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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The Best Bread

Image

I have been a terrible, horrible blogger. I have started and not completed at least half a dozen posts in the last two months, busy with travel, house guests, volunteer commitments, an out of control vegetable garden, and unfortunately, more fatalities in our unit. It has been a chaotic deployment, to put it nicely! Then, the feeling of “Meh, I’ve already failed, it can wait a while longer” set in. And now I have a recipe worth shouting from the rooftops that got me back on my game.

It is based on a recipe from Red Star yeast, but as I’ve said before, I avoid using instant yeast whenever possible. It contributes to all the gluten/digestive issues people are becoming more aware of as commercial bread makings becomes faster and faker with dough conditioners and ultra processed yeast to make bread in 30 minutes that once took 12 hours. Studies show that the hours of fermentation in naturally leavened bread actually breaks down gluten into a harmless form. I encourage you to seek out scholarly research on the health benefits of naturally leavened bread (known as sourdough, although it need not be sour at all). Dr. Terry Graham, professor of Human Health and Nutritional Sciences, has found some surprising results summarized here: http://www.bakersjournal.com/content/view/1245/ and the study’s full results in the British Journal of Nutrition here.

In fact, the best simple, straightforward explanation of the scientific basis of my bread making choices I stumbled across on an artisan bakery’s web page, and I encourage yall to scroll down to the “benefits of…” sections of this page which explain in in a nutshell: the effects of natural leaven on bran, the nutritional qualities of rye and spelt, and the benefits of organic and whole grains (versus commercially milled whole wheat). Okay, enough preaching, on to the bread.

Here is my adaptation of the recipe, which rises for 8-12 hours and despite the low-gluten ingredient list, still has a perfect bread texture 🙂

  • 1/2 cup raw/demerara sugar
  • 1/2 cup warm milk (110°-115°F)
  • 1 tsp (1/2 packet) Active Dry Yeast (dry active is slower than instant or quick rise yeast)
  • 1 1/2 c unfed sourdough starter
  • 1/2 c boiling water
  • 3/4 cup quick-cooking rolled oats
  • 1/4 cup wheat germ
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • 1/4 cup chia seeds (flax seeds can be substituted)
  • 1/4 cup sunflower seeds
  • 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 cup white whole wheat flour
  • 1 cup almond flour
  • 1 1/2 cups bread flour plus extra as needed.

Wash

  • 1 egg
  • 2 t milk
  • 2 t honey

In stand mixer bowl, mix warm milk, sugar,and yeast, leave to rise 10 minutes. While the yeast is poofing, add the oats to the hot water right in your measuring cup if it’s large enough. Then mix in everything up to the flours by hand with a whisk. Whisk in the whole wheat and almond flour, which should make a wet dough/thick batter. Get the bowl settled into the mixer and using the dough hook, mix in the bread flour half a cup at a time. It should still be a tacky but add flour until it will form a ball, maybe a few additional tablespoons. Knead on medium speed for 10 minutes. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and leave for 8 hours (up to 12 depending on the temperature). I left mine in a 73 degree kitchen overnight about 10 hours and it over rose a little. Still tasted great and had a nice texture, not too dense, but it would have been even better if I’d only left for 9 hours.

Best bread dough

Pre-heat oven to 375. Punch down dough; turn out onto lightly floured surface. Divide dough in half; knead each portion into ball (I made one loaf and 6 rolls, both came out great) For loaves: using rolling pin, gently roll each into rectangle the length of loaf pan. Roll up into cylinder; pinch along bottom to seal. Fold each end of loaf in and pinch to seal. Place into prepared pans. Cover and let rise in warm draft-free place for about 1 hour or until doubled in bulk. For rolls: divide whole batch in 12 or half batch in 6, shape and smooth, then flatten down a bit on the tray, leave to rise 30 mins. Whisk together egg,  milk, and honey, and brush the dough thoroughly with glaze.

Bake rolls for 20 minutes or until golden brown, bake loafs 30-35 minutes. Remove the loaves from pans to cool on a wire rack (or the bottoms will get soggy, this is a nice moist, chewy bread).

This recipe could definitely hold up to a 1/4 cup of bran thrown in the mix, and I will update when I test a batch including bran. Please comment if you give it a shot!

 

 

Sourdough Brioche Rolls

brioche 3

I adore brioche bread, and have been using this recipe for years. Now that I’m trying to cut out instant yeast, I am going to attempt it with sourdough starter. I came across one other attempt at a sourdough brioche roll recipe, and it is based on a Smitten Kitchen recipe, another favorite food blog of mine. But then, I didn’t have milk. And I really want these rolls today. So…I’ve heard of using yogurt in sourdough starter. Wouldn’t greek yogurt make a nice rich creamy high protein milk substitute? Of course with sourdough you have to fiddle with the moisture content, so this is, purely from eyeballing things one tablespoon at a time, my best attempt at the right dough texture:

  • 1 ample half cup starter
  • 1 large egg
  • ¼ c honey
  • ½ c Greek yogurt
  • 1 t sea salt
  • 4 T melted butter
  • 1 c whole wheat white flour
  • 1 c unbleached bread flour
  • egg for egg wash
  • sesame seeds

Brioche 1

Mix up the starter with the wet ingredients, and then slowly add the flour. Knead with a dough hook if you have a stand mixer. If not, it’s a fairly wet dough, and I sometimes leave it in the bowl and first squeeze it through my fingers and then do a lazy version of French style kneading. Stick your fingers in it, then pull one end up and flop it over in half, trapping some air. Turn, pull, fold, turn pull fold. It may not pass the windowpane test very well, but it will hold together nicely after 5-10 minutes. Form into a ball and cover the bowl with plastic wrap.

Brioche 2

Once it has doubled in size (with sourdough, expect at least 4 hours depending on conditions), knock it down and cut dough into 8 equal pieces. Roll each into a ball and then flatten down on a cookie sheet. Brush with either egg white or whole egg, and sprinkle with sesame seeds. Leave to rise again, preheat oven to 425 F. They are ready when you poke the side in an inconspicuous place and it springs back most of the way. Bake time depends on a lot of variables, after 12 minutes check every 3 minutes through the glass for nice color to develop on top.

brioche 3

These were delicious! A little bit denser than the originals, but I was also in a hurry and did not give the first rise as long as I would have liked. I think for natural leavening they are actually remarkably soft and light, and would have been even more so with a proper first rise. Enjoy your greek  yogurt sourdough brioche!