There’s nothing like a pizza made at home. You can put anything you like on it and enjoy it with family and friends at any time of the year. Pizza dough can be something of a challenge though.
The elastic and stretchy pizza dough has to be made in just the right way so that it works as a pizza base. But even if you get all of the ingredients just right and think you’re on top of it, stretching it out can be another matter altogether.
Stretching Out Your Pizza Dough
You’ve probably witnessed it yourself: an expert pizza maker tossing a disc of yummy and elastic dough into the air and stretching it out nimbly until it is circular and ready to be topped with yummy ingredients.
While you don’t need to toss the pizza dough flamboyantly into the air, it still needs to be stretched out so that it can be topped and cooked. This is where a lot of people at home have a problem.
Sometimes the dough stretches, only to snap back to its smaller size. Other times, the dough simply tears.
So, how can you make your pizza dough stretch properly at home and make yummy pizza for everyone? Here are some tips on making the most of that pizza dough stretch:
1 – Make Sure the Pizza Dough Is at the Right Temperature
The reason why pizza dough is stretchy and elastic is because it contains a protein called gluten. If you find that your pizza dough seems too elastic and it’s snapping back and shrinking even when you stretch it out, it might be because the dough is too cool.
The gluten in cold dough becomes tighter due to the lower temperature and this causes it to shrink when stretched out or snap back into place. The best way to fix this issue is to make sure that your pizza dough is warmed up to room temperature before stretching it out.
If you happen to have bought your pizza dough already mixed from a store and it’s cold, you can place it into a mixing bowl that has been oiled. Just cover it and leave it for about half an hour. It should then be warm enough to handle and stretch.
If you have a pre-made batch of pizza dough that you are pulling from your freezer, see my tips on the best ways to defrost it.
2 – Use More Olive Oil
Once you have your warm pizza dough ready to go, it’s time to start stretching it out.
Some people like to cover the cutting board or kitchen bench with flour, but this is not always a good idea with pizza dough. It can actually change the consistency of some pizza dough and make it tough.
What you need to do at this point is to use two to three tablespoons of olive oil. Cover your hands in the oil and the preparation surface as well. This way, you’ll stop the pizza dough from sticking and tearing.
It will make stretching it a lot easier and it will also ensure that the pizza dough comes out nice and golden after baking in the oven.
3 – Press Out the Pizza Dough First
Before you start stretching the dough into shape, you should press it flat with the palm of your hand. Be firm and ensure that the dough is nice and flat.
Once you’ve done this, you can use the middle three fingers on your hands, one hand at a time, to press the dough into a wider circle from the center of the dough circle. Ideally, the disc should be about six inches in diameter, with a depth of at least half an inch.
What you might find during this process is that the dough snaps back a little. It’s normal for it to be a little bit elastic during the process, but if it shrinks too much, it’s probably still too cold.
In this case, you need to rest it in a covered bowl for another 15 to 20 minutes until it gets as close to room temperature as possible.
4 – Gravity Is Your Friend
Even though pizza dough tossing looks great, it’s not the ideal way to stretch dough at home. That method is best left to experts who have been doing it for many years!
The best way to stretch your dough is to grab one part of the side with both hands and let the rest of it flop down in front of you. Gravity will gently stretch the dough downward.
Keep passing between your fingers until you’ve evenly stretched out from all outer parts of the diameter.
Ideally, the finished pizza base should be about one third of an inch thick. Furthermore, don’t worry too much if the stretching has resulted in thin areas or small holes.
5 – Set it on the Pan
Now that you’ve stretched it out, you can place it gently on your pizza pan ready to be topped with yummy ingredients. This is also when you have a chance to fix any thin areas or holes.
The pizza base might have shrunk back a little bit, but as long as you have about 10 inches across, you’ll still have a perfectly good pizza to work with.
Make sure any thicker parts are flattened out so that the base is about one-third of an inch thick. Then, you can cover any holes or thin spots by folding over adjacent areas. Just remember: it doesn’t have to be perfect.
Homemade pizza is a yummy treat for all of your family and friends, but making the pizza dough is not always easy. Many people have problems stretching the dough out in the right way without tearing it or having it shrink back too tightly.
This can be frustrating, especially if you’ve already spent hours making the dough and have hungry people waiting to eat!
The good news is that this is quite easy to fix. Most of the time, cold pizza dough is the culprit. Just make sure you are working with pizza dough that is at room temperature so that you can stretch it out more easily.
Sarah is the founder of Baking Kneads, LLC, a blog sharing guides, tips, and recipes for those learning how to bake. Growing up as the daughter of a baker, she spent much of her childhood learning the basics in a local bakery.