Shaping The Pizza | Neapolitan Pizza from scratch | Part 6

Ooni Fyra

Stretching pizza dough

The shaping of a pizza is basically done by stretching the dough into a thin, round shape by hand. There are a many different ways to stretch pizza dough but in this article I’m going to show you a really easy way.

Shaped Neapolitan pizza
Stretched authentic Neapolitan style pizza

Not only is this way of stretching pizza dough really easy, it also makes an Authentic Neapolitan pizza. The shaping is arguably the most difficult part of the pizza making process and makes such a hige difference to the quality of the pizza.

In case you missed the other parts of this series, feel free to check them out below:

Once we’ve got our dough ready, we’re ready for the final part before cooking – stretching the dough!

How to shape pizza dough by hand video

In the video below I show you an easy and authentic way to shape pizza by hand.

There are a few keys to this method and the quality of the pizza depends largely on the attention to detail. It may seem difficult to start with but it becomes really easy once you’ve done it a few times.

Shaping pizza dough by hand

When you get the hang of this technique you should be able to shape a pizza in about 30 secoonds or less!

Is it better to roll or stretch pizza dough?

In general, pizza should be stretched rather than rolled. Unlike pasta dough, pizza dough contains yeast (a leavened dough) which allows air pockets to develop in the dough.

These air pockets are what makes for the wonderfully light texture to the pizza. As the pizza cooks, especially at high temperatures, the air pockets expand.

Neapolitan pizza slice being folded
Shaping by hand, allows for a lovely airy crust

Rolling pizza dough removes a lot of the air that developed during proofing. There are some pizza styles which require rolling but the vast majority of pizzas are hand stretched without a rolling pin.

Shaping Neapolitan pizza

Being the most traditional pizza, Neapolitan pizza is shaped by hand. The classic shape is round, very thin in the middle, with quite thick crusts. The crusts are light and airy due to the long prove and delicate shaping.

The key to achieving the classic Neapolitan pizza shape is to move as much air as possible from the middle of the dough to the edge (the crust). This forms the crust. Once the crust is formed, the pizza can be gently stretched until it is thin in the middle.

The easiest way to form the crust is by using the finger tips. Overlap the index fingers to achieve the shape shown below:

Shaping Neapolitan pizza
The authentic Neapolitan technique

From there, you don’t need to move your fingers or wrists at all. Simply use your arms to press the air to the outside of your pizza dough.

The authentic Neapolitan technique
Press the air to the outside, forming the crust

Turn the dough regularly, repeating the process. This should set up the perfect Neapolitan pizza shape.

Turning the pizza dough
Turn the pizza dough regularly, without touching the crust

How to stretch pizza dough evenly

Once a nice round shape has been established and the crust has been formed, we can move onto stretching the pizza dough.

The most authentic, and in my view, easiest way is called the “slap” technique.

With one hand, hold the pizza down to the counter. With the other hand, stretch gently outwards.

How to stretch pizza dough evenly
Hold the dough down, and stretch gently

Using the same hand, flip the dough onto your other hand.

Turning the dough
Flip the dough onto your hand

In one motion, rotate the dough 90 degree whilst flipping the dough back over.

Turning the pizza dough over
Flip the dough back over
Neapolitan pizza slapping technique
“Slap” the pizza back down onto the counter

Repeat this process until you have achieved the desired thickness (quite thin). Stretching very gently and turning often ensures that we stretch the dough evely.

Try not to remove any air from the crusts during shaping but don’t worry if they shrink a little. They will expand as they cook in the oven.

How to stretch pizza dough without breaking

Pizza dough breaking easily during stretching could be a sign of an underdeveloped dough. If your dough hasn’t been kneaded well enough, it will lack gluten development.

It is the gluten that gives pizza dough most of it’s strength, preventing it from breaking. However, if your pizza dough passed the windowpane test then this is unlikely to be the issue.

The windowpane test for pizza dough
The windowpane test usually usually signifies a strong dough

It is also possible that your dough is overproofed. A properly proofed dough should have doubled in size and be full of little bubbles. It should be soft and easy to stretch, but equally quite strong.

Pizza dough proofing
A properly proofed dough should be soft and airy

However, dough does loose some strength as it proves. A dough that is overproved will have contracted and will be difficult to stretch. If it does stretch, it will have a tendancy to break.

It is important to develop a feel for the dough, which will happen over time. Be careful when stretching to avoid your dough breaking. Try to work quickly but with soft hands.

How to fix pizza dough that won’t stretch

Of course, the best way to avoid shaping issues is to start off with a perfect dough. But most of the time, we might notice there is an issue when it’s too late. But don’t worry, good results can still be achieved with less than great dough.

How to fix pizza dough that won't stretch

At this stage, it is generally too late to fix the problem. So rather than trying to fix the pizza dough, I recommend the following steps during shaping:

Take more time to stretch the dough carefully

If it feels like your dough is difficult to work with, take more time during stretching. You may be able to patch up a small tear but in general, once a pizza breaks it is no good.

Stretching dough carefully
Take your time and be gentle with the stretching

Stretch the dough gently and turn it often. This should help to achieve a good shape without risking any tears.

Settle for a slightly thicker pizza

It is very difficult, if not impossible, to achieve a thin pizza with weak dough. However, you can still make a nice pizza, even if it is a little thicker than ideal.

Thicker pizza
This is a slightly ticker, but delicious, pizza

Make the pizza as thin as you think you can before it tips but don’t go too far. If you are unsure, then stop strecthing. A pizza that is slightly too thick is better than one that is ripped.

