Every pizza lover wants to know how to make authentic-tasting Neapolitan pizza: with a crispy, thin crust, rich tomato sauce, and evenly-cooked toppings.
Of course, one of the hardest parts of this is getting the dough right. The dough makes the base of the pizza, and this is arguably what Neapolitan pizza is famous for - it's thin, slightly crispy base which differs from the chunky, doughy stuffed American crusts you'll find at Dominos or Papa Johns.
Kneading the dough is a particularly daunting step, especially for those who are new to pizza making. It can also be tricky to know when you've kneaded the dough enough, especially if you're doing this for the first time.
Well, what if we told you that there’s an easy way to check whether your pizza dough is perfectly kneaded?
It’s called the windowpane test, and this is frequently used by pizza makers to check whether their dough can be stretched thinly without ripping. If you pass the test, you can move on to the next step - proving the dough.
In this article, we’ll be covering how to knead your dough and how to test that it’s been kneaded well enough with the windowpane test.
Kneading the Dough
You may have seen our other article on making Neapolitan pizza from scratch, so we’re going to skip straight to the part most pizza-making amateurs are daunted most by: kneading.
Kneading allows the protein in the flour to connect and form gluten strings, and the higher the protein level of the flour, the better and stronger the strings become, which is why strong flour is generally used in pizza dough.
- Sprinkle some flour on your work surface to prevent the dough from sticking. If your dough is sticky to touch, you can also dust it with flour to absorb the stickiness.
- Turn your dough over and start kneading. There are a lot of different methods for kneading, but the most common way to do this is to use the heel of your hand to press and roll the dough across the worktop. You can then use your other hand to bring it back to the starting place while at the same time folding it over. You should knead your dough for about 3-5 minutes or until the dough is ready.
Well-kneaded dough shouldn’t feel sticky but should feel velvet-smooth and highly stretchy. However, you also don’t want the dough to become too stretchy, as if it’s overly soft and smooth the gluten in the dough will over-strengthen and this will make it harder to work with as it’ll be more difficult to stretch it into a pizza shape.
How do you test pizza dough?
However, we understand that if you’re a first-time kneader you may still feel a little unsure about the texture and consistency of the dough and when to stop kneading it.
One of the best and easiest ways to test your dough is the windowpane test.
The test itself takes a few seconds to complete, however, it's crucial to rest the dough first.
After kneading your dough, it’s best to let it rest for around 30 minutes. This allows the dough to relax and makes it far easier to work with. Then you can move on to testing your pizza dough.
To perform the windowpane test, tear off a golf-ball sized piece of dough. Some pizza makers like to add a little bit of olive oil to their hands to prevent the dough from sticking, so you can do this if you wish.
Lift your dough in the air and stretch it out with both hands, holding it up to see if you can see the light through it. Be careful not to rip the dough, as while you should stretch it so it’s thin, you’re not trying to tear it, so stretch it with caution. You can then turn the dough and stretch it a little more, and keep repeating this process until the dough is as thin as you can get it.
The windowpane test is a simple pass or fail test.
In order to pass the test, you’ll need to be able to see the light through your dough. However, if your dough rips before you can stretch it thin enough to see the light, it hasn’t been kneaded enough and therefore it’s a fail.
You should be gentle when performing the test, as even well-kneaded dough can be easily ripped if handled incorrectly. Therefore, if you fail the test the first time, try another piece of dough to be sure.
If your dough isn’t stretching and is simply falling apart, then it’s probably not been kneaded enough. Dough that doesn’t stretch will result in a pizza base that is thick and dense, which isn’t what we’re going for with a traditional Neapolitan pizza.
If your dough has been left to rest before kneading, it should only need to be kneaded once, however, there’s no rule stating you can’t knead your dough more than once if it’s not quite the desired consistency.
However, it's really important that before kneading your dough for the second time, you’ve allowed it to rest for 15 minutes before pounding it again.
A second kneading, which should take between 2-5 minutes, should leave your dough feeling soft and smooth. After this, you can prepare to do the windowpane test again, but it’s best to leave your dough to rest for 15-30 minutes before doing a second windowpane test. You should also keep the dough covered while resting.
Windowpane Test - Video
If you want a visual guide to using the windowpane test, check out this video below:
Is the windowpane test the only way to test your pizza dough?
No, the windowpane test isn’t the only way to test your dough, but it’s a useful indicator of whether your dough is stretchy and strong enough.
However, many people fail the windowpane test not because their dough is bad, but because they haven’t allowed it to rest first. Resting the dough makes a big difference and increases the chances of the dough being stretched without ripping.
The well-kneaded dough should feel soft and smooth, and if you can hear popping sounds coming from the dough as you knead it this is a good sign - it means that your dough is incorporating air into its texture and becoming stronger.
After you’ve been making pizza dough for a while, you’ll soon develop a knack for kneading the dough and you’ll get a feel for when the dough has been kneaded enough.
The windowpane test is the perfect way to test the texture of your dough and whether or not it’s been kneaded enough. Kneading your dough is a crucial step in achieving the perfect Neapolitan base, but it’s also the most daunting step in the pizza-making process.
The windowpane test is an easy indicator of whether or not your dough has been kneaded enough, and if your dough rips or you can’t see the light through it, it’s better to notice this early on in the pizza-making process rather than when you’ve cooked your pizza and you end up with a base that’s far too thick and dense.
If you pass the test - great. If not, don’t despair.
Allow the dough to rest before kneading for a second time and trying the test again, remembering to rest the dough before testing, too. Don’t forget that making the perfect Neapolitan pizza from scratch is something of an art form and shouldn’t be underestimated.
It can take years of practice to get the recipe and method right, but with time you’ll start to recognize the characteristics of good pizza dough that can be stretched thinly without ripping.