Friday, April 11, 2014

Sourdough Pizza

There is something universally appealing about pizza.  The combination of a sweet, tangy tomato sauce with a slightly salty and creamy cheese, atop of a crusty bread.  Then there is the toppings.  The toppings can really diversify a pie.  We like our pizza topped with loads of veggies. 
Veggie and roasted chicken whole wheat Sourdough Pizza

Pizza is so easy to make and really doesn't require any special equipment.  All you need is your own two hands.  You can whip one up in no time, but it just requires a little planning. 
We use sourdough for our crust.  Now you have probably heard of sourdough.  What most people don't know, is TRUE sourdough is not made with any commercial yeast.  Instead, it rises all on it's own, with the variable wild yeast strains that are present in the flour.  Some also believe sourdough bread making is also dependent on the friendly microbes present in your own home. All bread prior to the 19th century was sourdough bread; bread leavened by it's own naturally occuring yeast. Commercial yeast was developed because it made bread rise quicker and more predictably.  (Don't we seems to always sacrifice our health for convenience?) The problem with commercial yeasts today, is that many are produced using Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) or contain contaminants like pesticides and herbicides.  What's more, is that commercial yeasts only contain one strain of yeast. This is problematic, because it requires a team of yeast strains to fully digest grains and acquire the necessary nutrients from them. 
 I believe that many of the rising gluten sensitivities are not, in most cases, from gluten.  Instead the digestive disturbances many have with bread and bread products are indeed from the use of commercial yeast.   We will talk about this in FULL DETAIL on a later date when I tell you how to make your own sourdough bread and sourdough baked goods.  For now, I will tell you how to get your starter started. In a few weeks time, we can make the best waffles or pancakes you have ever had.
For now I am asking for a little trust.  I am going to show you how to start your sourdough.  It is VERY EASY.  It just requires a little attention and patience.  

You will need:
Organic whole wheat flour
Organic All-purpose flour
First, a starter will need to be in an environment of approximately 65-85 degrees.  For most homes, that fits the bill.  Next you will need a medium size container-12 cups/3 quarts.  It should have an opening that will allow you to easily add flour and remove starter from.  I like glass instead of plastic.  (there is that convenience thing again) Start by adding 1/4 cup of organic whole wheat flour, 1/4 cup of organic all purpose flour and 1/4 cup of water. 
   * Do not use distilled or reverse osmosis water.  Sourdough needs the minerals. RO and distilled water lacks minerals.  Regular filtered tap water should do, unless you have a well.  In that case, buy a quality bottled spring water, preferably from your area. 
Mix all ingredients together, until well combined. Cover with a loose kitchen/tea towel and leave on your counter and wait.  Wait about 12-24hours until you start to see some bubbles/air forming.   Then feed again with the same flour and water amounts as above. Mix well. (Bread making=buff arms) Repeat this process of feeding your starter around 4 more times.  By this time, you will have a large amount of weak starter and will have to start discarding some before feeding it again.  If you don't, the yeast won't have enough food to eat and will start to die.  You won't have any more bubbles or air producing and the starter will start to smell like strong nail polish remover.  (husband's ask your wife to do a sniff test). 
At this point you want to remove about 1/2 of the starter. Eyeball it.  Then feed it the specified amounts of water and flour above.  It is always easier to add water first, then mix the flours.  After you feed it, the starter should start rising to the point where it doubles in volume.  This means it is fully active and is strong enough to make a good loaf of bread.  It can take up to 2 weeks to achieve this.  Don't rush the process.  If you try to make bread too soon, you won't get a strong rise and you will end up making a brick. And that is a very sad day. 
So now you have some homework. Ladies and gentleman... start your starters. 
In about 1 week, I will tell you what you can do with some of that weak starter you are throwing out.  In another week, will we make some of the best bread you have ever had. 

Okay, so now back to the PIZZA!.  Of course many of your will not have a starter ready to make this delicious pie.  So I will give you a recipe for an alternative dough.  It will require a commercial yeast but it will be a healthier alternative to takeout. 

1 1/3 cups of organic bread flour
1 cup of organic whole wheat flour
1 1/2 teaspoon Extra virgin olive oil
3/4 cup of warm water
1/2 teaspoon of dried orgeano and dried basil
1 teaspoon of organic baking yeast*
* Rize Organic active dried yeast
Bob Red Mill active dry yeast can be an alternative source.

If your have a mixer or bread machine you can use that to mix your dough.  If not, no worries.  Kneading it with your hands will give you a great upper body workout.  Just mix all dry ingredient, EXCEPT THE YEAST, together in a medium sized bowl.  In a small bowl or measuring cup add yeast to warm water.  Let it sit about 15min until it forms a foam on top. Add yeasty water and oil to the dry mix.   Mix the ingredients in bowl first, until you form a ball that will loosely hold together.  Now, transfer to lightly floured counter.  Knead the dough for a good 10 minutes.  You can't over knead.  Return to bowl and lightly grease the top of the dough with olive oil.  Let dough rest in warm spot, like in your oven with the oven light on, for approximately 1 hour.  You can use the dough sooner, but it must rest for at least 20min. 
After 1 hour, roll out the dough to the shape of your pizza pan.  It will bake the best on a greased pizza stone.  For this I use coconut oil.  
Whole wheat Sourdough pizza dough


Lightly floured surface

Roll out

A thinner pizza crust

Oil stone with coconut oil

Pre-baking crust
 Now depending on what you put on your Za, you may want to pre-bake the dough before adding the toppings.  We use a lot of sauteed veggies which have more water content than, lets say meat and cheese, so I pre-bake our dough at around 375-400 for about 5minutes.  I want the dough to get a little cooked not completely baked.  (That last sentence may take some of you back to the 70's) You really want it to get cooked to the point that you can lift it with a spatula, without it tearing or stretching. 
Pre cooking veggies reduces the sogginess and  adds a sweet caramelized flavor.
 Add your toppings.  We do sauce first, veggies/meat/spices next and last cheese.  I find this way keeps all your toppings nestled neatly in your slice as you go to take a bite.  
For sauce I use 1 cup of Bertolli's Organic olive oil garlic and basil pasta sauce and 1 cup of Glen Muir Organic Roasted Tomato Puree. I find the sauce is too sweet on it's own, so I get the volume without the sugar by adding the pureed tomatoes.  I place both in a small sauce pot and simmer at low-medium heat to reduce it down and make it thicker.  You will know it is thick enough, when it won't fall through the tines of a fork when scooped. 
Pizza Sauce ingredients.  The two on the left.

Thickened to perfection.

 Bake the topped pie at 400 for about 10-15 minutes or until cheese is melted and crust is browned on top and underneath.  Let pie cool, slice and enjoy.  Be sure to serve a salad, this will keep your from eating too much pizza.  


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