Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Sourdough Pizza Crust

I have failed to make decent pizza crust for many years. After all this learning about sourdough, I was finally successful with a recipe I cobbled together from a simple one I found in various places online and a not-so-simple one from Peter Reinhart's The Bread Baker's Apprentice: Mastering the Art of Extraordinary Bread.

This all came about because I had ripe sourdough starter (extra from feeding discard) that I didn't know what to do with. So I deliberately used a recipe that used sourdough starter instead of anything that required the addition of active dry/instant yeast. The online recipes seemed too simplistic (like the other recipes I've tried in the past that were failures) while the recipe from the book didn't use sourdough starter at all. So I just kind of combined the two to make them work for my purposes.

  • About 2 cups ripe sourdough starter (100% hydration), cold
  • About 2 cups bread flour
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tsp salt

* If you can, weigh the ingredients and put the same amount of flour as you have starter. Adjust the amount of salt and oil accordingly.


  1. 1. Mix all of the ingredients together in an electric mixer with the dough hook attachment for 5-7 minutes, until the dough is homogeneous and smooth (it will be sticky but not too wet).
  2. Divide dough into 6-oz portions (every 6-oz portion will make a 9-12" pizza) or as big/small as you prefer. Discard leftover dough or make into grissini.
  3. Lightly dust each portion. Gently shape into a ball. (At this point you can freeze them by lightly oiling each ball and putting them individually into freezer bags. Defrost the day before you intend to make the pizza.) Lightly oil dough balls and put them on a baking sheet (or smaller container depending on how many balls of dough you have). Cover and refrigerate overnight or for at least 8 hours.
  4. Two hours before you plan to make the pizza, take the dough out of the fridge. Lightly flour your hands and press the dough down to a disc to about 1/2" inch thick and 5 inches in diameter. Cover lightly with plastic wrap and proof (leave it alone) for 2 hours.
  5. About 45 minutes before you plan to bake the pizza, place a pizza stone on a lower third rack oven the oven and preheat to 500°F or as high as your oven will let you go (the higher the better, but most home ovens cap at 500 or 550).
  6. After the 2-hour proof, dust your hands and put the disc of dough over your knuckles, using them to gently rotate and stretch the dough. If you're brave or feel comfortable, toss the pizza as the professionals do! The gluten should be relaxed (and yet developed enough) for you to be able to stretch it easily and it can get fairly thin without tearing. If it does tear, DO NOT RESHAPE (doing so will almost certainly make the dough too springy and "tough" and you'll have to wait another 5-20 minutes for the gluten to relax so you can try again). Simply pinch the hole closed with dough on either side.
  7. When you have the dough shaped how you like it, transfer it to a peel. Top with sauce, cheese, and your choice of toppings (try not to overload, especially if it's a thin crust). In this order, I used Trader Joe's pizza sauce, basil leaves from my new homegrown plant, mozzarella cheese for melty goodness, and a 3-cheese blend of hard cheeses like parmesan, romano, and pecorino.
  8. When the pizza is ready for the oven, sprinkle some semolina flour on the pizza stone, to make sure that the pizza will slide easily on (and more importantly, off). Use the peel and quickly slide the pizza onto the stone -- don't be too hesitant or it will just be messy.
  9. Bake for 5-8 minutes, until cheese is bubbly and brown and the crust is golden. Use a peel to take the pizza off the stone (should be easy with the semolina base) and wait a few minutes for the cheese to set a bit before slicing.

The Pictorial

After the dough was proofed for 2 hours, it was stretched out to a shape kind of, sort of, resembling a pizza (sadly, I think this is the best I've ever done). I did it right on the pizza peel so that there would be less transferring back and forth.

Here I've put on the sauce and the toppings: tomato, basil, red onion, and garlic.

With the glorious addition of cheese: mozzarella and a "quatro formaggio" blend of parmesan, fontina, asiago, and soft provolone.

Here it's been slid onto a hot pizza stone (oven is at 500°F, which is the highest my oven will go) dusted with semolina flour.

8 minutes later.

3 minutes later. It's sitting on a plate way too small to hold it because it's the biggest plate I have. >.>

Hmm, okay, it might be TOO thin. Or the tomato slices were too heavy for how thin the crust was. Still, it was melty and delicious.

Close-up shot of how thin the crust is. Success at last! :-)

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