Sotsil

Shapeless Pizza, but a Choc-Full of Taste! January 30, 2010

 

pizza1

I know what you’re thinking.  Your reaction to this picture is, "that’s a bizarre shape for a pizza!" 

I admit.  I struggled with the dough.  It behaved atrociously, and no matter what I did, it rebelled.  No amount of coaxing or cajoling could turn it round or rectangular.  It wouldn’t budge.  I think it was a miracle I managed to make it stay open so I could quickly shove in the toppings before it went berserk on me again.  This pizza dough – made from scratch – was wet, sticky and unwieldy.  I was tempted to chuck it.

Then someone whispered in my ear that people were starving elsewhere so decided against it.  With all the patience I could harness, I caressed it with pizza sauce, sprinkled it generously with thinly sliced green peppers, mushrooms, salami/prosciutto, dressed it up with mozzarella and then dribbled a few drops of hot pepper sauce.

What happened after that?  This pizza was a true, certified gourmet delight.  Mouth watering – and I’m not exaggerating!

When it came out of the oven, I set it on the table while I prepared a green salad.  When I sank my teeth into it, my taste buds were suddenly energized.  It was oozing with taste, I forgot that infamous struggle earlier.  Think of a pizza baked in a makeshift brick or stone oven at the back of a country home in an old Italian countryside.  Yes, it tasted that way.  To use an oft-repeated phrase – it was to die for!

Home, home on the range.  What an accidentally delicious pizza that landed on my plate!

I can think of at least three good reasons why this pizza came out a winner:

  • I added some sourdough starter.  They say using a small amount of sourdough starter injects it with extra flavor.  It is certainly much, much better than store-bought pizzas.  You know how some commercial pizzas taste like cardboard?
  • The dough recipe was a combination of semolina, rye and all-purpose flour.
  • The baking stone and the high heat

While this pizza deserved flying colors for taste and flavor, I suspect that the sourdough starter may have contributed to the dough being unmanageable.  Was high hydration the culprit (my starter is 100% hydration)?  Should I reduce the amount of water when using a starter?

Second, I’m not exactly sure that setting the oven temperature at 475 degrees (F) is a good idea.  Some experts say that the baking stone combined with high heat will yield the ideal crust.  I have my doubts.  I’d much rather set the oven at 350 degrees and bake it for an additional 7-10 minutes – for a total baking time of 20 minutes.  Broiling the pizza for two minutes on high is also a good idea.  Most of the recipes I’ve come across recommend 475 degrees for 8-10 minutes, depending on the crust’s thickness.  Next time I’ll pre-heat the oven at that temperature and then reduce the heat to 350 as soon as the pizza goes in.

The first pizza dough had rye, semolina and all-purpose unbleached flours.  The second one had organic bread flour and all-purpose unbleached.  I used my starter in both cases.  The first pizza with the three flours was a lot more flavorful.  The semolina gives the crust a nutty taste with excellent crunchiness.

Now that I’ve learned to make pizza dough from scratch, it’s going to be hard for me to buy commercial pizza again.  As soon as I find the right blend to make the dough more pliable, I’ll make batches and freeze them (they will hold well in the freezer for up to two weeks).

Here’s a tip from the experts:  less is more.  This means don’t smother your pizza with pizza sauce and use more than 3-4 toppings (cheese and sauce excluded).  They say there must be a good balance of the sauce, cheese and toppings.  Let the cheese and toppings come out in their full flavor, without one encroaching on the other.

Other possible combinations:  chopped spinach with goat cheese, basil leaves and spicy sausage, grilled eggplant, asparagus and palm hearts.

How about just cheese?  Whatever your heart desires.  But be a convert to "pizza from scratch."

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5 Responses to “Shapeless Pizza, but a Choc-Full of Taste!”

  1. Hi Sharon! Thanks for visiting my blog, I’m glad you liked my bread! And about the Romertopf, it does work beautifully, but I haven’t really used it for breads again since then, as I’m afraid the temperature needed for a good bread baking is higher than the usual cooking temperature for Romertopf… so I’m not sure it would work if used on a regular basis. I highly recommend you a Dutch oven though. And sourdough just needs some practice, but it’s so rewarding!! Keep up the good work!

    • sotsil Says:

      Hello Miriam,
      Thanks for visiting! That’s too bad about the Romertopf. When you say “dutch oven” do you mean those pots we use on the stove top to make stews, soups and what-nots? When I did my first sourdough, I had to introduce steam through the use of a pan which I pre-heated and then poured boiling water on it!

  2. Kiwidutch Says:

    sotsil,
    I’ve never been a big pizza fan but now that my kids are leading the way in liking the stuff, I’m contemplating making my own fully from scratch. Usually so far we get the bases for a biological speciality shop and do the toppings ourselves but I know I need to conquor my fear of yeast and get stuck into doing the bases myself too. Hummm I think I’ll have to invest in a pizza stone too. Any suggestions for an easy recipe? We only really like thin crusts… the thinner the better.
    Some *really* good recipes started out as “happy accidents” so never write off something as “bin-able” too soon. Yes, I’ve had a few good efforts that really were unsaveable, but as a fanatical cook you have to expect that every now and again you are going to have a day when it probably would have been a better idea to have stayed out of the kitchen. It happens.
    Great to see that you stuck with this tempermental dough and it rewarded you! :)

    • sotsil Says:

      Hi kiwidutch,
      Thanks for visiting. For a great pizza recipe, you may want to visit http://breadtopia.com. He uses a lot of sourdough (have you ever made sourdough before – wild yeast?), and his version is a thin crust. Instead of using a baking stone, he bakes his pizza in his barbecue grill.
      I’ve had mixed feelings about my baking stone – at least where pizza is concerned. It’s great for making sourdough breads, but yesterday I made pizza and decided not to use the stone, just an ordinary cookie pan. My brother said there was no discernible difference; to me the dough seemed better.
      The standard advice is to use unbleached all purpose flour, but if you want to give that rustic flavor to your pizza, you can mix it with a bit of rye flour or semolina flour, or both. Unbleached all purpose tends to produce a softer dough, and hence may tear easily.
      Let me know how your first home-made pizza turned out!


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