Wild Thistle Kitchen: Sourdough Pizza Crust


February 2020 — just before COVID took over our world — is when I finally took the plunge into the magical, obsessive, therapeutic world of sourdough. Needless to say, I’m very glad I started when I did. I had a healthy, bubbly starter and the requisite variety of flours on hand before the stores were panic-raided and flour and yeast were suddenly nowhere to be found.

I’m also glad that many of you have started making your own starters as a result of the nationwide yeast shortage (silver lining?). The wild yeast and fermentation process without a doubt make a bread — or a crust — that is easier to digest and more nutritious, in my opinion. And having a healthy starter on hand means you don’t need to worry about running out of yeast.

It also means you can make this delicious sourdough pizza crust.

If you follow me on Instagram, you know that Friday night is pizza night in our house. And we’ve been making a really good, pretty standard pizza crust for years. Click HERE for my basic pizza dough recipe. Well, of course, just to be like one of the cool kids, I had to toss some of my sourdough starter discard into it one day. Then that got me thinking … can I make it with just sourdough starter and eliminate the need for commercial yeast entirely?

Down the Google rabbit hole I went. I was disappointed to find so many so-called sourdough pizza crusts that used a small amount of starter. Rather, these recipes relied on store-bought yeast for most of the leavening. Then I stumbled on this recipe: Sourdough Pizza Dough from Saveur.  My quest was over! I made a few small tweaks and have landed on what I feel is the perfect sourdough pizza crust.

Some notes on the sourdough pizza crust process …

Autolyse

First you will mix your bubbly, active starter with room-temperature water, then stir in the flour. You’ll let this rather messy mixture sit at room temperature for an hour (or even two, if your kitchen is quite cool). This is called “autolyse” — one of those scary words you read at the beginning of your sourdough journey and think, “What have I gotten myself into?” It’s just a resting period that allows the flour to hydrate and the glutens to develop with basically no effort on your part.

Salt and Coil Folds

Next you will introduce the salt and, with wet fingers, you’ll give it a bunch of really good folds and flips and turns to get the salt mixed in. Then, after 30 minutes, you’ll come back to your dough, give it a few folds and ignore it again for 30 minutes. You’ll repeat this for 3 hours. For a great visual guide on coil folds, check out Bella’s guide that I’ve listed below.

Bulk Ferment (then choose your own adventure)

After the final set of folds, you will leave the dough to bulk ferment at room temperature for a few hours. After this, you will either bake your pizzas or stash the dough in the fridge until the next evening — or even a few days later. This is a very laid-back sourdough recipe, mainly because I made it that way and because that’s the way I cook and bake.

Interested in sourdough, but don’t know where to start? Here are a handful of sourdough starter guides. They cover all the stages of sourdough.

Baker Bettie:Her Instagram video tutorials were the reason I decided to make my starter. Very thorough, explained in simple language and just easy to follow along with. Find her video series HERE.

Displaced Housewife:Rebecca, one of my blogger/Instagram BFFs, just released a sourdough starter guide. It is no-fuss, no-stress, with a good bit of her signature humor and candor mixed in. Find it HERE.

Ful-filled:Bella’s incredibly comprehensive sourdough guide came out just when my starter was at the point where I was ready to bake but didn’t know where to start. It is packed with info, super-helpful videos on all the steps and great resources for tools and supplies. Find it HERE.

And for when you need a sourdough break …

Cooking with Cas: Clark aka Cas is a friend I’ve semi-recently made on Instagram and he is so smart and so funny. He offers such a wealth of knowledge on many food topics, including sourdough. You’ll see all of these qualities reflected in his article: “So you’ve started making sourdough … now what?” This is such a unique and important article because he teaches us all how to dry and freeze our starters for long-term storage. It’s hard to imagine, but at some point you might just need a break from baking sourdough and constantly maintaining your beloved starter. This article is for when that time comes. This would also be handy if you want to ship your starter.

And one of my dear Instagram friends who is in the process of getting her blog, Thyme & Flour, up and running: Beth. In her beautiful Instagram @candidlybethann, she shares lots of bakes and lots of amazing sourdough tips and photos. I have no doubt her blog will be a valuable resource for sourdough info.

That’s pretty much it.

I hope you’ll let me know if you try this recipe and/or if you are new to sourdough or a seasoned pro. Leave a comment and rating below if you make it! And come hang out on Instagram @wild.thistle.kitchen! It’s always a good time — especially on pizza Fridays!

Happy cooking and baking.

xo — Anita

Sourdough Pizza Crust

Yield: 2 12-inch round pizzas

Ingredients

100 grams active, bubbly sourdough starter

375 grams room-temperature water (1 ⅔ cup)

500 grams all-purpose flour (3 ⅔ cup), plus more for dusting

10 grams kosher salt (1 tablespoon)

Photo by Anita Parris Soule. Courtesy Wild Thistle Kitchen.

Instructions

In a large bowl, use a wooden spoon or a dough whisk to combine water with sourdough starter. Add the flour and continue stirring until the flour is totally hydrated and no dry spots remain. Set aside at room temperature for 1 to 2 hours.

After resting the dough, sprinkle the salt over the surface and incorporate by gently kneading a few times right in the bowl. I find keeping a small bowl of water nearby helps with this process. The dough will be quite soft and loose to start; don’t worry about kneading it smooth at this stage, just fold and turn until you don’t see or feel the salt crystals anymore. Cover the bowl loosely with a lid or damp kitchen towel and set aside.

After 30 minutes, perform first set of coil folds. Use wet hands to loosen the dough from one side of the bowl. Lift one side of the dough, stretching it up and folding under itself 2 times. Repeat this with all 4 sides.

Cover the bowl again and set aside. Continue resting the dough, performing coil folds every 30 minutes, for a total resting time of 3 hours.

After your final set of coil folds, cover bowl and allow to sit at room temperature for 3 hours. The dough should be gassy, glossy and very smooth.

At this stage, the dough can be refrigerated overnight or up to 72 hours before shaping and baking; or it can be frozen — seeNotessection at bottom of recipe for freezing instructions. Or, if you are ready for pizza NOW, it can be divided in half and gently pressed and stretched into 12 inch rounds for pizza. (Lightly flour the dough and your work surface. I recommend doing this on parchment to make transfer to the oven much easier. Do not use a rolling pin. You want this dough to be bubbly.)

Top with whatever you love. Just don’t go too heavy on the sauce or toppings and weigh down the beautiful dough.

You will bake these pizzas in a preheated 500-degree oven, preferably on a pizza stone or a baking steel. I bake mine for 6 to 7 minutes. Just keep an eye on them, as all ovens are quite different.

Notes

  • You can replace 50 grams of the all-purpose flour with whole wheat if desired. I just prefer the taste of all all-purpose for my pizza crusts.
  • Feel free to make 3 or 4 smaller pizzas rather than 2 large.
  • I have doubled this recipe with excellent results. Just make sure you use a really big bowl.
  • If you want to freeze the dough, do so after dividing and shaping into balls. Lightly spray each dough ball with cooking spray or lightly wipe with olive oil (making sure all sides are lightly covered). Place each ball of dough into individual resealable freezer bags. Seal, squeezing out all the air from the bag. Place in the freezer until ready to use. The pizza dough may be stored in the freezer for up to 3 months. When ready to use, remove from the freezer and place in your refrigerator for 12 hours or overnight. Before baking, remove the dough from the refrigerator and bring to room temperature, then let sit on the counter for approximately 30 minutes. You are now ready to stretch out your dough and prepare your pizza.
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