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How to stretch pizza dough?

Any tips for me? At first I tried making my own dough. Then thinking I was somehow sucking at making dough I tried the store bought fresh pizza dough. I'm having the same problem with both. I want to achieve a super thin crust that I can stick on the grill and cook quickly before layering on ingredients BUT when I try to stretch out my dough, it gets paper thin (too thin) in the middle and even tears so now I have a hole in the middle of my pizza and retains super thick edges. Also when I either make or buy enough dough to supposedly make a standard size inch round, it never gets there. It will stretch out to the 12 inches but then quickly shrink back up to a way smaller half size. I've tried watching the youtubes about stretching on the back of your knuckles etc but its not working for me. Any tips? Help?

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  1. are you letting it rise and rest enough? the gluten needs to be relaxed to stretch properly. there is no magic amount of time for this -- it's not like a cake needs 20 minutes to bake.

    if the dough isn't ready, it will just snap back, which is what seems to be happening with you.

    5 Replies
    1. re: hotoynoodle

      This happened to me with the store bought stuff too. It had been sitting in my fridge since the night before. That must be rested enough right?

      1. re: foxspirit

        You can't stretch cold dough. Take it out of the fridge and let it sit on the counter to warm up. Should be room temp.

        1. re: Jpan99

          And you can let it rest between stretching too. Sometimes you just have to do it a little at a time.

          Though IME properly developed dough won't snap back so badly.

        2. re: foxspirit

          Let the dough come to room temp, never try to stretch with cold dough.

      2. It's not fancy or "authentic" but I use a rolling pin on a well floured surface. For the grill, I prefer smaller rounds, about 8 inches, and I layer them up between parchment so they are ready to go when the fire is hot.

        4 Replies
        1. re: autumm

          Ah I don't know why but I thought you weren't supposed to roll it. I'm definitely willing to try.

          1. re: foxspirit

            I also use a rolling pin to get the dough started, and then stretch into shape.

            1. re: foxspirit

              Using a rolling pin is akin to punching the dough down - it makes for a less coarse air structure and maybe a little less rise. This will be more noticeable the hotter your oven is.

              Not everyone cares, so do what you prefer. But it makes your crust less pizza-y.

              1. re: cowboyardee

                Good point! I do let the rolled and stretched dough rise for about 20 minutes before baking it or topping it. (It's the way an old Italian neighbor taught me to do it, back in the 1970's.)

          2. It takes some practice and experience to know just when the dough has risen/rested long enough. I'm not an expert, but after making bread and pizza as a home cook for years, I suddenly now know when the dough is just right to work. Keep trying...it will come.

            I found it best to practice on making individual pizzas rather than a whole pie.

            1. I signed up for a free pizza-making class from Craftsy online and found a lot of helpful info there. Peter Reinhart teaches the class, so you know he's done it before. I've had issues with him in the past because he added sugar to every dough, but he seems in better control now. At any rate, it's been helpful seeing how the dough should behave.

              1 Reply
              1. re: sr44

                I have 3 of Peter Reinhart's books which I find extremely helpful. They are The Bread Baker's Apprentice: Mastering the Art of Extraordinary Bread, American Pie: My Search for the Perfect Pizza and a paperback entitled Sacramental Magic in a Small-Town Cafe.

                The pizza book is a two part one, first part is about the search for the best pizza, and the second part contains pizza making recipes.

              2. Since you're having problems with store bought doughs, it sounds to me like you're over stretching your dough.

                Normally, when you're not precooking the dough, you don't need a cellophane-thin dough to end up with a thin crust, since the ingredients keep everything but the edges from rising. Your options:

                - cook it with toppings on tip and don't stretch it so thin.
                - try a slightly less moist dough. Lower moisture doughs tend to be less fragile. Note that they also can be a little dryer once cooked and rise a bit less.
                - use a rolling pin, which is easier but messes with the texture a bit, as I noted in my other post.
                - in any case, you don't have to try to emulate guys from pizza parlors, throwing dough and being rough with it to stretch it. That's fot show
                You can keep it on the table and do it gently. You can even let the dough rest a bit and coming UE stretching afterwards if its resisting you (though it shouldn't really)

                1. One of those things where everyone has to go through their own trials and errors.

                  While you are stretching the dough, hold it up to a light or a window. You will see the thin spots before you make them too thin.

                  Try to pull the dough to make the circumference bigger. The diameter will take care of itself.

                  1. Stretch the edges, not the middle.

                    1. A few hints:

                      A) For the grill, I use two pieces of parchment paper and a rolling pin. And I leave the dough between the parchment, pop it on the grill, and give it 30-45s per side to firm up a bit and release. Works very nicely and keeps life easy.

                      B) When stretching by hand, if it starts springing back, walk away for 5 minutes. Let the gluten rest and relax a bit. When you come back it will be much easier to work with.

                      C) For homemade dough, try a higher hydration, and/or a small percentage of oil (3-4% of the weight of the flour in the recipe). Both of these will result in more supple doughs.

                      D) Watch some videos on YouTube that show people opening up dough balls. You can learn a lot of technique that way.

                      5 Replies
                      1. re: davis_sq_pro

                        I love this tip regarding parchment paper. Is it summer yet?

                        1. re: andieb

                          It's 28F here today. I would kill for a nice evening standing over the grill with a few pizza doughs and a cold beverage... (And the parchment paper really helps especially if you've partaken in two or three cold beverages :-))

                          1. re: davis_sq_pro

                            We are in the same area if you are in Davis, I'm over in Harvard.. Lol...And yes, dying for warm weather...

