Sourdough Pizza

I finally bought a pizza stone a couple of months ago after restraining myself for years. I had never cooked with one but they are supposed to make your pizza better and I had been having issues with a soggy and undercooked pizza crust for quite some time. The result? Crispy crust, quick cooking time, all round better pizza in my opinion.

Question: what is a pizza stone? Answer: it is a relatively simple way of recreating the conditions found inside a pizza oven without having to go out and build yourself a new, extraordinarily expensive piece of kit. The moment the dough hits the stone, it is exposed to a huge amount of heat which makes the yeast go crazy giving a super puffy, air-filled crust. The pizza stone retains its heat well so the addition of a (comparatively) cold pizza on top of it does little to lower its overall temperature. This causes the base of the pizza to cook fully and quickly, giving a solid, crisp base that will not be soggy. Any sections of dough which may be a little wet quickly dry, as the pizza stone is porous and thus pulls moisture out of the base of the crust again leading to a crispier base… I think there may be a pattern here. Basically, this can all be summed up as: the pizza stone ensures the crust is cooked quickly and properly and – most importantly – fully before the toppings begin to burn.

I have used metal trays for baking pizza and, while they do work, the best method I know still involves preheating the tray and then transferring the pizza onto it. Unlike the stone, metal is not porous, so any steam which may escape through the base of the pizza is trapped against the dough – causing it to be reabsorbed and softening the dough. Some methods of cooking use both a pizza stone and a metal sheet. The pizza goes on the preheated sheet and the stone rests on a wire rack directly above the pizza. Again, this is recreating the conditions of a pizza oven where extreme heat is being blasted at the pizza from all directions, the base of the oven, the roof, even the walls all help cook the pizza.

When it comes to hand stretching dough, I have found that the best way to learn is watching online tutorials. Written instructions are ok but it is so much easier when you can see what is going on. It may split the first time… or the second… or even once you think you know what is going on but this is fine – I just stitch it all back together and after the cheese is added, no one will be able to tell. Stretching the dough by hand, in my experience, is the best way to get a puffy crust on the pizza. When you stretch it, the dough from the centre of the pizza is slowly transferred to the outside. This can weaken the centre of the pizza though so make sure to keep an eye on it and if any bits seem dangerously thin, try and avoid stretching them any more than necessary.

Sourdough pizza (like normal sourdough bread) takes time and you need to plan ahead if you want to eat it. Luckily, the majority of the time needed is resting and proving so it is not too time consuming when you are actually making it. I prefer the taste of sourdough bases but let me know what you think if you try it. If you don’t have a sourdough starter, you can always make your own or you could get some from a friend. I am sure there will be someone in your local area with one who would be happy to donate a little to you.

 

 

Sourdough pizza:

Prep time: 15 minutes

Cook time: 10 minutes

Rest time: 16 hours

 

To reactivate the starter:

½ cup sour dough starter

1 cup strong white flour

1 cup water

 

For the dough:

75ml water

500g flour

2 tbsp olive oil

10g salt

 

For toppings: tomato passata, mozzarella, any other toppings of your choice

 

Mix the starter with one cup of flour and one cup of water. Cover and leave overnight. You can use the starter straight from the fridge, no need to warm it up as that is what this step will do.

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After sitting overnight, the starter should be very bubbly.

 

In the morning, add the flour for the dough, 25ml water and oil to the reactivated starter. Mix until it forms a shaggy mess – it need not all stick together at this point. Cover and leave to rest for 30 minutes to an hour.

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Sprinkle over the salt and the rest of the water and knead to combine.

Knead the dough for five to ten minutes until it is smooth and elastic.

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Cover and leave to rise for six or seven hours. I would set this up before work and leave it in a cool place throughout the day.

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About an hour before making the pizzas, split the dough into four and shape each quarter into a ball. Cover and leave again for half an hour to let the gluten relax.

 

Place a pizza stone into the oven and turn your oven to the highest setting (mine is gas mark 9 at around 250°C). ALLOW THIS TO HEAT UP FOR AT LEAST HALF TO THREE-QUARTERS OF AN HOUR.

Take one of the balls of dough and flatten it using your fingertips. Stretch the dough until it is the same size as your stone. This can be done by picking it up at the edge and rotating the dough so its own weight stretches it. This ensures the dough in the middle of the pizza is nice and thin and the edges are a bit thicker so you get a good crust. You could also use a rolling pin if it is easier for you.

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Spread the tomato paste out from the centre until it is half an inch from the outside of the dough.

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Grate/thinly slice the mozzarella and sprinkle it over the pizza. Top with your favourite toppings.

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Using a single, swift motion slide a peel underneath the pizza. (A peel is just a large, flat paddle. It might be worth practicing getting the pizza onto and off of the peel before you add the toppings (as in when it is just the base)). You cannot build the pizza on the peel as it will stick if it is left there too long. If you do not have a peel (like me) you could use a cake lifter or even make the pizza on baking parchment and slide this parchment from a normal baking tray onto the pizza stone.

By gently shaking the peel, slide the pizza onto the pizza stone and bake for five to ten minutes (depending on your oven temperature). When the pizza is done, it should be able to be tilted by lifting up one side as the base will be cooked and a little crispy.

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I hope you enjoyed the recipe. If you would like to have a go at normal, non-sourdough pizza, check out my recipe. The crust is super light and fluffy and it tastes amazing. I have been known to lightly brush the outer crust (without the toppings) with garlic oil and give it a sprinkle of sea salt for extra flavour.

