Sourdough Pizza Margherita

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I met Ottavia on the course at Schumacher College that first led me to the Real Bread Campaign. She says that this recipe is the result of years of attempts at making a good sourdough pizza suitable for baking in a domestic oven. She reckons that this one is the best yet.

FROM MIXING TO OVEN: 9–11 hours
BAKING TIME: 4–5 minutes each

Ingredients

For the Dough

  • 150g/oz/ cup white sourdough starter
  • 250g/9oz/1 cup plus 1 tbsp water
  • 350g/12oz/2⅔ cups plain/all-purpose flour
  • 50g/oz/¼ cup fine durum wheat semolina
  • 5g/1 tsp fine/table salt
  • 15g/1 tbsp olive oil

For the Topping

  • 125g/ oz mozzarella
  • 400g/14oz/ cups canned chopped tomatoes
  • a generous pinch of dried oregano
  • olive oil, to taste
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • a handful of basil leaves

Method

  1. Mix the starter with 200g/7oz/¾ cup of the water and 250g/9oz/scant 2 cups of the flour. Cover and leave at room temperature for about 4 hours.
  2. Add in half of the remaining water, the rest of the flour and the semolina, salt and olive oil and mix thoroughly. Cover and leave to rest for 10 minutes. If the dough is feeling tight (it should be quite soft and stretchy) add in more of the water. Knead the dough until it loses its stickiness and becomes smooth and elastic. Shape into a ball, cover and leave to prove at room temperature for 2–3 hours.
  3. Divide the dough into 4 equal-size pieces, shape into balls. Place these on a work surface or baking sheet dusted with semolina, cover and leave to prove for another 2–3 hours.
  4. If you have a pizza oven, fire it up! Otherwise, place a baking stone on the top shelf of the oven and heat it up, as hot as it will get: 250°C/230°C fan/480°F/gas 9+. Meanwhile, drain the mozzarella, slice it thinly and pat off any excess liquid with paper towels. Pour the chopped tomatoes with their juices into a bowl and season with oregano, olive oil, salt and pepper to taste.
  5. Flatten each ball of dough on a floured work surface, patting it down with your hands, starting from the middle and letting the dough spread gently, leaving a slightly risen border around the edge. You might need to do this in two stages with a 5-minute rest in between.
  6. Transfer 1 base onto a well-floured peel. Top with tomatoes followed by slices of mozzarella, then drizzle with olive oil. Slide the pizza onto the baking stone, trying not to disturb the filling. Bake until done, which hopefully won’t take more than about 4–5 minutes, so keep an eye on it. Repeat with the remaining pizza bases. Serve with a scattering of basil leaves and a twist of pepper.

OTTAVIA MAZZONI
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