How to Shape Pizza Dough

Jana asked in the comments to my Standard Pizza Dough recipe if I would do a tutorial on how I shape pizza dough. And we aim to please, here at Freezes Beautifully, so here it is.

I should tell you right up front that this is how you shape pizza dough if you are making a 10″ or so pizza with a relatively thin crust and care more about your crust being just right- chewy and almost crackery- taste wise than you do about it being a perfect circle or any nonsense like that.  Sometimes I want a big giant NY style pizza and if I want that I go up the street to Mulberry Pizza, there are some things just best left to professionals.  (The Standard Pizza Dough recipe CAN be used to make thick crust pizzas- just use more dough per pizza- but I don’t like thick crust pizza that much so I usually don’t.)

All you really need is a little bit of time. You want to let your mixer knead the dough for longer than you think it probably needs.  To check and see if your dough has been kneaded long enough, pull out a little ball of it.Totally not ready, I can tell by looking. But the way to test is to try to stretch it out- you want it to be able to stretch thinly enough that it’s translucent, like a windowpane, without breaking. (Peter Reinhart calls this the “windowpane test.” I assume that is the technical term.)
See? It done tore. Knead it some more.

Ok, so I couldn’t get a great picture of this while holding it in one hand and the camera and the other. But see that part in the bottom left hand corner? See how you can see the pink of my hand? That passed the windowpane test, and you can stop kneading.

Then there is the shaping. Here’s how I do it.

Start with a ball of dough. Let it sit for about an hour at room temperature (covered in plastic!).Pick it up and start to stretch it out. You want to hold onto the edges and let gravity do most of the stretching.Turn it, holding onto the edges- it’ll get thinner and thinner in the center and the edges will stay thicker. Work fast, this is a thin crust and too much gravity will pull it apart, windowpane crust or no. (And, if you do get a tiny tear? You can ball it back up and let it rest another half hour before trying again, or- just smush the torn parts together til they hold.)Checking my progress.Getting closer.Just right!Final shaping. Last few tips- after you have shaped your pizza, put it on a pizza peel lined with parchment paper. Don’t mess around with flour or cornmeal. I mean, you can if you want, but I don’t like the taste of extra flour or cornmeal on my pizza crust. Parchment is easier since you can just slide the whole pizza, parchment and all, on into your oven.  And if you set it on your parchment and it shrinks, give it five minutes and then stretch it out some more. Finished product. I will never learn that fresh mozzarella is not ideal for pizza, but whatever, it’s still delicious. And this crust is thin, but still can stand up to it without sogging.

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