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Lesson 5: Perfect Pizza
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In this lesson, we will craft a dough that yields two large pizzas, or four mini-doughs for personal pan pizzas. Making mini-doughs is great for beginners, so you can get a feel for working with the texture of the dough, and go big the next time you work with this recipe.

Pizza is one of the simplest dishes you can make as a home baker. After you learn how to make this SUPER tasty sourdough pizza crust you'll never get store-bought dough again. This pizza crust recipe uses type 00 flour, the finest grind of flour capable of being produced by the flour mill. Type 00 flour also yields a crispier pizza crust with a better ability to stand up to heavy working, you know, like being thrown around in the air!

Follow along for the tastiest bake of all, and enjoy dazzling your friends with this slightly sour and ever-so-slightly-salty homemade pizza crust.


Tools & Ingredients

To follow along with this lesson, you will need the following.

Tools

Ingredients

  • 100 grams fully risen sourdough starter (prepare this a day ahead of time)
  • 375 grams water, divided into 325 and 50-gram amounts - 80-82 degrees
  • 450 grams white flour or type 00 pizza flour
  • 75 grams whole wheat flour
  • 10-12 grams salt
  • Pizza toppings! You choose!

If you don't want a sourdough pizza, or if you need to prepare doughs more quickly, you can use a half-packet of instant yeast instead - that's a slightly heaping teaspoon. You will have to make up for the water and flour of the starter as well by adding an additional 50 grams of flour and 50 grams of water to the recipe. When mixing, add the instant yeast to your dry ingredients and add 425 grams of very warm water (115-125 degrees Farenheight) to activate.

Alternatively, you can prepare the same dough recipe from our Sourdough lesson, and skip ahead to the dividing step in this lesson. All very delicious options!


Prepare Leaven

You can prepare starter leaven from a dormant starter in the fridge, or grow your current room temperature starter to 100 grams (plus a little extra to perpetuate your starter after you draw from it). If you have 100 grams of starter ready to be used, skip this step and head to the bulk ingredient mix.

Even if I am keeping my starter in the fridge, I feed it pretty regularly. Once I observe that it has doubled in size in the fridge, I will feed it again to keep it semi-active, and never at risk of getting too acidic even at cold temperatures.

With a mature sourdough starter at its maximum rise height, draw one tablespoon (about 15 grams) of your starter into a dish and mix with 50 grams of room temperature water. Add 50 grams of your half & half starter feed (25 grams whole wheat flour and 25 grams of white bread flour). Mix until you have a loose oatmealy looking consistency.

Cover the bowl and wait overnight. You know the starter is ready when it has a good network of bubbles developed, has reached it's max rise and is ever-so-slightly beginning to deflate. I like to make starters in clear bowls or jars so that we can see the fermentation development without having to poke or prod the starter.

Leaven is ready when it has doubled in size, bubbly and active in appearance. If you want a more sour dough, let this sit for a bit longer. This leaven is really where your flavor is developed so if you like a sweeter more buttery flavored dough 8 hours is the right amount of rise time, but you could probably extend as far as twelve hours to develop a tangier crust.


Bulk Mix

In a bowl, measure out 325 grams of 75-78 degree water (115-125 degree water if using instant yeast), then add the pre-fermented sourdough starter, or leaven, and break it apart with your hands.

Weigh out your white flour or type 00 pizza flour as well as your whole wheat flour, whisk flours together before adding to your wet mix.

Incorporate flours into the leaven mixture and massage ingredients together in the bowl until you have a sloggy mix.The dough should stick to your hands, but slide off easily with the help of a dough scraper. Bench rest the leaven and flour for 30-45 minutes.

After the mixture has rested in the bowl, the flour has had time to fully hydrate, add additional 50 grams of water, as well as 10 grams of salt. Incorporate completely, squeezing the dough and soaking up the water, working the water into the dough by pressing the dough into your palms. Allow to bench rest in the bowl for 25 minutes.


Bulk Ferment

For this dough, complete three stretch-and-fold turns, the same in-bowl kneading technique covered in the sourdough lesson. Perform the turns every 20 minutes. We allow less time than we did for the sourdough bread in between these folds because the type 00 grind of the flour hydrates more quickly, and we have a narrower time frame to arrange a robust gluten network. If your kitchen is cooler than 72 degrees, put your dough on top of your fridge or in a cool oven with the light on to rise.


