If you've been following my recent travel posts, I described an insanely delicious pizza I tried in Milan at the famous restaurant, Piz. Even though I tried several different pizzas in Italy, this was my favorite by far. The dough had an unbelievable chew that led me to eat the entire pizza, crust, and all. Naturally, I came home and tried to replicate what I had just experienced. Here is my white sourdough pizza topped with bocconcini, grated parmesan, chives, black pepper, finished with olive oil.
**Helpful tips and common mistakes
In order to replicate the pizza at Piz, I tried everything from combining different flours to changing the amount of yeast to increase the hydration levels. Nothing would get me close enough to the pizza I had in Italy. It wasn't until my 12th batch when I created a sourdough pizza that I thought, "alas! I did it!". I'm 100% certain that Piz does not use sourdough starter in their pizza dough but to make up for not having an 800-degree pizza oven, I had to make some changes.
Before we start, let's discuss the ingredients. Pizza dough is comprised of flour, yeast, water, salt, sugar, and oil. Since this recipe uses a sourdough starter, we are eliminating sugar, yeast, and oil.
It is extremely important to use 00 flour for the best pizza. Sure you can always use all-purpose flour or bread flour, but for authentic Italian pizza, you want the 00. What's the difference? 00 flour has been ground much finer than all-purpose, giving you the beautiful chewy texture.
Start by mixing together the starter with flour, salt, and water. I used a stand mixer for ease but you can also mix by hand. Use only 150 grams of water to start; adding all of the water at once will make it incredibly hard for the dough to come together. Once the dough starts to come together, add the additional 39 grams of water. Knead for 4-5 minutes or until the dough is less shaggy. It won't be completely smooth but should be able to hold its shape.
Now comes the fun part. Let the dough rest for 30 minutes. Then, stretch and fold the dough 4 times. Start by placing your hand under the top half of the dough. Pull up and over, folding the dough over.
Turn the bowl 90 degrees, and repeat. Do this for a total of 4 turns. Cover the dough, let rest 30 minutes, and repeat this pattern 3 more times. After the last fold, cover, and let rest for 30 more minutes. The dough should be stronger than before and hold its shape very well. It may even be resistant to folding in the last turn (in which case you can skip the last turn).
Continue to let the dough rest in the refrigerator overnight. By letting it rest overnight, the dough ages and develops flavor. The cold air will slow down the rising process so don't worry about it over-proofing.
The following day, take out the dough and shape into two even balls. Roll into two tight balls, closing any seams. Place onto a tray and cover, letting it rest for 1 hour.
In the meantime, preheat the oven to 550 degrees F. If you have a pizza stone, place it in the oven and preheat it for at least one hour. If you don't have a pizza stone, you can also use a baking sheet flipped upside down. For the baking sheet, preheat it in the oven for 15 minutes.
You can also take this time to prepare the toppings. Today's white sourdough pizza is based on the one served in Piz. Bocconcini, grated parmesan, fresh chives, black pepper, and olive oil is all we need. Use aged good quality parmesan and extra virgin olive oil for the best results.
Once you are ready to bake, roll out the pizza dough using your hands. Gently press from the center of the dough working your way out. You don't want to use a rolling pin since it will deflate the gas, getting rid of the lovely bubbles in the dough.
You don't need that much cheese for this white sourdough pizza since parmesan is very strong. Now comes the tricky part: transferring the pizza onto the stone. Using a paddle is, of course, the best tool. Use a quick swift movement to slide the pizza onto the stone. A little confidence doesn't hurt either.
Once the pizza is in the oven, turn off the oven and turn on the broiler to high. Now, this is assuming that your broiler is located in the top oven. Some ovens have the broiler in the bottom drawer. If that is your case, just cook at the highest temperature for the entire duration.
Why start in the broiler? The broiler will give the dough a head start on the top. The pizza stone helps the dough cook on the bottom while the broiler helps the dough on the top. After one quick minute, turn off the broiler and turn the oven back to 550 degrees. Finish baking for 2-3 minutes or until lightly browned. You can cook it for longer if you like it more crispy.
Remove from the oven, top with chives, freshly ground black pepper, and a drizzle of olive oil. After all that hard work, you can finally dig in! This white sourdough pizza dough had everything I was looking for. Lightly kissed by the oven with the perfect amount of cheese and chew, it is my home version of the famous Piz pizza. Thank goodness for the power of a sourdough starter!
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