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just in time for summer

Recipe: sourdough pizza

The pine pollen apocalypse ended last week, giving way to smoke from distant wildfires burning in and around our beautiful state. We swept and vacuumed and air-purified the house to keep the allergens at bay, cautiously taking advantage of short windows of clear air (still smelled smokey) to get outside. It was a chance to let Neva get some leash training on her hike and to stretch her swimming legs once again after a long crappy (i.e. low snow) winter. My parents arrived in Boulder for the summer, too, which meant shuttling about on the flats and getting them settled in. Over the weekend, remnants from Hurricane Bud in the west pushed through Colorado and brought us our hoped-for rainy relief.

the colorado high country: our happy place

the parental units at happy hour

on the road to crested butte: neva is getting better about car rides

As the weather heats up, I tend to avoid baking. That means my sourdough starter, Wheatley, gets fed once a week and chills out in the refrigerator for long stretches of time. But I woke Wheatley from his slumber last week to bake an épi de blé sourdough baguette for my parents. And then I thought – why not keep the starter out so I can make some pizza? We grill our pizzas on a stone, so it’s not going to heat up the house. Pizza is perfect food for any weather, any season. I used to make pizza dough using this wonderful recipe, but since acquiring a sourdough starter from my professional pizzaiola friend (Dawn), I knew the switch to sourdough pizza was inevitable. I started in the spring with great results.

it snowed, we grilled pizza, neva was impressed

This pizza dough is flour, water, and salt. The commercial yeast pizza dough recipe I used to use also had olive oil in it, but after discussion with Dawn and my own testing, this sourdough pizza dough doesn’t really need it. The levain is sourdough starter, and if you are the kind of person who keeps your starter going on the counter and makes large amounts, then it’s no big deal to scoop what you need out of the starter to make your pizza dough. I’m not that kind of person, so I calculate the amount of levain I need and measure out how much to feed my starter. Just take care that you remember to reserve some starter that isn’t going into the pizza dough or else you, Sad Panda, won’t have any more sourdough starter. As for the flours, you can use all-purpose flour, bread flour, or a combination of the two (which I did here).

levain, bread flour, all-purpose flour, water, sea salt

weigh the levain

dissolve the levain in water

roughly stir in the salt and flours

I stir the salt and flours into the wet ingredients to avoid that rude eruption of flour when you first start your stand mixer. If you aren’t using a stand mixer and plan to mix by hand, I shall refer you to The Perfect Loaf for Maurizio’s technique. Knead the dough with the dough hook for 4-5 minutes or until tacky, but not sticky. Pull the dough off the hook and shape it into a ball. Drop the dough into a lightly oiled bowl and then flip the dough over so you coat the entire thing in a thin film of oil. Cover the bowl and pop it into the refrigerator.


knead the dough with the dough hook

place dough in a lightly oiled bowl and cover

Let the dough bulk ferment in the refrigerator for 24 hours – up to 3 days. When you are ready to use it, remove the dough from the refrigerator. It should have doubled in size (thereabouts). Turn the dough out onto a floured work surface and cut it into quarters. Each piece will be approximately 250 grams. Shape the pieces into balls. I gather the edges up to the center and then turn the dough over. It will look like a rough sphere. I smooth the sphere by stroking the dough from the top of the sphere around to the bottom – gently pulling the dough taut. Repeat around the sphere until you have a smooth ball of dough. Cover the dough balls and let them rest until they reach room temperature (about 2 hours).

doubled in size

cut the dough

gather the edges to the center

turn the dough over

form the dough into a sphere

let the dough rest

After the dough has rested, I like to pat the dough ball flat on a floured work surface to about a 6-inch diameter. From here you can toss your pizza or use a rolling pin (roll from center outward) to get the dough thinner and wider. We used to sprinkle cornmeal on our pizza peel to keep the dough from sticking when we transferred it to the pizza stone, but I have since switched to parchment paper as I’ve had great success with it for baking baguettes. It eliminates the need for cornmeal or excess flour, which I don’t really like on my pizza (or baguettes). With parchment paper, I can drop my pizza dough onto the parchment and shape it into a nice round pie every single time. It can be moved around easily and the whole thing slides nicely onto a pizza stone. At 550°F, I can get two uses from a sheet of parchment before it burns and becomes brittle.

rested dough

flatten into a disk

hand toss or roll your dough into a larger disk

place the dough on parchment paper

place toppings on the dough

slide the pizza (and parchment) onto the stone

now close the grill (or oven door)

While the pizza cooks, if you notice large bubbles appearing in the pie, you can pierce them with a grill fork or some other long-handled sharp implement to deflate them. Be quick about it, because you don’t want to let too much heat escape. Not all bubbles are bad. You want the edge of the crust to be fluffy and billowy, but a giant bubble in the center of the pie that sends all of the toppings sliding to the edges can be a bummer. We managed to get a thin crust with a chewy, fluffy edge after about 8-10 minutes on the grill. The flavor of the pizza crust was perfection. I really don’t think we can ever go back to the old recipe. Looks like Wheatley will get plenty of pizza action this summer.

porcini, baby broccoli, pepperoni, tomato base

prosciutto, baby broccoli, kale pesto base

the crust cross-section

Sourdough Pizza
[print recipe]
a mashup of recipes from The Perfect Loaf and my pizzaiola friend, Dawn

This recipe makes 4 250-gram dough balls, so double or halve it as desired.

10g sourdough starter
38g water
38g bread flour or all-purpose flour

* The levain is essentially your fed sourdough starter, but if you don’t have enough for the pizza dough, then simply mix up the levain the night before you start.

