Hmm, to roll or to stretch – that is the question….wondered no Shakespeare ever but in his deference, he probably never made pizza in his life. But we do. So we can, and we must indulge ourselves with the infamous “rolling vs stretching” debate
⚖️Here’s the Basic Difference Between Rolling vs Stretching Pizza Dough:
Rolling and stretching are two popular methods for shaping the dough. While rolling involves using a rolling pin to flatten the dough, stretching involves gently pulling and shaping the dough with your hands. I Personally prefer stretching the dough because it creates a puffy, airy, chewy crust, just how I like it.
But, hey, to each their own!
If you’re still on the fence about which method to use, don’t worry, I’ve got you covered. In this article, I’m going to break down the key differences between rolling and stretching pizza dough and share my personal tips and tricks for each method.
Let’s get to it:
🤔What Is a Hand-stretched Pizza Dough?
Hand-stretching pizza dough is a technique that every pizza enthusiast should try. It takes a bit of practice, but once you master it, you’ll never look back.
Hand-stretching is a method of shaping pizza dough using your hands instead of a rolling pin. This technique is often used by professional pizza chefs. It helps to create a light, airy, irregularly shaped crust with lots of air pockets and some bubbles.
If you see plenty of air pockets and some charred bubbles on the crust (leopard spotting), know that it’s been hand-stretched.
Thanks to the rustic appearance and the traditional method that has been used for centuries, hand-stretched pizzas are synonymous with artisanal pizza.
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This style of pizza is often associated with Neapolitan pizza, which is made with a thin crust that is slightly charred on the edges. The toppings are minimal, and the emphasis is on the quality of the dough.
💡 Why (I Believe) Hand-stretched Pizza Crusts Are Always Better?
More air holes, better oven spring, better texture – learning how to correctly stretch your pizza dough has some great payoffs.
I’d say the process is 60% art and 40% science. Stretching is often followed by spinning the dough in the air. This helps you trap air in different parts of the crust and give the dough a perfectly round shape.
The masters of the “slapping technique” have spent years perfecting the art of evenly distributing the air from the center to the sides without tearing the dough apart.
Plus, let’s admit it’s a lot more fun and edgy than using a rolling pin!
🔎Common Pizza Dough Stretching Mistakes and Troubleshooting Tips
Having said all that, stretching the pizza dough correctly takes some practice. There are multiple things that can go wrong, such as:
1. Dough Tearing Down in the Middle
One of the most frustrating things that can happen while stretching pizza dough is for it to tear down in the middle, ruining the perfect circle you were aiming for. Tearing is inevitable when you’re pulling too hard.
✔️Solution: The best way to stretch pizza dough is to be gentle. Start from the center of the dough and gently pull outwards, being careful not to stretch too far. If you feel resistance, let the dough rest for a few minutes to relax the gluten.
2. Weak Gluten Network
Gluten is what gives pizza dough its stretchy, elastic texture. If your dough doesn’t have a strong enough gluten formation, it can be difficult to stretch it without ripping it apart.
✔️Solution: To ensure a strong gluten formation, use high-protein flour. Let the dough rest for at least an hour before stretching. Kneading the dough thoroughly will also help develop the gluten. Do a windowpane test to ensure the dough is ready to be stretched.
3. Massively Uneven Shape
When a pizza dough isn’t stretched evenly, it can cause uneven browning. This will definitely result in a blob-shaped crust with tons of blisters.
✔️Solution: The key here is to pay attention to the thickness of the dough as you stretch it. If you notice one side is thinner than the other, gently pull the thicker side to even it out.
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Also, make sure to rotate the dough as you stretch it to ensure even thickness throughout. If using a conventional indoor oven, I’d suggest using a pizza stone with handles for easy rotations.
📝Thoughts on Rolling the Pizza Dough
Now, some may turn up their noses at this approach, claiming it produces a tough, boring crust. But let me tell you, rolling the dough can be a perfectly fine method for novices or those who want to keep it simple.
It’s an easy and straightforward method that anyone can do. You don’t need any special skills or tools, just a rolling pin and a little bit of elbow grease. Moreover, it’s a great way to get started with pizza making and build up your confidence.
