Step 2: Stretching your dough ball into a pizza
Okay, let's get this party started.
This step will likely be the trickiest and can be done in different ways. It should be fun though and even if you get it completely wrong, I'll bet you still produce a pretty darn good pizza.
I've included quite a few videos as they all offer something different or useful. Most are quite short but don't feel like you have to watch them all.
Lose the jewellery
Rings, bracelets, watches, and long sleeves are likely to tear your dough.
The Neapolitan stretch and slap
The technique for opening a Neapolitan pizza involves pushing the air from the middle of the dough ball into the edge, creating a nice puffy crust.
You then either stretch or slap the dough, depending on which technique you prefer. Almost everyone develops their own personal method combining both stretching and slapping.
Personally, I stretch the dough on the worktop as shown in my first video below. I find this gives me the best control in creating an even edge, but it's all about personal preference.
Whichever way you choose to open it, the end result should be the same. You're aiming for a nice visible edge and an even base.
Dunk your dough ball in the flour
Your kit comes with the best stretching flour known to man. It's super soft and a dream to work with, and it's time to use it. Put the flour into a bowl and dump your dough ball into the flour. Flip it over once or twice so that it's not sticky to work with. Take your dough ball out and place it on a hard, smooth worktop.
Start by creating the edge
Start by using your fingers to push the air from the bottom of the dough into the edges, moving upwards. When doing this, use the fingerprint (rather than tip) part of your fingers, and don't go closer than 2 centimetres to the edge so that you don't push the air right out of the dough.
After your first pass, flip the disk over and do the same on the reverse. Then flip it one final time and repeat. This will develop a prominent edge around the pizza that you shouldn't touch, as you want it to puff up nicely in the oven, creating an authentic Neapolitan style edge.
Once you've created the edge, using the outer part of your hands and outer edges of your little fingers, placed just inside the edge, stretch and turn the dough to begin opening it. Start by only stretching it a small amount, and as you turn, the dough will soften and you can stretch it wider.
This short video shows my technique, it may take a few tries to get the shaping right, but it's really not difficult. Do it slowly and you'll get a good feel for the dough under your hands.
The next short video is by Tony Gemignani, author of the book 'The Pizza Bible'. He uses the same technique as above and explains his process nicely.
The next video worth watching is from Vito Iacopelli, a charismatic Italian chef who has a great Youtube channel. You'll notice he uses a slightly different technique when stretching in that he holds the dough with one hand while stretching it with the other, and then slapping it down.
This short video shows a slightly different technique for creating the edge. His method is good and he creates a lovely edge and uniform base. I wouldn't suggest tossing it unless you're really comfortable with dough as you'll increase the chance of tearing it.
This one is by Stadler Made and provides a really nice explanation of a few techniques. At 1m53s he shows you how to swipe the dough from one hand to the other. This is a great way to remove the flour after stretching as it's gentle and less likely to cause a tear if you're relatively new to making pizza. When swiping it, watch how his thumbs and fingertips are folded in to ensure he doesn't pierce the dough.
Kids receive a 'Get out of jail free' card
A lot of young kids simply won't eat pizza crusts. While the crust is delicious and wasting it is a crime, if your kids aren't going to eat a puffy crust, then ignore the instruction above and flatten out their base to reduce the size of the edge.
Also, whilst using a rolling pin is a bit of a cop-out because 1) you'll flatten the crust and 2) using your hands isn't that difficult, it may be easier to let young kids use a rolling pin if they're making their own pizza. They're less likely to tear the dough, and it'll create a flatter crust.
For everyone else, promise me you won't use a rolling pin. Call me and I'll talk you out of it ;-)
One more purely for fun
I had to include this last video because Marzio has a technique that's just crazy impressive. He's the head pizza chef at Rossopomodoro in New York and developed his technique over many years and many thousands of pizzas. If you get anywhere near being able to replicate his technique you'll earn an immediate spot on our Wall of Fame!
Congrats, the tough part is done
You're ready to move on and it's easy sailing from here.