How to Conduct Different Sourdough Pizza Dough Techniques?

I find sourdough pizza dough to be a delightful change from the usual yeast-based pizza dough. My approach to pizza making, which has become increasingly popular, revolves around its tangy flavor profile and the satisfying chewiness of the crust.

The sourdough process, based on natural fermentation, brings a depth of flavor that I just can’t achieve with commercial yeast. For me, the key to a successful sourdough pizza is in the starter – a fermented blend of flour and water teeming with wild yeast and bacteria. I pay close attention to the health and activity level of my starter, as they are critical in influencing the dough’s rise and flavor.

Unlike commercial yeast, the sourdough fermentation process is slower, which I find allows for the development of more complex flavors and results in a crust that’s easier to digest.

Ingredients and Initial Preparation

The first thing I want to point out are ingredients and initial preparation for the sourdough.

Ingredient Purpose Notes
Sourdough Starter Provides yeast and bacteria for fermentation Must be active and bubbly; ideally doubled in size after feeding
Flour Forms the structure of the dough All-purpose for versatility, bread flour for chewiness, Tipo 00 for crispiness
Water Hydrates flour, activates starter, forms gluten network Temperature adjustable to control fermentation speed
Salt Enhances flavor, strengthens gluten, regulates yeast activity

 

1. Activate the Sourdough Starter

How Sourdough Starter Works

  • Ensure your sourdough starter is well-fed and active.
  • It should be bubbly and have doubled in size after feeding.
  • This indicates that the starter is ready to use.

2. Select and Measure the Flour

  • Choose your flour type based on the desired crust texture:
  • All-purpose flour for a standard crust.
  • Bread flour for a chewier crust.
  • Tipo 00 flour for a crispier crust.
  • Use a kitchen scale for accurate measurement.

3. Prepare the Water

  • Adjust the water temperature:
  • Warmer water (around 75°F to 80°F) speeds up fermentation.
  • Cooler water (around 65°F to 70°F) slows down fermentation.
  • The temperature of the water can influence the activity of the yeast in your sourdough starter.
  • Add Salt

4. Measure the salt accurately.

  • Salt not only enhances the flavor but also strengthens the gluten network and regulates yeast activity.

5. Mixing the Dough

How to Mix Sourdough for Pizza

  • Combine the sourdough starter, flour, water, and salt in a large mixing bowl.
  • Mix until just combined to form a rough dough.
  • Avoid overworking the dough at this stage.

6. Initial Dough Rest

  • Let the mixed dough rest for about 20 to 30 minutes.
  • This allows the flour to fully hydrate and the gluten network to start developing.

7. Kneading (Optional)

  • If the dough feels too rough or shaggy, you can gently knead it to improve consistency.
  • Be gentle to avoid over-kneading.

8. Bulk Fermentation

Why Does Dough Bulk

  • Cover the dough and let it ferment until it doubles in size.
  • This can take anywhere from 6 to 12 hours depending on the room temperature and the activity of your starter.

9. Dough Division and Shaping

  • Once the dough has doubled, divide it into portions for individual pizzas.
  • Shape each portion into a ball and let it rest for a short period before stretching it out for pizza.

10. Final Proofing

How to Shape Pizza Dough

  • After shaping, allow the dough balls to proof until slightly puffy and ready to be stretched into pizza bases.

Mixing and Kneading Techniques

Mixing and kneading are pivotal in the process of making sourdough pizza dough. These steps are essential for developing the gluten network, which is responsible for the texture and structural integrity of the pizza crust.

Achieving the right balance between elasticity and extensibility in the dough is crucial.  The dough needs to be elastic enough to trap the gases produced during fermentation, contributing to the rise and fluffiness of the crust. At the same time, it should be extensible enough to allow for easy shaping without tearing.

Mixing Process

Sourdough How to Mix it With Water

Start by mixing the active sourdough starter with water. Gradually incorporate about half of the measured flour into this mixture. This initial mixing helps to evenly distribute the starter throughout the dough. Gradual

Slowly add the remaining flour and the salt to the mixture. This gradual process ensures that the flour is thoroughly hydrated, and the salt is evenly distributed. If you’re using a stand mixer, use a low speed to avoid overheating the dough, which can negatively impact the yeast’s activity. Overheating can lead to premature fermentation and affect the final texture of the pizza crust.

