I never imagined trying to find a naturally leavened pizza recipe would prove so intimidating. After more than an hour of searching and examining recipes full of weights and baking percentages, “autolyse” and “poolish,” involved folding and kneading procedures, multiple and sometimes multi-day rises, I was humbled by my ignorance and feeling a bit daunted, but nonetheless determined to give it a shot. I pieced together a plan, based heavily on a simple recipe from the Homegrown Kitchen, with a few insights from Boomtown Rap and King Arthur Flour. It is a bit more involved than most breads I’ve attempted to date, certainly more than my go-to yeasted crust… you’ll need to start it in the morning and be able to return to it a few times during the day. It might be possible to skip the first folding and simply knead the dough after 5-9 hours of rising, or refrigerating the dough midway for an extended rise might allow for more flexible scheduling and complex flavor. I haven’t tried this, though, and I am such a neophyte baker, so I can’t say whether it would work. All I know is, if you find yourself with a hankering for pizza and around the house for a day, you really ought to give this a try. Well worth the time and effort! It actually turned out to be much easier and more straightforward than it seemed, finding a recipe was actually the hardest part!
UPDATE (4/17/17): Been wanting to try making stromboli (basically, a pizza roll-up) for a few weeks now, and finally got the chance today. Used this pizza dough as the base, the only change being that I used 2 cups whole wheat flour and 1 cup all-purpose flour, since I had different flours available to work with this time around. A fun new spin on pizza! I’ve amended the recipe below to include this variation. A bit more involved to assemble, but a great change of pace, totally worth the extra effort!
1 cup sourdough starter
3 cups flour (I used 2 1/2 cups spelt, 1/2 cup bread flour)
1/2 cup water
1-2 teaspoons salt
2 tablespoons olive oil
Combine ingredients gradually to form a rough ball of dough. Cover with a towel or plastic and let rest 4-5 hours. Fold dough over itself a few times in the bowl, then let it continue to rise for another 2-3 hours, or until nearly doubled in size. Scrape onto a floured surface and knead for 5-10 minutes, adding more flour as necessary to form a smooth, elastic dough.
Divide in half, then let rise another hour. For the last 20 minutes or so of the rise, preheat the oven, and baking stone if you have one, to 475°F. If you have a baking stone, roll out the dough and/or stretch it thin with your fingers over a large cutting board or back of a baking sheet lined with floured parchment paper or a generous sprinkling of cornmeal. Top however you desire, then carefully slide onto the stone and bake 8-12 minutes — I found 10 minutes to be perfect for mine. If you don’t have a pizza stone, shape on the back of a baking sheet, then bake 10-15 minutes or so, until browned to your liking.
I found the dough very easy to manage throughout the process, though it was hard to stretch by hand until it was mostly rolled out first, and wasn’t able to stretch it as large and thin as I usually have with other crusts. Since it hardly rose in the oven, however, this turned out to be the perfect thickness for a perfectly chewy and flavorful thin crust. Yum! I will definitely be making this again soon.
VARIATION: After kneading, refrigerate the dough in a lightly oiled container for 2-3 days to enjoy a deepened flavor a few days later. Let return to room temperature and proceed as above.
STROMBOLI: A fun twist on pizza! To make stromboli, follow instructions above through the final rise and stretching of the dough, aiming for rectangles about 10×13″. Leave the dough thicker than you would for pizza, so that it doesn’t rip apart as you roll it up. Top with desired fillings, leaving roughly a two inch border along one of the long edges and an inch on each short side. Brush border with oil or beaten egg. Beginning with the “saucy side,” roll up into a log, gently sealing the edges as you go. Place seam side down on a greased baking sheet, brush with oil or beaten egg, slash across the top every two inches or so, and bake in a preheated 375F oven for 25-30 minutes, until golden brown.