Make the levain: The night before or 8 eight hours before you mix your pizza dough, mix the starter, water, and flour together until there are no dry pockets of flour. Cover and let sit at room temperature. When it’s ready it should be bubbly.

sourdough pizza dough
360g water, room temperature
83g levain
275g bread flour
275g all-purpose flour
16g sea salt
olive oil

Make the dough: In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the water and the levain (the levain should float like a blob in the water before you mix them together). Stir together to dissolve the levain in the water. Add the flour and salt to the bowl. Stir the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients to pre-mix and avoid flour shooting out of the mixing bowl when you use the dough hook. Attach your dough hook and mix on speed 2 for 4-5 minutes. Grease a large bowl with olive oil. Place the dough in the bowl, then flip the dough so the entire things gets coated in a thin film of olive oil. Cover and refrigerate for at least 24 hours up to 3 days (or longer – I haven’t tried longer, yet).

Shape the dough: Take the dough out of the refrigerator and turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface. Cut the dough into fourths. Grab a piece of dough and fold the corners up toward the center of the dough, gathering the edges together. Turn the dough over and you should have something akin to a ball. With the dough ball in one hand, use the other hand to gently stroke the dough from the top of the ball down to the bottom. Give the dough a 90-degree turn and repeat this until the dough ball is neat, rounded, and tight. Repeat for the rest of the dough balls. Set them on a lightly floured surface a few inches apart, and cover with a damp cloth or plastic wrap. Let the balls rest for 2 hours before forming your pies.

Form the pies: When the dough balls are ready, have your oven or grill heated at 500°-550°F. Our setup involves a pizza stone on our grill. If you use an oven, I highly recommend using a pizza stone as well. On a floured surface, pat a ball of dough down into a flat disk. At this point you can toss your pizza dough or use a rolling pin to roll from the center of the dough outward until the disk is larger – about 12 inches in diameter. Now set the dough on a pizza peel or the back of a flat baking sheet that is dusted with flour or sprinkled with cornmeal (to prevent sticking). Alternatively, I prefer to set the dough on a sheet of parchment paper because I don’t like extra flour or cornmeal on the bottoms of my pizzas. Top your pizza as you like and transfer the pizza to the pizza stone. We let ours bake for 8-10 minutes. Makes 4 12-inch pies.

more goodness from the use real butter archives

no-cook pizza sauce the woodward pizza the roadrunner (pepperoni and green chile) pizza emerald kale pesto pizza

10 nibbles at “just in time for summer”

  1. Kelly says:

    Love this! I am so excited to try new recipes with my starter.

  2. Kristin says:

    Good gracious. I was all, “yeah, not switching from my trusty crust recipe” (it uses olive oil) until you showed that cross section!!! Your parents look wonderful. They don’t seem to age.

  3. Marissa says:

    Bet this goes well with frose …. I did it with white peaches and a little lime for acid!

  4. Pier says:

    What if I don’t have a starter?

  5. jenyu says:

    Kelly – Yes!!! Having a starter means trying old recipes in new ways :)

    Kristin – It’s rather remarkable that my parents look as good as they do at their age, right? It’s definitely genetics and of course, they try to stay healthy, but I don’t think I’ll age as well as they have!

    Marissa – Ha! We’re about to find out tomorrow ;)

    Pier – You can get a starter by 1) asking a friend (who has a starter) or 2) purchasing one or 3) making your own (you can google how to do this). I think if you make your own, it takes a few weeks before it’s ready to be used in recipes. If you get from a friend it can be ready in a day or two. I don’t have experience with purchasing a sourdough starter.

  6. monica (from austria) says:

    hi jen! now. well. ok. so, here‘s the problem with reading your blog: i used to be sure that i make a tremendously tasty pizza dough with fresh yeast (easily to be sourced in austria), loooong proofing time that yields a wonderful tangy flavor, and even some extra fiber (managed to substitute 1/2 of the all purpose flour with whole spelt flour for extra chewiness and nuttiness). it was my joy and pride.
    and now? „not“ (?? seinfeld reference). all i can see now when i look at my formerly beloved plump dough-ling is a sad under achiever who doesn‘t have a levain pedigree. ?
    one day, one day i will have the discipline not* to come back to your blog… ??????
    *we all know that‘s never gonna happen, bec. a) neva; b) stunning photography; c) neva; d) fool proof recipes of the utmost deliciousness; and finally 5) neeeeeva! ?
    all the best, monica! ??‍♀️

  7. Mary w says:

    What brand of parchment paper are you using that can handle 550 degrees twice?

  8. jenyu says:

    monica – Ha ha! You are very sweet! There is nothing wrong with your current pizza dough! However, if you do decide to make sourdough pizza, it’s much easier than you think. You can make your own sourdough starter (I haven’t done this yet, but I have many friends who have and who say it is quite easy – just flour and water and time) and then you can start experimenting with all manner of wonderful recipes for breads and pizza dough and pita and waffles and pancakes etc.! xxoo

    Mary w – I use unbleached “If You Care” brand parchment paper. After the first pizza, the edges will be quite brown, so be gentle. After the second pizza, that browned edge is black and brittle and will tear the moment you look at it, so I suggest 2 bakes maximum.

  9. Bridget says:

    Another thing you can do to extend the life of the parchment paper is slip it out from under the pizza after the crust firms up. I bake my pizzas on a Baking Steel, and at 550 degrees, the parchment paper burns before the pizza finishes cooking in 4-5 minutes, so I have to do this anyway. But, even if it wasn’t necessary, I would do it, because I think it makes the bottom crust crisper when it spends most of the time with direct contact on the steel or stone.

  10. Chef Veronica says:

    Just passin through, it’s been a while Jen! Congratulations with Yuki. Just adorable!

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