The dough should start to come together in a cohesive mass. It might be slightly sticky at this stage, but it should not be overly wet or dry. Adjust with a bit more flour or water if necessary.

Kneading Techniques

What is the best kneading dough technique

If you’re using a stand mixer with a dough hook attachment, knead the dough on a medium-low setting. This process should take about 7 minutes. The dough should form a cohesive, slightly tacky ball that pulls away from the sides of the mixing bowl.

For hand kneading, employ the stretch and fold method. This involves stretching the dough away from you and folding it back over itself. Rotate the dough by 90 degrees and repeat the process. This method should be done gently and repeatedly for about 10 minutes. The goal is to develop gluten without overworking the dough, of course, in non-gluten variants, it would be different.

To check if the dough has been kneaded sufficiently, perform the windowpane test. Take a small piece of dough and stretch it gently between your fingers. The dough should stretch to a thin membrane without tearing. If you can see light through the stretched dough, it has developed enough gluten.

Hydration

When to mix Flour with Water When Making a Dough

Hydration, or the amount of water relative to the amount of flour in the dough, significantly impacts the dough’s texture. A higher hydration leads to a looser dough, which is ideal for thin, crispy crusts. Conversely, a lower hydration results in a stiffer dough, better suited for thicker, chewier crusts.

The ideal hydration level depends on the type of flour used and the desired outcome for the pizza crust. Flours with higher protein content, like bread flour, can absorb more water, thus requiring higher hydration. For all-purpose or Tipo 00 flour, which is less absorbent, a lower hydration level might be more appropriate.

It’s important to note that the perfect hydration level can vary based on many factors, including ambient humidity and the specific characteristics of the flour. Therefore, it’s beneficial to experiment with different hydration levels to find the one that works best for your specific conditions and preferences.

Bulk Fermentation

Why Does Dough Rise

Bulk fermentation, the first rise of the dough, is where the sourdough starter’s yeast and bacteria ferment the flour, developing flavor and structure. This step is crucial for the dough’s texture and taste.

Duration of Fermentation

The time required for bulk fermentation can vary significantly, typically ranging from 6 to 18 hours. This variation is largely dependent on two key factors: the ambient room temperature and the activity level of your sourdough starter. In warmer conditions, fermentation will proceed more rapidly, while cooler temperatures will slow down the process, allowing for the development of more nuanced and complex flavors.

Observing Dough Development

As fermentation progresses, you’ll notice several changes in your dough. It will gradually increase in volume, ideally doubling by the end of the bulk fermentation period. Additionally, the dough’s texture will evolve, becoming more elastic and less sticky, which are signs of gluten development and fermentation activity.

Shaping and Proofing

How to Perfectly Shape Pizza Dough

Shaping is more than just a preparatory step for proofing; it’s a crucial process that significantly impacts the final texture and appearance of your sourdough pizza.

Preparing the Dough

Begin by gently transferring the bulk-fermented dough onto a lightly floured surface. This helps prevent the dough from sticking while maintaining its delicate structure.

Dividing the Dough

Using a bench scraper or a sharp knife, divide the dough into equal portions. The amount of dough you use per pizza depends on your desired pizza size and thickness. For a standard 12-inch pizza, a portion of about 250-300 grams is typically ideal. Ensure each piece is cut cleanly to avoid tearing the gluten strands.

Ball Formation

Should I Shape Pizza Dough in Ball Formation

Shape each portion into a tight ball. This is done by cupping your hands around the dough and gently rotating it on the work surface, simultaneously tucking the edges underneath.

This technique creates surface tension on the outside of the dough, which is key for maintaining its shape and structure during the subsequent proofing stage. The goal is to achieve a smooth, tight surface without overworking or deflating the dough.

Consistency in Shaping

Consistency in shaping each dough ball is important for uniformity in baking. The unevenly shaped dough can lead to irregular pizzas with varying crust thicknesses.

The Proofing Process

What is the best way to proof pizza dough

Proofing is the final rise of the dough and is essential for developing flavor and texture.

Setting Up for Proofing

Place the shaped dough balls on a floured tray or in individual containers with enough space to allow for expansion. Cover them with a damp cloth or plastic wrap to prevent the surface from drying out, which could hinder their rise.

