9.25.2011

Sourdough Thin-Crust Pizza

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Dear Readers,
I have a treat. The husband took time to write about his recent pizza-dough experience, using his own sourdough starter. This was a deliciously sweet and beautiful pizza-pie. My kitchen was also kept in tact during this process, with minimal flour dust in the air. And nothing makes me happier than a clean kitchen. Enjoy his journey with the dough!

-KK

Earlier in the year, my friend and his non-wife spent some time with me and my real wannabie housewife.  We spent a lot of time eating, but we also spent a bunch of time just sitting on the couch talking.   One day during a lull in the couch conversation, my friend grabbed a Cook’s Illustrated magazine on our coffee table.  Perusing its contents, he saw what was touted as a foolproof thin-crust pizza recipe.  Putting his faith in Chris Kimball and his CIA cronies, my friend jotted the recipe down, took it back to Pittsburgh, and one week later, insisted on me making it myself. 

So I did, following the recipe to a T.  My verdict: it was okay.  The crust was mighty thin, tasted more flavorful than other recipes I’d made, and wowed some relatives who had never seen someone actually make pizza in their own home.  

Before I took the first pizza out, I was already trying to come up with ways to out-Kimball Chris Kimball.  First, who puts vegetable oil in a pizza?  Cook’s Illustrated does, but I wasn’t down.  I needn’t follow the traditional Neapolitan pizza making rules, but I did think that olive oil made a lot more sense in a pizza recipe than vegetable oil.  Also, a bit more salt would help.  Last and most importantly, some sourdough starter would give the 1-3 day resting period for the dough that deep, rich golden brown crust I was hoping for.

Unfortunately, the first time I tried making this modified pizza, I added way too much of a watery starter to the dough.  When it was ready to be thrown in, the pizza stuck to the peel, folded in on itself, and baked a mess in the oven.  The wife noticed that I became very silent, and yes, perhaps my eyes even got a bit watery at my failure.  Luckily, she took no pictures of this event. 

A few weeks went by, the tears dried, and I got the courage to try my modified recipe again.  This time the dough was wet, but held its form. I shaped it into a nice round and we topped it off with a homemade sauce and made two different types of pizza with a mixture of smoked mozzarella and parmesan cheese.  The uncooked pizzas slid off the peel onto the baking stone, where the oven maintained a scorching 515 degree heat.  The cheese bubbled, the dough rose up, and the pizza emerged from the inferno changed into a majestically rustic looking pie.  Below is the recipe that should have made it into that magazine.
Sourdough Thin-Crust Pizza
with some, but only some help from Cook’s Illustrated

Dough
14 ounces bread flour (buy a scale if you don’t have one)
2.5 ounces sourdough starter
2 tsp sugar
1tbs olive oil
2tbs salt
optional, ¼ tsp of packaged yeast

Mix the dry ingredients together, then add water.  Let dough rest for 10-15 minutes.  Add oil and salt next and mix till combined.  Knead the dough for 5 minutes.  Place ball in an oiled bowl and cover tightly.  Set in fridge for at least a 24 hour time period, but no longer than 3 days. 

Sauce
Opens some tomato sauce, add garlic, oil salt and pepper, and all of your favorite Italian spices.  Taste until you think you got good pizza sauce.

Toppings
We used Hungarian salami, black olives, roasted peppers, arugula and fresh pear-shaped tomatoes. Feel free to pick your own delicious combinations.

Baking
An hour before, take dough out of fridge and divide in two.  Set oven rack to the highest position that will still accommodate a pizza and the temperature between 500-525 degrees.  Slightly knead and shape dough into two smaller balls.  Place one back in the original bowl, and oil another bowl for the second ball.  After an hour, stretch dough balls out carefully until you have a 12 inch circle (check the internet for some pizza stretching tips, but really, it’s a matter of practice).  Flour a pizza peal, transfer dough onto it.  Work quickly to spread sauce on dough, then cheese, followed by whatever ingredients you fancy.  Cook for 10-15 minutes, or until cheese has melted and crust in golden brown.       

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