during the dough preparation process, you can optimize the conditions for achieving a softer pizza crust. However, it’s essential to follow a specific recipe’s instructions and recommended proofing times to ensure consistent and reliable results.

How To Soften Hard Pizza Dough
How To Soften Hard Pizza Dough

What Are Common Pizza Dough Softening Mistakes?

There are several common mistakes that can result in pizza dough becoming overly soft or lacking structure. Here are some common pizza dough softening mistakes to avoid:


Adding too much water or liquid to the dough can make it excessively soft and sticky. It’s important to measure the ingredients accurately and follow the recipe’s recommended hydration ratio. If the dough feels too wet, gradually add small amounts of flour to achieve the desired consistency.

Insufficient Kneading

Inadequate kneading can lead to underdeveloped gluten, resulting in a softer and weaker dough. Kneading is essential to create structure and elasticity in the dough. Ensure that you knead the dough for a sufficient amount of time until it becomes smooth and elastic.

Skipping the Resting Period

Allowing the dough to rest and rise is crucial for developing flavor and structure. Skipping this step or rushing the process can result in a dough that lacks the desired texture. Give the dough enough time to rise and rest as indicated in the recipe, allowing the gluten to relax and the yeast to ferment.

Using Incorrect Flour Type

Different types of flour have varying protein content, which affects the dough’s texture. Using a low-protein flour, such as cake flour, can result in a softer and less structured dough. Opt for bread flour or all-purpose flour with a higher protein content to achieve a firmer crust.

Overproofing the Dough

Allowing the dough to overproof, or rise for too long, can lead to a soft and weak structure. Pay attention to the recommended proofing time and temperature in the recipe. Overproofed dough may collapse during baking and result in a less desirable texture.

Incorrect Baking Temperature

Baking the pizza at a low temperature can result in a soft and undercooked crust. Make sure your oven is preheated to the recommended temperature to ensure the dough bakes properly, achieving a crispy exterior while maintaining a soft interior.

By avoiding these common mistakes, you can maintain the desired structure and texture of your pizza dough, achieving a balance between softness and firmness for a delicious pizza crust.

If hard pizza dough can’t be softened, what are some uses?

If you find yourself with hard pizza dough that cannot be effectively softened, there are still some alternative uses for it rather than discarding it entirely. Here are a few ideas:

  1. Breadsticks or Garlic Knots: Shape the hard pizza dough into thin strips or knots, brush them with olive oil, sprinkle with garlic and herbs, and bake until they become crispy breadsticks or garlic knots. These can be served as a side dish or appetizer.
  2. Croutons: Cut the hard pizza dough into small cubes, toss them with olive oil, herbs, and seasonings, and bake them until they turn golden and crispy. These homemade croutons can be a delicious addition to salads or soups.
  3. Flatbread or Focaccia: Roll out the hard dough into a thin flatbread or focaccia shape. Brush it with olive oil and sprinkle it with herbs, cheese, or other desired toppings. Bake until it becomes crispy, and use it as a base for sandwiches or as a side with dips.
  4. Savory Tart or Quiche Crust: Press the hard dough into a tart or quiche pan to create a crust. Pre-bake it until it firms up, then fill it with savory ingredients like vegetables, cheese, and eggs. Bake until the filling is cooked, and you have a savory tart or quiche.
  5. Dough Nuggets: Break the hard dough into small pieces and deep fry them until they turn golden brown. These crispy dough nuggets can be served as a snack or dessert by dusting them with powdered sugar or cinnamon sugar.

These alternative uses allow you to repurpose hard pizza dough creatively, transforming it into other tasty dishes rather than wasting it. Experiment with flavors and toppings to suit your preferences and make the most of the dough you have.

How Can You Relax Hard Pizza Dough?

