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I made pizza yesterday and encountered an issue.

My dough was not very sticky, it was sliding well when adding flour to the surface.

However, after I added toppings (tomato sauce, mozzarella, basil, olive oil) it seems like the weight made the dough stick a little bit or at least it did not slide well. I had issues to slide it into the oven and had to end up putting the first tray where I put together the pizza into the oven, losing the heat of my pizza stone.

I assume this issue is caused by the thickness of my shaped dough, which was maybe too thin and did not have enough "body" to slide out properly from the tray (peel).

What is the ideal thickness for a Neapolitan pizza when you shape it? I mean the inner areas of the pizza, not the external crust.

  • This doesn't answer the question directly so I won't post it as an answer, but one or both of these tips will help: 1. use cornmeal or semolina rather than flour as your anti-stick substance. 2. place your pizza on non-stick parchment for shaping, then slide the whole thing, paper and all, onto the stone. It does not affect the base crisping and makes it a lot easier to slide your pizza into the oven. – ElendilTheTall Nov 27 '14 at 11:19
  • @ElendilTheTall Even the parchment paper? Will the heat go through the paper as fast as needed so the dough is quickly cooked? – samyb8 Nov 27 '14 at 11:41
  • I do it every week. Friday night is pizza night in the Elendil household. I put some non-stick paper on the back of a sheet pan, sprinkle some semolina on there to allow me to move the dough around if necessary, and away I go. Your oven and stone is (or should be) hot enough that 0.03mm of paper should make no difference at all. – ElendilTheTall Nov 27 '14 at 11:51
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    Regarding parchment: There are some who claim that the porous nature of the pizza stone allows some sort of "absorption" of the dough moisture, which aids baking, and I do imagine a parchment layer could interfere with this. On the other hand, I switched to a thick steel plate for baking my pizza last year, which is obviously much less porous than a stone, and it has only done good things for the crust. So I don't know whether those who talk about "porous" stones have a strong basis for those claims. – Athanasius Nov 27 '14 at 13:17
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Sliding well has nothing to do with weight or thickness, although too thin makes the dough prone to tearing. A generous spread of ground semolina under the pizza dough after shaping will keep it from sticking to your counter while you top it, and in your oven when you bake it. The grainy semolina will act as a barrier, keeping the bottom of your dough off flat surfaces, think of it as natural ball bearings. You can use corn meal as well but I don't like the taste or texture as much.

As for the ideal thickness of an authentic Neapolitan pizza I've never measured it, but let's just say you can't get the dough any thinner in the center without it tearing. I make mine thin in the middle and just a bit thicker on the outside.

  • How thin in the middle? Super thin but avoiding tearing? Or is it a bit thicker? – samyb8 Nov 27 '14 at 16:49
  • I do it thin but maybe not super thin. I can see light through it. – GdD Nov 27 '14 at 17:22
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I agree with GdD that sliding well can be accomplished with even a very thin crust loaded with toppings, as long as you have something it can slide on. Semolina does seem ideally suited to this.

Stretching very thin can, however, make the dough more likely to stick just because as you stretch, you often expose more of the interior moisture of the dough to the bottom surface, meaning it's more likely to get sticky. (This is particularly true of high hydration dough, but it's a factor even in drier doughs.) Also, when sliding off a very thin dough with lots of toppings, you risk tearing and/or bunching up the dough if you don't unload at an even pace.

To counteract the problems of sticky dough, I'd advocate shaking the peel periodically while adding toppings. If you keep the dough moving, you'll need a smaller amount of semolina/cornmeal/flour since any place where this barrier of dry stuff is thin will get moved around by the shaking. When I deal with wet doughs, I'll shake the peel at least once after every topping addition and often more frequently. (The only downside to this is that your dough will "spring back" a bit when you shake, so you'll need to stretch a bit more than you expect at first.) If you see an area of the dough that isn't moving, it also allows you to correct it early, before it "gets more stuck" and probably while you have fewer toppings and weight, making it easier to get under the dough and free it.

In any case, regarding Neapolitan style pizza, the center of the dough is often stretched so thin that it is quite translucent. As long as you have adequate semolina/cornmeal/flour to "lubricate" the peel, there's no reason to stop stretching unless you prefer a thicker crust or are afraid of tearing.

  • If your dough "spring back" it had not enough proofing – Johnny Nov 27 '14 at 17:23
  • @Johnny - I disagree. The amount of "spring back" will depend on a number of factors: length of proof, hydration level, type of flour, etc. I often make pizza that ferments in the fridge for 1-3 days, then sits out at room temperature or above for minimum 3-4 hours before baking, so it's definitely not "underproofed," yet it always springs back somewhat. If the dough doesn't spring back at all (even 1/4"), I generally get worried, since that implies the gluten is so weak that my pizza could rip apart during unloading in the oven (as has happened a couple times with overfermented sourdough). – Athanasius Dec 18 '14 at 18:20
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Your question regarding pizza thickness, as you are making Neapolitan pizza the answer is:

When stretched, the center of the dough must be no more than .4 centimeters (±10%) in thickness.

From: The Serious Eats Guide To Pizza In Naples

But this has nothing to do with sliding it into the oven or baking steel.

While you add the toppings on your pizza dough, it absorbs the flour you added on the surface. here are some tips:

  • Use semolina as it won't be absorbed so easily
  • Add the toppings as faster as you can
  • Shake the peel when adding the toppings, check this answer for handling sticky dough

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