Sourdough Pizza

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In the summer time when the weather is fine….oh wait. Hold on a second, it’s winter, right? No…no, it’s summer. I’m pretty sure it’s winter. I’m in the Southern Hemisphere and if my calculations are correct, we are at the beginning of winter. Exactly! So then why is it 24 degrees outside? All I can say is that I love it. Winter here in South Africa is shaping up to be rather brilliant. Jam packed full of sunshine, rooftop cinemas & and festivals, it feels just like summer time.

Before I left Ireland, I didn’t really know what the weather would be like and one day my mother asked me, as we were driving through howling, freezing wind and rain, what the weather would be like in Johannesburg. Going on my typical winter weather expectations I said, oh probably something like this, pointing to the miserable sight outside of the car. Oh how wrong I was. It has been nothing but perfect sunshine bliss. Until sundown when yes it does get chilly and yes there is frost on the grass in the morning but the sun soon gets working on that. So all of this sunshine and blue skies makes me thirsty and that’s where the Coriander Lemonade (pictured) comes into play. A recent lightbulb moment when I was dashing around the market with a bunch of it in my paw and dying of thirst. It smelt so sweet and all I could dream of was a cold fizzy cocktail with coriander bobbing it’s pretty leaves. A squeeze of lemon, a dash of soda water….another time!

The real reason why I have dragged you here today is the Sourdough Pizza. Oh my, it was a revelation and a very tasty one at that. I began making sourdough back in Ballymaloe at the end of my first week there. Every week after that, I would spend extra evenings in the kitchens with fellow sourdough obsessed students carefully measuring out flour and water to make our sponges and then our dough for the bread. Each week we would get a little more confident in our sourdough skills and begin to experiment with different flours and different ratios. We would get so excited when we saw the ‘rise’, as we sprayed water on our breads baking in the hot oven they would begin to take the shape of those glorious loaves we would see at farmer’s markets and in artisan bakeries. We were finally producing breads that had us grinning from ear to ear and gloating a little when one turned out better than the other. BUT, it’s all about taste and each one tasted amazing and so different. Some with more tang than others. Just like all of us, they were individually made to suit our way of baking and a little personality in there too. My starter is now 5 months old, bless.

So, when it came time to leave Ireland and the thought of having to leave behind my precious sourdough starter, I perished at the thought. I became so attached to the memories, the smell, the time and effort I had put into it. I just didn’t want to lose that. I researched for a couple of weeks the best method of traveling with sourdough and the best I found was here and that is exactly what I did. Aside from also sharing it with some fellow foodies first, as a back up.

I brought it to South Africa and hydrated it. It was in a small enough jar for about 5 days and then I decided I was brave enough to attempt a loaf of bread. Disaster, Fiasco…it was awful. Like a brick shaped pancake. BIN! So, I left my starter back in it’s spot and just so happened to have a peak on it yesterday afternoon and it had exploded out of a tightly sealed jar. Oops! Luckily I had just bought a second larger home for it and made the quick transfer. This morning, it had trebled in size and all I could think about was Sourdough Pizza for lunch. I couldn’t make another bread because we would be away all weekend so really the only option was to make myself some pizza. Tough life guys, I know. I began a little concoction. At first, I thought this really wasn’t going to work but with just a little bit of extra patience and some added H2O, we were onto a winner. With a proving time of 3-4 hours, that left me plenty of time to get the house in shape for my lunchtime guests.

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Sourdough Pizza Recipe

230g Sourdough Starter

310g Strong Bread Flour

1 tsp Salt

185ml Tepid water

In a mixing bowl, combine the starter, flour, water and salt.

Mix to combine and then knead until smooth and all of the gluten and yeast (starter) has evenly mixed through the dough. This will take approx. 5-7 minutes in a stand mixer or 10 minutes by hand.

Place the dough in a well oiled bowl, cover with cling film and leave in a warm place to prove for 3-4 hours. Mine took 4 hours.

After this, the dough can either be refrigerated for up to one week or frozen max 4 weeks.

Preheat (conventional) oven to 200°C

Knock back the dough and split into two piece. This amount of dough will make two 12″ pizzas.

Get your rolling pin and elbow grease out and roll the dough into a circular shape and place on either a pizza stone or baking tray. I also picked up the dough and tried out my ”professional” pizza twisting using my hands and fists to create a more circular shape. It’s quite a sturdy dough so will take a bit of rough handling.

Leave to prove for another 15 minutes, when the dough springs back it is ready to top with your favourite goodies. First, brush with some fruity olive oil and then I went with what I had in the fridge….baby tomatoes, pecorino con peporocino, fresh basil (all from the organic market) and sweet salsiccia (I brought back from Italy)

Bake in the oven for 16-18 minutes. I pretty much stood beside the oven because ours is a bit temperamental at times but timed it to be exactly 17 1/2 minutes to crispy pizza perfection.

Transfer to a cooling tray, this keeps it’s bottom from going soggy…..and no one likes a soggy bottom!

If you can, wait for it to cool for a few minutes then slice and serve.

Buon Appetito Amici!

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