I had several requests for a recipe for sourdough pizza base. I kept postponing this as I couldn’t find time to gather all the details that might be helpful in making a pizza base. When I wasn’t this into baking/experimenting I always looked up for a recipe (that uses commercial yeast) on the Internet and went with it. They always tasted good and obviously better than the regular take out pizza.
With time however, I started using only natural yeast to leaven all my bread (bread, pizza, focaccia, flat bread and even pancakes and waffles). The sourdough process suites my schedule perfectly as I can never find enough undisturbed time to bake bread. Same goes to pizza.
Easy. Making pizza dough is easier than bread and focaccia. You don’t have to worry too much about developing strength and windowpane etc. Shaping is pretty simple too, as long as you follow the technique
It is good to use pizza flour if you can find it, but I just use whatever the flour I have at hand as long as it is not too low in gluten. I would suggest, you experiment with different flour/ flour blend until you find your prefect combo! There is no one size fits all recipe here. Following are some of the variations I use;
– all purpose flour
– bread flour (white refined)
– wholegrain bread flour (not wholemeal)
– all purpose + whole meal ( 1:1)
– bread flour + wholemeal
– all purpose + bread flour
If you are in Washington, you would recognize the following flour from a local mill, Cairnspring Mills. I use Expresso(hard Red Spring wheat) (T85), skagit 1109, trailblazer (T85) in my pizza dough in various different ratios. If you follow me on IG, you will find my flour blend in the description of my posts. I like to experiment every time!
If you have made sourdough bread, then this part is pretty similar. The more starter you use, the faster the process. But keep in mind, if we use way too much, then we run the risk of over proofing our dough before we are done developing gluten or flavor. I like to use 10% starter in most cases, as I always send my dough to a longer slow proof (retardation) this could be a day or two days( has been three too)
The main aim of using sourdough to leaven pizza is to pack as much flavor as possible. The lactic acid (by product of Lactobacillus activity on the flour) adds an extra later of flavor and the more you retard, the more pronounced it will get.
I sometimes use a poolish made with beer ( also called a beer barm) to leaven the pizza dough. The process is similar to using a starter, just that you have fed the culture with beer instead of water.
Also you can use your normal 100% hydrated starter and use beer to knead the dough. I like to replace 1/2 of the water in the recipe with beer. I would not replace all the water with beer as the alcohol in the beer may kill yeast (inhibit yeast activity). Moderation is the key!
It is very simple, yet easy to get it wrong! It is important to handle the dough with care as to not knock out too much air from the dough. The only thing we are trying to do here is expand the dough in to a circle leaving a thin layer of dough in the center while pushing the rest towards the rim. I have not yet perfected this, I guess this needs more time and practice. But I manage to get it done some how. Check this. It may not be efficient but it is effective. You can also shape it into a square or a rectangle too.
If you have seen the famous move (throwing the dough in the air) of a pizza chef and think, you need to learn that to make pizza, don’t worry. You don’t need that! Throwing the dough while spinning it does the same thing to the dough piece. This movement uses the centrifugal force to push dough from the center towards the edge.
I love to practice this, every now and then 🙂 hardest part is catching the dough without squashing it or having it landing on the floor.
I know the best way to cook a pizza is to use a wood fired oven. It is hard to beat! The consistent high heat cooks the pizza in just a few minutes ( often 2 minutes is enough for a thin base) But here is how I make it come very close to that, using a conventional oven. I preheat my oven to maximum (550F) with a cast iron pizza pan in(ceramic pizza stone works too). I place my rack on the top half of the oven, as mine is bottom heated (no fans) the hot air travels up. So find the best position in your oven. If it is a convection (fan assisted), I guess the center would be fine.
Also make sure to use an oven thermometer and get the reading before placing the pizza in. Often the oven isn’t heated at the time of the bell goes off. I never trust my oven reading or the bells that goes off. When the thermometer reads the correct temperature, give another 20 minutes so that you are sure the pizza stone/pan is heated properly too.
-You need a pizza stone/pizza pan
-A peel is optional but very useful and makes life a lot easier. You can also use a back of a large tray/cookie sheet to transfer the pizza to the oven
You can use any toppings you like but remember the following:
-Do not crowd the pizza, as it prevents the base from fully cooking and you might end up with a soggy bottom.
-Be careful when using watery vegetables (zucchini, cucumber, tomato) It is a good idea to pat them dry using paper towels to take excess moisture out
-Leave the fresh herbs for later. Obvious, but worth mentioning. You can add herbs like rosemary and thyme with the topping but leave Basil for later!
-Know your cheese. Not all cheese melt the same. For best results use buffalo mozzarella ( its fatty and less watery than the ones made with cow’s milk) You can also use other cheeses like cheddar, cream cheese, Gorgonzola, goats cheese etc. It is fun to experiment!
Mix everything except for the salt into a rough dough (hydrate), cover and leave for an hour to autolyse
Add salt ( dissolve in 2 tbsp water if you like) and knead ( slap and fold/stretch and fold) into a smooth dough. Roughly about a 2 minutes kneading should do. Cover and let bulk.
I like to give two folds at 45 minute intervals
After the first 45 minutes
Fold the dough and round up and leave for another 45 minutes
After the second 45 minutes
Fold the dough and round up and leave to bulk for 2 – 3 hours
After the bulk, the dough will be expanded considerably. It will have lots of air pockets.
Tip the dough onto a floured surface, fold and tuck under. Round the dough just like you preshape. Be gentle, this doesn’t have to be too tight.
Place this in a container, cover and place in the refrigerator to retard. (Could be up to 48 hours)
OR you can bake on the same day too. Let the dough relax for about 30 minutes before shaping.
Take the retarded dough out and let this sit at room temperature for 30 minutes, until it is soft enough to handle.
Pre shape and let the dough rest for about an hour.
Preheat the oven while you wait, with the pizza stone in.
Once the oven is ready, shape the dough into a pizza.
turn the phone horizontal for a greater view
Decorate the top with your choice of toppings and bake for 8 – 10 minutes.
Check towards the end to make sure you are not burning the edges.