The Easy Way to Form Pizza Dough into a Circle
The best round pizza crust is formed by hand, especially if you want a round NY-style pizza crust. This is definitely the most awkward part for the beginner pizzaiolo, but I’ll show you a couple of tricks to make it easier to get it right.
You might not get it perfect on the first try, but it definitely gets easier every time–especially if you’re using MY dough recipe. My recipe is formulated not only to taste fantastic, but to make it easier to form the pizza crust into a circle by hand.
Do Not Use a Rolling Pin
If you’re struggling to get a round pizza by hand, it can be tempting to use a rolling pin. I’ve done it myself. A rolling pin does make it easier to get a round pizza, but it negates two things that we really want. A rolling pin removes the CO2 air pockets that the yeast have so beautifully created. With the air pockets the crust will be light and airy, and have a great texture. Without them, it will be dense and boring. A rolling pin will also typically flatten the entire crust, losing the nice raised edge, which is called the “cornicione”. The cornicione is found on New York-style pizzas, and Neapolitan as well. (In the below video, I pronounce it incorrectly. The correct pronunciation is “corn-ee-chōn-ay”.)
Before You Start
Before you start, if you’ve been cold fermenting your dough in the refrigerator, be sure to anticipate a few hours before you want to make your pizza. Take the dough out of the refrigerator and let it come to room temperature.
Next, have your wooden pizza peel next to your dough work space, and sprinkle corn meal on it. Then you can lay the dough right onto the peel after you get it to the size and round shape that you want. The cornmeal helps the pizza slide off of the peel onto the pizza stone, or pizza steel in your oven.
The below photo shows what happens when you don’t have enough corn meal on the peel, and you have to push it off the peel with your hand. It’s ok. You can laugh. This is how we learn. (More on this in the second video below.)
Video: How to Form Pizza Dough by Hand
(Sorry about the loud clunking of the container going into the sink.)
In my NY-style Pizza Dough Recipe, in my last note at the bottom, I say “I like using the plastic containers you see in the above photo because it already starts the dough with a round shape. Just be sure to carefully remove it and place it onto the floured counter to start forming the pizza round that will become the thin crust.” Now you can see why.
Pizza Peel Shake Test
After you put the shaped pizza dough onto the peel, give it the shake test. In this video, I already have the sauce and cheese on top. I suggest doing this test first before anything goes on, and then again, and again as you add toppings.
You’re making sure that the pizza moves when you shimmy the peel. If it does, then it will slide off, and onto the stone or steel. If it doesn’t move, try gently lifting up different portions of the sides, and toss some more cornmeal underneath. There’s another trick that I learned from the book, Free the Pizza, but you’ll have to read the book to find out.