Thursday, March 19, 2009

Sourdough pizza crusts

My sourdough adventures began last July when Alanna Kellogg gave me some starter. It's just been in the last few weeks that I have developed a routine that makes having sourdough starter in my kitchen really work for me.

For several months, now, our favorite bread has included a cup of sourdough starter. It's a variation of this Whole Wheat Zuchinni Herb Bread for the bread machine. If anyone is interested, I'll put up my recipe. The addition of sourdough starter, and a subtraction of half the yeast, makes the bread lighter and with a crispier crust. There is just a hint of the sourdough flavor.

I make that bread once or twice a week, each time following the instructions for Fast Track to Sourdough at the Sourdough Home website. By the time I've fed the sourdough starter three times in 36 hours, starting with a 1/4 cup, I end up with about twice as much starter as I need for the bread -- half goes into the bread and half goes into a canning jar in the refrigerator until I'm ready to go again. Then, a 1/4 cup goes into the new starter and the rest goes into the compost pile. That's a lot of sourdough starter in the compost pile!
I tried starting my feeding with just 1/8 cup of starter, but about a month later, my sourdough starter lost much of its characteristic smell and its rising power. I revived it following these instructions from the Sourdough Home website and went back to using a 1/4 cup.

I had hoped that English Muffins would be the answer, but they have remained a special occasion item for us.

The solution, it turns out is this pizza crust recipe, also from Sourdough Home. Every third time that I make bread, I use the sourdough starter in the older two jars to make pizza dough. Rather than one large crust, I form four balls before I let the dough rest and then roll them into four individual-sized pizza crusts. This makes them small enough to bake in the toaster oven. I bake them for five minutes right away and then freeze them (maybe leaving a couple out on the counter if we're eating pizza tonight).

With pre-made pizza crust, pizza is a remarkably simple and fast meal and very creative. I probably make my tomato sauce differently every time (but a simple one is to cook onions and garlic in olive oil and then add a can of plain tomato sauce, some oregano, and some honey) and, of course, the toppings can be varied by whoever is eating the pizza. Tonight, we'll have smashed balls of fresh mozarella cheese, pesto, artichoke hearts, and spinach. R's pizza will also have mushrooms. But that's a fancy version -- a lot of times I make it with any vegetables and cheese that are available in the fridge.
So, now, I make good use of nearly all my sourdough starter and my compost pile has to live on other kitchen scraps.
If you live in the St. Louis area and would like some starter, let me know. I can give my sourdough starter an extra feeding and easily end up with plenty to share.

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