Who Doesn’t Love Pizza?
Pizza can be found all over the world. Thin crust pizza, deep dish pizza, round pizza, square pizza, all kinds of pizza.
What distinguishes a good pizza is its crust, sauce and choice of toppings. The way the pizza is baked also influences its flavor and texture.
I will write more about each of these components in a separate post about pizza making. Here I will focus on pizza crust, and more specifically on sourdough pizza crust, and the way it acts as the foundation for your pizza.
Selecting Your Pizza Crust
Yeast Pizza Crust
For years I’ve made pizza at home in my oven. My oven, by the way, was an old gas oven, which was very unreliable, yet usually gave me wonderful results.
For the crust I relied on the Joy of Cooking‘s recipe on p. 610 of my very-worn older-edition from the 1980s. I always replaced honey for the sugar, but otherwise followed the recipe. My kids, who now are full-grown adults, love the crust from this recipe. Every time I talked about trying another recipe, they’d stop me. So if I wanted to experiment it had to be without them.
You can roll the yeast pizza dough from Joy of Cooking’s recipe either thin or thick, however you prefer. The honey makes the dough softer. It also mixes well with the flavor of the olive oil added at the same time. The dough is moreover fairly easy to stretch and toss like professional pizzaiolos (aka pizza makers) we see in the movies or neighborhood restaurants.
Sourdough Pizza Crust
In recent years, I’ve often looked for ways to use up the excess or discard sourdough starter fermenting in my kitchen. It was therefore natural to start making Sourdough Pizza Crust, among other goodies. See for example my recipe for Sourdough Pancakes – Sweet or Savory.
So far the results for the Sourdough Pizza Crust have been fantastic. The crust has a good texture with a slight spring to it. Its crumb is modestly soft so even when the dough is rolled thin, the pizza crust will not be too hard. The flavor of Sourdough Pizza Crust is better, in my opinion, than for a yeast pizza crust, which can have a yeasty aftertaste. While the sourdough pizza dough ferments, its flavor improves.
The only downside so far has been my inability to stretch and toss the sourdough pizza dough the same way I could with its yeast counterpart. Sourdough pizza dough spreads out fine if you place it down on a hard flat surface and use the back of your hands to stretch it gently. I might just not have developed the technique yet. Nevertheless, the final crust when baked is still excellent.
Why Bother Making a Sourdough Pizza Crust?
As a Sourdough Pizza Crust takes longer to ferment and rise than a yeast pizza crust, why spend this extra time? Is it worth it?
Well, several reasons come to mind:
- First, the extra time it takes is passive time. This means it’s additional time that you let the dough sit and rise while you continue your other activities. All you have to do is remain patient.
- Second, making a Sourdough Pizza Crust is a wonderful way to use up your sourdough starter. Dedicated fans of sourdough starter will be excited to find a new way to use some excess sourdough starter. Read this useful guide to discover more tips on how to make, maintain and use sourdough starter.
- Third, sourdough starter will make your pizza crust a wee bit more fluffy and chewy. This change of texture is subtle, not something that most people might notice. However, with a more active starter or a longer fermentation time, your crust will have more spring.
- Fourth, you can obtain a more tangy taste by using excess or discard starter that needs to be fed or has been starved a while. Yet, if you use a sourdough starter that has been fed regularly, the change of flavor will be almost undetectable.
What’s Different About This Sourdough Pizza Crust Recipe?
You can find loads of recipes for Sourdough Pizza Crust on the Internet. Therefore, what makes my Sourdough Pizza Crust recipe different or better than the others? I’ve examined the top three recipes in Google search to determine how my recipe differs. Note, I’ve made this comparison after developing my own recipe. Fortunately, you can see the main differences in three other recipes.
King Arthur Flour’s recipe, like many others, call for an addition of another rising agent, such as yeast, baking powder or baking soda. Mine does not. It relies only on sourdough starter to help it rise. You might save time by adding another rising agent, but it’s not necessary. Also, as mentioned above, yeast as well as the other rising agents can leave a slight aftertaste.
Meanwhile, Cultures for Health’s recipe, like other recipes, skips the long fermentation rising time. Instead, after a short rising time, you roll out the dough and make your pizza. My Sourdough Pizza Crust recipe calls for the creation of a sponge: the first mixing of the sourdough starter with the water and half of the flour. By letting the sponge sit overnight, the wild yeast in the starter will continue to multiply. During this time, the sponge’s flavor will develop and mature. The next morning you will add the remaining ingredients and start the bulk fermentation. For more information on these bread-making terms and the process of making bread, read this useful guide.
By creating a sponge in the first phase, my recipe allows you to have one long fermentation period. However, some recipes call for two risings in order to give the dough time to grow. In The Perfect Loaf’s recipe, for example, the pizza-maker creates a levain, then adds the remaining ingredients for the bulk fermentation phase, and ends with the proofing of the dough. My recipe skips the second rising during the proofing (like many other recipes do), saving one step. The total time (passive and active time), however, might be nearly the same.
