Challenge #4: Pizza

Overall success: thankfully excellent
Level of difficulty: quite easy
The Jim score: 8/10 for the anchovy one, 9/10 for the meat one (this is because if chorizo were personified, The Jim would marry chorizo).

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As Dave well knows I have been fighting the sourdough fight for what feels like centuries. My starters kept dying, smelt like cheese or rancid beer. There was night time baking (waiting until 1am for the dough to rise), baking where the bread was as solid as a brick and baking when I thought it was cooked but on opening had that stodgy, raw, decidedly uncooked texture. So after a lot of whinging from me, Dave counselled me and was charitable enough to send me some non-stinky starter and since then Bernard (the starter) and I have been firm friends creating more than a handful of successful baking weekends. I feed him regularly and only give him pre-boiled tap water. So far so good.

It was with trepidation that I embarked upon this challenge. For over a week there was a lot of careful looking after Bernard as I prepared for ‘The Monday Night of Pizza Making’. Bernard was fed, watered, put somewhere warmer, fussed with, stirred, worried about and fed again. Nights were spent discussing flour quantities and Bernard’s health with The Jim (who was already asleep).

And so to the challenge. It ended up that I reverted to my bad habit of winging it a little. I read a lot of different recipes and in the end went for a kind of mixture of how long to prove the dough for and what quantities to use, but I suppose it’s loosely based on the pizza recipe from Classic Sourdoughs and I enjoyed this fellow’s video.

Sourdough pizza
The quantities below made 4 pizza bases.

1 cup of (spoilt, waited on hand and foot) sourdough starter
4ish cups bread flour (I used 3 and a bit cups of white flour and a cup of wholemeal flour) – this is also dependent on the viscosity of the starter – Bernard is like a thick pancake batter.
Couple of table spoons olive oil
1 teaspoon table salt

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Take all the ingredients and mix in a large bowl. As it gets more solid the dough should not stick to yours hands (well that’s what I was aiming for). As it was very sticky I added a little flour at a time until I could kneed it without having chunks of dough sticking to my fingers. I then kneaded it for about 30 minutes. This kneading made the difference between a stodgy feeling dough and a smooth, elastic dough – the photos below show the progress between a mess of flour and water to a lovely smooth round dough.

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I then lightly oiled a large bowl, covered it with cling film and left it to prove whilst I went to work. 10 hours later I returned to a springy dough and I was very relieved.

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At this point I turned on the oven to the highest setting and let it heat up whilst I prepared my toppings. Everywhere I read was to make the oven as hot as possible and use a pizza stone (I don’t have one so I didn’t).

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The dough was divided into 4 smaller balls – two wrapped in cling film and left in the fridge for another night and the other two were squashed down with my hands (no rolling pin) to a thin layer. They were on heavy baking sheets lined with baking paper.

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Then I added the toppings. The base was a tomato sauce (made with tinned chopped tomatoes, tomato puree, garlic, onion, a pinch of sugar, a pinch of salt and fresh basil) and mozzarella on both. On top of that there were two flavour routes: one was anchovy, olive, caper, caramelised onion and the other chorizo, salami and fresh basil.

So pizza dough topped, they went straight into the oven and I didn’t dare open the door again (for fear of letting out the heat) until they’d been in for 10 minutes. I checked, then left them in a little longer (I hate a sloppy middle). And after about 15 minutes total, out they came for eating.

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It was decided that they were the perfect texture – crispy all the way through, no dangling middles: a great chew and crunch combination. I was very pleased with them. I shall be making them again.

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3 Responses to Challenge #4: Pizza

  1. dopiaza 19th November, 2013 at 5:35 pm #

    Well done – they both look excellent!

  2. Sue Wilkinson 20th November, 2013 at 10:28 am #

    Oh they do look good.

    I particularly liked the story of Bernard. These creatures who live in our fridges do have minds of their own. I make kefir too, so we have a family of live things. I think I need names for them!

    I’m with Jim, spiced meat over anchovies although I’m a pizza tart and really just love everything on at once. I really love pepperoni, but we can’t get good pepperoni here.

    I haven’t had a real pizza for well over a year. I went wheat free to see if it would help my thyroid problem. I really miss pizza. I’m not sure wheat free makes any difference either, so I think I’m about to cave in and beg Dave to make me one. I can do a wheat free crust, but it’s not the same.

  3. Vicki Clack 20th November, 2013 at 10:35 am #

    Those pizzas look delicious, om, nom, nom.

    And… you kneaded dough, for 30 minutes, BEFORE WORK? Respect!

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