I am fascinated by natural yeasts and like to grow a sourdough starter in my kitchen. It was given to me by an Italian friend who got it from her in-laws in Italy who got it from a bakery. So it feels a bit like a pedigree pet, one of those long-haired hamsters or something that needs food and attention or it starts to smell. The problem is that if it was a hamster I’d be in big trouble with the rodent obesity protection league as I feed it far too much and end up with a giant Kilner full of starter:
Plus, no-one in my family really likes sourdough bread and so I have to find other ways to use up the overflow from my obsession. I’ve so far given away seven lots of starter to random people in the neighbourhood but there’s always more to come. So last week’s experiment was pizza, partly to use up another lot of sourdough and partly to use up the last of the delicious cheese that is Paddy’s Milestone that I wrote about a couple of Fridays ago. Sourdough purists will gasp in horror at the fact that there is fast action yeast in the recipe but I needed to whip up pizza fast and, whilst I would love to try a recipe that just uses the starter, this wasn’t that day. The starter gives it a lovely flavour whilst the yeast makes it rise faster. Sorry purists, look away if you’re quivering.
Ingredients (for two pizza bases)
2 tsp fast action yeast
300ml warm water
1 tsp sugar
2 tbsp olive oil
250ml sourdough starter
450g white bread flour
1 tsp salt
1 small red onion, finely chopped
1 tbsp olive oil
415g tin chopped tomatoes, plus two extra tomatoes, chopped
2 tsp dried oregano
Splash of balsamic vinegar
1 ball mozzarella cheese, torn into pieces
Sprinkle of Paddy’s Milestone cheese (or you could use ricotta or a soft goat’s cheese)
Sprinkle the fast action yeast into the warm water, add the sugar and stir to combine. Leave the mixture until it goes frothy; this shouldn’t take too long. Meanwhile combine half the flour with the starter, salt and oil. Add the frothy yeast mixture and then add the rest of the flour to make a dough. Turn it out on to a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic, adding more flour if it is too wet and sticky.
When the dough is the right consistency, place it in an oiled bowl and cover with a towel.
Leave it to rise until it has doubled in size; this will take about an hour.
Whilst it is rising, make the pizza sauce. Fry the red onion in the olive oil until soft. Add the tomatoes, oregano, balsamic vinegar and salt and pepper to taste. Mash up any big tomatoey lumps with the back of a wooden spoon and cook until the water in it has reduced and you have a thick sauce. Pre-heat the oven to 200˚C/180˚C fan-assisted/Gas Mark 6.
When the dough is risen, punch it down, split it in half and use each half to make a pizza base.
Sprinkle your pizza stone or baking tray with a little polenta and then pre-bake the bases for 10 minutes. Remove from the oven, brush with a little olive oil to keep them crisp and spread with your pizza sauce, before adding all of your toppings.