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Pizza 101: Hand Stretching a Dough Ball [VIDEO]

September 28 2016 by Nick Charles

stretching-dough-ball.jpgChef Luke from Alive & Kickin’ Pizza Crust is back in the kitchen to demonstrate how to hand stretch a dough ball into the crust of a patron-pleasing pizza.


TRANSCRIPT – Hand Stretching a Dough Ball

Starting with a dough ball that's been proofed for 24–48 hours and kept under plastic to preserve its smooth and soft texture, use a dough scraper to gently pick up the dough ball. It may seem like common sense, but keep the dough ball as round as possible, since round dough balls make round pizzas. 

Initial Preparation: Surface and Dough Ball

Liberally flour your table. You don’t want your pizza sticking to the table; you want it nice and smooth. Then place the dough ball in the center of the prepared surface, and flour the top. Now you’re ready to hand stretch the crust!

8 Steps to a Perfectly Hand-Stretched Pizza Crust

1. Create a 1” edge

The pizza’s crust is usually the first thing people notice, so you want to put a nice edge on it. Starting about an inch from the edge of the dough ball, use your fingers to press the dough down on the interior of the ball (leaving the edge thick). Press hard — you won’t press through the dough ball. Continue to flatten the interior of the dough ball, rotating it to maintain a round shape and consistent edge. The dough ball will get bigger during this process, but only by a few inches. It is not intended to be the final pie size.

2. Roll with dough docker

The best style of docker to have on hand, in our opinion, is a roller docker with a stainless steel or cast aluminum handle and stainless steel pins. The plastic ones, or unusually shaped rollers, don’t work as well.

Roll the docker over the dough ball, pushing all the way through. Roll all the way out to the edge and across the middle. Flip the dough ball and repeat.

(For more tips on pizza-making tools, watch our video here!)

3. Determine the baking surface

What you bake the pie on depends largely on the oven. For most ovens — like conveyor or deck ovens — people use baking screens. If using a wood-fired oven (which is what we're using in the video for our New York style pie), you can prepare the pizza on a peel and cook it right on the oven surface. It’s important to flour the peel. You can use semolina flour, corn meal, corn starch — anything that will not make the dough stick to the peel.

4. Drape dough over knuckles and stretch from edge

Pick up the dough ball. Drape it over your knuckles so you can just see the dough ball’s edge when looking at the back of your hands. Work your way around the pizza, stretching only the edge. Don’t pull from the middle. Gravity will do the rest.

5. Add the sauce

Once you’ve stretched the dough ball to the desired size, place it on the peel and arrange into a round shape. Spoon a generous amount of pizza sauce into the center of the dough ball. Using the back of a spoon and a back-and-forth motion, spread the sauce up to the 1” edge you created on the pie crust. When spreading the sauce, rotate the pizza not your body. You’ll not only be more comfortable, you’ll be able to evenly spread the sauce and your pizza will look really good.

6. Add the cheese

Sprinkle shredded mozzarella cheese evenly over the entire dough ball, all the way to the edge of the sauce. As your pizza starts to bake, the crust rises first, and the lift will cause all of the cheese to slide into the middle of the pie if not distributed to the edge of the sauce. Once you’ve sprinkled on the cheese, you can gently lift the edge of the dough ball to “flip” stray cheese strands off of the crust. This step is not necessary, but it makes for a clean crust presentation.

7. Add toppings

For any toppings, like the pepperoni we’re using on our pizza today, make sure you put them out to the edge of the sauce and cheese.

8. Bake

If using a peel, gently shake it before sliding into the oven to ensure your pizza won’t stick. Bake until the crust is golden brown and cheese is bubbly. Slice with a roller cutter and serve.

Pies with hand-stretched crusts are great additions to any menu — as long as you have the right oven for the job. Learn more about selecting the right oven for your pizza operation and the style of pizzas you make in our eBook, How To Select the Right Oven for Your Pizza Operation. Click the button below to download your free copy.

Pizza Ovens Guide

Categories: Performance/Quality, Kitchen Operations, Dough Balls

Nick Charles

Written by Nick Charles

President, Alive & Kickin' Pizza Crust
Nick has been in the pizza dough business for more than 20 years. He heads up the company’s customer development and service (making sure they’re always happy with our product and our processes) and manages the overall business. It’s a big job, and he’s the right guy to do it!