People may forever debate whether pizza is Italian, but there can be no doubt that it is American. One poll last year reported that “For Americans, pizza lands in the number one spot as the ultimate comfort food.” But if you were to ask, “What is pizza?” you’d get as many answers as respondents.
This, to my mind, is a good thing. It’s what makes pizza so popular. It’s also what makes pizza so easy and affordable to create from scratch at home. You don’t need a specific recipe with exact ingredients. You don’t even need a ratio with proportions of various toppings. All you need is some dough, a couple handfuls of garnishes, and a way to cook it. If you have a sourdough starter, the dough is in the bag—or should I say, jar.
Sourdough Pizza Dough
280 grams water
100 grams whole-wheat flour
400 grams all-purpose flour
8 grams (about 1 teaspoon) salt
Set a bowl on a kitchen scale. Measure in the starter and then the water; stirring until they begin to combine. Add the flours, and mix just enough to form a sticky dough. Cover the bowl with a damp towel; let rest for 10 minutes. Feed your starter.
Add the salt and turn the dough out onto a lightly floured cloth or counter. Knead lightly for about 30 seconds until the dough comes together into a ball. Pour a bit of olive oil into the bowl, tilting it until it clings to the sides, and then return the dough ball to the bowl. Cover with the damp towel; let rest for 20 minutes. Repeat the knead and rest cycle until you have kneaded the dough 3 times over about an hour.
After the third kneading, divide the dough into 3 pieces and roll them into balls. Wrap each in a piece of waxed paper and place in a zip-close bag. Refrigerate up to 24 hours before baking (see below). Makes dough for 3 12-inch crusts.
Tips & Tricks
- This crust recipe is quite similar to the dough for Sourdough Pita in both ingredients and technique—not surprising, since both are flatbreads. A little more water and flour change the texture slightly, but the primary difference is the chilling time: the longer the dough sits, the less inclined it is to puff up.
- Treated municipal water, with added chlorine, chloramines, and fluoride, is not ideal when working with sourdough and other fermentations. If you’re unhappy with the results, distilled water may solve the problem.
- If you recently made cheese, flatbread is a great way to use some of the whey created during the process. Simply replace the water in the recipe with whey. If you used citric acid or another salt on the cheese before you drained off the whey, you may not want to add salt to the dough.
- I like a bit of whole-wheat flour in the crust, but you can easily swap in other flours for a different flavor and texture.
- A plain sourdough crust is full of flavor yet versatile, but you can start making the pie your own before you even think about toppings. Knead in herbs such as rosemary and oregano or Italian Seasoning Blend, or mince some garlic or shallots to work straight into the crust.
Twice as Tasty
A ball of pizza dough is the beginning of endless meals. Because it so resembles the dough for Sourdough Pita Bread, you could split the ball for pita-style flatbreads. Cut those into wedges, and you create Sourdough Pita Chips. But the real versatility comes in rolling out a crust and then prowling through the fridge.
Since you read this blog, you’ve likely moved past what my sister and I, as kids, called “cardboard pizza”: loaded with bland cheese, speckled with pepperoni, and tasting like the cardboard round it sits on. But you may be surprised by the endless combinations that make delicious pizza toppings. At a recent house concert, Twice as Tasty turned out a dozen vegetarian pizzas with 4 bases or sauces, 3 cheeses, and 10 vegetables. No pie was exactly the same. And no one asked, “Where’s the pepperoni?” The recipe that follows gives just one variation.
2 1-ounce cubes Basil Pesto Base, defrosted
1 ounce Parmesan, grated
4 cloves Roasted Garlic, thinly sliced
1/4 cup frozen sliced grilled onion
2 tablespoons sun-dried tomatoes in oil, thinly sliced
2 ounces goat cheese
Preheat your oven and a baking stone or tray to the oven’s highest temperature (mine is 550°F). Once the oven is at temperature, take the ball of dough from the refrigerator. Flour your rolling space and rolling pin, and then use the rolling pin to shape the dough into a round the size of your baking stone. Press the points of a fork’s tines heavily into the dough, poking the entire surface, to prevent the dough from overexpanding in the oven. Transfer to a pizza peel or an unrimmed tray.
Slide the dough onto the baking stone in a quick motion. Bake for 2 minutes, flip, and bake 2 additional minutes. Remove to a flat surface and poke again with the fork if the dough puffed up. Cover with the toppings: Spread the pesto over the dough, leaving a bit of bare crust around the perimeter. Sprinkle with Parmesan, and then distribute evenly the garlic, onion, and sundried tomatoes. Break the goat cheese into marble-size chunks with your fingers and drop these among the other toppings.
Return the pizza to the oven and bake about 5 minutes, until the cheese begins to turn golden and the crust colors on the edges. Remove to a cutting board, let rest 5 minutes, and then slice into wedges. Makes one 12-inch pizza; serves 2.
Tips & Tricks
- The Sourdough Pizza Dough recipe makes three balls, so you can repeat the process given here with each ball and serve 6 people. Alternatively, freeze any extra dough in its waxed-paper wrapper and zip-close bag, and then allow the dough to fully defrost in the fridge before using it.
- This dough is so thin and lively that it will still try to puff up as you prebake it. Giving it some more good pokes with the fork before you add the toppings prevents it from puffing on the final bake and transferring all of your goodies to the edges.
- I’ve learned the hard way that homebaked pizzas turn out best if you resist the urge to weigh them down with toppings. One sauce, one or two cheeses, and no more than three featured flavors, each in a small quantity, make the ideal pie—and can be a great way to use up dibs and dabs from the fridge.
- Because pizzas are best cooked quickly at high heat, the best results come from precooked ingredients—again making pizzas a great way to revitalize leftovers. Unless you’re looking for the flavor and texture of a raw vegetable on your final pie, a quick turn through the sauté pan is best for any fresh produce.
- You’ll soon find favorite blends, but I tend to turn to what lives in my fridge or freezer for a last-minute winter pizza night. This means not just basil-based pesto but also Spring Pesto with Pea Shoots, marinara sauce, or a simple herb-infuse oil for a base. In addition to store-bought Parmesan, my fridge usual holds homemade lemon or goat cheese and/or home-smoked mozzarella. Additional favorite toppings include homegrown and stored veg such as thinly sliced roasted potatoes, frozen Grilled Corn, canned grilled bell peppers, refrigerator-pickled nasturtium “capers,” and freshly grown salad sprouts, plus refrigerator staples like Kalamata olives and special treats like sautéed oyster mushrooms.
Want to learn more about sourdough starter, the similarities between pita and pizza, or even how to grow your own sprouts as a pizza topping? Get in on one of the current slate of Twice as Tasty workshops, or contact me to find out about how to turn a custom workshop into a pizza party.