Boy oh boy. Isn’t Thanksgiving the best? A sprinting marathon that gives us all permission to be gluttons. It’s awesome but you kind of hate yourself every second of the day, ammiright? However, I think we’ve officially had enough time to recover with salads and carrots. Almost a full week! So I think it’s time for a reward. I think it’s time for homemade pizza. Because if there’s anything that is the ultimate win and comfort, it’s pizza made by yours truly like a boss. Or a pizzeria guy. You know what I mean!
But, I definitely understand if you want to wait a couple more days before you jump into this bad boy. I mean, the crust takes at least a day anyway, and a sourdough starter may take you a couple more if you don’t have one on-hand, so I couldn’t think of a better time to post this recipe. It’s like a little light at the end of your detox tunnel. Be good because this is waiting for you!
Yes all of this.
Piiiizzzzaaaaa. And you definitely read that right earlier. We’re making this pizza with sourdough. Which deserves a novel in and of itself. It’s crazy-complicated which makes it fascinating. Not to mention delicious.
I must leave a little note here: I am still learning the ropes of sourdough and how to bake with it. I’m going to call this post a part one of many potential parts of sourdough science features.
First, what is sourdough anyway? Sourdough is kind of this catch-all term for a fermented dough. Essentially, you’ve got a symbiotic collection of wild yeasts and Lactobacillus bacteria that create a natural leavening ingredient for baked goods and a distinct, tangy flavor.
Of course, we’re going to start with the starter! At the most basic level, it’s a mixture of flour and water left to “do its thing”. Now you may be thinking, “But where do the microorganisms come into the picture?”. There are natural yeasts and bacterial spores in the flour that can theoretically allow you to create a sourdough culture from scratch. However, I cheated and received some sourdough starter from a friend last year. This is the most common way to begin the sourdough journey. Starters made from scratch can be problematic for most home bakers because the starter can create undesirable kind of microorganisms such as mold, pseudomonas bacteria, etc.
Basically, when you have a thriving culture of microorganisms, it will outcompete others. Lactobacillus bacteria is amazing at this which is why it might sound familiar as the principal actor in almost all fermented foods. When that initial collection of microorganisms isn’t present, other microorganisms have a fighting chance. That’s why creating your own sourdough culture is more difficult than it sounds and why a thriving sourdough culture is easy to maintain.
Anyway, now that we’ve got our microorganisms figured out, how does the actual starter work? When we mix together flour and water, a few important things happen. First, there is an enzyme present in flour called amylase. Normally rather dormant, amylase breaks down the starch in flour into sugars; water will “activate” this enzyme beginning the process. Second, the yeasts and bacteria then eat up these sugars and produce lactic acid, carbon dioxide, and alcohol (ethanol). What is really cool about this relationship is that the yeasts and lactic acid bacteria are symbiotic meaning that they do not compete for the same nutrients (different sugars) and actually help each other thrive!
There is a further idea to consider here. The ratio of flour to water will change how the starter acts. A wetter starter will favor greater lactobacillus growth over yeast growth which creates more lactic acid. A drier starter will have more yeast growth yielding more ethanol and carbon dioxide. Playing with these ratios will create different characteristics in the final baked product. This requires a lot more research on my part to adequately explain, so I’ll leave it to you if you want to read up on that! Or maybe look for it in the next sourdough post!
So now that we’ve got our initial sourdough mix and it’s bubbling away, we need to replenish the nutrients. The more often you refresh your starter, and the greater amount of flour and water you use when you feed your starter, the more stable your microbial culture will be. You’re essentially trying to always keep your yeasts and bacteria in their most active state which is required for baked goods. If you leave your starter undernourished, the microorganisms will go into a dormant phase as they starve. The easiest ratio of new flour and water to use is a rule of thirds. One part existing starter to one part flour to one part water by weight. That is the ratio commonly used in San Francisco bakeries.
If you only refresh your starter with a small amount of water/flour, the starter will get more sour as the microorganisms produce more alcohol and acid and the sugar disappears. This might be desirable for you if you want a very sour product, but be careful! If the starter gets too acidic, the environment will inhibit the growth of lactic acid bacteria and create a new culture of acid-tolerant yeasts. Not the best avenue to go down.
Now how often do we replenish the flour and water? Well that depends. If you are gearing up to use your starter or if you are baking often, you’ll want to keep your starter in a warm spot and feed it every day, sometimes even twice a day. Not planning on baking? Keep it in the fridge and feed it once a week to keep it happy. The fridge will greatly slow down the microbial activity, so you won’t need to replenish the nutrients as often.
I treated King Arthur Flour’s guide as a bible when I started my sourdough starter journey. Read up on this article for instructions on the all of the basics!
Now one more note about sourdough. Because the starter is essentially a culture of wild microorganisms, the environment will greatly influence what you’ll get in your starter. So your starter will be unique to your kitchen! Cool huh? Now about that pizza…
Remember when I mentioned that the sourdough starter creates carbon dioxide as one of its byproducts? Well we’re going to use the sourdough as the leavening in our pizza crust. The natural leavening of sourdough, however, will take a lot longer than baker’s yeast. So this dough takes some time. But beyond the leavening power, the longer you let the dough sit, the more sourdough-y it will seem as the starter eats more and more of the flour. Beyond 5 days and you’re pushing it, so think about when you want to enjoy your pizza and plan in advance! Also feel free to use your own toppings, but this recipe is preeeetttty great–I suggest you give it a whirl.
