The Fresh Loaf

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Pizza dough tearing apart easily- need diagnosis

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cake diva's picture
cake diva

Pizza dough tearing apart easily- need diagnosis

I was being both parsimonious and curious when I decided to make pizza dough using a 100% starter that had been sitting in the back of the fridge for 3 months without feeding.  To it, I added a small amount of active starter, and let this preferment mixture sit overnight at room temp.  The next day, I proceeded to add the salt, olive oil, and flour to the consistency that I thought was proper.  I then kneaded the dough using the dough setting on my breadmachine. That same day, I tried making pizza.  I knew there was problem as soon as I saw the dough tearing as I attempted to stretch it.  It looked like there wasn't enough gluten development, but it couldn't have been the kneading since I used manual and breadmachine kneading.  Might it be the yeast, or lack of it?  I'm grasping at straws here;  I always read the lack of gluten development comes from inadequate kneading.

xaipete's picture

I didn't look this up, but it does look like you have a lack of gluten development. You can develop gluten in dough even without adding yeast or salt by just kneadng flour and water together. So there must be something in the preferment (an enzyme or acid) that is either breaking down the gluten bond or preventing it from forming.


Soundman's picture

Hi cake diva,

I think Pamela hit the bullseye. You took a culture that was high in acid and bacteria, and depleted in yeast, combined it with a small amount of healthy culture, and left it out overnight without feeding it. This didn't do the yeast in the healthy culture any favors. In the dough mixture, any healthy yeast probably got overwhelmed by the acid that would have built up over three months of inaction in the 100% hydration starter. In addition, you probably cultured some serious bacteria that are harmful to gluten, in the undernourished starter.

Debra Wink has pointed out that your sourdough starter is a culture, and it's important to maintain it as a balanced and symbiotic group of micro-organisms, if you want it to perform well, raising and flavoring delicious bread, or pizza! 


arzajac's picture

In another thread, Debra Wink (again) wrote about proteolytic enzymes.  I believe that the point was lactobacillus bacteria will seek out other sources of food when they go hungry (like being kept in the fridge without feeding).  They will create enzymes which can break down proteins for food.

Even when you feed your starter, the enzymes remain and will bread down your protein.  You need to feed your starter several times and discard the old starter to flush out the proteolytic enzymes.

Since you dumped in a dose of old, starved starter, you probably introduced a nice dose of protein-eating enzymes.  I think those enzymes ate up your gluten and made your dough tear.


cake diva's picture
cake diva

I had a hunch that something like this must have happened, that long polymeric networks would not form because some of the contact points in the monomeric units have already been "eaten up" or rendered unreactive.  Thanks to all for the explanation.