Looking for a great tip for greater pizzas? Maybe, it is time to consider if what you are doing with your pizza dough is right. In fact, here is an informative read on why you should stretch pizza dough and not roll it.
Which is better: Stretching pizza dough by hand or roll it with a rolling pin? Are you used to seeing a Chef using a rolling pin every time when making pizza on TV or in a movie? Surely, that makes sense. Why should you use your hands to stretch out a ball of dough instead of using a rolling pin?
In most instances, rolling out pizza dough with a rolling pin yields a poorer crust than stretching it out by hand. This is because a rolling pin will pop all the gas pockets and bubbles that form within the dough during fermentation. Your pizza will bake into a flat and dense pizza crust if all the air and gas trapped in these pockets is removed.
However, while stretching your pizza dough by hand is usually preferable, it is not always the best option. When you want an extra thin crust pizza, this is a splendid example. We will discuss why you should stretch pizza dough and not roll it. Read on.
To preserve gas and air pockets, stretch pizza dough by hand.
Handling a pizza dough delicately is the key to maintaining as much of the network of air and gas pockets as possible. In fact, we want to push and press the air from the centre of the pizza dough into the crust’s outer edges. This is what gives pizza its distinctive puffy crust, particularly in Neapolitan-style pizza.
Remember that by allowing the dough to rise after kneading and then proof before stretching, we are allowing the yeast to feed on the sugars in the flour. When this happens, the yeast emits gases such as CO2, which fill the small air pockets that naturally occur within the dough. When heated in the oven, this gas expands the air pockets, resulting in the puffy and soft crust we all love.
In most cases, a rolling pin is too large and will crush the outer crust while allowing all the air and gas to escape. This completely defeats the purpose of letting the dough proof before using it and always results in a dense and tough crust. Because we can avoid touching the outer crust entirely, stretching the dough by hand is the best way to preserve all the air and gas within the dough.
Stretching pizza dough without a rolling pin
At first glance, you might find the idea of stretching a pizza by hand without a rolling pin may appear impossible at first. However, this is usually due to improper pizza dough preparation. Stretching a pizza dough by hand is quite simple. All you have to do is begin with a room temperature dough on a bed of semolina flour to stretch pizza dough (without a rolling pin). Then, gently push and press the air from the centre of the dough out to the crust’s outer edges.
To make your pizza dough less elastic, let your dough proof
When stretching pizza dough by hand, one of the most common issues is that the dough is overly elastic. This occurs when the gluten within the dough is too strong, causing it to return to its original position whenever you try to give it a stretch. An effortless way to avoid this is to simply let allow the dough to rest at room temperature. When a pizza dough is properly prepared, it is allowed to proof as a dough ball at room temperature. This allows the gluten in the dough to relax, making it simpler for you to stretch it.
Because the key to effectively stretching your pizza dough is properly prepared dough, the best way to do this is to let the dough proof for enough time before even touching it. Pizza dough should be formed into balls with a taught skin and an even composition. This is a skill in and of itself, and it does not simply entail rolling a piece of dough between your hands into a rough ball, leaving it, and stopping for the day.
After forming the ball and placing it in a covered container dusted with semolina flour, it should proof for about 1-2 hours at room temperature (depending on the temperature of your room). This proofing process is critical because it gives the pizza dough the gas and air that we want to keep by hand stretching it. Proofing also allows the gluten bonds in the dough to relax, that further gives it its elasticity and strength.
To make your pizza dough softer, hydrate the dough
We all know that adding more hydration to your dough will soften the crust after baking, but it will also soften and make the dough easier to work with. Due to being flooded out by excess water, a highly hydrated dough will have a slightly weakened gluten network. This will make stretching the dough by hand even easier. For the ideal outcomes when baking in a home oven, aim for 65 to 70 percent hydration.
Gently press and push the pizza dough by hand to stretch it
Before you do anything with your proofed dough ball, place it on a thick bed of semolina flour. You want the dough to be completely floured so that it does not stick to your hands or the countertop as you push and press it.
Begin stretching your pizza dough by gently patting it down the centre to flatten it slightly. Then, using the flat side of your fingers, work the air from the centre of the dough out into the outer crust, being careful not to touch the outer crust itself. For a soft crust, try to leave as much air in the dough as possible.
As you do this, slowly rotate the dough to ensure an even level on all sides. Then, flip the dough over from time to time and dust with semolina to ensure that all of the sticky parts are coated and dry. You can repeat this process as needed, and when you are done, the centre of the dough should be shaped like a pizza, with a flat middle and puffy rim.
Use the Neapolitan Slapping Technique to stretch the pizza dough very quickly by hand
In Naples, Italy, the Neapolitan slapping technique is a method of stretching pizza dough perfected over centuries by pizza masters. This method begins similarly to the previous one, by gently pressing the air from the centre to the edges but is accelerated by pulling and slapping the dough against the countertop. This technique entails holding the dough against the countertop with one hand while gently pulling with the other. The dough is then flipped onto the open plan and “slapped” down on the work surface. This has the advantage of pressing the air from the centre to the edges while also shaking off any excess flour before baking.
While this technique is highly effective, it is not suitable for novices. Without practise, you can easily ruin your pizza dough by tearing it or folding it over on itself. In fact, there have been pizza chefs learning this method for years and are still trying to master it.
Though, a rolling pin works wonders with a thin crust pizza
Here is an interesting fact: There are certain pizza styles, such as those with an extremely thin crust, they work well with a rolling pin. This is due to the fact that these types of pizza are not supposed to have puffy edges, but toppings that extend from edge to edge.
So, stretch it or roll it?
At the end of the day, if you need to use a rolling pin to roll your pizza dough because you are nervous of stretching it with your hands, then do so. However, with some practise, you can start making more varied types of pizza with hand stretching, particularly those with light and airy crusts.
Whatever the case is—Thin and crispy, New York style. Deep dish and doughy, Chicago all the way. Or maybe you fancy classic Italian fare, firm yet flaky. Go ahead, let your appetite transport you to the pizza of your dreams. Make your pizza without limits.
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