Sourdough Pizza Crust

Having a jar of sourdough starter in the refrigerator has expanded my baking repertoire already.  After my recent success with sourdough bread, I started thinking pizza crust.  I’ve written about various homemade pizzas before, including Cindy’s Pizza Rustica, Victoria’s grilled pizza, and some easy premade crusts that inspired a variety of creative topping combinations.   I eat pizza a lot.  I like pizza a lot.

And I’ve made pizza dough in my bread machine before, but the results were so-so.  Definitely edible, but a bit on the thick, bready side.

Then I saw a post titled The Pizza Project at The Traveler’s Lunchbox.  I love a good project, but in this case I was delighted to see that someone else had already done the work for me, and figured out, step by detailed step, how to produce a respectable pizza crust at home–one that approximates the wood-fired pizza crusts to be found in restaurants.

Out came the jar of sourdough starter.  The instructions said to combine the ingredients for the crust in a food processor, but I don’t have one.  Stirring with a spoon worked fine, fortunately.

With an overnight rest in the refrigerator, then a couple hour rise on the counter, the dough was warm, smooth, and infinitely enjoyable to stretch, pat, and coax into two 12-inch rounds, with a slightly thicker edge and air pockets here and there.

After lightly scattering some toppings across the surface of the crusts, the frantic part of the process began.  We had preheated the oven and Michael’s gigantic iron skillet to the maximum temperature, which was 500 F.  Transferring the crust, on a piece of parchment paper, into the skillet was a four-handed job, and one that required split second timing to get the pizza into the skillet, the skillet back into the oven, and the door closed, with as little heat loss as possible.

About 5 minutes later, we pulled the skillet out, whipped the parchment paper from beneath the crust, and rushed the skillet back into the oven for another 3-4 minutes.  When the crust was golden brown, and the toppings were bubbling madly, the first pizza was ready, and it was time for the second one to go in.

Even on our first try, this method of making pizza really did produce a crust that was similar to one made in a wood-fired oven.  It was thin and chewy in the middle, the edges had delightful air pockets interspersed with bits of char, and the crust was flavorful and satisfying, with nary a hint of that bland breadiness that had marked my previous attempts at homemade pizza crust.

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