For years of making pizza, we figured out that as long as you know when the dough is done, it does not matter what your technique is. However, knowing when the dough is done is not that simple.
It is all about which technique brings you the best result and comfort. As long as the pizza dough comes out great, then you can knead it however you want to.
There are different ways of determining whether the pizza dough is done or not. Here in this post, we will be talking about some pointers and details that you can look for on a well-kneaded dough.
Kneading is another word for mixing dough. It is essential in making pizza dough since it needs a certain consistency, although sometimes it is portrayed as a very messy job to do.
It is usually done on a floured work surface where you use your hands. That is why it is often dubbed as messy but it really does not have to be that way.
Kneading is essential because it improves the quality of the dough. When you make pizza dough, you will need it to be stretchy enough and strong enough so it does not break down.
We say it is a little complicated to know whether the pizza dough is ready or not because you cannot tell just by looking. It might be good on the outside, but has it really become a great dough?
So here, we have a list of things that you can try to look for in pizza dough to tell if it is kneaded enough. So take a look and see whether your pizza dough has these components.
1. A Smooth Dough
When you start out with regular pizza dough, it will be naturally lumpy and rough. This means that there is a lot of kneading to do in order to make the dough strong enough.
As you start kneading the dough, you will notice the visible changes such as the lumps getting smaller and smaller until they disappear all at once.
You see, the dough will start out like a mini ocean of sticky flour where you will see some small spikes or lumps. Additional flour may help reduce this but kneading really is the key to remove the lumps.
The flour on your workspace will just be to make the pizza dough less sticky so you can knead it evenly. So do not add more flour than the recommended and just keep on kneading.
After 10 minutes of kneading by hand, you will see that there are some noticeable changes on the dough. It will start to smoothen and the texture will be stretchier.
In order to determine whether the dough is smoothened, try making a ball and then leave it on the workspace. If the dough naturally forms a nice spherical shape with no lumps, then it has been kneaded well.
2. Less Sticky
Pizza dough contains a lot of water since it needs to activate the yeast in it and it will also give a crispier finish on the dough. So it is natural that the pizza dough will start off sticky.
Kneading will remove the stickiness of the dough. So at first, you will have some trouble getting the dough off your hand when you knead since the water has not been distributed evenly yet.
This is one of the most important things that kneading does. It properly hydrates the dough and keeps the moisture in so that all the yeast inside it will be activated.
This is also a part of the smoothness test. As the pizza dough smoothens, it will also become less sticky because the dry ingredients have combined to the water evenly.
3. It Should Hold Its Shape
Kneading also makes the dough stronger. By merely moving the ingredients around and mixing them, the gluten in the dough will tighten up, therefore, making the dough stronger.
Gluten is the key component to holding the dough together. On a microscopic scale, gluten is like a spiral rubber and it needs to keep the dough from ripping itself.
Essentially, it makes the dough stretchy as well. While the gluten is loose, you will see that some parts of the dough can be stretched while the other parts just rip open and make a whole.
One way to test whether the gluten in the pizza dough has been activated is to hold the ball of dough with your hand in the air for a few seconds. If the dough holds its shape, then it is good.
However, when the dough sags very easily, then that means that the gluten needs more stretching. So keep on kneading the dough until it holds its shape when it is being held up.
You can also test this by stretching the dough. A dough that is kneaded enough should not rip easily when it is stretched so you can try and stretch it.
The consistency will hold up the dough in place. However, if the gluten in the dough is not stretchy enough, then you will see that the dough will easily come apart when stretched.
4. The Windowpane Test
The Windowpane test is a great indicator of how well the pizza dough has been kneaded. If the dough passes this test, then it means that there is no more kneading that is needed.
So to do this, get the ball of dough and lift it in the air. Stretch it at about six inches apart using your index fingers and your pinky fingers to make some sort of a rectangular plane.
Hold it up to a window or any source of light and you should be able to see the light through it. If the dough holds up without ripping in half and the light shines through, then it is good enough.
This is also because of the gluten that was stretched in the dough. It does not matter how thin the dough goes, as long as the gluten is properly activated, then it should hold up the dough.
If you are just a beginner, then you can start with a small ball of dough, like a tennis ball or a golf-ball-sized dough, and stretch it. Eventually, with practice, you will be able to do this with the entire pizza dough.
5. The Poke Test
This is another test that is related to the gluten inside the dough. The Poke Test is easy and you only need your finger and the ball of dough.
So after kneading the dough, shape it like a ball and then poke your finger in the middle of it. If the hole fills up quickly, it means that the dough is ready and the gluten is holding up.
If, however, the hole does not go back in shape, then keep kneading. When the dough is kneaded enough, the gluten will pull the dough together making it fill up holes quickly.
This is a great way to test your dough because eventually, you are going to stretch it for the pizza. So if you want to make a thin, strong dough, then you should test it with this.
An Over-Kneaded Dough
Although this is rare, it is possible to over-knead pizza dough. This is common when you use a food processor or a stand mixer to knead the pizza dough.
Achieving an over-kneaded dough by hand is next to impossible. You will get tired and your fingers will start to get cramps before you can even over-knead a dough.
That is why it is best to do the kneading by hand. When you use a mixer, you do not have the feel for the pizza dough and when left too long in the mixer, the dough will be over-kneaded.
Over-kneading causes the pizza to go back to its weak texture. Meaning that you will have a hard time stretching it without making a hole.
It causes the gluten to be stretched so much that it can no longer hold the dough. There is no going back when the dough is over-kneaded so will have to start over.
An Under-Kneaded Dough
The under-kneaded dough is more common than the over-kneaded dough. It is also often confused with an over-kneaded dough since they have the same results.
As we have mentioned above, when the pizza dough is not yet ready, it will have a weak bond and will not stretch long enough before it breaks.
That is what happens when you both under-knead and over-knead the dough. It will tear easily and the dough will be lumpy but under-kneading is a lot less destructive.
See, when you under-knead a dough, you will still have a space for redemption where you can make it better by continuing to knead until the lumps on the dough are gone.
See, an over-kneaded dough does not have lumps but it rips easily when stretched, while an under-kneaded dough still has lumps and it is still weak.
Making pizza at home is still the best way to get a pizza. Ordering from a fast-food restaurant will only be quicker but you will not have the consistency and flavor that you prefer.
That is why we encourage you to make your pizza at home. One tricky part, however, of making your pizza at home is when you do not have the dough yet.
It takes a lot of time to make perfect pizza dough, sometimes more than the cooking itself. So you need to know how to make the proper pizza dough to save time.
Knowing when the dough is ready is essential so that you can move on to the other ingredients and start baking. That is why you should follow the list of indications above.
They are fairly simple and when the right amounts of ingredients are mixed in the dough, you will achieve all of the listed indications above in just 10 minutes.
So go ahead and try to make your best pizza dough at home and use the tests and indicators that are listed above to see whether your pizza dough is ready or not.
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