If you are wanting a lovely, puffy Neapolitan style crust on your pizza, then leave the rolling pin in the drawer.

Stretching pizza dough by hand is not only great fun, but also means you can control the shape of the base, leaving a thin centre and plenty of airy dough at the edge which turn into puffy crusts almost as soon as they hit the hot oven.

However, unless the dough has been properly proved, your stretching efforts will be fraught with unnecessary challenges. So here’s how we do it:

 

How to thaw your pizza dough

Allow your frozen pizza dough balls to thaw slowly in the fridge overnight, or up to 3 days for even better results, thanks to the cold fermentation process explained elsewhere in our blog.

  1. Remove any wrappers from the dough,
  2. Dunk them while still frozen under cold water and place them in sealed containers that have been lightly coated with flour, or olive oil.
  3. Keep them in the fridge until you are ready to prove.

 

A word on proving containers

The container you use for thawing and proving must be sealed, to prevent the dough drying out. 

You can buy dough proving trays which are great for larger numbers, but you will notice in our video of how to prepare your dough below we use a simple lidded 16 oz plastic food container for proving in. These are so cheap to buy and work really well, as they minimise the amount of air getting to the dough, so its less likely to dry out. Hand wash and reuse, they stack away nicely taking up little space. 

 

How to prove your pizza dough

On the day of cooking, allow your pizza dough plenty of time to come up to room temperature, prove and relax ready to stretch. 

  1. Remove the thawed dough balls from their containers. They may be a little dry on the top surface
  2. Rub them with a little olive oil and then reshape them into tight balls, folding any dry bits into the centre of the ball
  3. Place them back in their containers to prove at normal room temperature of around 20 C. 

This re-shaping step is not just cosmetic, but creates tension with the gluten, giving a better spring to your crusts later.

Proving time will vary, depending on the dough type and ambient room temperature. As a guide these are the approximate proving times for our pizza dough. It is possible to use them with shorter proving times, but its well worth waiting!

  • Virtue Pro Sourdough: 8-12 hours
  • Wild Sourdough: 6-8 hours
  • Sourdough Blend: 3-4 hours
  • Gluten-free: 3-4 hours *Note our seperate instructions on stretching gluten-free dough, which is a very different technique. 

As much as you want them to be well-proved, you don’t want them to over-prove, so keep an eye on them and generally, once they have doubled in size, they are good to go. 

In very warm weather, these times can reduce by half, so if you are worried they are over-proving, pop them back into the fridge and remove an hour or 2 before cooking. 

 

How to stretch pizza dough by hand

Ok, time to stretch. First up, make sure that you are ready to start topping and cooking straight away, as the stretched dough can become sticky and hard to work with if left hanging around. Some folks par-cook the bases without any toppings on first and then finish off later when they are ready. This could be a good option if you need to get ahead of yourself beforehand, but it likely won’t ever give you quite such a great pizza.

We prefer to stretch, top, cook and eat in one continuous flow, and let the good times roll. No need to be too over-organised when the oven is roaring, the beers are pouring and everyone is having fun.

Take your dough ball, dust it in a bowl of flour and then lay on your work surface.

Press gently into the centre of the dough with your fingers and begin to work outwords from the centre, pushing all the trapped air into the crust. once you are at 8″ or so you can lay the dough over the back of your hands and gently stretch the dough with your fists. Another way is to let the dough hang from your fingers and work around the edge, letting gravity stretch the dough for you.

There are huge nunbers of videos online showing various ways of stretching and generally everyone comes up with a combination of methods that works for them. 

All the while, try and maintain your crust ring of 1″ or so.

Once you have fully stretched, flop your base gently onto your work surface, which should be lightly dusted with flour, semolina or polenta according to your preference and get topping. Refer to our Golden Rules post for other tips on how to make the perfect pizza.