Naturally leavened pizza dough
by Adam Kuban
Pizza Night tonight. It’s been a while. Tried a naturally leavened dough this time. That is, a dough made with starter only — no instant dry yeast, no cake yeast, nothing. Just my super starter, Cavanagh.
Made the poolish last night and mixed up the dough this morning. All based on the Tartine Bread cookbook that I’ve been working from lately. It’s basically just the Basic Country Bread dough shaped into six ~300-gram balls instead of two 900-gram boules. It’s a 75% hydration dough. I used 100% all-purpose white flour, since that’s whatI had on hand. I didn’t do the 10% whole wheat that the bread recipe calls for, because I am not a fan of whole wheat pizza dough.
Working with 75% hydration dough is a bitch. I’ve only recently gotten OK at working with it to shape the boules for the book’s Basic Country Bread. At least with the big dough, I can quickly rotate it between cupped hands and along the countertop to help develop surface tension and seal the sphere. But this trick is difficult with the small 300-gram dough balls. Trying to create surface tension by picking up the dough and turning it in upon itself is near impossible, because it sticks to my fingers something fierce.
I managed with a fair amount of bench flour, my bench scraper, and some fast tuck and folds. The dough balls weren’t perfect, but they worked OK.
After balling the dough, I put it in individual Gladware bowls and threw it in the fridge. I was afraid letting it rise at room temperature would allow it to get too sour.
I was also afraid the coldness of the fridge would make it hard to stretch the dough, but the rounds were as extensible as ever. Not as much as they would have been warm, but for a cold dough, they stretched as easily as my usual 65–67% hydration dough that I normally have to work with at room temp.
In fact, it almost stretched too much. I was worried it was going to break at a couple points.
I think the bottom looks pretty nice. The end crust, though, probably had a little too much bench flour on it.
Hole structure was only OK. It didn’t get as much oven spring as I would have hoped. I’m chalking it up to the coldness of the dough. In the future I’m going to try some of this formulation at room temperature.
I’m also going to let it do a 3-day cold ferment. The wife said she didn’t think the crust had much flavor to it.
I would agree. But it still had enough flavor to register, and it didn’t offend with blandness.
The first two pies were simple plain pies. Jarred pizza sauce (yeah, I was lazy), Polly-O whole milk mozzarella, fresh-grated Parmesan cheese, and a little olive oil and salt.
For my third and final I did the Famous Original A — mozzarella, sauce, Parmesan, homemade sausage, and shaved red onion — with a post-bake drizzle of Mike’s Hot Honey. I love the pizza sausage recipe from Pizza a Casa‘s Mark Bello. And now I’ve got half three-quarters of a pound of it sitting in the freezer. It’ll go on my next round of naturally leavened pies.
Hasta la pizza,