Simple Sourdough Pizza Crust: A Step-by-Step Guide
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Here is my guide for making sourdough pizza crust at home. As far as sourdough pizza recipes are concerned, this one is as simple as it gets — it’s made with all-purpose flour and there is no autolyse or preferment. Everything gets mixed together at once and you are on your way! Ready? Wake up your starter! Let’s do this 🍕🍕🍕
One of the most frequently asked questions I’ve received these past few weeks is: “Have you ever replaced the yeast in “X” bread recipe with sourdough starter?”
And specifically: “Could I use sourdough starter in your pizza dough recipe?”
Yes! And today, I’m going to show you how. The process is very similar to how I make yeast-leavened pizza, and the resulting pies are similar: ballooned and blistered edges with crisp but pliable crusts. In the recipe below, there are instructions for making three favorite pizzas 🍕🍕🍕:
- Classic Margherita
- Kale and Crème Fraîche
- Naked Pizza with Spicy Scallion (or Ramp!) Oil … made this on Instagram over the weekend
Simple Sourdough Pizza Crust: The details
This sourdough pizza crust is …
- Basic! Given supply constraints, I didn’t get creative with the flour mix here. This dough is made with 100% all-purpose flour. You absolutely can use bread flour or tipo 00 flour (read more about tipo 00 flour here) if you can get your hands on either. If you have been having a hard time finding flour, Baker’s Authority is a great option — great prices, too, even with shipping tacked on.
- 75% hydration. This is a classic sourdough formula: 375 g water, 500 g flour. (Note: This calculation is not quite accurate, because I am not including the weight of the water and flour of the sourdough starter in the calculation.)
- Simple! As with all of the sourdough recipes on this site, there is no autolyse or preferment or levain. I do call for some stretches and folds, which build strength in the dough. I like to do 4 stretch and folds, but even if you can only perform one stretch and fold, your dough will benefit.
Can you Freeze Sourdough Pizza Dough?
Yes. In my experience, the pizzas made from frozen dough do not spring as high upon being baked, but they still taste delicious.
Also, in my experience, the more time dough spends in the freezer, the more air bubbles the dough seems to lose. After 1 week in the freezer, my dough will bake up beautifully. After 3 weeks in the freezer, my dough will be less bubbly and will bake into a thinner and crisper crust.
To freeze sourdough pizza dough: make it through step 4 in the recipe below or until after you transfer the portioned rounds to quart containers. At this point, transfer the quart containers to the freezer. To thaw, remove a container (or more) and let thaw in the refrigerator for 1 day or thaw at room temperature for 8 hours. Then, proceed with the recipe.
5 Keys to Excellent Pizza Every Time
Regardless if you are using yeast or sourdough, these (for me) are the keys to making excellent pizza at home every time.
- High-hydration Dough: When handled properly, doughs with a high proportion of water relative to the flour bake into beautiful, ballooned-pocketed crusts.
- Refrigerator time: After the first rise, time (at least 6 hours, but up to 3 days) in the fridge further develops flavor and improves the texture of the pizza dough.
- 1 hour at room temperature: If time permits, letting the dough come to room temperature an hour before baking, allows for easier shaping — room temperature dough will more easily stretch into a round than cold dough.
- Minimal handling of dough: Using a delicate hand to shape the dough, preserves the air pockets created during the fermentation process. I learned this from Jim Lahey:
“As soon as I began really paying attention to how I shaped my pizza rounds by taking care to use a gentle hand, I noticed a difference in the finished product. The air pockets pervading the unbaked round really affect the texture of the baked pizza.”
- Baking Steel: As you might know, I am a huge fan of the Baking Steel. In sum: steel is a better conductor of heat than stone — i.e. it transfers heat to the dough faster — which promotes great oven spring which translates to glorious bubbles throughout the dough. (Read more about the Baking Steel here.)
To be clear, I do not think you need to use a sourdough starter to make excellent pizza at home. A high hydration dough + leavening of choice + proper handling will give you excellent pizza every time, including that baked in a skillet: How to Make Excellent Skillet Pizza.
