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Slow Rise Sourdough Pizza

All through this web site, and our cookbooks, we stress the importance of a long, slow rise.  An asparagus pizzza, ready for bakingI've gone so far as to say the secret to baking is patience, and the secret to sourdough baking is MORE patience.  But, it's in a good cause.

The pie to the right is an asparagus pizza with fresh mozzarella.  The fresh moz melted a bit more than we were expecting, but it tasted great.  Asparagus on a pizza?  Sure!  Why the heck not!  If you enjoy something, you'll quite likely enjoy it on a pizza!

As I was rambling about asparagus on pizza, I heard someone in the back of the room asking, "how long does it take?"  3 or 4 days, if your starter is active and ready.  If you're in more of a hurry than that, I understand and there are faster recipes on our site.  There is our starter discard pizza which is ready before you oven is ready to bake it.  And there is a half day or so Chicago style double crusted pizza that will take about half a day that is delightful.  But, I wanted more flavor in my crust, and was willing to do what it took to get there.

Leah Scruto's recipe in Pizza Today is almost everything I could want.  It takes 4 days to make, the flavor goes on for miles, the crust browns beautifully, but ... but... it isn't based on sourdough.  So, I had to play with it.

My first shot at it just replaced the yeast with sourdough starter and adjusted the  flour and water to keep the hydration the same.  It worked well, and tasted great.  But, the crust didn't brown well.  However, I realized I'd used bread flour instead of the high gluten flour I usually use for pizza.  Tweaking the recipe a bit and using the right flour got me where I wanted to be.  If you find it still isn't browning the way you want, you can take a page from Maurizio over at The Perfect Loaf and add some diastatic malt powder to the dough.  Diastatic malt will turn some of the starch in the dough into sugars which will brown.

My usual goal is to divide the dough into dough balls large enough to make a 12 inch pizza and freeze them.  They thaw well, and can then be used to make a pizza.  Some days I prefer to par bake the dough and freeze that, other days I prefer frozen dough.  Play with both and let me know what you think.

This recipe is a bit more complicated than my usual, "put everything in the bowl and mix it" approach, but it works very well.  Again, follow the instructions, at least the first time, and see what you think.  This recipe will make six (6) dough balls, each good for a 12 inch pizza.

Mix together:

Volumetric Measure (Cups)IngredientGramsBaker's Percentage
8 2/3 CupsHigh Protein Flour (see note 1)1120 Grams100%
2 3/4 CupsWater650 Grams57.95%
1 1/3 CupsActive Sourdough Starter300 Grams27.27%

Mix for 4 minutes on low speed (speed 1 on a Hobart, speed 2 on a KitchenAid), then let the dough rest, covered, for 30 minutes.
Note 1 - While you could make this with bread flour, you really want a higher gluten flour for this.  We've had good results with GM's All-Trumps (get the unbleached and unbromated version), King Arthur's Sir Lancelot, and Honeyville Grain's Imperial flour.  While the protein level isn't as high, many people love making pizza dough with an Italian style 00 flour, though you may have to adjust the liquid in the dough - type 00 flour tends to be thirsty and absorb more water than you'd think..  Adding gluten to bread flour really doesn't work as well.


Volumetric Measure (Cups)IngredientGramsBaker's Percentage
5 1/4 tspSalt31.7 Grams2.84%

and mix 3 minutes on low speed (speed 1 on a Hobart, speed 2 on a KitchenAid).  With the mixer still running, slowly add:
Volumetric Measure (Cups)IngredientGramsBaker's Percentage
1 2/3 TBSPExtra Virgin Olive Oil22.2 Grams1.99%

over a period of 4 minutes.  Mix for 2 more minutes after all the oil has been added.

Cover, and let rest for 30 minutes.

Bulk ferment for 24 to 48 hours.  I go for 48 hours in a wine cooler at 48F/9C. After 2 days. a full tub of dough When I started fermenting this dough, the container wasn't quite half full.