Sourdough Pizza with Lemony Onions, Chickpeas, and Eggs
Sourdough Pizza Crust
Adapted from The Crepes of Wrath
Makes enough for two pizzas
**Please note that you need to make this dough at least 24 hours in advance of when you want to make the pizza, and it’s even better if you make this a couple of days before you make the pizza**
425 grams bread flour
255 grams warm water (just warm to the touch, not hot!)
60 grams sourdough starter
6.5 grams kosher salt
1 teaspoon sugar
1 ¾ teaspoons olive oil
1 teaspoon active dry yeast
Semolina, for dusting
Topping and Assembly
1 medium yellow onion
1 large garlic clove
¼ cup chicken stock or vegetable stock
1 can chickpeas
¼ teaspoon paprika
2 tablespoons lemon juice
4 ounces crumbled feta
Red pepper flakes
½ tablespoon parsley leaves, chopped
- PLEASE measure your ingredients by weight for this. That will ensure you will have a successful crust. And note that you need to start this dough at least 24 hours before you plan on making the pizza!
- 1-5 days before baking your pizza, make the dough. Start with your starter. Feed your starter with the instructions above. Wait until it gets foamy and begins to increase in volume before using—this should take about 1-2 hours in a warm kitchen.
- Mix the warmed water with the instant yeast. Add the sugar and stir to combine. Let sit for 3 minutes or so until it smells yeasty.
- Add the 60 grams of starter when ready after step 2. Add the oil and mix.
- In the bowl of a food processor, combine all the dry ingredients. Pulse until mixed. Slowly add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients while pulsing. The dough should come together in a lump quickly after only 30 or so seconds. Stop running the food processor at this point.
- Gently knead the dough until it all comes together into a smooth ball folding it over into itself a couple of times.
- Divide the dough in half. Tuck the bottom of one of the dough ball into the center smoothing the top out. Repeat with the second dough ball.
- Oil (or Pam spray) two large containers that will allow the dough to double or even triple in size. Place a dough ball into each one.
- Place the containers into the fridge for at least a day. The longer it sits, the more flavorful it will become.
- 2 hours before you are ready to cook your pizza, take the dough out of the fridge. Place it in an oiled bowl covered with a towel. Place the bowl in a slightly warm spot to rise. A couple of good suggestions are on the top of your fridge or in the oven (heat off!) with the light on. Make your sauce/toppings now!
Topping and Pizza Assembly
- Slice the onion in half and then cut each half into thin slices. Crush the garlic clove to remove the papery outside and then mince it.
- Heat a glug of olive oil in a large skillet over medium. When hot, add the onions and garlic to the pan. Reduce heat to medium/low and cook the onions and garlic stirring occasionally.
- After the onions and garlic are softened and beginning to turn a light brown (about 10-15 minutes), add the chicken stock and increase heat to medium/high. Once the stock is beginning to reduce, taste and add salt as needed. I ended up adding half a teaspoon or so, but my stock was also salted.
- Once the stock is reduced so that only a tablespoon or so remains in the pan, reduce the heat to medium/low again. Drain the can of chickpeas and rinse once under cold water. Add the chickpeas to the pan and stir to combine.
- Add the paprika and lemon juice to the pan as well and combine. Cook until the chickpeas are softened to your liking and slightly crispy on the outside (if desired). Test this with a fork every now and then piercing a chickpea.
- When finished cooking, check the seasoning one more time and adjust with salt as needed. Remove from heat and let cool while you prep the crust.
- Dust your countertop with semolina. Place the dough ball on top and gently flatten it out into a disk. Once it is about 6 inches wide, pick the dough up and begin to start stretching the dough by draping it over the backs of your knuckles pulling your hands apart and rotating.
- Cover a sheet pan with parchment paper. Lightly dust the surface with semolina. Place your stretched dough on top of this.
- Preheat your oven to 550⁰F or as hot as it will go if your oven doesn’t go this high.
- Brush your dough circle all over with olive oil, about a tablespoon or so. Evenly distribute the onion/chickpea mixture on top of the dough leaving about an inch to an inch and a half around the outside for your crust.
- Crack an egg into a small bowl or ramekin and tip it onto the top of the onion/chickpea mixture. Repeat with each egg so that you have an egg in each “corner” of the pizza. Sprinkle the top of the pizza with several generous cracks of black pepper, red pepper flakes (maybe a teaspoon or so depending on your spice level), and the feta cheese.
- Bake in the preheated oven for approximately 10-12 minutes or until the crust is golden brown, the cheese is melty, and the egg whites look cooked through.
- Remove from the oven and let cool a couple of minutes. Gently transfer the parchment paper to a cutting board. Sprinkle the top with the chopped parsley leaves.
- As soon as the pizza is cool enough to eat, cut it into pieces and serve! I cut mine into four quarters, two pieces per serving, with the egg in the middle of each piece. Then quickly cut a quarter in half and transfer to your plate to keep the runny yolk from escaping.
Sourdough crust too intense for you? Go the exact opposite route with my two-ingredient pizza dough!