Here’s my guide to making yeast-leavened pizza dough at home: How to Make Pizza
My cookbook, Pizza Night, which includes 52 pizza and 52 salad recipes, one pair for every week of the year, as well as five simple desserts is now available for preorder 🍕🍕🍕
It’s organized seasonally and includes recipes for the home oven, outdoor oven, the grill, Sicilian-style, Detroit-style, grandma-style, skillet pizzas, gluten-free, and more. There are both yeast and sourdough recipes for every style of pizza in the book.
Get your copy here: Pizza Night.
New to Sourdough?
If you are intimidated by sourdough bread baking, I have a free email course that covers the basics: Sourdough: Demystified.
And if you are looking for other easy sourdough bread recipes, this simple sourdough focaccia recipe, as well as this simple sourdough bread recipe, are the recipes I suggest attempting first, both for their simplicity and flavor. Another great beginner’s bread recipe to try is this overnight, refrigerator focaccia, which requires minimal effort but yields spectacular results.
Here’s the simple sourdough pizza crust play-by-play: As always, a scale is essential for best results. You need water, flour, salt, and a sourdough starter. I am a proponent of buying a starter (see recipe box for sources), but if you are up for it, you can build a starter from scratch in just about 1 week.
Combine 375 g water, 100 g sourdough starter, and 10 g salt in a bowl. (See notes in recipe box about using less water if you live in a humid environment.)
Stir to combine; then add …
… 500 g all-purpose flour.
Stir until you have a sticky dough ball.
Transfer to a straight-sided vessel (if possible) and let rest for 30 minutes. Then, “stretch and fold” the dough (see video for guidance) 4 times at 30 minute intervals. Cover the vessel. Let it rest for 6 to 12 hours (see recipe notes for timing) or until the dough…
… has about doubled in volume. (Note: This is a little bit more than double. Ideally you don’t want your dough to rise much beyond double. More recently, in fact, I stop the bulk fermentation when the dough has increased in volume by 50%.)
Turn dough out onto a work surface. Use flour here as needed.
Portion into 4 equal pieces, again using flour as needed.
Ball up and transfer to quart (or other similar-sized) containers (I love these deli quart containers). Transfer to the fridge, ideally for at least 6 hours and up to 3 days.
An hour prior to baking, remove a round (or more) of pizza dough, and place it on a floured work surface. If you have a Baking Steel, place it in the upper third of your oven, and heat the oven to 550ºF. (See recipe for other options.)
Delicately stretch the dough into a round, trying as best you can to preserve those air pockets.
Top as you wish. This one is spread with tomato sauce and topped with fresh mozzarella, parmesan, olive oil, and sea salt.
Transfer pizza, parchment paper and all to a preheated Baking Steel or stone in a 550ºF oven. Bake 5 to 6 minutes or until cooked to your liking.
Slice and serve.
A little fresh basil is always nice.
This is the beauty of the Baking Steel: oven spring!
Another favorite: kale + crème fraîche:
Another favorite: “naked” + spicy scallion (or ramp) oil:
7 Secrets to Mastering Pizza at Home
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What you need to make this recipe…:
- …a sourdough starter. Ideally, you want to use your starter 4 to 6 hours after you feed it, when it has doubled in volume and is very bubbly and active. You can build a starter from scratch in just about 1 week. Or you can buy one. Here are three sources:
- …time. Once your starter is ready to go, this recipe requires an initial 6 – 18 hour rise, followed by at least 6 hours in the fridge or up to 3 days.
The more I make sourdough, the more I realize that the timing of each bake depends so much on the time of year and the temperature of my kitchen. In the summer, because it is warm and humid, the first rise (bulk fermentation) of all my sourdoughs takes between 6 – 8 hours; in the winter it will take longer, 10 to 12 hours.
It is best to rely on visual cues. For the bulk fermentation, you want the dough to double or less than double: I now end my bulk fermentation when the dough has risen by 50% to 75% in volume. This is why I cannot recommend using a straight-sided vessel (as opposed to a bowl) enough. It makes gauging the first rise easier.
