A comment came in from my friend Sally C this morning asking whether anything can be done about pizza dough that doesn’t want to roll out. This is a typical problem with high-gluten doughs, but it does indeed have a solution: time.
You may recall from my previous posts that gluten networks are made up of long chains of proteins linked end-to-end and side-to-side. Some are fairly straight, but others are kinked and curly. So when you stretch them, like springs, they tend to want to return to their former shape. Yet stubborn as they are about this, the bonds between the molecules eventually tire out with sustained pressure.
Say you’ve just made a batch of pizza dough. You flour it and roll it out on the counter, but it springs back by about a third. You can keep trying to roll it, or you can just let it sit for about ten minutes and let gravity do your work for you. For you see, despite what the gluten network wants, the dough’s natural tendency is to spread out, and that downward-outward force will put sustained pressure on the gluten molecules, like two toddlers fighting over the same yellow plastic slinky. Eventually the slinky snaps in two. But then of course this wouldn’t have to happen if the those two kids could ever learn to share in the first place. But no, everything has to be an argument, and before you know it something’s broken, somebody’s crying, and the next day everybody’s wondering where all their blasted toys went. Well you know, toys cost money, and money doesn’t just fall out of the sky, and…er, wait, where was I now? Right, gluten. Eventually the sustained pressure causes the bonds between some of the molecules to break. The dough relaxes, and can be rolled out the rest of the way. Of course depending on how much dough you’re rolling out, you may need to repeat the process. Wait another 5-10 minutes and roll.
I tell you. Fatherhood…