Sourdough cracker

We’ve been making our own pizza from scratch for years, using this it-has-never-failed-us recipe from Cuisinart. It makes a dough that is just a delight to work with - incredibly silky texture - and eat - lovely, soft crust with just enough of a crunch.

So why would we turn away from a great dough to try another? Did you read yesterday’s post? The one about the generous student with the bakery? Well, if not, go ahead and read it. We’ll wait.

Besides, it is sourdough. Who can resist?

So, using a recipe from The Cheese Board Collective, we made a dough that, while it was a lot more work, was almost as nice as the Cuisinart dough. Yeah, there was the matter of the wee explosion (see yesterday’s post), but what’s an exploding starter among friends? And, further breaking with tradition, we also abandoned the tomato sauce-based pizza we normally make, and tried a pesto-based pizza, instead. Here’s our recipe.
Pesto pizza
Turn oven to 400. If you are using a pizza stone, good for you. Pop it in the oven so it gets nice and toasty. If you are not (we don’t have one, so this includes us) get your cookie sheet, jelly roll pan, or pizza pan, but do not put it in the oven to preheat.

Sprinkle whatever pan you are using with a light dusting of cornmeal. This keeps it from sticking and gives the pizza a nice crunch. We use a very small handful to dust the entire pan. And we hold the pan over the sink to do it so as not to dust the kitchen.

Lay your dough onto your pan, spreading it out so it covers the pan. G’wan and push with your fingertips. This is not pastry dough, it can take rougher handling. Oops, did any holes form? It happens. Just patch ‘em up with a bit of excess dough. No one will be the wiser.

We like mushrooms, so we saute about 30 sliced, button mushrooms in a bit of olive oil (about a heaping teaspoon). Sprinkle with dried oregano (maybe a scant teaspoon) and, if you like, basil (ditto proportion for dried, or if you prefer fresh, and who doesn't, one small bunch ripped into small pieces), and saute until the water that comes out of the mushrooms is pretty much gone (a surprisingly large amount of water will appear, but no worries, it cooks off pretty thoroughly) and the mushrooms are darker and smaller. Depending on how high your heat is (we use a nice medium), this shouldn’t take more than 5 minutes. If you like olives, sprinkle a generous handful of Kalamata olives (or any olives you like) in with the mushrooms, and saute the lot for another minute, occasionally stirring so the drying mushrooms don’t stick.

Put about two heaping tablespoons of tomato or pesto sauce on your dough. Spread it around, but don’t be alarmed if it does not thoroughly cover the dough. If you use too much, your dough will be soggy, so less is more here. Dump the mushroom / spice / olive mixture on top.

Grate some mozzarella - a piece about the size of your fist should be more than enough (if there is excess, eat it, to ensure it is nice, of course) and sprinkle it on your pizza.

Pop it in the oven. If you are smart, you will set the timer for 15 minutes, and bake it a minute or two longer if it is not done. If you are not smart, like us, you will set the timer for 25 minutes, and enjoy a sourdough cracker crust.

Clearly, something in me is just driven to overcook sourdough, whenever possible. So do as I say, not as I do.

Crunchy dough notwithstanding, the pesto pizza was delicious. This time, I used a jarred pesto. But, next time, I will make my own. I have a mortar. I have a pestle. And I know where I can scare up basil and pine nuts and everything else I need, so look out.

Tips:
  • Any veg that is around would be yummy on a pizza. We’ve added sauteed asparagus (sauteed for about 5 minutes for slender stalks in olive oil with a sprinkle of sea salt and red pepper flakes), browned onions (thinly sliced and also saute for about 5 minutes in olive oil, but only with a dash of salt), and red peppers (same saute directions as for the asparagus). Just make sure you add it to your pizza after the sauce and before the cheese. Oh, and don’t skip the sauteing step. It makes a world of difference in the taste.
  • We use a pizza wheel to cut the pizza. We like this one from Oxo which, I believe, Cook’s Illustrated also liked. But if you don’t want yet another gadget, you can always use kitchen scissors.
  • We split the dough in half and used one half to make the pizza, above, and the other half to make a calzone. At my husband’s request, we used tomato sauce in the calzone instead of pesto (I suspect he did not want garlic breath at work, although he didn’t seem to have a problem with it at home with the woman he kisses periodically - hey!), but stuffed it with all the same items we put on the pizza. Once the calzone was loaded with goodies, it was folded it in half and pinched closed, instead of leaving it flat. Then it was baked, just like the pizza.