Another reason to roll the dough is if you prefer a super thin crust. Rolling the dough will produce almost a crack-thin crust. Plus, you can easily adjust the thickness by varying the pressure you apply with the rolling pin.
Now admittedly, rolling out the dough does impact the oven spring. That’s ‘cause when you flatten it with a rolling pin, you push out all the air bubbles formed during the fermentation process.
👎Downsides of Rolling Pizza Dough
Of course, there are some downsides to rolling the dough. That’s why the rolling vs stretching pizza dough debate exists in the first place.
As I mentioned earlier, it can result in a denser crust, and you may lose some of the unique texture and flavor that comes with a more artisanal approach. While you will get a beautifully round, neat-looking crust, the air pockets and chewiness would be missing.
💡Some Tips for Rolling the Pizza Dough Correctly
Rolling a dough is no rocket science. But since pizza doughs are notoriously tricky by nature due to their high hydration level and erratic gluten formation, keep these tips in mind for a better crust:
Docking pizza dough is a step that is often overlooked. But it is critical in achieving a delicious pizza crust. By pricking small holes in the dough, you allow steam to escape while it bakes. This prevents the dough from puffing up too much in the oven.
Docking prevents the dough from developing hotspots in high-temperature ovens.
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You can just use a fork to poke small holes all over the surface of the dough, leaving a few inches around the edges. This will allow the crust to rise slightly while still keeping its shape. Some pizza chefs also use a special tool called a docking roller to speed up the process.
Avoid Rolling All the Way to the Edges
Resist the urge to roll it all the way to the edges. This will completely deflate/pinch the dough and make it difficult to achieve a nice, even crust. Instead, I recommend leaving a small border of unrolled dough around the perimeter.
Ideally, you should use a rolling pin with handles. This will give you more control over the motion of the pin and help you avoid putting too much pressure on one area. It’s all about being gentle and patient with the dough.
🆚Rolling vs Stretching Pizza Dough – Main Differences
Let’s settle the age-old debate of rolling vs stretching pizza dough once and for all. As someone who has experimented with both techniques, I thought I’d share my personal observations and experiences on the matter.
Texture and Appearance
When you roll out your dough, you get a thinner, more uniform crust. This can be great for some pizza styles. But it can also result in a cracker-like texture that may not be to everyone’s liking.
Au contraire, stretching the dough can give it a slightly thicker, chewier crust with a unique texture that many prefer. Personally, I’m a fan of the stretch technique as it gives my crust a rustic, homemade feel.
Moving on to flavor, stretching your dough helps form a more flavorful crust
that has a slightly sourdough-like taste. That’s mainly because in order to stretch, you need to proof the dough for a longer period. Longer fermentation deepens the flavor of the crust.
A rolled dough will almost always be flatter and denser as all the Co2 has been knocked out of it. I feel it affects the overall flavor of the pizza. However, a lot of people don’t mind a dense crust with a generous amount of topping.
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From what I’ve seen, stuffed-crust and pan pizza doughs are rolled out. This ensures the crust doesn’t lose its structural integrity under the weight of extra toppings. If that’s what you have in mind, take out the rolling pin and do your thing!
Level of Difficulty
Rolling dough is generally considered easier and more beginner-friendly. However, stretching dough requires a bit more finesse and skill. It takes some practice to get it right. But once you do, the results are worth it.
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When I first started stretching the dough, I had a lot of trouble getting the technique down. But with practice and patience, I was able to get the hang of it, and now it comes naturally to me.
Ultimately, it all comes down to personal preference. Some pizza chefs swear by rolling out their dough, while others only stretch it.
For me, stretching my dough is the way to go. It’s a technique that has been passed down through generations of pizza makers. And it gives my pizza that authentic look and flavor that I love.
Tim Anderson is the founder of pizzapeopleaz® and has been in the pizza industry since 1998. Since then, his mission has been to make a pizza lover’s guy into a personal pizzaiolo. And each year, he continues to help more people with Pizza chemistry, pizza Crust, pizza oven, and oven troubleshooting.