First we need to see if your homemade dough is stretchable at all! It might not be if you made a dud batch. If it is stretchy and soft, skip this section and go down to the next section.
If your pizza dough won't stretch, there are several things you need to consider.
- How long has the dough sat rising? Fresh made dough that was made with water that was not very warm will take some time to get to the point where the yeast expands the dough through the gases the yeast let out. The longer the pizza dough rises, the easier it will stretch. Mix dough, and let it set for as long as you can. The previous night is best! Set it covered in the fridge!
- Did you use a low gluten flour? The higher the gluten, the easier it is to stretch
- Is the dough slightly sticky or hard and dry? If you kneeded the dough and it's kind of hard and not sticky, you could have killed the batch. The only thing you can do now is wait or make a new batch. If the dough is too sticky, you'll have to kneed some more flour in. Do this a few sprinkles at a time. Too much at one time just makes a mess and won't work.
- Extra! Pizza Recipe: Secrets From Inside The Pizzeria. Learn How To Make Pizzeria Style Pizza At Home Better Than You Can Buy At The Pizzeria
How to stretch pizza dough
I use a traditional method. First, you have to have dough that has doubled in size roughly, or at least is very very soft to the touch, and maybe even collapses a tad when you press it.
Have you seen someone crack their knuckles on a table? They extend their fingers and apply a gentle pressure down through the knuckles that connect to the palm. This is what you want to do. Practice on a table with both hands. Apply gentle pressure through down through where your first knuckles are. Now, your fingers will go kind of flat against the table. As soon as the ridge of the palm of your hand touches the table, stop. Now, do it again, but this time, gently spread your fingers apart as they come down in pressure on the table. You'll spread them maybe only a total of a half inch total, across all your fingers. Less is more.
Do this with both hands. Picture massaging someones back like this. There is a contants undulation of pressure and spreading.
Get your soft dough and at first use the palms of your hands to spread it out to maybe an inch thick. Now, begin the motion I just described. Not much should happen. You'll do this dozens of times, each time causing the dough to spread a bit more than the last time. Turn the dough while you do this, and every so often, with a quick natural motion, sweep your palm across the surface of the dough to see if it's coming out even. Turn the dough and work that spot, like you are working a spot out on your grandmothers aching back! Gentle, quick, not too deep.
Make sure that the dough is stretching out in a circular manner. If you are putting this on a circular pizza stone, get to about 95% of the size of the pizza stone. Sprinkle coarse corn meal on a cookie sheet or a pizza board. In a quick motion, get the pizza dough on top of the backs of your hands and spread your fingers out. Just get right up under it. Quickly get it in the air and over and down onto the board with corn meal.
Now, work fast to get the toppings on. If the dough is too thin, your sauce will leach through quickly and your pizza dough will be stuck to the board or tray.
If you are putting the dough in a cookie sheet for a rectangular pizza, you'll want to stretch the dough first round, then oblong. Lift the dough onto the sheet, with cornmeal on it of course and just flop it on. Gently tuck the sides into place. Gently grab the rounded ends and give a tug so that it begins to shape rectangular. If you over stretch it, just tuck all the "fat flabs" as neat and flat and as distributed as you can. The dough is very forgiving. If you are making thin crust pizza dough and you see a spot that is so thin that it is translucent (woops) you'll want to "do surgery" by folding a nearby area over on it. But don't press to hard or you make that spot stick to the sheet, or board, whatever you are using.
If you have it on a pizza board at this point and are putting it on a stone in the oven, you'll want to do this little trick I'll show you next. The toppings, sauce, and cheese have weighed down the crust, and it's likely a bit stuck in a spot or two. No big deal. Pick up the pizza board and do some very quick jerk like motions, as if you where "shaking mad". No big distance, just short vibrations almost. You will be able to tell when it breaks free. As soon as it does (it only should have moved an 1/8th of an inch) go to your pre-heated stone.
Repeat the exact same shaking motion until the lip of the dough is on the stone. Shake more forward and a little less backwards, and the pizza will start to slip off the board. Work your way back watching to make sure that the last inch of the dough will make it onto the last inch of the stone. The dough is forgiving and will allow you to "squish up" if you didn't plan right. This takes some practice, but is always fun. You should now have the pizza entirely on the stone with no part of the dough hanging off!
In 10-12 minutes at 400-500 depending on your oven, you'll be eating dinner!