To relax hard pizza dough and make it more pliable, you can try the following methods:

  1. Room Temperature Rest: Allow the hard dough to sit at room temperature, covered with a clean cloth or plastic wrap, for an extended period of time. This resting period helps the gluten to relax and the dough to become more elastic and easier to work with. Depending on the hardness of the dough, it may take several hours or overnight for it to soften.
  2. Warm Water Bath: Fill a bowl or basin with warm (not hot) water. Place the hard dough in a sealed plastic bag and submerge it in the warm water bath for about 10-15 minutes. The warmth and moisture will help to soften the dough. Make sure the water is not too hot, as excessive heat can start to cook the dough.
  3. Olive Oil Massage: Coat the hard dough with a thin layer of olive oil, ensuring it is completely covered. The oil helps to lubricate the dough and prevent it from sticking. Allow the oiled dough to rest, covered, at room temperature for at least an hour. The oil will help to soften the dough and make it easier to work with.
  4. Re-kneading: If the dough is extremely hard, you can try re-kneading it for a few minutes. This additional kneading helps to redistribute the moisture within the dough, making it softer and more pliable. However, be cautious not to over-knead, as it can lead to a tough texture.

Remember, it’s important to be patient and gentle when working with hard pizza dough. Gradually, with these methods, the dough should become more relaxed, easier to stretch or roll, and ready to be shaped into your desired pizza crust.


Why is my pizza dough hard and not stretching?

Hard pizza dough is often a result of insufficient hydration or underdeveloped gluten. To fix this, ensure you’re using the correct ratio of water to flour, and allow the dough to rest for an adequate amount of time. This will help the gluten relax and make the dough more pliable and easier to stretch.

How long should I let my pizza dough rest?

Ideally, pizza dough should rest for at least 1-2 hours at room temperature or up to 24 hours in the refrigerator. This resting period allows the gluten to relax and the yeast to develop flavor, resulting in a softer, more flavorful crust.

Can I save overworked pizza dough?

Yes, overworked pizza dough can be saved by letting it rest for an extended period. The additional resting time will relax the gluten and help restore the dough’s elasticity. If it’s still too tough, try kneading in a small amount of water to increase hydration.

How can I tell if my pizza dough is properly hydrated?

Properly hydrated pizza dough should feel soft, slightly tacky, and easy to work with. If your dough is too dry and crumbly, add more water; if it’s overly sticky, add a bit more flour. Adjust until you achieve the desired consistency.

Does the type of flour affect the texture of my pizza dough?

Absolutely! Different flours have varying protein contents, which affect gluten development and the dough’s texture. For pizza dough, it’s best to use bread flour or Italian-style “00” flour, as they have higher protein content and create a more elastic and chewy crust.

How do I prevent my pizza dough from shrinking when I stretch it?

To avoid dough shrinkage, let it rest for at least 10-15 minutes after rolling it out. This allows the gluten to relax, making it less likely to snap back into its original shape when stretched.

Should I use oil when softening my pizza dough?

Using a small amount of oil can help prevent the dough from sticking to your hands or the work surface and make it easier to handle. However, be cautious not to use too much oil, as it can affect the dough’s texture and final result.

What’s the best way to store leftover pizza dough?

To store leftover pizza dough, wrap it tightly in plastic wrap or place it in an airtight container, and refrigerate for up to 3 days. For longer storage, freeze the dough in a well-sealed container for up to 3 months. Thaw it in the refrigerator before using and allow it to come to room temperature before stretching.


In conclusion, softening hard pizza dough doesn’t have to be a daunting task. By understanding the factors that contribute to stiff dough and implementing the practical tips shared in this post, you can easily overcome the challenges of uncooperative dough.

Remember, the key ingredients to achieving a soft, pliable pizza dough are patience, proper hydration, and gentle handling.

With these techniques in your culinary arsenal, you’re well on your way to creating mouthwatering homemade pizzas with the perfect crust every time. So roll up your sleeves, put on your apron, and get ready to impress your family and friends with your newfound pizza-making prowess!

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