Before beginning first stretch-and-fold.


Taught dough after the first turn.


Before beginning second stretch-and-fold.


Taught dough after the second turn.

Fully doubled dough after all stretch and folds were completed.

Allow the dough to double in size, this will largely depend on the ambient temperature of your kitchen - ideally, the dough will have another 2 hours for its bulk ferment after you have completed the turns, but warmer kitchens will yield faster rise time. If ever my kitchen gets above 78 degrees, I move my rising dough into a cool cupboard.


Divide and preform

Turn the dough out onto the bench and divide it into two or four parts. Remember from our sourdough lesson, a quick way to get the weight of your dough is to measure the weight of the dough in its bowl, tare the scale, turn out the dough, and weigh the bowl again. The negative integer displayed on the scale is the weight of the dough.

My dough ended up weighing 990 grams after bulk fermentation (20 grams of moisture escaped!), thusly broke it into sizes ranging from 245 to 255 grams.

Pre-form each dough into a ball. Do this by gently flouring a surface and pulling in your edges, gently squeezing the dough to get it to stick together. Let the dough rest on it's seam atop a cutting board under a bowl or damp towel for 15 minutes, then uncovered for 15 minutes.


Store for Later

Unless you are going to cook all four mini-doughs right now, you probably are going to want to save some for later. Pizza dough stands up well to refrigeration and freezing, and saving pizza dough for later consumption is a cinch.

First, spray a plastic food container with cooking spray, or olive oil works great so that the dough releases easily from the container later.

Using the bench scraper, flip a bench-rested dough into the food container seam side up. Spray the top of the dough seam with a little bit more oil.

Refrigerate for up to 4 days, or freeze up to 3 months! Before you use your dough from the freezer, let it thaw in the fridge overnight. Before you shape your dough from the fridge, allow the dough to rest on the counter until the dough is at least 60 degrees. Working a colder dough is challenging, it is more likely to break and shrink.


Form

Preheat your oven to as high as it goes with a pizza stone in it. My old-school Westwood oven goes to 550 degrees F, although it takes a while to get there. If you don't have a pizza stone or baking stone, you can use the bottom of the cast iron combination cooker.

Back on the countertop, dust a pizza peel with rice flour, then cornmeal. Flour the top of the dough ball, give it a quick but firm pat, then flip it flour side down onto the pizza peel.

Lightly flour the top and push a small circle around the edge with your fingers. By doing this, we create a gas barrier between the inside and the future outer crust of the pizza. The gluten network is being squished together trapping air in an outer ring of the crust, as well as the middle.

Allow to rest for just a minute or so, then begin to stretch your dough. I really like working the dough on my two fists gently stretching it wider and wider in diameter. The motion of shaping a pizza round can be easy to master if you can keep in mind that you have to let gravity do the work. When your fists are under the dough, don't move them around until you notice the center and edges of your dough beginning to slouch down.


Add the Toppings and Cook

This is when you get to be super creative with your pizza. My favorite combination is to use vegan garlic dip as a sauce, lots of tomatoes, basil, and arugula! Careful not to overload your pizza or over do it with wet ingredients, it may be hard to get off your peel if it is too weighted down.

Using the pizza peel, slide the pizza into the oven onto the baking surface. If your pizza is sticking to the peel, carefully lift the dough up and put more cornmeal and rice flour on the wooden part, and jostle it around till it can slide free. If cooking on a cast iron pan, turn the pan over so you are using the bottom of the pan because it has a broader surface. Depending on your oven, the pizza will take anywhere from 6-12 minutes to cook, so keep an eye on it.

When the pizza is golden brown, slide it out of the oven with the pizza peel and transfer it onto a cooling rack for 5 minutes, or until the cheese is no longer the temperature of molten lava.


Cut and Serve

Every time I make this dough for pizzas, I can barely get through dividing the pie before all the slices are gone! Be sure to stash a slice for yourself before your 'loved ones' leave you slice-less. But really, this pizza is delicious with any topping. You can stretch it thin for a crispy crust or leave it thick for a chewier crust, it's always fool-proof delicious.

Play around with sauce and topping combinations. We even tried a fruit pizza with maple syrup, thinly sliced apples, and ginger.

That's a wrap on pizzas! Next up, we'll take folding and forming to the next level in a quest for a super elastic dough and a bold baguette .

CLASS PROJECT

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