I’ve been making my own pizza for awhile now and I’ve found that the secret to a great pizza is in the dough. It’s about creating the right balance in texture, weight and most importantly, simplicity in the toppings. One must not overpower the other.
Making pizza is another step in bread making. It takes time, failures and learning through methodology and technique how to feel and work with your dough. Fortunately there are great resources. I’ve been inspired by the GNOWFGLINS sourdough e-course and the one and only Peter Reinhart, author of the Bread Baker’s Apprentice.
One thing that I have learned through both of these resources is that the art of making bread is in the fermentation of the dough. According to Peter Reinhart
Fermentation is the single most important stage in the creation of great bread. No matter how good your oven is, or how perfect your shaping technique, if the bread is not properly fermented, it can never be better than average. It is in this, the primary fermentation stage that dough is transformed from a lifeless lump of clay into a living organism.
I love that! A living organism.
It makes me excited to know that my own sourdough starter is alive and has been producing the best artisanal pizza I have ever made. What I enjoy about using my sourdough is that when it starts to ferment and consume the sugars naturally present in the wheat, the wild bacteria, specifically lactobacillus, starts to create lactic acid which helps our body to absorb enzymes and aids in digestion. Not only does it taste wonderful with a slight tang but it goes to work within us.
The following pizza dough recipe is based on the methodology of Peter Reinhart using a wild yeast sourdough starter. To mix my dough I used my kitchen aid mixer. However, before starting on my bread making endeavors I kneaded my dough by hand. This allowed me to understand the complexity of dough. I wanted to learn what to look for when a recipe called for an elastic or a wet dough. I wanted to know what it felt like when a dough was fully kneaded. I would encourage you to familiarize yourself with this process because there are so many variables when making bread. The unique temperature, humidity and ingredients used can alter the recipe. It’s important to understand if your dough is too dry or too wet. Also, don’t be discouraged. It’s not difficult once you dive in. Making a sourdough pizza dough doesn’t take that much more time. Just planning and additional days for proper fermentation.
Day 1: Make the Sourdough Pizza Crust Dough
– Adapted by Peter Reinhart
The following dough is a Pizza Napoletana recipe. Simple, thin crusted, and baked fast and crisp. A Neapolitan Pizza from Naples.
- 1 cup sourdough starter
- 6 oz whole wheat flour (hard red wheat)
- 6 oz whole wheat pastry flour (soft white wheat)
- 2 tbls extra virgin olive oil
- 1 tbl raw honey
- 1 tsp celtic sea salt
- 3/4 cup warm water
|Freshly milled, hard spring wheat and soft white wheat.
When you grind your own whole wheat berries, your dough is considerably lighter and not as “wheaty.”
On the day you plan to use the dough, take the dish out of the refrigerator and allow to rise in room temperature anywhere from 2 to 4 hours before tossing to shape.
Day 2: Making the rustic, seasonal topping and “tossing” the dough
For my topping, I decided to create something rustic and seasonal. At my farmers market, I was able to find a unique heirloom squash that I had never cooked with before. A Lakota Sioux Squash. A native American Indian squash that Lewis and Clark discovered from the Plains Indians.
To round out the flavors in my topping, I decided to use my pastured Berkshire bacon from Stamps Family Farm and it’s rendered fat to add complexity and savor. To complement the sweetness in the pumpkin I included caramelized onions and to infuse all of the ingredients, I braised them in a locally produced apple cider. To top the pizza, a local soft chevre. A perfect combination of sweet, savory and comforting Fall flavors.
Roasted heirloom Lakota Sioux squash sourdough pizza with bacon and caramelized onions, braised slowly in local apple cider and topped with local chevre.
- 1 recipe sourdough pizza dough from above
- 1 2lb Lakota Sioux squash or pumpkin, cut in half.
- 5 pieces local, farm fresh bacon
- 1/2 onion, thinly sliced
- 1/2 cup local apple cider
- Local Chevre
Pull out the sourdough pizza dough from the refrigerator and let sit at room temperature for 2-4 hours. One hour before you are ready to toss your dough, slice the Lakota squash in half and roast at 425 degrees for 40 minutes. Reserve the other half for a different use.
While the squash is roasting, cut the bacon into strips and brown in a cast iron skillet or pan until browned and the fat has rendered. Remove the bacon from the pan and set aside.
Before tossing, cover a second pizza stone or pan with parchment paper. Dip your hands, including the backs of your hands and knuckles, in flour and lift 1 piece of dough.
Very gently lay the dough across your fists and carefully stretch it by bouncing the dough in a circular motion on your hands, carfelly giving it a little stretch with each bounce. If it begins to stick to your hands, lay it down on the floured counter and reflour your hands, then continue shaping it. Once the dough has expanded outward, move to a full toss. If you have trouble tossing the dough, or if the dough keeps springing back, let it rest for 5 to 20 minutes so the gluten can relax, and try again. You can also use a rolling pin but this method isn’t as effective as the toss method.
To your delight, once the pizza is done cooking you will have a perfectly crisp, light and airy artisanal pizza!