If at any point you are worried the dough will over-ferment — say, for example, the bulk fermentation is nearly complete but you are tired and want to go to bed — stick the vessel in the fridge and pick up the process in the morning. (Note: If your dough rises above double, don’t despair … my dough has tripled in volume during an overnight rise, and the resulting dough still had plenty of strength and spring.)
Schedule: I like mixing this dough in the evening, performing 4 stretch and folds before I go to bed (if time permits), then letting the dough complete its bulk fermentation at room temperature (68ºF) overnight or in the refrigerator (especially in the summer, when my kitchen is much warmer). In the morning, it’s typically ready to be portioned (if it rose at room temperature), transferred to quart containers, and stashed in the fridge. If I had let my dough spend time in the fridge for the bulk fermentation, I remove it in the morning, and let it complete its bulk fermentation at room temperature. Once complete, I portion the dough and stash it in the fridge. Sometimes I’ll use the dough that same evening; sometimes I’ll use it the following day or the next. I encourage using the dough within 3 days.
In short: If you want pizza for the weekend, mix your dough on either Wednesday or Thursday.
Troubleshooting: If you have issues with your dough being too sticky, please read this post: Why is my sourdough so sticky? The 4 common mistakes.
Water: If you live in a humid environment or if you are making this on a particularly humid day, consider starting with less water, such as 335 grams of water, which will bring the hydration down to 70%. This amount of water will still produce a light airy crust but the dough will be more manageable.
- Due to supply issues, I’ve been making this recipe with all-purpose flour, and it works beautifully. You absolutely can use bread flour or tipo 00 flour if you can get your hands on either. If you can’t, know that all-purpose (unbleached) flour works great here. If you use 00 flour, you’ll likely need to reduce the amount of water. I would start with 350 g, and adjust moving forward based on your results.
Favorite Pizza-Making Tools:
- Baking Steel
- Pizza Peel
- Parchment Paper: I bake my pizzas on parchment paper on my Baking Steel. Parchment allows for easy transfer from peel to steel.
- Cast Iron Skillet: If you do not have a Steel or stone, you can use a cast iron skillet. Rub a half teaspoon of oil over its surface, transfer a stretched dough round to the skillet. Top as desired. Bake at 450ºF for about 15 minutes.
- Quart Containers for storing dough
For the dough:
- 375 g water (or less, see notes above)
- 100 g sourdough starter, active and bubbly, see notes above
- 10 g salt
- 500 g all-purpose or bread flour
For each Margherita pizza:
- 2 tablespoons tomato sauce
- 1 to 2 oz mozzarella
- handful of grated Parmigiano Reggiano (less than an ounce)
- drizzle olive oil
- pinch sea salt
For each kale and crème fraiche pizza:
- extra-virgin olive oil
- a couple handfuls of baby or Tuscan kale
- 1 to 2 cloves garlic
- Sea salt, such as Maldon
- 2 tablespoons crème fraîche
- grated Parmigiano Reggiano, about 1/4 to 1/3 cup
For each naked pizza with ramp or scallion oil:
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 1/4 cup minced scallions or ramps
- 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
- 1 to 2 tablespoons crème fraîche
- handful grated Parmigiano Reggiano
- sea salt
- Mix the dough. Place the starter, salt, and water in a large bowl. Stir with a spatula to combine — it doesn’t have to be uniformly mixed. Add the flour. Mix again until the flour is completely incorporated. Transfer to a straight-sided vessel (if you have one.) Cover vessel with tea towel or cloth bowl cover and let stand 30 minutes.
- Stretch and fold: after 30 minutes have passed, reach into the vessel and pull the dough up and into the center. Turn the vessel quarter turns and continue this pulling 8 to 10 times. See video for guidance. Let the dough rest for another 30 minutes; then repeat the stretching and folding. If possible, repeat this cycle twice more for a total of 4 stretch and folds. By the 4th cycle, you will notice a huge difference in the texture of the dough: it will be smoother, stronger, and more elastic.
