A few weeks ago in the peak of my sourdough obsession I decided to experiment with making sourdough pizza bases. I did a bit of ‘google research’ on the topic and found one guy who is completely obsessed with making the perfect pizza. He has even done something wierd to his oven to make it run at a higher temperature, tricking it into thinking it was running the cleaning cycle! Needless to say I won’t be going that far myself. I did take note of the fact that he recommended a long, slow rise in the fridge (5-6 days in his case). So armed with this information I set out on my sd pizza journey.
I made up the dough and put it in the fridge overnight. Took it out a few hours before dinner time. And…it was a disaster. Under-cooked, doughy, pancake like things that were pretty inedible. Luckily I burnt my pizza so I had a good excuse to put it in the bin. My poor dinner guests though did not have quite the same fortune! (She was however impressed enough with the idea to take a jar of Celia’s sourdough starter home with her to Melbourne.) My family was very unimpressed and asked if I could just stick to my normal (yeasted) pizza dough. There were some pointed comments about “not everything needs to be sourdough now”, “if it ain’t broke, don’t try to fix it”, etc.
Main cause of the disaster: the dough had just not risen enough. I also realised that the pizza stones I had bought specially for this exercise were not my friends. They take a long, long time to heat up and I really cannot bear the idea of having the oven on at full temperature for an hour just to heat up the silly stones – would make me feel like even more of an environmental vandal. My metal baking trays give me a much better result (interestingly I find this for bread as well, I get a better crust on my metal trays).
I was so disappointed that I did not bother to cook the remaining ball of dough that night and just left it on the counter. The next day it had risen hugely and I decided to cook it up for the kids afternoon tea. Much better result, pretty edible.
Then a few days later I found one forgotten ball of dough (I had put each ball in individual containers) at the back of a shelf in the fridge. It looked like it had started to rise in the fridge. As an experiment I decided to cook it up. The pictures above are of this last and most successful attempt. The pizzas (I got two out of the ball of dough) were pretty perfect. Lovely crust, cooked all the way through and very tasty. (I topped them with roasted pumpkin, red onion, sliced fennel, red capsicum and fetta cheese…followed by a sprinkle of grated mozzarella.)
So my conclusions? Leave the dough in the fridge for 5 days for the slow rise and flavour development. If you can do that, it is definitely worth trying sourdough pizza bases. And don’t bother with pizza stones, unless you feel ok about wasting tons of energy just to heat up a stone.