What is a pizza? I am kidding right? I am sure there is hardly anyone in this world who does not know the answer to this question.
This leavened flatbread that is topped with a sauce and vegetables and/or meats and a generous draping of melty mozzarella cheese, is one of the most loved ‘junk foods’ and most children and adults alike, are susceptible to its charms.
While there are many many variants and also methods for preparing pizzas, the Z factor that gives it that exclusive PizzaZ, is the usage of sourdough (SD) starter instead of commercial yeast.
Having baked several pizzas over several years, I now feel a sense of … shall I call it shame, that after baking my very first sourdough pizza, all my earlier pizzas that I had thought were pretty good, now seemed like mere imposters in front of the real deal 😀
But let me not beat myself up over this, for now that I have tasted blood, I am going to make good my lifetime of lapses and never bake anything other than a SD pizza ever again.
So in this recipe post, I am going to note down the method for making Sourdough pizza in two ways, one with bread flour and another with whole wheat flour.
You may gawk at it before proceeding.
Please note that this was baked during our corona lockdown and I had a very tiny quantity of mozzarella cheese, which is why the toppings look more ‘tomatoey’ red than cheesy white. But this is my first SD pizza and even though I may bake more cheese loaded ones in future, this picture is going to be retained as a historical memory of these crazy times.
And in any case, the toppings are secondary. What I want you to do is to gaze at that crust, with eyes filled with love and lust 😀
A pizza is a form of bread and is traditionally made from maida aka All Purpose Flour (APF) or bread flour and uses yeast as a leavening agent. The yeast can either be the commercial form or sourdough.
A tomato based pizza sauce forms the foundation atop the bread, over which the vegetables, meats and other preferences are placed. The deal is finally sealed with mozzarella cheese, which is known for its ability to melt ‘with strings attached’, which also offers your palate a pleasure that likewise comes with strings attached … yeah the hips don’t lie, sigh.
Those who want to assuage their guilt to some extent, can go the wholegrain way, where the base can be made exclusively of any other whole grain flours or various combinations thereof. Whole wheat flour (WWF) is a good place to start after mastering APF/bread flour.
There are also pizzas that are low on carbs like cauliflower base, almond flour, coconut flour etc.
The toppings also, are totally a personal choice.
Pizzas vary according to their crusts as in deep dish, thin crust, stuffed crust, etc and also in the baking modes as in wood fired, pizza oven, electric oven, pan baked etc.
Home bakers usually have access only to electric ovens. Possessing a pizza stone is also an advantage since it results in a great crust but using an ordinary baking pan is also an option for those who have no access to other equipment. There are also various hacks to bypass the lack of traditional equipment and using a cast iron skillet is one of them.
Sourdough pizza –
I possess a regular table top oven which currently in these Corona times, is adding to my woes by misbehaving and not heating up to its intended level. Pizzas are baked at high temperatures and the inability to achieve those temperatures, is a setback.
Luckily for me, I discovered 2 blog sites, one of which I adapted my ingredients from and the other from which I obtained the idea of baking on my cast iron ‘dosa’ pan, which helped me overcome the heating issue in my oven.
Of course after being quite pleased with the first attempt using bread flour, I also took courage to make the second one entirely out of WWF and I am going to document the recipes for both the APF and WWF pizza bases here. The method used is identical.
The recipe is sort of a blend that has drawn inspiration from the blogs of Alexandra Cooks where I got the ingredient list and from Little Spoon Farm for the baking method. And of course there are some changes that I have incorporated to suit my convenience because my itchy fingers can never really obey other people’s recipes in totality 😀
Approximately 18 hours from start to finish.
Makes – Two 8 inch diameter pizzas.
For the dough –
Levain – 50 gm
Bread flour/Whole wheat flour (WWF) – 250 gm (see Notes)
Water – 170 gm (for bread flour) or 200 gm if using WWF
Salt – 5 gm
Olive oil – 15 gm
For the toppings –
The toppings are according to personal preferences of course. Given below, is a list of what I have used in this pizza.
Pizza sauce – 2 tablespoon (I have used store bought)
Onions chopped into medium bits – 2 tablespoon
Tomatoes chopped into medium bits – 1 tablespoon
Mozzarella cheese grated – 3 tablespoon
Please note that all the timings indicated in the recipe are just guidelines and may vary for each person depending on several factors like weather, type of flour etc.
Refresh your starter a day or two before baking, depending on how neglected it has been.
Prepare the Levain – About 3 hours before making the dough (say 6 pm), take 10 gm of the starter and feed it in a 1:4:4 ratio with 40 gm flour + 40 gm water. My levain doubles in 3 hours but if yours takes longer, then start earlier accordingly. We will use only 50 gm of this levain for this recipe. The rest can go back into the fridge.
Perform the float test if you need to confirm if the levain is ready. Drop a teaspoon of levain gently into a glass container of water. If the blob floats for a while and does not sink right away, the levain is ready to be used.
9 pm – Place all the ingredients in a bowl or container and mix till incorporated. Set aside to autolyse for 60 minutes.
10 pm – do Stretch and Fold – 1 which is basically a process where you grab one side of the dough and stretch it out as far as it goes without tearing and then fold it over itself. Turn the bowl and repeat until you perform at least 4 – 6 of these actions and come full circle with your dough. It is a good idea to lightly wet your hands before attempting this, in case your dough is very sticky (Watch the video process on the King Arthur site)
10.30 pm – do Stretch and Fold – 2.
11.00 pm – do Stretch and Fold – 3.
Cover the bowl or container with a lid or cling wrap and refrigerate the dough. You can leave this overnight or upto 2 days in the fridge before proceeding to the next step.
Day 2 – 11 am, take the dough out and let it rest on the counter for 30 minutes.
Divide it equally by weight into 2 parts.
Lightly flour the counter and shape each part into a ball.
Cover with cling wrap and let them rest on the floured counter for 15 minutes.
Now take one ball and place it on the floured counter and gently pull or press it so as to form a circle of around 8 – 10 inches.
You can also pick up the dough and rotate it vertically using the fingers of both hands, so that it enlarges by its own weight.
Make sure to leave a one inch margin where the edges are thicker. Make the inner part of the circle uniformly thinner.
Keep your pizza sauce and toppings ready.
Preheat the oven on grill mode to maximum temperature (mine is 230 deg c). Grill mode is where only the top coil gets heated. Do not use bake mode where both the top and bottom coils get heated. Time the preheating for at least 15 minutes before actually placing the pizza into the oven.
Lightly grease a cast iron griddle or pan (I used a cast iron dosa tava). Place it on the stove and heat it till very hot.
Carefully and accurately drape the pizza dough into the pan.
Immediately smear the pizza sauce and add the toppings in the inner part, leaving the margin free. If you think the base of the pizza is burning, then lower the heat. But work very fast because you have to move the pan to the oven in not more than 2 – 3 minutes of placing the dough in it.
Wear thick protective gloves and immediately place the pan in the oven.
The pizza is ready when the cheese has melted and the sides look a bit charred. This should happen in 5 – 8 minutes (but remember that timings are oven specific). I like my pizza quite charred so I keep it in a little longer.
The pictures below are of the WWF pizza. You can see the difference in the crust (and yes by this time I had also managed to buy more mozzarella :-D)
Though both pizzas tasted good and had a nice texture, I generally prefer wholegrain since the coarseness, rusticity and chewiness appeals to me.
I hope you will successfully try this recipe and I would really appreciate if you leave your feedback in the Blog comments.