Friday, June 18, 2010

Dough Experiments on the Grill-Part III

Having been frustrated by my attempt to come up with a grillable, yeastless pizza crust from commercially purchased sourdough starters, I decided to make my own starter.

Starter from Scratch
 I did a lot of internet searches trying to find a yeast-free crust, and couldn’t come up with anything that didn’t involve starting with at least a small amount of yeast. Being obstinate and determined, I started looking for starter how-to articles. The first two I found were pretty complicated—use raisins and some obscure grain; use milk and whole wheat (tried that before-very sour!)—and didn’t sound like they’d hold much promise. After much searching, I found a simple one.

In a glass jar, mix:
-1/3 c whole wheat flour
-1/3 c water

Mix and let stand about three days until it starts to bubble. Then add
-1/3 c whole wheat flour
-1/3 c water
daily for the next three days. The writer advised pulling off ½-1 c of sponge if the jar became too full. After the third day, add
-1/3 c unbleached white flour
-1/3 c water
daily, until ready to start using. This gave me a very active starter with an odd sweet smell, and it looked promising.

Make the Crust
This is where things got a little out of whack from a timeline perspective. After about a week, I was able to start the dough on a Sunday, but I didn’t actually get it into the oven until the following Thursday night, four days later. For the dough ingredients:
-1 c starter
-1 c lukewarm water
-1 T sugar
-1 T coarse kosher sea salt
-1 T canola oil (I can’t remember why I avoided the EVOO, this time, but I’ll try that next)
-2 c unbleached flour

I let this stand for about two hours until bubbly, stirring every 30 minutes or so to try to develop the gluten. Then I added
-2 c unbleached flour, to bring the dough together

It was still a little wet/tacky at this point, but I floured the bowl well, covered it with a warm towel and let it rise for ~4 hours. Which got me to late enough in the evening on Sunday that I put it in the fridge to proof overnight. I forgot to ask my wife to pull it out that Monday in time for dinner, then I had other engagements on Tuesday and Wednesday. Finally, that Thursday, I took it out of the fridge before work, and put it in the oven with the door open and the light on to rise.

When I got home, it had doubled in bulk-at least. I punched it down, folded a few times, then let rise a second time. When not quite doubled, I divided the dough in half, and formed it into crusts on heavily floured tea cloths. It was still pretty wet compared to what I’m used to for regular breads, and even for my sourdoughs, but I didn’t add any more flour than necessary to keep it from sticking to everything. After the two crusts proofed for about two hours in final form, I fired up the oven, with my pizza stone inside, to 400F, and I baked them one-at-a-time for 15 min.

The plain crust came out looking like a big pita—a thin skin on the top making a pocket over a very focaccia-like, medium crumb, flat bread.

The pizza’s crumb was about the same, but because of ingredients, it didn’t get the pocket effect. It was a little more dense than the untopped crust.

The flavor was good, and I particularly liked the nutty flavor imparted by the whole wheat content of the starter. I might be onto something with this starter in terms of an acceptable crust. Next time 'round, I'll have to try different amounts of ingredients and start determining the effects of each on the crumb.

If you have a source for how the various ingredients affect the crust, I'd love to know about it. It's probably not going to curb my obsession with finding my own combo, but maybe it'll give me some ideas to try. Thanks for reading.

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