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naturally leavened pizza crust?

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Anyone have any luck using their starter to make pizza dough without tame yeast? After a recent trip to paris and visits to poilane and gosselin and also a new wood-fired pizza place near work, I'm inspired to start baking again. I've revived Hooch (my starter) and made a barm for the BBA pain poilane, and made a few extra ounces to play with, I'm thinking of trying a naturally leavened pizza dough. I usually use the "pizza neapolitana" recipe from BBA, more-or-less (same percentages, but I do a bulk ferment and then retard instead of mix-shape-refrigerate, because I don't get consistent results that way).

My plan is to make a firm starter from my mother starter comprising 20% of the total flour, which I believe is 20 1/4 ounces, so 4 ounces of flour and however much water, ferment that for 8 hours, then subtract the water & flour used from the formula and mix the final dough, ferment that for 8 hours, then treat it like pain levain with a cool-ish (70F, to hopefully limit the sour) bulk fermentation for about 5 hours and a few stretch-and-folds before dividing and retarding/freezing.

Any issues I'm likely to have or suggestions?

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I made pizza when I was working with natural starters last year....now I dont know any of the numbers etc...

I am more the throw a cup of starter and a cup of water in the mixer with as much flour as it will take to make dough kind of person. Mix add salt and a little oil and wait.

Never got the same thing twice but it was all good.


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I personally find the sour flavors obtained with a fully-fermented naturally leavened dough to be disharmonious with the flavors of pizza. Since pizza dough benefits greatly from long fermentation, I don't see how there's any way of getting around this.


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Here is my pizza recipe for baking in a wood burning oven. I have trouble controlling fermentation, but when I get it right, it's great, very light and tasty.

1600g flour (00 pizza flour if you can find it)

1000g water

50g salt

50g sourdough starter

Knead well and let it ferment for 18 hours at room temperature. Divide into balls and let it ferment for 6 hours.


Edited by Mirrorball (log)
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“…what passes for pizza abroad is all too often a travesty.” ~ Ciro Moffa, Neapolitan chef

“Pizza is literally one of those timeless dishes whose provenance can’t be accurately dated. All that can be said for sure is that the idea of a flat unleavened dough topped with whatever was at hand (usually olive oil and spices) dates back to pre-Biblical times in the Middle East. The original "pizzas' of the Babylonians, Egyptians and Israelites probably resembled modern "pita pizzas" more than anything else.”

Source: “In (practically) the beginning, there was pizza.” (Food Management | August 2002)

I have retrieved from my files an article written by Richard Owen for The Times of London three years ago, titled “Italy lays down law on the perfect pizza.” Strict new guidelines decreed by the Italian government say that real Neapolitan pizza must be round, no more than 35 centimetres in diameter, no thicker than 2 millimetres in the middle, with a crust about two centimetres thick.

Excerpt from Owen’s article: “Pizza derives from the flat bread common to Mediterranean cultures and has enjoyed near-mythical status in Naples since the Magherita—topped with tomato, mozzarella, and basil—was invented in 1889 in honour of a visit to the city by Queen Margherita, wife of King Umberto I. Its ingredients were chosen to echo the red, white, and green of the Italian flag.”

My understanding of the basic distinction between Pizza Margarita and Pizza Napoletana is that the latter generally has included anchovy fillets, sliced onions, and ripe olives to the topping. Pizza Rustica would add artichoke hearts, sliced salami, and shrimp. If garlic-stuffed sausage was included on a basic Margarita style, it would be known as Pizza con Salame d’Aglio. And so forth….

In Naples, wouldn’t the local forno continue to make its dough with fresh yeast? Even on the Balearics (islands off the coast of Spain which include Mallorca & Minorca), the Coca de Trampo Mallorcina is made with a base of yeast-raised Spanish peasant bread dough. See, eg., Las Mejoras Tapas, Ceñas Frias y Platos Combinados by Gloria Rossi Callizo (De Vecchi, 1975). Please note that I am by no means disputing anyone’s endeavor to employ their “Hooch” starter! You're empowered!

It is, to my mind, a peculiar omission on the part of Nancy Silverton, not to have offered instructions for a naturally leavened pizza dough in her otherwise impressive volume, Breads from Le Brea Bakery. Just sayin'.


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Any issues I'm likely to have or suggestions?

OK, so you're under the influence of Reinhart's BBA and I'd guess Dan Lepard's Handmade Loaf. :smile:

Next step - maybe The Bread Builders by Wing & Scott... ? :cool:

To reinforce the point above, pizza is older than commercial yeast.

However, unless you are working in a Living History exhibit, that shouldn't mean that you MUST do anything a certain way.

Do it the way that gives the results you like!

I'd incline towards the belief that an extremely extensible dough (from the flour characteristics) is almost as important a characteristic of a good facsimile Neapolitan Pizza as the essential (quite literally) blisteringly hot oven, and that both are more important than the leaven used. In fact, come to think of it, the variety of tomato and its growing conditions (as emphasised by that NYC pizzeria) might also be more important than the leaven...

"If you wish to make an apple pie from scratch ... you must first invent the universe." - Carl Sagan

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I have tried making pizza dough with my natural starter (which I've used more or less weekly for twenty years to make a great boule). I could not get the crust to either brown or crisp. It was just wrong. Maybe someone can explain why? The boules, which I bake in a cast iron pot (I was there first!), have a great, crackly, golden brown crust. I bake the pizzas on a preheated baking stone at 500 degrees, and make excellent crusts with commercial yeast.

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Well the results were... OK.

Flavor was good. Not too sour, although a hint. Not sure if I like that with pizza or not. Great extensibility in the dough, it was very easy to work with and easy to stretch thin without tearing, but that may or may not have had anything to do with the leavening/building. However, I didnt' get the nice crackly crispness. Could have been that my stone was on the bottom shelf (where I bake bread) instead of the floor (where I bake pizza) becuase I'd just finished a loaf of bread, or could have been the dough. I have 3 balls in the freezer, maybe I'll try them next with the stone on the floor and see what happens.

I think I'll probably stick with commercial yeast from now on though. This is good but I don't think it's "better", and I can skip a day or so depending on how well-fed my culture is. OTOH, this is the only thing, other than thanksgiving rolls, that I regularly use yeast for :)

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