When I first started my pizza making journey almost two decades ago, the most difficult part was handling the pizza dough. I didn’t understand how a cold, wet, and sticky mixture of water and flour could turn into something that can be tossed and stretched like you see on TV. The problem was that I didn’t understand the importance of a properly shaped and proofed pizza dough ball. This guide will show you how to do just that.
Making a batch of quick homemade pizza dough (or even buying it from the store) is easy, but what comes next? For many people, this means taking a cold hunk of dough out of the refrigerator and then desperately trying to smash and flatten a sticky mess against the counter.
Let me tell you, this is a recipe for a terrible homemade pizza. It will be misshapen, dense, and taste like burnt flour. But it doesn’t have to be this way.
Keep reading to learn how I make a perfect homemade pizza every time.
Summary: To make a good homemade pizza, shape a piece of lightly oiled dough into a tight ball and let it proof for 2-3 hours before handling. This will allow the gluten in the dough to relax and fill up with gas, which makes it much easier to work with and allows the crust to rise when baked.
A Good Dough Ball Is Crucial For A Good Pizza
When your pizza dough is fully mixed, rested, and risen (or purchased from the grocery store), it’s time to shape it into a ball for final proofing. This step is arguably the most crucial when it comes to the quality of your pizza crust.
When pizza dough proofs, it undergoes a process of fermentation where the yeast consumes the sugars in the dough and produces gas. As this carbon dioxide gas is produced, it gets trapped in the dough, causing it to rise and become lighter and fluffier. This process also produces various acids and alcohols which contribute to the flavor profile (and smell) of the baked crust.
Proofing is arguably the most essential step in the dough prepping process because it helps to develop the gluten network in the dough, which gives it its structure and texture. This also gives the gluten time to relax, allowing for easier stretching by hand.
Note: If you skip (or rush) this step, the dough will snap back into a ball every time you try to stretch it out. You’ll also end up with a pizza that bakes into a flat, dense crust.
Related Post: How To Stretch Pizza Dough
How To Ball Pizza Dough
To shape pizza dough into a ball, follow these steps:
Divide the dough into equal sized pieces using a kitchen scale (or you can just eyeball it). For the purposes of this recipe, we’re going to divide the dough into two 250 gram (8.8oz) chunks. A digital scale is helpful here but not strictly necessary.
Prepare a resealable container by lightly coating the inside surface with olive oil. This is where the dough will rest as it proofs, so make sure it’s big enough that it can be easily removed after it expands.
Lightly coat the palms of your hands in olive oil and grab one of the pieces of dough.
Fold and drag the dough across a clean surface, then fold and drag it again in a different direction. The goal here is to to pull the skin of the dough so that it becomes tight and smooth.
When dragging the dough, use the edges of your palm and fingers against the counter surface so that the skin of the dough is pulled tightly.
When the skin of the dough looks tight and smooth, shape the dough into a ball using both hands going in opposite directions. This is very simple to do but difficult to explain, so please refer to the video above if you’re confused.
Place the fully shaped dough ball into the lightly coated resealable container and let it proof for a few hours before baking. If you don’t have a proofing container, a pan or bowl covered in plastic wrap will work as well.
Note: How long to proof your pizza dough ball will depend a great deal on the ambient temperature of the room. If it’s warm (like a kitchen), it can proof in as little as 1-2 hours. If the room is cold, it can take 3-4 hours. So plan accordingly and don’t use the dough until it’s fully relaxed and had a chance to reach room temperature (if it’s coming from the fridge).
And that’s it! The next step will be to shape the proofed dough ball into a flattened disk so that it can be topped and baked into a pizza.
Why are my pizza dough balls not holding their shape?
If your pizza dough balls are not holding their shape, it likely wasn’t shaped correctly in the first place. Start by lightly coating your hands with olive oil then fold and pull the dough against the surface of the counter until the skin of the dough is tight and smooth looking. Then use both hands in opposite directions to round out the shape of the dough into a ball. If you need help, refer to the following video.
Why are my pizza dough balls sticky and rough?
If your pizza dough ball are sticky and rough, you probably overhandled it trying to get the shape to be perfect. In this case, cover the dough ball back up and let it rest again for 15 minutes to reset the gluten. Then, lightly coat your hands with olive oil and start over with the proper technique. For instructions on how to properly shape pizza dough into a ball, refer to the how-to above, or watch my video.
Can I refrigerate my pizza dough ball after shaping?
If you don’t plan on immediately using your pizza dough ball after proofing, you can put it in the fridge for up to 24 hours. Just make sure to take the dough ball out of the fridge and let it rest at room temperature for 3-4 hours before baking, or until it’s relaxed and reaches room temperature.
If you want to use the dough ball past 24 hours in the fridge, I recommend reshaping it into a ball again to reset and strengthen the gluten back up.
What size does a 250 gram dough ball make?
In general, a 250g dough ball will make an approximately 10-12 inch pizza. However, this ultimately depends on how thick or thin you want your crust: a thicker crust will give you a smaller pizza, and a thinner crust will give you a bigger pizza. 10-12 inches is assuming a normal pizza crust thickness.
How do you make the perfect dough ball?
There are many ways to shape a dough ball, but I prefer to pull the dough from side to side until the skin tightens and the consistency evens out. To do this, lightly coat your hands with olive oil and fold the dough onto itself while dragging it across a clean surface. For more instructions, refer to the steps above or watch this video.