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 wafer 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 prove 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.
We suggest that you remove their wrappers and place them in sealed proving containers that have been lightly coated with flour, or olive oil.
On the day of cooking, allow your pizza dough plenty of time to come up to room temperature, prove and relax ready to stretch. We generally allow between 1 and 3 hours for this, depending on the dough type and ambient room temperature. Note the Wild Sourdough will need more time than our other doughs, due to the slow nature of the live yeast.
As much as you want them to be well-proved, you dont want them to over-prove, so keep an eye on them and generally once they have doubled in size, they are good to go. (You can slow the proving process if you need to by popping the back into the fridge at any point). Note that our Wild Sourdough will spread out rather than puff up like regular dough.
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 move 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 likley 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 flour and then begin to work the dough with your fingers out from the centre, pushing all the trapped air into the crust. once you are at 8-10″ you can lay the dough over the back of your hands and gently stretch the middle with your fists. Another way is to let the dough hang from your fingers and turn, letting gravity stretch the dough for you. 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 well dusted with flour, semolina or polenta according to your preference and get cookin’. Refer to our fundamentals post for other tips on how to make the perfect pizza.