Lesson 9: Sourdough Pizza

At my house, we call this recipe “Famous Pizza.” Everything I make that my children especially love gets “Famous” attached to its name.

To get this recipe right, it took experimenting for a couple of years. No matter how many approaches I tried, making pizza felt like time-consuming labor when hungry people needed to be fed. Not so with sourdough. This crust is easy to make, easy to handle, and especially easy on the schedule. What you’ll get for your efforts is a hearty, flavorful crust, one that can support many toppings, although it’s equally nice with tomato sauce or pesto and fresh mozzarella.

In terms of managing your time, you have a lot of options with this dough, which takes about 40 minutes of active time to pull together. (Since the dough needs 3 hours after kneading to rest on the counter top, be sure to make it when you will be home or awake 3 hours later to refrigerate the dough.) You can make the dough early in the morning and it will be ready to turn into pizza for dinner. Or you can make it at any time of day to serve any time the next day. Rolling, topping, and baking the pizzas takes about 45 minutes.

Makes 2 oval 12” x 14” pizzas, or 4 round 9” personal-sized pizzas

Ingredients

1-1/2 cups (8 ounces) sourdough starter
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1-1/2 cups (8 ounces) white bread flour
1 cup (5 ounces) whole-wheat bread flour
¾-1 cup (6-8 ounces) room temperature water
2 teaspoons fine sea salt*

For the pizza:

tomato sauce or basil puree, see Notes below
1 pound fresh, or 6-8 ounces shredded mozzarella cheese
optional: freshly-grated parmesan cheese

Recipe

  1. In a medium-sized bowl or in the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the sourdough starter, olive oil and flours and, using a wooden spoon, mix into a ragged dough; there will still be loose flour in the bottom of the bowl. Add ¾ cups water and, using a wooden spoon followed by your hands, mix into a soft dough. You may need to add up to ¼ cup more water. The goal is to have a dough that is not soggy or sticky, but wet enough that you can use it to pick up any loose flour in the bowl. Let the dough rest, covered, for 20 minutes.
  2. Add salt to the dough and knead it for 10 minutes, either by hand or in a stand mixer. If you are using a mixer, the dough should ideally just clear the bottom and sides of the mixing bowl. If needed, add more water or flour by the teaspoonful to achieve this effect. At the end of kneading, put the dough into a lightly-oiled bowl, roll it so that it’s lightly coated with oil, and let it sit on the counter top, covered, for about 3 hours. Then move the dough to the refrigerator to rest for 6-24 hours. If you opt for a rest that’s close to 24 hours, you may need to punch down the dough and deflate it along the way if it’s well-risen and full of gas.
  3. One hour before you are ready to bake pizza, place a pizza stone on the oven rack closest to your heating element. Then preheat the oven to 500 degrees and remove the pizza dough from the refrigerator.
  4. While the oven is preheating, divide the dough as evenly as you can into the number of pizzas you want to make. Put each dough section onto an individual piece of parchment paper that is about the size you expect the finished pizza to be.
  5. Using the palms of your hands, press and stretch each piece of dough into a round about ¼” thick, keeping it on the parchment paper. If needed, you can lightly oil your hands to prevent the dough from sticking. For now, the dough doesn’t need to look perfect. When it’s “good enough,” dampen a smooth dish towel with warm water, squeeze out any excess, and cover the dough rounds; if you prefer, you can use plastic wrap. Let them rest this way for 15-20 minutes to relax the gluten and make the dough easier to shape.
  6. Using a lightly oiled rolling pin, gently shape each dough into a neat round with smooth, flat edges. The finished dough should be about 1/8” thick–or thicker if that’s how you like your pizza. Top the pizzas with sauce, cheese, or anything else you want, and transfer each pizza—still on parchment paper—to the oven. Bake on a pizza stone for 12-14 minutes, or until the cheese is lightly browned and the sauce is bubbling. If you like, sprinkle each pizza with freshly-grated parmesan cheese as it comes out of the oven.
  7. Serve hot, or transfer to a cooling rack to keep the crust crisp until serving time.

*As with sourdough bread, I use Celtic Sea Salt in this recipe; it’s a salt that has some heft to it. If your sea salt has a finer consistency, you’ll want to use less of it.

Notes

  • If you prefer a crust with more whole-grain flour, increase the quantity of whole-wheat flour and decrease the white flour by the same amount. You may need to add extra salt or water to make the substitution work.
  • To make 2 cups of tomato sauce: In a saucepan combine one 28-ounce can of whole or diced tomatoes, 2 peeled garlic cloves, ½ teaspoon sea salt, 1 tablespoon olive oil, and a pinch of red pepper flakes. Simmer for 30 minutes; cool slightly, and puree in a blender or with an immersion blender.
  • To make ½ cup of basil puree: In the bowl of a food processor combine the leaves from 1 bunch of basil, 2-3 cloves peeled garlic cloves, 1/3 cup olive oil, and ¼ teaspoon sea salt. Puree until smooth.
  • If you want to freeze crusts for future use, make the dough and roll it out as you normally would. Just before baking, prick each crust with the tines of a fork to keep it from rising as it cooks. Bake for 3 minutes. When you remove each crust from the oven, prick it again to release any trapped air. Once the crusts are pre-baked, cool them on a rack and freeze to use as needed. Use straight from the freezer and, after topping, bake for 10 minutes.
  • Finished pizzas freeze nicely, and this recipe scales up or down with ease.

Next Up: Using Sourdough in Everyday Baked Goods: An Overview

Copyright 2014, Ellen Arian, Ellen’s Food & Soul