Timing the Proof

The duration of the proofing stage can vary. Typically, it ranges from 30 minutes to several hours, depending on factors like room temperature and the dough’s fermentation history. In a warmer environment, the dough will move faster. The dough is ready for baking when it’s slightly puffy and responds to a gentle touch without springing back immediately.

Cold Fermentation Option

What is a cold dough fermentation

For an enhanced flavor profile and added convenience, consider cold-fermenting the dough in the refrigerator. This slow fermentation process can last up to 72 hours and is known to deepen the sourdough’s tangy flavor while improving the texture of the crust.

If you opt for cold fermentation, remember to allow the dough to return to room temperature for about 30 minutes before shaping it into pizzas. This step ensures the dough is pliable and easier to work with.

Observing the Dough

During proofing, observe the dough’s volume and texture. It should not only rise but also show signs of airiness and lightness. Over-proofed dough may become too gassy and lose its strength, leading to a flat and dense pizza.

Preparing for Baking

Once the dough has properly proofed, it’s ready to be shaped into the final pizza base. This is where you can express your creativity, stretching and shaping the dough to your preferred thickness and size.

Remember, the way you handle the dough during this final shaping will impact the crust’s texture and the overall eating experience of the pizza.

Baking Techniques

How to Bake Sourhdough Pizza

Baking is the final and most exciting step in making sourdough pizza, where all the preparation and fermentation culminate in a delicious, crispy crust. Preheat your oven to the highest temperature possible, ideally between 500°F to 550°F (260°C to 288°C). If you have baking steel or stone, place it in the oven during preheating to ensure it’s scorching hot.

This high heat is crucial for achieving a crispy bottom and a beautifully charred crust. While the oven preheats, shape your pizza. On a lightly floured surface, gently stretch the dough from the center outwards, rotating it to maintain a circular shape. Leave a thicker edge for the crust. Avoid using a rolling pin, as it can deflate the dough and result in a denser crust. Top your pizza sparingly to prevent a soggy crust.

Begin with a thin layer of sauce, followed by cheese and other toppings. Overloading the pizza can weigh down the dough and hinder even cooking. Surely, it is possible to take a look at some innovative alternatives. Transfer the pizza to a peel dusted with flour or cornmeal to prevent sticking. Slide the pizza onto the preheated baking steel or stone. Bake for about 5 to 7 minutes, or until the crust is golden brown and the cheese is bubbly.

The high heat will create a beautiful oven spring, giving you a light, airy crust. Rotate the pizza halfway through baking for even cooking. If your oven has a broiler, you can use it for the last minute or two to achieve a more charred top. Once baked, let the pizza rest for a couple of minutes before slicing. This allows the crust to set and the cheese to stabilize, making it easier to slice and eat.

FAQs

Can you overproof sourdough pizza dough?

Yes, you can overproof sourdough pizza dough. Overproofing occurs when the dough is left to rise for too long, causing the gluten structure to weaken and the dough to lose its ability to hold gas. This results in a flat, dense pizza crust with less flavor.

Can you leave sourdough pizza dough out overnight?

Leaving sourdough pizza dough out overnight is possible, especially in a cool environment. However, it’s important to consider the room temperature. In warmer conditions, the dough might overproof. For a long, slow fermentation and better flavor development, it’s often recommended to refrigerate the dough overnight.

Why is my sourdough pizza dough so sticky?

Sourdough pizza dough can become sticky due to high hydration, insufficient flour, or over-fermentation. To remedy this, you can add a bit more flour during kneading, reduce the water content in your recipe, or shorten the fermentation time. Also, ensure your hands and work surface are well-floured when handling the dough.

How wet should sourdough pizza dough be?

The wetness of sourdough pizza dough depends on the desired crust texture. For a thin, crispy crust, a higher hydration (wetter dough) is ideal. For a thicker, chewier crust, a lower hydration (less wet dough) works better.

The Bottom Line

The entire process, from carefully nurturing the starter to enjoying the freshly baked pie, is a journey I believe every pizza enthusiast should experience. What I love about sourdough pizza is its flexibility and adaptability.

Whether I’m in the mood for a thin, crispy crust or a thicker, chewier base, I can tailor the sourdough to suit my taste. The extended fermentation process not only develops intricate flavors but also makes the dough more digestible and nutritious, adding to the overall enjoyment of my homemade pizza.