How Do You Make Sourdough Pizza Crust?
The process for making Sourdough Pizza Crust takes up to twenty-four hours, depending on the choices you make.
In this recipe for Sourdough Pizza Crust, there are 3 basic steps:
- Creating the sponge and letting it develop,
- Mixing and kneading the dough and letting it rise (also known as bulk fermentation), and
- Rolling the dough out, adding the sauce and toppings, and baking the pizza in the oven.
As you will see in the timetable below, you only need about 45 minutes of active time to prepare your dough and then to create and bake one pizza. Note, however, you will need 15 more minutes for each additional pizza that you make. This timetable also does not take into account the time required to make your pizza sauce, if you create it yourself, and to prepare the toppings.
Making Pizza with Friends
If you have sourdough starter, this recipe is for you. If you don’t have your own starter, ask friends who do for some of their excess starter. They will be thrilled to give you some of theirs.
With little preparation, you can have a fun pizza night with friends. Each person adding their favorite toppings on their individual pizza before putting it in the oven. Or on a section of a larger communal pizza.
Creating pizza with friends is a wonderful way to spend an evening. Also lovely as an ice breaker for guests who don’t know each other well. By the end of the evening they will have created bonds.
Try this recipe and see.
Sourdough Pizza Crust - Healthy and Homemade
- 250 g sourdough starter (active and hungry)
- 310 g water
- 340 g unbleached wheat flour (see notes) (see more flour below)
- 1 tbsp sugar (raw cane or coconut)
- 4 tbsp olive oil
- 1 tbsp salt
- 330 g unbleached wheat flour (see notes) (see more flour above)
- Pour the sourdough starter into a large bowl. Add the water, sugar and then the amount of flour indicated for the sponge step. Mix together gently with a wooden spoon.
- Cover the bowl with a cheese cloth or a dish towel. Leave the covered bowl in a place sheltered from drafts for 6 to 12 hours. I usually prepare the sponge before going to sleep and leave it overnight.
- After the long rest, you will have a sponge (a frothy mix, with bubbles on top). The bubbles show the sponge is active.
- Add the amount of flour, salt and olive oil indicated for the bulk fermentation stage into the glass bowl with the sponge. Mix together with a wooden spoon. Let it sit a few minutes.
- Continue mixing with a spoon until the dough starts coming together. Turn the dough out onto a clean floured board or hard surface. Knead the dough about 5 minutes. If the dough is sticky, add a little more flour. Or if dry, add a few drops of water. The dough should not stick to your hands when you knead it.
- Divide the dough into four parts. Place each part in a bowl with enough space for the dough to double. Cover each part with a cheese cloth or clean dish towel. Let the dough sit about six hours until it has more or less doubled. The skin of the dough may start to feel a little dry or the top may begin to crack.
Stretching the Dough
- Preheat the oven to 450°F (230°C) (see notes) with your pizza stone or pizza pan inside. I use a cast iron pizza pan (see above) with great results. Let the heat at the indicated temperature for at least 10 minutes.
- Place parchment paper on a pizza peel or flat surface. Add flour on the parchment paper so the dough will not stick. Gently pick up one of the parts of dough and roll it into a ball. Put the ball on the floured parchment paper. Flatten it down. Place your hand on the dough and start stretching the dough out in the form of a disc. Continue gently stretching while being careful not to stretch it too thin or to make holes. Pick up the dough and place onto the back of your hands. Gently stretch the dough with your knuckles out until you get the desired thickness.
- Use a fork to poke holes on the pizza dough. Spread your tomato sauce on top of the pizza, leaving the edges bare. Be careful not to put on too much sauce or your pizza will become soggy. Add your cheese on top of your pizza. Then add the other toppings. Do not overload the pizza or the dough may not support the toppings.
- Let the prepared pizza sit 5 to 10 minutes. I usually let it rest while I prepare the next pizza and the last pizza is in baking in the oven.
- Place the pizza in the oven. If you use a pizza peel it will be easy to flip it onto the pizza pan. Let it bake about 10 minutes or until the crust turns golden brown and the cheese and other toppings look cooked. Remove the pizza from the oven and let it sit a couple minutes before slicing it. Enjoy it!
- When making the sponge, you can use a blend of flours. For my pizza crusts, I mixed one-half unbleached bread flour and one-half all-purpose flour.
- Note that you will add flour at two stages: the sponge and the bulk fermentation stages.
- You can leave the dough in the refrigerator up to five days during the bulk fermentation stage. However, be careful they are covered well so they do not dry out and become crusty. One of the best pizzas I've ever tasted let their pizza dough rise at this point 5 days. Experiment to see what works best for you.