Balling pizza dough is a crucial step in the pizza making process but it is really easy. Like with kneading, there are so many different ways to make dough balls.
Once we have made our pizza dough balls, we can allow them to prove for a final time. Once our dough balls have proved, we are ready to shape and cook some amazing pizza!
In the 4th part of this series, I show you a couple of different easy techniques for shaping pizza dough balls. I also discuss the best types of containers for proving your dough balls. Check out the video below:
There are a few reasons why we ball pizza dough:
Basically, we are trying to achieve a round dough ball which is quite tight. By weighing the dough out first, we can also ensure that each dough ball is the correct weight for each pizza.
The tension that we build in the dough ball will provide strength as it proves. This will help the dough to hold it’s round shape which will make the shaping much easier later.
There is no need to over tighten the dough, however, as do not want to rip the dough.
For Neapolitan pizza, the weight of each ball should be between 180g – 250g. Personally, I tend to go for around 250g or just under. With this you should be able to achieve a 10 inch pizza with quite puffy crusts.
The weight that you choose will depend on how you shape the pizza. Even within Neapolitan pizza there are different styles of shaping.
Some people like a pizza with large, soft crusts and some people like a pizza with smaller, less risen crusts. I tend to prefer a pizza with slightly larger crusts, somewhere in the middle.
For a 10 inch pizza with quite a large crust, I find about 240g -250g to be perfect. This will allow you to stretch the pizza really thin in the middle whilst allowing the crusts to be quite big.
If you prefer a smaller crustm try a ball weight of 200g – 210g. This will allow you to stretch the pizza to around 10 inches with quite a small crust.
Pizza dough should be balled once it has proved. In general, pizza dough is proved in one big dough before being balled. This is known as the bulk ferment, or bulk prove.
Once the dough has proved, it is then shaped into dough balls. It is important that the dough balls are allowed to prove again after balling, before being shaped into pizzas.
This is because a lot of the air in the dough (built up through the bulk prove) is lost during balling. Proving the dough balls again allows them to expand and become airy again. It is this air built up during proving which gives the crust a wonderful texture.
Also, as the dough balls relax as they prove. It is important that the pizza dough has time to relax after we have been handling them. So even if you are doing a short prove, it is important that you do not skip this step.
This will ensure that the dough is really soft and easy to stretch when we come to making the pizzas.
In general, pizza dough should not be kneaded after it rises. Kneading at this stage will remove all the air that has built up in the dough during proving.
If you think your pizza dough is weak then it can be kneaded again but this should really be done before proving.
If you need to, you can check out part 2 of this series on kneading by clicking here.
It is true that the pizza would prove again but we should limit the amount of times this happens. The more times we have to prove our dough, the more dense it becomes.
If you are doing a long prove, as I recommend, it is important to shape your dough balls after a bulk prove. If we shape our dough balls as soon as we have finished kneading they will lose all their strength at the end of the long prove (24 hours).
This is why I recommend proving your dough for around 18 hours (for a 24 hour prove) before shaping. We can then shape our dough balls and proof them for the remaining 6 hours.
This will ensure proper proofing of the dough balls without any loss of strength due to the long prove.
If you are only doing a short prove of up to 6 hours then you can go ahead and shape your dough balls immediately after kneading.
It is important to proof your dough balls at room temperature. This is because we need the dough to be as soft as possible when we come to stretch the pizza.
Even if you do a cold prove, be sure to remove your dough balls for their final proof. I actually recommend removing them a couple of hours before balling. This will make the shaping of the dough balls as easy as possible.
There are so many different types of container you can use for proofing pizza dough. Even if you don’t have a lid don’t worry, you can simply cover it with cling film (plastic wrap).
Here’s a list of containers that you can use:
Many people opt for a bowl. Everyone has one and it keeps the dough balls seperate. The downside is that the dough is difficult to remove from the bowl without degassing it. We want to retain as much of the air in the dough as we can.
A large dish is an excellent container for proofing pizza dough in. You can easily cover it with cling film. When it comes to removing the balls for shaping, we can easily get our hand in our use a dough scraper/wall scraper.
This ensures that we keep as much air in the dough as possible when it comes to shaping the pizza.
A chopping board is also a good option for proving. Removing the dough from a chopping board is very easy, The downside is that the cling film can stick to the top of the dough balls and takes a bit more time to set up. It is important to ensure that the balls are airtight so they don’t dry out.
Small tupperware containers are an excellent option. You can fit 2 dough balls in each one and you can use the lid to keep them air tight. Initially, they should be easy to remove with a dough scraper/wall scraper.
The final option is to buy a pizza proving box. They are quite inexpensive and they are great. I’ve had mine for a while and I’ve proved 12 dough balls at once in it! Removing the dough balls is really easy and the lid keeps them from drying out.
They are also a great space saver and make for easy transportation of dough when making large batches.
Whatever you decide to use just be sure you dough doesn’t dry out. I’ve made great pizza dough using all of the containers above so don’t worry too much about it!
With 00 flour:
With Strong White Bread Flour:
And that’s it! Making pizza dough balls is really quite easy.
As with most aspects of pizza making, there are many ways to shape and prove your dough balls.
The main things are to weigh your dough balls and to get them quite tight. Then be sure to allow them to prove fully before shaping into pizzas.
The final prove is key as it will ensure that dough balls rise properly and have time to rest following the balling.
Good luck and let’s get balling!
I’m Tom Rothwell and I’m super passionate about all kinds of homemade pizza! In the last few years I've been on a quest to find the perfect pizza. Now I'm sharing what I've found out with the world!
I often get asked what type of oven I use for my pizzas. Well, I use a portable pizza oven made by Ooni.
In all honesty, I would say that the oven makes a huge difference. If you're looking to make authentic Italian pizza, a pizza oven is a must.
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