The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Ballooning crust

fsu1mikeg's picture

Ballooning crust

I've made pizza a few times using various crust recipes, but one recurring theme is I seem to have an issue with oven spring.  Last night I made a pizza in which the crust inflated like a balloon.  It looked sort of like an inflated whoopee cushion.  This particularly pizza recipe called for par-baking the crust for six minutes before removing from oven and adding toppings. I deflated the crust as best I could before adding the toppings.  It ended up tasting great.  In fact, it was the closest to a perfect NY style thin crispy-chewy crust that I've come up with yet.  I used HG flour and the methods prescribed by Steve from  I put my stone on a rack placed as close to the top of the oven as possible, preheated at the highest heat and then turned on the broiler for a few minutes to get the stone as hot as possible before sliding the crust in.  I know the extreme heat had a lot to do with the oven spring, but what is the proper method of shaping a pizza dough that would result in a fairly even crust with no excess ballooning?  Do I need to beat the heck out of the dough to get all the excess gas out first?  I must admit, I've read a bunch about shaping pizza dough and never seen this issue addressed.

SylviaH's picture

There is a tool made for using in a wood fired oven that just has two pointed prongs at the end of the long handle to reach in and poke out any unwanted large forming bubbles!  Maybe you could use somethng similar.  The topping is usually what keeps most of the bubbles from forming in the center and when the toppings are left off the fuller edge you get a nice blown crown..are you sure your stone is now not hot enough to just top your pizza and bake it!


fsu1mikeg's picture

are you sure your stone is now not hot enough to just top your pizza and bake it!


It's funny you should ask, as that was my original plan.  I got a little nervous about straying from the recipe's instructions and just went with the original plan.  I now wish I would've just gone ahead and topped immediately.  I'm sure it would've still ballooned a bit even with the added weight.  I was hoping there was some method of shaping the dough that would eliminate this from happening moreso than just deflating it after it happens.

dghdctr's picture

You don't actually need high-gluten flour to make a good pizza crust.  Manufacturers use it because it makes a dough that withstands punishment from dividing and shaping machinery.

A flour with less gluten AND more extensible gluten will rise less.  King Arthur's AP flour -- or any hard winter wheat flour -- will do fine.  Italian flour used for their pizzas is generally even weaker than KA's AP flour.

Don't mix too much -- 8 or 10 minutes on the lowest possible speed is plenty.

And you can use a "docker" to poke holes in your pizza shell to avoid excessive blowups.

You're not proofing the pizza shell, are you?  You can long-ferment the bulk dough if you like, or even hold pre-rounded portions overnight covered in the 'fridge.  If you want a thin crust, though, don't let the crust build up with gas after stretching it into a shell.

Lastly, I'd agree with Sylvia that you shouldn't need to pre-bake a pizza shell if it is small enough.  Keep it at 12" or less and 550 degrees or more should do it with no pre-baking. Sylvia has a wood-fired oven she can use, which, I guess, easily gets to the 700 degrees or so used by pros.

--Dan DiMuzio

fsu1mikeg's picture

I've used AP and Italian "00" flour before with decent results.  I was tyring SteveB's formula for NY Pizza which calls for HG flour.  His formula uses a stiff sourdough starter, HG flour, water, salt, and a small amount of instant yeast.  Mix for 17-20 on low speed (I did it for about 17), form a ball, and refrigerate.  Take it out of the fridge while you get the oven heated up.  So it was out of the fridge for about an hour before I shaped it.  I gently flattened it with my fists until I could pick it up and gently stretch it out nice and thin.  It was easy to handle and stretch and other than the ballooning effect, was excellent.  I think I will take yours and others advice not to par-bake next time.  I think the dough will stand up to the toppings and cook everything just fine at once.  Thanks for the help!



jackie9999's picture

Lately I've been precooking my pizza shell to see what the difference is...I had always 'dressed' the pizza before baking.  I don't let it cook 6 minutes as you posted ..I find..after 3 minutes it's starting to inflate like a pita I remove and top right away.  I like the bit of spring in the shell and the finished pizza isn't as wet

I suppose it all depends on what your idea of the perfect pizza is...

Just Loafin's picture
Just Loafin

As mentioned, you can lightly dock the bottom. In place of an actual docking tool, you can use a fork to prick the bottom of the crust. Make sure to not use so much pressure that the fork breaks through the top of the dough.

6 mins par-bake? I par-bake my crust for no longer than 2 mins at 550° F. At around 1 min and 30 secs, I'll get a few bubbles, but they are easy to pop while it finishes.

We strive to produce dough that rises. Doing anything (as you have asked for in the way of shaping) that would remove the rise would result in a flatbread.

- Keith

montanagrandma's picture

about the putting the baking stone on the top rack instead of the bottom. Guess I always heard it was hotter on the bottom rack. My oven only heats to about 475* and wish it was hotter in there...It is a old oven, about 30 years old.


flournwater's picture

If the oven heats to only 475 degrees you'll get better results by putting the stone as close to the heat source (usually the bottom of the oven) as possible so that it can benefit from the radiant heat stored in the oven's shell as well as the heated open oven space.

flournwater's picture

Looks like I double clicked   ...  oops

Steve H's picture
Steve H

I've had the same issue with my pizza as the OP where my pizza crusts typically imflate like a balloon and more importantly kinda create two crusts, an upper and lower crust, both of which become crispy.  The resulting pizza is tasty and good, but definitely thin crust which is not always what I want.

The only thing that has worked for me to get a thicker, chewier crust is to basically use twice as much dough and keep the thing rather thick.  This worked wonders and resulted in a very good pizza with a hearty, chewy crust.  I think many of these recipes are either assuming smaller pizzas than you are making or assume you are going for a thinner crust.  Not sure.  At any rate, after trying a few things, the only thing that has worked for me is using more dough.  I'd guess maybe 1/4" to 3/8" thick.

I also think that baking at a lower temperature will also result in a chewier crust.

Be careful about topping your pizza before a prebake.  The last time I did that, the sauce caused the dough to get wet and I had a hard time removing it from the peel.  I'm sure there are ways to overcome this.  Just something to think about.