Holey Pizza Dough: How To Stop The Tearing

When you’ve gone to the effort of making your own pizza, you need holes in your dough like a hole in your bread. But in all seriousness, having holey dough is just something that no pizza maker wants.

There’s obviously the famous pizza chain that intentionally created the pizza 

with a hole slap-bang in the middle, in which they decided to place salad, but that’s a ‘hole ‘nother topic!

Here, we’re talking about the hole you can find yourself in when making pizza from scratch turns out to be a holey frustrating experience. If you can excuse the terrible pizza puns, let’s discuss those tears in your dough…

Why Does Pizza Dough Get Holes When You Stretch It?

Pizza dough typically suffers from holes when the dough’s gluten network isn’t strong enough, meaning the weak structure has been allowed to tear. This can be a weakness in the flour being used, the recipe being followed, or possibly with technique/method at the kneading, proving or stretching stages of the pizza making process.

Why Pizza Dough Tears: The Hole Truth…

So let’s go over the main reasons why holey pizza dough happens in the first place (as well as some quick-fixes), in order that you can hopefully avoid the hole issue next time around. Here’s the most common reasons:

Lack of Gluten Development

First, if you’re using flour with too low a protein/gluten content, there’s a risk of the dough tearing for this reason, when you go to shape the pizza. Second, if the dough hasn’t been kneaded enough for the gluten to strengthen as it needs to, then holes can form in the dough when stretching it. Good gluten development is key for avoiding torn dough.

Dough Too Wet 

Dough hydration might not be the main factor behind holey dough, but there’s a chance it’s playing a part. If the amount of water used in your dough recipe is too high, you could find that the dough tears for this reason. The more water you add to a dough (within reason), the stretchier it becomes and easier it is to shape. But there’s a limit – over hydrating risks ripping the dough. 

Dough Under-Rested 

It’s one thing to knead the dough and allow gluten to develop, forming a strong pizza dough, but the dough also then needs adequate rest during the fermentation process (also known as proving) – mainly to improve flavour, but also to prevent tearing. If you decide to shape newly formed dough into pizzas right away rather than proving, it may well tear.

Poor Stretching Technique

It could well be your technique when stretching and shaping out the pizza that’s causing holes or tears to form in your dough (not to point the finger – although maybe that’s part of the problem!) In other words, handling dough needs to be done in a certain way (basically, gently) to further minimise the risk of it tearing.

A ‘Hole Other Reason

There’s a whole host of other potential reasons that you might find holes or tears in your dough, although we can group these together under examples of ‘accidental damage’, like that clunky piece of jewellery getting in the way, or being a tad too heavy-handed when transferring the dough from your worktop to the pizza peel, or from the peel to the oven.

What To Do If Your Pizza Dough Tears 

While torn dough can be a ‘hole load of hassle, there’s things you can do next time around to avoid getting torn dough in the first place, but also, things you can do to fix those holes so no one at your pizza party will ever know. Here’s some quick-fixes if you’re already facing torn dough:

  • Simply carry out a patch repair by folding the dough over on itself (over the hole) and pinching.
  • Make the patch repair using spare dough if you have some.
  • Use a basil leaf to cover the hole from the underside of the pizza (see video below).

VIDEO 

Unless there’s just holes everywhere, don’t throw the dough away – there’s really no need (even bad pizza is good pizza). In general with traditional-style pizza, it’s better to have a pizza base with a hole or two and it be on the thinner side, rather  than having pizza dough that’s too thick and dense.

How To Stop Holes in Pizza Dough (For Next Time)

Develop That Gluten

To keep pizza dough from getting holes and  tearing when stretching, strengthening the gluten in the dough is one of the most important things you can do. This is achieved by using flour with a high enough protein/gluten content (Pizza University says a minimum of 11%), hydrating the flour sufficiently with water, and kneading the dough well.

https://www.pizzauniversity.org › …

Don’t Throw Out Torn Dough….Try this Instead! – Pizza University

💦 Don’t Over-Hydrate 

The gluten in flour needs water to hydrate and to start a chemical reaction that allows a dough to form and strengthen. As you add water to flour and start mixing, it immediately starts to feel like a stronger mass. But if you over-hydrate (i.e. add more water than the flour can absorb), it will be more difficult to strengthen the gluten and the dough will likely tear. So don’t over-hydrate.

Knead Until Strong 💪 

Kneading dough to the point that it feels like it contains a strong gluten network is very important. Some people say this shouldn’t take longer than five minutes, others insist that you should knead for 15-20 minutes. Clearly, this all depends on the type of flour you’re using, how much water you’ve added, and other factors like what you ate for breakfast (i.e. how vigorously you knead). 

Let The Dough Relax 

Resting dough for an adequate amount of time (i.e. for long enough but not too long) is the next step towards making pizza that doesn’t tear. Otherwise known as the proving/fermentation process, allowing the gluten to relax after kneading will make the dough more elastic, while still being strong (assuming you’ve also used good quality flour, added a reasonable amount of water, and kneaded for long enough!)

Avoid Dough Damage 

Making great pizza takes knowledge, time and practice, but one quick thing you can do to minimise the chance of the dough becoming damaged from objects like jewellery or random items on your work surface, is simply getting them out the way of the dough. Avoiding holes in dough is tough enough as it is, so at the very least, clear your work surface and hands of anything that could pierce the dough.

Learn How To Stretch The Dough Properly

The key to stretching pizza dough while avoiding tears and holes, is making sure it’s stretched as evenly as possible, but not too thinly. This is usually done with your hands once you’ve made an initial indent in the middle of the dough with your fingers. While there’s all sorts of stretching techniques out there, starting slowly and stretching the dough gradually is the way to go, especially  as a beginner pizza maker.

Be Careful When Transferring  the Pizza

Finally, being careful when transferring the pizza from work surface to peel, peel to oven, and oven back to peel, will hopefully be enough to stop those holes and tears. By not topping the pizza excessively should also help with this, as will using a decent pizza peel and making sure it’s non-stick. Adding a dusting of flour, semolina or cornmeal can also help.

In Summary

Pizza dough can annoyingly become subject to holes and tears in a few different ways. One involves a particular pizza restaurant and the questionable decision to not just have salad on the side, while others include the use of weak flour, too much water and not enough kneading when making pizza yourself. 

If you’re wanting to make some truly groovy pizza from scratch, building a strong gluten network is one of the most important things to avoid holey dough. Without well developed gluten, you’ll just have a loose ball of dough that’ll easily tear. Aside from that, using quality ingredients and mastering key pizza making techniques are pretty much the answers. 

So if you’ve found yourself with a gaping hole in your pizza game, learning the pizza-making basics and using a reliable dough recipe are natural places to start. Soon you’ll be on your way to making some seriously groovy pizza…