Have a good one and I will be back next week with a delicious sweet treat.

H

 

 

Perfect Pizza

As a student, I don’t often get the opportunity to make pizza from scratch as I just don’t have the time to make the dough. Of course you could buy in bases or even just pop down to the local take away but the difference in quality is phenomenal! Not only is it far, far cheaper to make yourself, but you can make sure you have the toppings you want on it without having the faff of spending 10 minutes deciding what you want off the menu. This recipe does take time – there are no two ways about that however like all recipes with bread involved, you will have a couple of hours in the middle in which to do what you want.

I have only done this a couple of times at university because of the time constraints however homemade pizza is a good home recipe too – especially in the holidays. Be careful though as it is very easy to overeat these as they are just so delicious! I like to have mine with chilli, sweetcorn, chicken and I’m getting into onions too. Whilst personally, I am very much against pineapple on pizza, I do appreciate that for some people, it is a fantastic topping and the wonderful thing about this recipe is that you can make personal pizzas that don’t need sharing so no one can complain! I would always advise using precooked meats just in case as you don’t want to eat raw meat and get ill – especially if you have to study for exams.

This is a particularly good recipe for house meals as you can just make the pizzas larger and share them around and they are genuinely so much better than the ones you would buy on the way home from a night out. I love a good greasy take-out pizza however these can be far healthier – using low fat cheese or even cheeseless pizzas can be a good way of using up leftover vegetables and meats without too many calories.

The recipe I use includes a technique I have not yet covered on this blog – rubbing in. This is where you combine flour and fat in a way which keeps the fat from melting and makes sure the mixture is light and airy. Using the tips of your fingers, take a little of the mix in each hand and lift them above the bowl. Use you thumbs to brush the mix back out of your hands and into the bowl rubbing the fat into the flour as it falls through your fingers. Repeat this until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. It may look like nothing is happening at the start but trust me, it will all come together in the end. Just remember, if you really can’t get a technique to work for you, YouTube it! I have learnt a lot of new techniques by watching videos because I find it far easier to understand when I can see what is going on.

The dough also freezes nicely so if you are cooking for two, the third portion can be popped in the freezer – just make sure to defrost it fully and let it warm up to room temperature before using – or it can be used to make a garlic bread (spread over butter, minced garlic and parsley if you have it) or doughballs! If you want to cook for 4 people, multiply the recipe by one and a half but don’t increase the yeast! Once sachet can be used for up to 750g of flour – it might take a little longer to rise but it will still have an amazing flavour.

 

 

Serves 3 – about £1.30 per portion

Preparation – 30 minutes, Rising – 2 hours, Cooking – 15 minutes

 

Dough:

500g Strong white flour

50g butter (or block margarine like Tomor for example)

300ml water

1 sachet instant yeast (7g)

1 tsp salt

1 tbsp sugar

2 tbsp olive oil

 

Optional

Garlic/onion power

Grind of pepper

Grated hard cheese like parmesan

 

Toppings

500ml Tomato Passata/ 1 tube of tomato paste

A few cloves of garlic

375g Mozarella grated

 

If you are using passata, heat it in a pan and add a couple of cloves of minced garlic and a pinch of sugar.

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Reduce it until the passata is thick and non-runny.

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While the passata is cooking, place the flour in a large bowl, cube the butter and rub it in until it looks like fine breadcrumbs. (If you wish to flavour the dough, stir in the extra ingredients now!)

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Make sure the fat you use is cold when you add it to the flour to help prevent it melting during the rubbing in
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After rubbing in, the mixture looks like fine breadcrumbs and will have a light yellow tinge

Make a well in the centre, pour the yeast, salt and sugar around the outside of the bowl at even intervals.

Pour in the water and oil and mix to combine.

Knead the dough until it is smooth and elastic, cover and leave to rise for about 2 hours or until it has doubled in size.

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Basic ingredients for a Margharita pizza

 

Turn the oven to gas mark 6 (200oC).

Pour out the dough and divide into portions.

Roll the dough out until it fits the pizza pan you are using or until it has a radius of about 10 inches.

Spread out the thickened passata onto the pizza bases leaving about half an inch around the outside. Alternatively, if you are using paste from a tube, squeeze it into a bowl and add some water to thin it out a bit so you can spread it over the pizzas.

Sprinkle on the mozzarella trying not to get it on the dough around the edge of the bases

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We have a large pizza dish which holds two portions and a smaller one which is a single portion

Add toppings of your choice.

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Sweetcorn and mushroom pizza. I also like adding jalapenos however my dad isn’t fond of them so we go half and half
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Mushrooms, capers and olive pizza
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Mushrooms, capers and olive pizza

Bake in the oven for 12-15 minutes until the cheese is bubbling and starting to brown.

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This meal is so amazingly yummy, I wish I could have it more often but it isn’t economical. It is however, perfect for a special event like having friends over or a date night or even if you just deserve a treat!

Let me know if you try this at yourselves and pop a photo in the comments! I love seeing what you guys create at home.

See here for the last Cooking from Basics recipe – an amazing Mushroom and Chicken Pasta Bake or here if you fancy making some super fudgy, gooey Chocolate Brownies.

Have a good one and I’ll see you next week for my death by chocolate tart which is sinfully delicious looks like it’s been bought from a professional bakery!!!

H