Sunday, 28 June 2015

The Saturday Sourdough Pizza

Saturdays, I settle down to make a sourdough pizza for supper.
I use a recipe based on one by Giuseppe Mascoli and Bridget Hugo which I found on the Telegraph site.
This recipe is perhaps not for a sourdough beginner. But if you have the starter and have done some sourdough baking... give it a go. With sourdough you learn that it is wonderfully adaptable in its timing. Not ready to deal with it yet? Bung it in the fridge for a bit..... and so on. You also find that flours vary a lot in their behaviour so... each to their own favourites. With practice you also grow brave and know that you can knead and handle quite wet mixtures, you just have to be patient. Gently working it, or time itself, will bring the dough together. DO NOT panic and throw flour at it. Handling sticky doughs can be helped by oiling the work surface or your hands, even using a very little water to dip your fingers into whilst kneading (not enough to seriously add water to the dough, mind). If I need to use flour in the shaping stages, I flour my hand not the dough. Just remember...patience is a the dough and it gets its act together by itself in a surprising fashion.

My quantities will make enough pizza for two greedy people. It isn't "in the making" for as long as the original recipe which is started the night before. I start mine in the morning and let it rest until its final shaping and proving about an hour before baking. So that's about 7 or 8 hours. But... it isn't perhaps as well-behaved as the original. Well, what do you expect from me!

For the dough you need:
300g  strong flour (I use a mix of approx 280g Italian 00 wheat flour and 20g semolina);
2g salt (the original recipe calls for an equivalent of 10g salt... but we're not into that much salt on account of The Old Man's interesting state of health).
24g sourdough starter;
200g lukewarm water;
6g olive oil;

For Topping Sauce:
No need to cook down a tomato sauce, drowning the dough with sauce would make it too soggy, 2 or 3 tinned plum tomatoes squished, mixed with good dried oregano, seasoned to taste and set to drain in a sieve is all you need. Really.

Toppings: As you like.... a selection of... garlic, capers, stoned olives, sultanas (soaking in water beforehand helps stop them burning), pine kernels, sliced chilli, fresh herbs, anchovies, sliced sweet peppers and so on. Other ideas...soaked dried mushrooms (drained on kitchen paper), cooked squeezed spinach, thin courgette strips made using a potato peeler, thin slices of aubergine, slices of sausage of choice (The Old Man used best Cornish Hogs Pudding this week!). Finally Mozzarella and grated hard cheese such as Parmesan... (being veggie I like to use Old Winchester or the milder, creamier Fosse Way Fleece). And on and on, whatever you fancy dreaming up. Just not all at once. Less is more and simple is good.

So...  The Making:
In the morning put the flour and salt into large bowl. Into a smaller bowl or jug weigh the ridiculously small amount of sourdough starter and add the lukewarm water and the olive oil. Gently mix the liquids together.
Next add the liquid to the flour in stages, mixing with a spatula to bring the mixture together into a wet dough. Knead lightly for a short time (I use my spatula for this and keep the mixture in the bowl). Leave to rest for 15 minutes.
Knead again for 5 minutes. You can be brave and try this on a surface... but do not add flour. Give it a go.. you might be surprised how much it keeps itself together. Return it to the bowl and cover with cling film (or...I use cheap thin shower-caps that come in a pack). Rest for one hour. (The dough... but you may need a rest yourself.)
Next gather your courage. Oil your work surface and hands and tip your dough out. Shape into a round as for bread. (Gather it in gently and firmly by working around the outside and bringing the edges to the centre until it starts to tighten. Then turn the dough over and, with oiled hands, "chafe the dough", gently pushing the sides under whilst turning it. You should end up with a neat dome of dough.) Return shaped dough to an oiled bowl, brush with a very little olive oil and cover the bowl as before.

Leave to rest until an hour or so before baking. This time you flour your work-surface and turn the dough out. Divide it into two (we are greedy) or more pieces. Take each piece and shape (with floured hands) as you would for rolls. (Same process as above... bringing dough into centre before the final turning over and chafing.) Place the two or more pieces to rest on a linen cloth (couche) on a tray.. covering with same cloth. If you don't have a couche, try a floured tea towel. Leave to rest for an hour whilst you prepare your toppings and heat oven..
Bring oven up to top temperature. (I have a fan oven which I set to top heat of 240 C (475F or Gas 9 - Edit: Ooops Sorry! Top temp on my oven is 260 C, so... hot as you can go.). And prepare two baking sheets by sprinkling their surfaces generously with semolina.
Now is NOT the time to use a rolling pin, it's hands or nuthin' so take a deep breath, oil the surface and your hands and stretch each ball of dough in turn over oiled hands or on the oiled surface into something approaching a plate-sized round (mine are more often squarish but I ain't perfect and neither are me pizzas.) Do not stretch the dough too thin in the centre but do allow the edges to remain thicker so that they make  a natural rim.  Still breathing calmly and praying... or in my case shouting.... transfer each pizza base onto a sheet.
Spread the seasoned tomato pieces on each base...don't be frightened of seeing the dough between the tomato pieces... and arrange your toppings of choice on top. Finish with grated cheese and a little more olive oil sprinkled across the surface of each pizza.
Place the sheets into the hot oven and cook for about 10-12 minutes or until you think all is golden, melted, puffed and lovely. (Check the oven occasionally and lower the temperature a little if you think things are burning too much.)
Serve hot after a lot more shouting as you juggle with serving spatulas to get each one off their sheet and on to their plate. Smack lips and pour out the red wine. Delizioso.

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