After the 24 to 48 hours, pull the dough out of the cooler, let it warm to 55F/13C, scale it into 12 ounce pieces, Six dough balls, ready to ferment some moreround them, cover them with a bit of oil and put them back into the tub to continue to ferment for another 18 to 36 hours.

To use the dough balls, allow them to come to room temperature and then shape into something resembling the shape you want.  A pizza store owner I know commented he hates seeing perfectly round pizzas because that means a machine formed the dough.  He likes seeing dough that looks like a amoeba!

Square is also a good shape!  Leave a bit of a lip around the edge of the dough - it's the tastiest part, and it keeps the sauce in.  Shape the dough gently to get as many bubbles in the rim, or cornicione, of the pizza as you can.

This recipe makes enough dough for six 12 inch pizzas.  What if you don't want to make six pizzas right now?  You have three major options.

  • Just cool it - you can just keep the dough in the fridge for a few days, and it will only improve.
  • Into the freezer - if it will be longer than a few days, you can rub the dough balls in olive oil, put them in baggies, and freeze them.  They can thaw in a sink of cool water in a few hours.  This has the disadvantage of needing some forethought to use, but the quality is excellent.  If you have trouble planning ahead, you could
  • Par bake the dough balls - shape the dough balls to the appropriate size, prick them with a fork or docking tool and bake them for 5 to 8 minutes.  Let them cool, interleave with two layers of waxed paper and put them into a large ziplock bag.  These are ready for instant use.  While the oven is pre-heating, top a frozen shell with toppings and then bake it.  This saved our dinner for us any number of times when our son was a teenagers and brought friends over for dinner without warning us.

I like to bake the topped fresh pizzas at 525F for 10 minutes or so.  If you over top them, the toppings won't be done when the crust is done.  When I was a kid, I loved super gonzo all-the-way everything but the kitchen sink pizzas.  If you want to make them, drop the temperature in the oven and bake the pies a bit longer.  You may also want to use more dough to make a thicker crust.

Now, I prefer a sparser pizza.  Here's one of our Denali pizzas.  We first had this at the Mt. McKinleyOur Denali Pizza lodge in Denali State Park in Alaska.  We were exhausted after a long day's train ride.  We didn't feel up to the dinner theater and thought we'd go to the local bar, have a beer and call it a night,  As we were sipping our beers a waiter walked by with one of these pizzas.  The smell and look of the pie was amazing so we flagged down the waiter and told him, "Whatever that was, we want one!"  It was covered with smoked salmon, mascarpone, thinly sliced red onion rings and capers.  I'm usually not a capers fan, but even I have to admit they really work well here.


9 thoughts on “Slow Rise Sourdough Pizza”

    1. I’m not sure which one you mean, but all the pizzas on this page are 12″ pizzas. You really shouldn’t make bagels that large.

  1. Oh my – that Denali pizza sounds awesome! Times being what they are means some time to do some baking. What better way than pizza!

  2. I can’t wait to try this! I followed your pizza dough recipe years ago and didn’t love it, but I think it was the par bake that I didn’t like.

    Thanks so much for this site – I have been sharing it with people over the years as the “Sourdough Bible”, and I find myself referencing it all the time when I am doing sourdough stuff.

    1. The other recipe didn’t require a par bake. We did that to get rid of lots of discard starter without wasting it, and to be ready for an invasion of teenagers. At that time our then teenaged son lived with us and he’d bring hungry friends over with no warning. If you can cough up a pizza in a hurry, you’re a neighborhood hero.

      You can par bake any pizza dough, even this one, and it’s a good question as to what is better. Freezing dough so you have to thaw it and let rise before you use it (which takes time) or shaping and par baking the dough and freezing that. We could have a pizza ready to go into the oven before the oven was heated up, and it made teenagers happy.

      As mentioned, the other pizza recipe is not a great one, but it is fast, requires no rise and is decent. By decent, I mean better than stuff from the freezer section at your local grocery store.

    1. Jaimie,

      There’s no reason you can’t make this by hand. It should work fine. However, adding the oil over a 4 minute period while kneading could be a bit tricky.


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