                          2. re: andieb

                            It also makes it easy to pre roll a bunch to do individual pizzas for a small group (no more than 6 is my preferred number)

                          3. re: davis_sq_pro

                            Oh nice tips. Thanks. I'm going to give that a try. I'm rather low on patience and time usually...

                          4. Be aware that rolling the dough and stretching the dough will produce two completely different pizzas.

                            They are both good, but have VERY different texture/aeration patterns.

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: sandylc

                              Agreed, it's very different. And I'd say that hand-stretched results in a far better pizza 99% of the time. The exceptions being bar pies and maybe grilled pies; i.e. pizzas that lack a well-defined cornicione.

                            2. I have found the dough needs to be room temperature to stretch properly. I also use a rolling pin and plenty of flower on both the counter top and the pin. If the dough starts to stick to the counter in any spot it will become a thin spot subject to tearing more easily.

                              Because I use a rolling pin I gave up on trying to make it round and just make oblong rectangle shaped pie.

                              3 Replies
                              1. re: jrvedivici

                                I wonder if you could roll a round dough with high edges by using a beer bottle or other round bottle/jar with a thinner neck, working with the bottom of the bottle in the center of the dough round, and pivoting as you roll in a ring.

                                1. re: greygarious

                                  The problem I would see with that is the pressure required to be placed on a beer bottle or jar would make me nervous working on a hard surface like marble or granite. Perhaps if your rolling on a butchers block, but anything glass on a hard rock/tile surface would make me nervous, one wrong move or slip and you might shatter your rolling pin.

                                  Also once rolled I place it on a greased and seasoned baking sheet, the slight lip is perfect crust hieght.

                                  1. re: jrvedivici

                                    I have a 'special' rolling pin, with thinner ends. that way the dough pushes towards the outer edges while thinning the crust.

                              2. I found the best recipe for a thin crust pizza is the recipe from Reinhart's "Bread Baker's Apprentice."

                                The recipe uses more water (70% bakers percentage) than what I've seen in other recipes. Also, a long room temperature resting before forming which is similar to what I've seen in pizza parlors.

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: dave_c

                                  I make mine even wetter. I do 16 oz. flour to 12 oz. water; 75%. Have for years and love this dough. No oil, so that extra moisture isn't there. One T. of yeast if I'm rushing things, a lot less if I'm taking my time. A t. of salt and we're good to go. Usually half bread, half AP flour, for just enough chew.

                                2. I made a batch of Peter Reinhart's Neo Neapolitan Pizza dough, like I usually do:


                                  It's a really good dough. The last time I made it, I meant to place it in the fridge overnight for proofing, as I usually do. One thing came up and then another. This batch of pizza dough spent 3 1/2 days in the fridge. Each day, I would take it out of the fridge and deflate it and then return it to the fridge. I decided to use it anyway. It was the smoothest, nicest, most flavorful and easiest rolling pizza dough I have ever made. So in the future, the pizza dough will spend several days in the fridge.

                                  3 Replies
                                  1. re: Antilope

                                    Why did you take it out and deflate it each day?

                                    1. re: davis_sq_pro

                                      The dough was in a Tupperware container. It reached the top of the bowl in about 24 hours and was going to pop the lid off and overflow. When I was in the fridge for something else and noticed the dough at the top of the bowl, I deflated it. Also, deflating redistributes the dough and yeast within the dough, making more food available to the yeast. The yeast is still active while in the fridge, although at a much slower pace. I believe the 3 rises in the fridge did the work of 3 stretch and folds, also improving the dough structure.

                                      1. re: Antilope

                                        Ah, interesting. I don't get much rise on mine while it's in the fridge (it might double after two or three days), but perhaps that has to do with my sourdough starter, which is a bit sluggish.

                                  2. The dough needs to rest and rise a bit before you start stretching it, otherwise it will snap back and be stubborn about stretching out. You should let it sit at room temp, loosely covered for about an hour before stretching it.

                                    Also, I like to rub some oil on the dough and all over my hands before stretching.

                                    1. Doughs I make now with Jeff Varasano's autolyse instructions stretch out with little to no "snap back." It makes a world of difference, and is a very springy dough if you have the heat for it. I have a good bit of heat, but not self-clean cycle kinds of heat so I deal with a middle ground. I do agree with stretching from the edges, it helps quite a bit. Good luck!

                                      1. Let the room temperature dough relax first, you're trying to work it too quickly. Plop it on a floured board, flatten it out with your hands and let it relax. Then work it in to the shape you want. When making a round pizza work from the center out, then stretch the edges so they won't be thick. Never use a rolling pin.

                                        1. Sure wish I could make dough like the guy in this pizza dough video. It's in Italian, which I don't speak, but a picture is worth 1000 words. The dough is kneaded by hand. Look how easily he stretches the final pizza dough. What's the secret?


                                          1 Reply
                                          1. re: Antilope

                                            There's a video from Chow.com demonstrating the method that generally works best for me, even using relatively fragile dough.
                                            The especially useful part is about 30 seconds in. You can see how he keeps it on the board and stretches it at its edges, not pulling the dough outward but kind of stretching it into a wider circle. To me, this method was easier to learn and less error-prone than lifting the dough onto my knuckles, and produces results that are just as good.