I think the only tough part of making pizza at home from scratch is the dough. Anyone can spread sauce on the pizza, shred cheese over that, and add toppings by hand. These are the fun parts of making the pizza, and maybe making the dough is fun for you too, but it can also be challenging at times.
There are some problems that you may run into, like the dough not stretching and then tearing when you try to stretch it out. After all, to make the dough fit nicely onto the baking pan to cook the pizza, it has to flatten out. You can’t just cook a ball of dough, and you definitely cannot top that ball with sauce, cheese, and toppings.
It has to stretch out, but it is not always easy to make it stretch like you want it to. There may be times where the dough gives some resistance and feels like a rubber ball, coming back to its original position after you attempt to stretch it. What could be causing that?
You may be using too much of certain ingredients, so be sure to follow your recipe for homemade pizza carefully. The recipe you use could be faulty, though, and if your pizza always gives this trouble where it doesn’t want to stretch, then consider trying a different recipe.
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How to Stretch Pizza Dough by Hand
The biggest and most important tip I can give you about how to stretch out pizza dough is to make sure it is warm enough. If you make your dough the night before and placed it into the fridge to keep it safe, then it will be cold when you take it out to make pizza. It will be as unresponsive as a hibernating bear, so you need to warm it up. It won’t respond very well to your attempts to stretch it until it achieves room temperature at least.
So, let the dough sit out at room temperature for about 30 minutes or so until it is warm enough to work with easily.
Another tip I want to share with you about how to get pizza dough to stretch is to not try to stretch it until you have pressed the dough down. Don’t attempts to stretch it from a ball shape.
So, press down from the middle and press the dough outwards, flattening down the ball of dough into a much shorter height. You will be using the palm of your hands and your fingers to press the entire ball down. Once it is kind of flat, then you can stretch it out into the desired shape and area. It doesn’t have to be perfectly round, though, before you try to flatten it. The dough can be a kind of amorphous, oblong shape before it is stretched to fit a baking pan or pizza pan.
Your dough may offer a little resistance, and that is fine. However, if it is really resistant and snaps back to its original shape or almost to the original shape, then it is too early to start working with it. It needs some time to rest. Allow it to do that for about 10-15 minutes and then try to stretch it out once more.
New York Pizza Dough
- 3 3/4 cups bread flour
- 1/2 tsp instant dry yeast
- 1 1/4 cups lukewarm water
- 2 tbsp vegetable or olive oil
- 3 tbsp granulated sugar
- dash kosher salt
- Combine the ingredients in this order: flour, instant dry yeast, granulated sugar, salt, and lukewarm water. The oil is added last after the flour has all been incorporated.
- If you're using active dry yeast, you'll have to activate it by adding it to warm water. Let it sit for about five minutes until it's fully dissolved. Once it blooms, add it directly to the flour mixture.
Time to Knead It
- Once you've mixed the ingredients, it's time to knead. If you have a stand mixer, attach it with a dough hook and let it do its thing. Leave it for about three minutes at speed 1 or 1.5 until the dough isn’t sticking to the walls of the bowl. There's a ton of different kneading methods to try, but I believe the best technique is to use the heel of your hand and roll the dough across your lightly floured work surface. Use your other hand to fold it over and start kneading once again.
- You'll know it's ready when it's velvety smooth, and stretchy. Don't knead it too long, or it'll over-strengthen the gluten, and it'll be difficult to stretch into a pizza shape.
- If you have a bit of time on your hands, ferment or "cure" the dough in your refrigerator for 24 to 48 hours. Doing so slows down the yeast activity, which enhances the flavour and texture of the crust. All good things come with time, so be patient!
- If you’d rather, understandably, do it immediately, then that’s okay too. Simply cover the dough with a dry towel and leave it for 20 to 30 minutes to rise.
Should You Stretch Dough in the Air?
You have probably seen someone on television or in a pizza parlour stretch out the dough by tossing it into the air. Why do they do that and is it necessary for stretching the dough and making a homemade pizza?
Tossing the pizza into the air isn’t the ideal way for how to hand stretch pizza dough. You can easily tear the pizza this way or overstretch it in one direction or another. Worst of all, you could drop the pizza, and you want to try to avoid that. Tossing the pizza sure looks impressive, but leave that for the show offs and stick to getting your pizza to stretch on the counter or on a baking sheet.
How to Stretch Pizza Dough without Tearing
If your dough is sticking a lot and tearing, then it needs some way to prevent sticking. The best way to do that is to add some oil to the dough itself or to the surface you are stretching it out on. If you are stretching the dough on the counter, just spread a little oil there. It doesn’t need to be a lot. If you are stretching the dough onto the baking pan, then add some oil to the pan and spread that around first, before you place the dough on the pan.
Another way to make sure the dough does not tear when you are stretching it out on the pan or the counter is to add a little flour to it. Take a few pinches of flour (not too much) and pat the surface of the dough all over. Cover it lightly with flour and then try to stretch out your dough. It should be much easier to work with then.
How to Fix Holes in Your Pizza Dough
You know how to get pizza dough to stretch. Now, let’s talk about how to fix one of the more annoying and common problems when making homemade pizza dough. Once you stretch out the dough, you may have some thin spots here and there, and some of those may be so thin as to create holes in the dough. That’s a problem, but it is a solvable one.
What you do is pinch the holes together. So, take the sides of the hole in two fingers and close them back. That will take care of your holes fast.
If the pinching action just makes more holes when you do it, then the dough is too thin in that area of the dough. What you can do is look for lumps of dough or high areas in your dough and press those toward the thinner areas.
Hopefully, this answers all of your questions about how to stretch pizza dough. Once you master this part of the pizza making process, the rest is pretty easy. After you have made a few pizza crusts, you will be able to handle it easily from there on out, quickly figuring out what to do when your dough isn’t responsive. If you forget, just come back here and check my tips for handy reference.
What’s the ideal dough consistency for stretching pizza dough?
The ideal pizza dough should be soft, pliable, and slightly sticky but not overly wet. It should be easy to shape and stretch without tearing. If the dough is too dry, it can be tough and resistant to stretching. If it’s too wet, it may stick to your hands or the work surface.
How do I prevent my pizza dough from tearing while stretching it?
There are a few techniques to prevent tearing. First, ensure your dough is at room temperature as cold dough can be less pliable. Use a gentle touch and evenly apply pressure when stretching the dough. Also, rotating the dough while you stretch helps to achieve an even thickness. If a tear does occur, you can patch it by pinching the dough together.
Do I need to let my pizza dough rest before stretching it?
Yes, allowing your dough to rest after it has been kneaded and before you begin to stretch it can help relax the gluten strands, making it easier to stretch. A rest period of about 10-15 minutes can be beneficial. Furthermore, many pizza dough recipes call for a longer, refrigerated rest period of up to 24-72 hours, which can also improve the flavor and texture of your pizza crust.
Why does my pizza dough keep shrinking back when I try to stretch it?
If your pizza dough keeps springing back, it’s usually a sign that the gluten in the dough needs more time to relax. Try letting the dough rest for an additional 10-15 minutes before trying to stretch it again. Also, ensure your dough is not too cold, as this can make it more elastic and harder to stretch.
What equipment do I need to stretch pizza dough like a professional?
At its most basic, you only need your hands to stretch pizza dough. However, some tools can make the process easier and more professional. A dough scraper can be helpful for dividing dough and scraping it off your work surface. Using a pizza peel can also make it easier to transfer your stretched dough to the oven. A baking stone or steel in your oven can provide the high, even heat needed for a well-cooked crust.