Shaping dough takes practice, but the right recipe and technique make the job that much easier. Picture: Pexels
These tips and tricks will set you on your way to success. 

Sure, shaping dough takes practice, but the right recipe and technique make the job that much easier. 

Here's how to make the ultimate homemade pizza:

Crank it up

Heat is crucial.  It helps give your crust the right colour, texture and rise. 

So preheat your oven - as hot as it can go - for at least 30 minutes. Cook the pies on a surface that has been preheated, ideally one that will retain and share the heat well, such as a pizza stone or cast-iron skillet. 

Heating your cast-iron pan on the stove top for a few minutes before baking works well. Just be sure to keep an eye on your pizza when it's in the oven, because at such a high temperature, it can burn quickly.

Whole-Wheat Pizza Dough. Photo: Tom McCorkle for The Washington Post
Give it time

Up to a certain extent, more time means more flavour. 

The yeast needs time to work, consuming sugars and creating the byproducts that make pizza dough taste so good. 

Time is also crucial for providing structure and lift. 

You can extend the process, and therefore the flavour, by allowing dough to rest in the refrigerator for a few days. If your recipe calls for just a few hours, don't cut it short. Your patience will be rewarded.

Stretch it out 

Shaping the dough takes some getting used to. 

Stretch it on the counter first and then drape the dough over your clenched fists. 

A less elastic dough requires more care, because it tears easily. 

Regardless of your dough, use enough flour to keep it from sticking to your hands or work surface, and frequently rotate.

When it's gluten-free

 As bakers with gluten-free expertise know, working with wheat-free pizza dough calls for different techniques and methods. 

Its consistency is spongy and damp; wet your hands to keep it from sticking. 

Resting times are in minutes, rather than hours. Because the dough is so wet, it's best to parbake the crust before you add toppings. 

You can refrigerate the dough for a day, but freeze it only after it has been parbaked.

Gluten-Free Pizza Dough. Photo by Tom McCorkle for The Washington Post
Top it right

Your standard delivery pizza may be loaded with toppings, but less is more when it comes to your homemade pizza. 

An abundance can lead to a soggy, dense crust that isn't cooked through. 

Precooking the toppings also cuts back on their moisture and ensures that they're not still raw by the time the crust is done. 

You can always add freshly grated cheese, herbs, greens, honey and/or olive oil when the pizza comes out of the oven.

Don't sweat it

It sounds cliche, but the adage "practice makes perfect" is particularly apt when it comes to pizza. 

Whether you're a novice or a veteran, things can go wrong. 

The humidity affects the moisture of your dough, you tear a hole in the dough, your crust flops over when you try to transfer it to a skillet or pizza stone.

It takes time to learn your dough and your oven. 

More practice means more pizza, right? 

Washington Post