Quickly move the shaped pizza into the oven

Everytime you shape a pizza, you should add the toppings quickly and move it onto the peel as soon as possible. A stretched pizza left on the bench will stick after a short time. Once moved, this pizza will stretch again and may tear.

Loading pizza peel
Move the shaped pizza quickly, before it sticks to the counter

When working with weaker pizza dough, it is even more important to get your pizza on the peel and into the oven as soon as possible. The quicker we can get the pizza in, the less chance there is of it breaking.

Shape the pizza on the peel

If you are worried that your pizza may rip when transferring it onto the peel, don’t worry. One option is to shape the pizza on the peel itself. Whilst this method is not traditional, it is much safer.

Shape pizza on peel
A good option with weak pizza dough is to shape the pizza directly on the peel, rather than on the counter before transferring to the peel

You will likely end up with a thicker pizza doing this. But as mentioned earlier, this is probably for the best anyway, given the weak dough.

Hand-stretched pizza dough recipe

  • Makes 4 x 250g pizzas

Ingredients

With 00 flour:

  • 630g 00 flour
  • 360g water
  • 14g fine salt
  • 0.7g instant dried yeast
  • (57% hydration dough)

With Strong White Bread Flour:

  • 620g 00 flour
  • 370g water
  • 14g fine salt
  • 0.7g instant dried yeast
  • (60% hydration dough)

Method

For dough & toppings:

  1. Mix ingredients by hand
  2. Knead dough by hand
  3. Check dough with windowpane test (optional)
  4. Shape into dough balls
  5. Prepare toppings

For shaping:

  1. Remove proofed dough ball from container (using plenty of flour)
  2. Coat dough ball in flour on both sides
  3. Using finger tips, press air to the crust
  4. Turn dough frequently to achieve a round shape
  5. Holding the dough down with one hand, gently stretch the dough with the other
  6. Turn the dough 90 degrees
  7. Repeat steps 5 & 6 until you have an evenly shaped pizza that is the desired thickness

That’s all there is to it! A perfectly shaped pizza. All that’s left to do is to add the toppings and load it into the oven.

Topping stretched pizza

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Final thoughts on shaping pizza…

The shaping of the pizza is one the biggest keys to great pizza. It is not the easiest step since it requires some practice. However, there are many ways to stretch the dough and it’s just a matter of finding what works for you.

The ideal shape for Neapolitan pizza is thin in the middle with quite large crusts. The technique I’ve showed you in this article is the easiest way I’ve found to achieve this.

Shaped and stretched Neapolitan pizza

Here’s one I made earlier! Pizza shaped Neapolitan style with nice large crusts

I would recommend making more pizza than you need so you can practice the shaping. Also, when you first start out, you will probably make a couple of poor pizzas before you start to get the hang of the shaping.

By making more dough than you need, you will have plenty of pizzas to practice on. And, it won’t matter if a couple of them don’t turn out so well.

If you missed any of the series before, be sure to check them out below:

Good luck with your shaping everyone!

Tom Rothwell from My Pizza Corner eating homemade pizza

About Me

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!

Ooni Pizza Ovens
Tom Rothwell's Ooni pizza oven

My Pizza Oven

I often get asked what type of oven I use for my pizzas. Well, I use a pizza oven made by a company called Ooni.

The range of pizza ovens that Ooni offers is just brilliant. They cover all bases, and all price points. There's affordable and portable models such as the Fyra 12 Pizza Oven and then there's state-of-the-art models such as the Karu 16 Pizza Oven pictured below.

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.

Pizza cooked in Ooni pizza oven

By clicking the link below and purchasing from Ooni, you would be supporting this website. I've been using their ovens for a long time now and I wouldn't recommend them if I didn't believe in their products.

Time to make some amazing pizza!

K16 - US
Comments
  1. Avatar for Gordon Welty Gordon Welty says:

    Hi Tom, I’m a beginner when it comes to pizza making and using dough. I’ve tried several different times to create the perfect pizza, but so far I’ve made a lot of mistakes. However, I’m very encouraged after watching all of your videos, and I’m excited to try out your method, which I’m sure will have very different results for me. Thank you for sharing your passion with the world! I’ll keep you updated.

    1. Avatar for Tom Rothwell Tom Rothwell says:

      Thank you for the kind words Gordon. Stay tuned because I have a lot more planned for the site!

  2. Ooni Karu
  3. Avatar for Kesh gadher Kesh gadher says:

    I have just started making pizza. I roll dough to size I want but it shrinks too small

    1. Avatar for Tom Rothwell Tom Rothwell says:

      Hi Kesh, it sounds to me like your dough is underproved. Dough that has not proved enough will not stretch properly and it will not cook properly either – it will tend to make dense pizza.

      Be sure to leave your pizza long enough to prove. It should have roughly doubled in size. Also, it should have some small bubbles in it.

      Hopefully this helps. Good luck!

  4. Ooni Karu
  5. Avatar for Adam Gurgiolo Adam Gurgiolo says:

    With the differences in the yeast amounts, do you recommend one over the other or is the difference due to type of yeast? Or is one a longer proving time than the other? Also, if you do recommend one over the other, I will be making this in a home oven with a stone vs a pizza oven, if one is better for the lower temperature.

    1. Avatar for Tom Rothwell Tom Rothwell says:

      Hi Adam, I’ve amended the recipe to read 0.2g – 0.5g. The amount of yeast required will depend on the type of yeast and your room temperature. Check out my pizza dough calculator here to figure out how much yeast you need.

      The only difference in using more or less yeast is in the prove time. In general, a 24 hour prove produces about the best results. And it shouldn’t make a difference whether you are using a home oven or a pizza oven. A longer prove should still lead to a better dough.

      Thanks for the questions and good luck!

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