As a sourdough mama, I’ve learned that when feeding your starter you generally have to remove some of the original starter to make room for the new “food.” Some people simply discard it, I’ve read that some people use it to keep slugs away from their garden, and others make beautiful muffins, biscuits and breads.
All great uses (except for the discarding part – I’d feel bad to waste those baby yeasties!) but I think that I’ve found the go-to recipe for me to use that discarded starter. Sourdough pizza.
My husband and I are big pizza fans; what is there not to love? Pizza is a tasty way of getting a complete meal to the mouth. And I make pizza with whatever I have in my fridge. Leftover chicken breast four days old and a little dry and half of an andouillie sausage? Chopped up and sprinkled on top of a tablespoon or two of tomato sauce with cheese, it is loved once more as Cajun Chicken Pizza. Ten pieces of leftover coppa in the fridge from an appetizer tray and half of an aging bell pepper? Chop it up, throw it on some dough with cheese and pesto and you have one of my husband’s favorite slices. The options are endless and we’ve never had a pizza we didn’t love. Now that I’m feeding my starters regularly, I’ll have even more of an excuse to make them!
1-1/2 cups sourdough starter
1-1/2 cups flour
3/4 tsp. salt
2 Tablespoons olive oil
In a large bowl combine all ingredients and mix well, adding water or flour to make a soft dough (I keep my starter at 100% hydration normally – meaning I feed it at a 1:1 ratio of flour and water – so did not need to add any additional water to the dough). Knead for about five minutes until dough is soft and elastic and is not sticky to the touch. Form into a ball and let rise in an oiled bowl (turning the ball in the bowl to cover with oil) covered with plastic in a warm place until doubled in size.
Once risen, turn out onto a floured surface and cut into two pieces. Believe me when I tell you that this dough is beautiful and silky and soft as a baby’s bottom; you’re going to love it! Roll out each piece to about 1/4-inch thick, 12″ rounds.
This pizza can be cooked either conventionally in an oven or right on the grill. See below for directions for both.
Don’t have 1-1/2 cups of starter to begin with? You can do one of two things.
- If you plan ahead, feed your starter the night before with enough flour and water to ensure you’ll have the quantity of starter you need for this recipe plus enough left over to continue the starter’s growth. When you remove the starter the next day, re-feed your starter with 1/4 cup flour and 1/4 cup water if it is looking scarce.
- If you, like me, forgot to feed your starter the night before, don’t worry! Simply take out 1/2-cup starter in a bowl the morning you’re going to make pizza for dinner (often the day that you’d feed your starter anyway). Feed the jarred starter while you’re at it. To the starter in the bowl, add 1/2-cup flour and 1/2-cup water and stir well (thus creating your 1-1/2 cups starter!) Allow to sit for a few hours in a warm environement. At lunchtime, begin the dough process, above. This worked great for me – the recipe is very forgiving.
Want to make a more healthy pizza crust? I maintain two starters, one white and one 100% whole wheat. To make a healthier crust I used my whole wheat starter and then used 3/4-cup each of all purpose flour and whole wheat flour. The result was fantastic; it still had the crunch and bite of a standard white pizza dough, but had a bit of chewiness and depth that whole wheat can add. I will be experimenting with a higher ratio of whole wheat to white in the future – and if you’ve been successful with it, please let me know!
Now, on to the cooking . . .
If you have a pizza stone, feel free to heat it up in your barbecue as you would your oven (see below) and cook accordingly. However, if you do not, here’s the method that we use (adapted from the pizza recipe in Mario Batali’s Italian Grill cookbook)
Prepare a gas or charcoal grill for indirect grilling. If using gas, turn the burners on high for at least 20 minutes before cooking. Make sure that the grill is very hot, around 450 – 500 degrees Farenheit. The grill needs to be clean, but not greased, before cooking.
Carefully lay one round of dough over the hottest part of the grill and cook until the bottom is lightly browned and dry, about two minutes. Using tongs, gently lift up and flip the dough over, cooking for just 30 seconds more. Transfer to a baking sheet with the less cooked side up, and repeat with the remaining dough rounds. Let cool.
If using a gas grill, turn down the heat to a medium from a high.
Sauce and top pizza as you prefer, leaving a 1/2-inch edge of dough around the outside.
Place 1 or 2 pizzas at a time on the cooler part of the grill and cook until the cheese is melted and the bottoms are crisp and golden brown. This may take from 2 to 8 minutes depending on the thickness of your crust and heat of your grill. Transfer to a cutting board and allow to cool for a few minutes before cutting.
For oven baking:
Place a pizza or baking stone on a rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat to 500 degrees Fahrenheit for at least 30 minutes before baking (though I’ve done just fine using a pizza pan). Turn the dough out of the bowl onto a lightly floured work surface. Cut in half with a sharp knife or bench scraper. Gently shape each half into a loose ball. Cover loosely with a kitchen towel and let rest for 10 minutes. One at a time, lightly dust each dough ball with all purpose flour and roll it out into a round of 12-14 inches in diameter. Spread 1/4 cup cornmeal on a baker’s peel (or your pizza pan) and transfer the dough round to the peel or pan.
Top the pizza crust with your desired sauce and toppings (be creative! Our favorites range from the traditional Margherita, to Cajun with leftover chicken and andouillie sausage and peppers, to Thai style with peanut sauce!) and then either slide the pizza from the peel to the baking stone, or just slide the pan in the oven, and bake until the crust is crisp and brown, 10-15 minutes. Once baked, remove from oven and let rest for about five minutes before cutting to serve.