- Bulk fermentation: Cover vessel with a tea towel or bowl cover and set aside to rise at room temperature (70ºF/21ºC) for 4 to 18 hours (the time will vary depending on the time of year, the strength of your starter, and the temperature of your kitchen; see notes above) or until the dough has roughly doubled in volume. (UPDATE: In the past I have recommended letting the dough rise until it doubles in volume. If you’ve had success with this, continue to let the dough double. Recently, I have been stopping the bulk fermentation when the dough increases by 50% in volume, and I feel my dough is even stronger in the end.) Note: Do not use your oven with the light on for the bulk fermentation — it is too warm for the dough. When determining when the bulk fermentation is done, it is best to rely on visual cues (doubling in volume) as opposed to time. A straight-sided vessel makes monitoring the bulk fermentation especially easy because it allows you to see when your dough has truly doubled.
- Portion and shape: Turn the dough out onto a work surface and shape into a rough ball, using as much flour as needed — the dough will be sticky. Using a bench scraper, divide the dough into 4 equal portions. Sprinkle portions with flour. With floured hands, roll each portion into a ball, using the pinkie-edges of your hands to pinch the dough underneath each ball. Transfer each round of dough to a plastic quart container, cover, and store in fridge for at least 6 hours or up to 3 days or transfer to the freezer (see notes in post about thawing).
- Make the pizzas: Pull out a round (or more) of dough from the fridge one hour before you plan on baking. Dust dough with flour and place on a floured work surface. Let sit untouched for about an hour (a little longer or shorter is fine). Place a Baking Steel or pizza stone in the top third of your oven. Set oven to 550ºF. Heat oven for at least 45 minutes but ideally 1 hour prior to baking.
- Shape the dough: Gently shape dough into a 10-inch (roughly) round handling it as minimally as possible. (See video for guidance.) Lay a sheet of parchment paper on top of a pizza peel. Transfer the dough round to the parchment-lined peel.
Top and Bake
- To make a classic Margherita-style pizza: Spread 2 tablespoons of tomato sauce over the surface of the dough. Top with mozzarella to taste. Sprinkle with parmesan to taste. Drizzle with olive oil. Sprinkle lightly with sea salt. Shimmy the pizza, parchment paper and all into the oven. Bake pizza until top is blistered, about 5-6 minutes. Transfer to cutting board. Sprinkle with basil, if you have it. Cut and serve. Discard parchment paper.
- To make a kale and crème fraîche pizza: Place the kale in a small bowl, drizzle with olive oil, season with sea salt, and toss. Spoon crème fraîche over the dough leaving a 1/2-inch border or so—I use about a tablespoon per pizza. Sprinkle with minced garlic and a handful of grated Parmigiano Reggiano. Top with the kale. Shimmy the pizza, parchment paper and all into the oven. Bake pizza until top is blistered, about 5 – 6 minutes. Transfer to cutting board. Cut and serve. Discard parchment paper.
- To make a naked pizza with scallion oil: Heat 1/4 cup olive oil in a skillet with 1/4 cup of minced scallions (or ramps!) and 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes. Keep it over low heat while you make the pizza. Spoon crème fraîche over the dough leaving a 1/2-inch border or so—I use about a tablespoon per pizza. Sprinkle with a handful of grated parmesan. Shimmy the pizza, parchment paper and all into the oven. Bake pizza until top is blistered, about 5 – 6 minutes. Transfer to cutting board. At this point, the scallions should be starting to “frizzle”. If they aren’t, crank up the heat until the oil is sizzling. Spoon a few tablespoons of the hot oil over the pizza (you’ll have extra oil). Sprinkle with a pinch of sea salt. Cut and serve.
- Prep Time: 24 hours
- Cook Time: 5 to 6 minutes
- Category: Pizza
- Method: Oven
- Cuisine: American, Italian
Keywords: sourdough, pizza, simple, margherita, mozzarella