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Why Does My Dough Shrink When I Roll It 

Why Does My Dough Shrink When I Roll It? Answered (2023)

Last Updated on January 25, 2023 by Lori Walker

Getting to roll a dough can be overwhelming for people who do not have much experience with baking. It can get frustrating sometimes when the dough keeps shrinking.

But why does the dough shrink when you roll it? Here are the five most common reasons why it keeps shrinking and some of the ways to prevent it from happening. 

5 Reasons Why Dough Shrinks When Rolling It

rolling dough on a wooden board

1. Gluten Network Is Too Strong

Gluten is a tangle of proteins that works like an architectural glue to keep pie crusts, cakes, and pastries intact during the baking process [1]. 

The chemical process that leads to gluten development starts by adding water to flour.

Continuous kneading causes the molecules to form a gluten network which holds the essential air to make tender pie dough, soft muffins, and springy noodles.

However, too much gluten makes the bread dough spring back and lose its extensibility while rolling. It eventually shrinks the dough, resulting in tough bread and a compact crumb.

But why is your bread dough sticky?

2. It Is Too Cold

Cold conditions like inside the fridge lead to tighter gluten. Since gluten is the protein that holds the dough intact, the cold conditions make the dough snap back easier than a warm dough, similar to a rubber band.

It is not a great idea to stretch out the cold dough. That is why you will have to leave the dough at room temperature first.

If the surrounding has a low temperature, then resting the dough needs a longer time. But if the place is warm and humid, it only takes an hour or two before you can start stretching the dough.

3. You Are Using High Protein Flour

For most people, any flour will work to make dough. But it is important to consider the protein content first. 

Some types of wheat flour contain more protein which equates to more gluten potential of the flour.

Bread flour is a high-protein flour with 11 to 13% protein [2], meaning it has more spring back. 

But all-purpose flour is at medium and ideal levels of 9 to 11% protein. Meanwhile, cake flour and pastry had 7 to 10% protein and were only used to make fluffy and tender baked goods.

4. Miscalculations On Ingredients

The dough is a result of perfectly measured ingredients such as salt, eggs, sugar, shortening, leavening agents, various flavorings, liquid (water or milk), and flour. 

But among these recipes, flour is the most essential as it is the main source of gluten. Some online recipes suggest you mix many cups of flour, but although it is good, the measurements vary from person to person. 

For instance, someone’s measurement of a cup of flour may be more compressed than your measurement.

The inconsistency may prevent the dough from developing and relaxing, making it shrink once you start rolling it. 

5. There Is Too Much Moisture

Aside from the right measurement of flour, the amount of water also plays an important role in keeping the dough from shrinking.

Adding too much water to the recipe will cause the dough to shrink because it tends to evaporate during the process.

As the minimum measurement, start with three tablespoons of cold water (or other liquid). See if the dough will hold together before adding more water using a teaspoon until there is enough moisture.

Other ingredients, like butter which is 20% water, should also be recognized when making the dough as it already contains moisture. 

Read: 6 Simple Tips To Save Sourdough That Isn’t Holding Its Shape

Tips & Tricks To Avoid Dough From Shrinking

man rolling a dough
  1. Do not over-knead the dough, as it activates more elastic gluten strands. The more you knead and mix, the more it makes the dough shrink and more firm. 
  2. Chill the dough for at least half an hour to rest and relax its developed elasticity.
  3. Use the right flour. The higher the flour’s protein content, the higher its gluten potential, which makes the dough shrink more.
  4. Ensure that the ingredients are in their right measurement. Use a scale to measure the volume and get the consistency you need.
  5. Add the right amount of moisture to the dough because excess liquid can cause shrinkage. You can start by mixing half of the suggested amount. 
  6. Don’t forget to let the dough rest before baking.

Find out what to do if you have over-kneaded your dough here.

FAQs

How do you fix shrinking dough?

You can fix a shrinking dough by letting it rest for at least 15 to 30 minutes. You can also let the dough rest at a warmer place in the house for better results.

Check out the signs that your cookie dough might have gone bad here.

How does gluten work in the dough?

Gluten works like glue that keeps the dough intact. On the other hand, gluten-free dough falls apart easily. But is it possible to knead the dough after it has risen

Summary

Rolling a dough can be frustrating, especially if you’re only starting to learn baking. Lack of understanding of how the dough works will lead it to keep shrinking and resulting in tough bread. 

One of the main causes for the dough to shrink is the gluten network in the dough. Too much gluten and a cold temperature can cause the dough to snap back more easily.

However, letting the dough rest at a warmer temperature can help fix the problem most of the time. 

References:

  1. https://www.epicurious.com/expert-advice/what-is-gluten-article/amp
  2. https://www.bonappetit.com/story/difference-bread-all-purpose-cake-pastry-flour/amp
Lori Walker

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