The Best Pizza Crust: sourdough hybrid

With sausage, hot cherry peppers, onions, and mushrooms.

With sausage, hot cherry peppers, onions, and mushrooms.

pizza 2

My cousin introduced me to this great easy pizza dough recipe, which is perfect for a last minute dinner to use up veggies like peppers and mushrooms: http://allrecipes.com/recipe/pizza-dough-iii/

It is delicious, and has a nice crispiness on the outside but still has the airy fluffiness of a good New York pizza crust on the inside. It is, however, absolutely imperative that you not use a rolling pin to roll it out, it totally deflates the dough. I mix the dough in my stand mixer with the kneading hook for 5 minutes to activate the gluten, which makes it very elastic. When it’s ready, you stretch out the dough using its own weight pulling toward the floor, just keep turning and stretching. Once it’s about the right size lay it on the baking surface and use your finger tips to press all the way to the edges. Press out from the center, not down into the dough. This will make one large cookie sheet pizza or two cast iron pizzas.

You can stretch two 10″ rounds and throw in a cast iron greased with olive oil and pre-heated to medium. Turn your broiler on low. Let the dough cook about 3 minutes and then start building your pizza in the pan. Use the back of a tablespoon to spread a thin layer of tomato sauce and less cheese than you think you need, and toppings. The best results are from a highly reduced tomato sauce, for a quick dinner I add some crushed red pepper and oregano to Prego Heart Smart and simmer on low starting when I start the dough, it keeps the crust from getting soggy. Low moisture cheese is also the best for the same reason. By the time you’re done with this, there will be a nice crust on the bottom, now throw it under the broiler on a middle rack and watch carefully after a few minutes to see the cheese bubbling, toppings crisping, but nothing blackening. To make a sheet pizza I pre-bake the crust for 10 minutes at 400 after poking a bunch of holes in it with a fork, preferably an airbake sheet or pre-heated bread stone, then top as above. I bake at 425 about 15 minutes to catch the toppings up with the pre-baked crust.  Minor tweaks but they make a substantial difference to pizza snobs (guilty). If you don’t do sourdough, stop here. You’re welcome.

Where this takes on my special twist is adding sourdough starter to double the recipe. Stir together the ingredients to the original recipe and make a note of the consistency. Now add a cup of sourdough starter, an additional tsp of salt, 2 additional Tbsp of olive oil and stir. Add flour a couple tablespoons at a time until it reaches the same consistency as it originally had. This is important because there are many different levels of hydration for sourdough starter and I don’t pretend to know what level yours is. You’ll have to eyeball it. Now use the dough hook to knead the dough for about 5-7 minutes on low. This will make two large cookie sheet pizzas or four 10″ cast iron pizzas.

Sheet pizza on a bread stone with bbq sauce, chicken, bacon and onions

Sheet pizza on a bread stone with bbq sauce, chicken, bacon and onions

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