Saturday, November 12, 2011

Sourdough pizza revisited

It was another busy week, but things are feeling a little more settled.  Or at least as settled as they can be when one is preparing to buy a home and move. 

I have a closing date set, and I received word that the loan should be approved next week, well in advance of that date.  It will be one less thing to worry about, and I can get focused on all the little details of packing and moving preparation.  There's still a lot to do, but I am feeling better about where things are at, and I am finally starting to feel some excitement about my new home.

So enough talk about banks, real estate, and moving headaches - I am overdue for a long-winded talk about food!

I have been making sourdough pizzas for close to a year now.  I feel like am really getting the hang of this and can pretty much make the dough in my sleep.

Buffalo chicken sourdough pizza from a couple weeks ago

I have two different sourdough starters now; there is "Hope," the original, 11-year-old starter given to me by my friend Eileen.  Also, I have a variation of Hope.  This summer I fed a batch of Hope with a scant amount of beer.  The beer was a local MN brew - Brau Brothers "Forgotten Flem," a farmhouse-style ale. 

Why did I do this?  Well, this particular beer is "bottle conditioned," meaning it is either unfiltered, or in this case, reseeded with yeast for a secondary fermentation once it is bottled.  So there is still some yeast left in the bottle.

Of course, I have know way of knowing if there was any active yeast still in the bottle.  However, it is fun to think that some of the exotic Belgian Saison and Champagne yeasts from the "Forgotten Flem" took hold in my starter.  But I do know this particular batch of starter does taste and smell slightly different (probably due more to the beer than anything), and it rises faster during the feeding that the original Hope.  Therefore, I only thing I can really conclude is that Hope loves beer!

It was the Serious Eats "starter along" recipe for sourdough pizza that I found a great deal of success with.  Over the course of the year, I have made some tweaks to this recipe, so I thought I would revisit this and share what I am doing.

I've got this down to a science now and can successfully make a batch of dough over the course of one day.  Usually I will do this on a weekend, just because it's easier.

In the morning, I feed Hope, or Hope's boozy cousin - equal parts starter, water, and bread flour by weight (very important - weight is always more accurate than volume).  I generally find it takes about four hours to double in size, although it seems to be taking longer now that the weather is turning colder.

Hope, getting nice and bubbly!

Once I have my active starter around midday, I do the prescribed mix of 4 oz. starter, 1 oz. water, and 2 oz. flour and let that double in size.  You can usually count on another four hours to accomplish this.

I am then ready to make the dough in the late afternoon.  For the final mix, I do a couple of things that deviate from the recipe:

  • One, I add 1 tsp. of sugar, just because pizza dough and yeasts like sugar.  
  • Two, I follow the prescribed amounts for everything else with the exception of the flour. 

The recipe calls for adding 8 oz. of flour at this stage, but I have increased that to 9.5 oz.  With only 8 oz., I found myself always adding more flour because the dough was too wet.  I am not sure if it is because of the consistency of my starter or what the deal is.  But 9.5 oz. of flour is the perfect amount for me every time, and it results in a supple, smooth, and pliable ball of dough.

I cut the dough in half and shape it into two nice round balls (which makes enough for two 12-inch pizzas).  Now comes the hard part; you throw them into in a Zip-loc bag and refrigerate for at least two days for the final rise and fermentation.  It takes time.  The sourdough rises much slower than commercial yeast.  But it is worth it.  Patience will be rewarded! 

Over the course of the two days, you will see the dough has expanded and risen, filling the corners of the plastic bag.  The dough is ready to be made into a pizza after two days, but you will find it tastes even better if you wait three to five days.  That extra time allows for additional fermentation and flavor development.

When ready to bake, allow the dough to come to room temperature (one and one half to two hours), and pat it out into the shape of a pizza on a well floured pizza peel. Top it how you wish, and bake for 7-8 minutes on a pizza stone in a 500 F preheated oven.

The flavor of the crust is really nice.  When people think of sourdough, a really tart, tangy bread might come to mind.  But this really isn't like that.  The sourness is very subtle, and what you are left with is simply a really hearty, pleasing, homemade bread with great flavor and texture.

That being said, here was tonight's creation - sourdough pizza with pepperoni, Canadian bacon, artichoke hearts, and green olives with fresh mozzarella, Leerdammer, fontina, and asiago cheeses.

Sourdough pizza is so good!

Turned out very nice.  The crust got a great rise on the edge, and it baked up beautifully with lots of interesting flavors and textures - spiciness from the pepperoni, sweetness from the Canadian bacon, and a pleasant briny flavor from the olives and artichoke hearts, all combined with the creaminess of the variety of cheeses.  A great meal tonight!

So that is what I have been able to learn about making sourdough pizza over the course of the last year.  I am looking forward to seeing what I can learn with another year of practice.  In my new kitchen.   With custom Corian countertops that are simply begging for pizzas to be made on them.  I am almost there. ;-)

1 comment:

Robby K said...

Yum!!! What a great evolution of the recipe. Practice makes perfect and patient makes for tasty pizza.

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