For those new to the craft, stretching pizza dough might seem like a daunting task at first, but it really needn’t be intimidating! These four steps are the exact same techniques that we teach to all our new staff at Ooni HQ, and they’re perfect for beginners who are new to making pizza.
Once you’ve nailed making your dough using our Classic Pizza Dough recipe, stretching is the next element of pizza making to work on. It’s a process that, when done properly, can make a real difference to the texture and feel of the cooked pizza.
Before you get started, it’s a good idea to remove your watch, rings and any other jewellery on your hands, as these can cause tears in the dough. It’s also essential to dust your work surface and your hands generously with either flour or semolina.
Step 1. The Finger Press
The first step and technique when it comes to stretching is what we call ‘The Finger Press’. Start with your unstretched ball of dough – you want to keep the dough ball on your work surface and gently press into it using your fingers. Keep pressing into the dough ball to flatten it, and gently push your hands away from each other to help stretch the base outwards. Be sure to try to keep the shape as circular as possible, as this will influence the overall shape of your pizza dough base once it’s stretched out.
At this point, it’s good to define the crust of your pizza by leaving around a half-inch (1cm) of dough untouched around the edge of the base.
Step 2. The DJ Deck
Once your dough is flattened out into a disc shape, the next technique you can use is ‘The DJ Deck’. Here, you’re going to put both hands flat onto the disc of dough and rotate the dough as you’re pulling your hands away from each other. Feel free to turn the pizza whichever way feels more comfortable for you. The main thing is that your hands are pulling in opposite directions as you spin the base around. This helps to make the base bigger and to flatten out any lumps so you get a smoother, more even base.
Step 3. The Steering Wheel
Next is ‘The Steering Wheel’. This is where we get gravity involved to help us get the pizza base even bigger and thinner. Simply pick up your pizza base by the edge and let it hang down, like a curtain, and gently pinch along the edge of the dough as you rotate the base around. Don’t be scared of picking up the dough – it has a surprisingly strong structure, so as long as it’s not paper thin when you start this step then it’s unlikely to rip. Depending on how big you’d like to make the base, you can either pinch right from the edge or handle a wider part of the base from closer to the centre of the dough. This will also give you more control over how high the crust will be once it cooks up in the oven.
At this point, start to check that your dough’s evenly stretched. To do this, hold the stretched base up to the light to check how translucent it is. For a Neapolitan-style base, you want it quite thin, so you should be able to see quite a lot of light through it.
Step 4. The Parachute
Finally, it’s time to go in with ‘The Parachute’. We call it this because the action you’re going to make with your hands emulates a parachute opening up. With your hands curved, as if you were holding a mug, place one over the other so they fit together, then at the same time lift both your hands up and out. Place the stretched dough over the top of your hands, and make this movement slowly and gently to keep opening out the dough. It’s good to do this as the final step so that you can focus on any parts of the dough that need extra stretching and aren’t yet thin enough. If at any point you overstretch the dough and find any small holes or tears, simply pinch these back together.
The main thing that we can’t stress enough when it comes to stretching pizza dough is to relax and have confidence! Stretching dough takes practice, but with just a little effort you will no doubt improve your skills very quickly, so have fun whilst you’re learning this key pizza craft.