Essentially, sourdough is just a different way of making pizza. There seems to be a lot of mystery surrounding sourdough, but there shouldn’t be.
After reading this article you’ll find out everything you need to know about sourdough pizza.
I think the best place to start is to explain what sourdough pizza is made of.
It may surprise you to learn that sourdough pizza is made from exactly the same ingredients as regular pizza. For an authentic Neapolitan pizza (and in most of the best bread doughs), there are just 4 ingredients:
Although the ingredients may be the same, the process for sourdough pizza is quite different.
The key to sourdough is the yeast.
In a normal pizza dough, we use dried yeast or fresh yeast (which is readily available and stores well). In either case, this is essentially isolated yeast cells. We don’t need to use much of it because we are effectively using pure yeast.
But with sourdough pizza, this is not the case. Instead of using dried or fresh yeast, we use something called a sourdough starter.
A sourdough starter, or starter for short, is a type of dough which encourages the growth of natural yeast. This starter is kept in a jar indefinitely and can be used to make sourdough whenever the baker decides.
When a starter is used, no additional yeast needs to be added to the dough (it’s in the starter already).
This may sound complicated but it’s really straightforward. Sourdough starter begins life as just 2 ingredients and these are:
That’s right, a sourdough starter is really just flour and water. These are mixed together in equal parts and kept in a jar.
The magic that then takes place is the growth of wild yeast. In any flour there is a small amount of wild yeast present, although not enough to prove dough. But if you repenish the starter regularly (this is known as “feeding” the starter), the yeast will grow.
Again, this may sound confusing but it isn’t. Trust me.
That’s right, the sourdough starter is fed regularly (ideally at least once or twice a week). And you don’t even need anything special for this. The starter is fed (or topped up) with those same 2 ingredients again:
Over time, the addition of fresh flour (with more traces of wild yeast in it), allows the yeast cells to reproduce. After a while (maybe 1-2 weeks), there will be enough wild yeast in the starter to prove pizza dough.
But a baker never uses all their sourdough starter. The key is to save a little bit in your jar each time you make pizza. Then, you will have enough for the next time.
And you can reuse your starter as many times as you like. Many bakeries have sourdough starters that have been in the family for generations! The oldest recorded sourdough starter is over 100 years old.
That’s right, 100 years old!
One of the most important aspects to sourdough is the ratio of flour to water. It is always 1:1, or in other words equal parts water and flour.
This helps achieve 2 things:
See, I told you sourdough wasn’t complicated!
Believe it or not, sourdough pizza tastes more sour than regular pizza! It’s not everyone’s cup of tea but for some people it’s the best thing since sliced bread! (Terrible pun I know.)
One thing is for sure, sourdough pizza tastes stronger and more complex. For many, that’s all they need to know to start getting into sourdough.
Although sourdough is typically more sour, this flavour can be controlled somewhat. In general, the more regularly the starter is fed, the less sour (and more sweet) it tends to be. The amount that the starter is fed can also effect this.
So many bakers try to control the flavour profile of their sourdough by regulating how often and how much it’s fed.
The type of flour used in the starter can also have a big effect on flavour. For example, many people choose to use a proportion of wholemeal and rye flour to create some extra depth of flavour. This would generally be a small amount (maybe 10% to 20%) for sourdough pizza since 00 flour is generally considered the best (certainly for Neapolitan style pizza).
Some bakers even choose to add as many different types of flour to their starter as possible. The theory here is that the more variation you can add, the more depth of flavour you can achieve.
The only thing I can say for sure is that you should try sourdough pizza! I can’t say how much you’ll like it but it just might be the best pizza you’ve ever had!
Many people are under the assumption that sourdough pizza isn’t “authentic” since most Neapolitan pizza is made using fresh or dried yeast. But this simply isn’t true.
Fresh yeast and dried yeast are essentially isolated forms of yeast that have only existed for around 100 years.
Before that, the only way to make pizza was to use a sourdough starter. You could argue that since pizza is older than fresh and dried yeast, sourdough pizza is actually the most authentic form of pizza!
Although not all Neapolitan pizza is made from sourdough, there’s no reason it can’t be.
In fact, sourdough starter is mentioned in the official Neapolitan pizza guide (AVPN) as one of the ways to prove pizza. So in my view, there can be no doubt over the authenticity of sourdough pizza.
What’s more, one of my favourite foods in the world is Neapolitan style sourdough pizza. I can highly recommend it!
Along with the flavour that sourdough pizza offers, the texture is the other reason why people love it.
The crust on a sourdough pizza is generally crispier than regular pizza. But the texture inside the crust is typically very light and airy. It’s this contrast between the crispy outside and the soft interior which helps to create an amazing texture experience.
It is possible to replicate this texture somewhat by using long proves and particularly by using the poolish method. However, for the best pizza crust, sourdough is still considered the king by many pizza makers.
At the end of the day, sourdough is good for pizza. It makes some of the best pizza in the world. But does that mean you need to use it? No.
Some people prefer sourdough and some prefer regular pizza. The flavour in particular can be quite polarising.
For many people, the added acidity (sourness) is the biggest draw of sourdough. But for others, it’s a step too far.
Sourdough pizza isn’t neccesarily better than regular pizza. It largely comes down to personal preference.
Also, regular pizza dough can be vastly improved by doing long, sourdough-like proves. This is particularly true if a technique known as poolish is used.
This was a method thought to be invented by Polish bakers to replicate sourdough.
Poolish uses fresh or dried yeast instead of sourdough starter. This makes it quite a bit easier which is why I recommend trying it before sourdough. It also produces a sweeter, and less sour flavour, which some people prefer.
If you’ve never made poolish before, feel free to check out my easy poolish pizza recipe here.
Many people claim that sourdough pizza is healthier than regular pizza. It may well be but unfortunately I don’t think there’s enough evidence on this yet.
In my view, everyone should try sourdough pizza at some point. For many people it’s love at first taste! It’s also a fun process that’s very rewarding.
Personally, I love both sourdough pizza and regular pizza and I think both have their place. But if it’s for a special occasion, I like to use sourdough.
I hope this article helped to give you an overview on the basics of sourdough pizza.
And stay tuned for my sourdough pizza recipes which are coming soon!
Now let’s go and make some pizza!
I’m Tom Rothwell and I’m super passionate about all kinds of homemade pizza! In the last few years I've been on a quest to find the perfect pizza. Now I'm sharing what I've found out with the world!
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