Maybe Pizza?
Gus's experiments in making pizza with very hot ovens.
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July 15, 2012

A couple of months ago I decided that I'd try making a starter to use in my pizza dough. I've seen numerous claims over the years that using a starter would add more awesome flavor, so I figured sure why not- I'll give it a try. Slice has a series of articles to follow, which I used.

My attempts failed, and I only ever ended up making really smelly goop. I wasn't sure what I was doing wrong, so I shelved the project for a later date.

Last June I took a trip to San Francisco for Apple's annual WWDC event, and while I was in town I headed over to Una Pizza Napoletana with some friends. One of the things Una Pizza Napoletana is known for is its naturally rising dough (I'm assuming they are using a starter). After tasting it I decided I'd try again when I got back home, but this time I'd order some starter online from KA since apparently I'm incapable of making my own.

(Mini Una Pizza Napoletana review: Very tasty, a little too wet, but as Paul Kafasis said- it's more about the performance than the pizza. I'll certainly be going back next time I'm in town.)

So the starter arrived, and I'm looking through the instructions to keep it alive and I come across one little tidbit that explains why my previous attempts at starter sucked: don't use tap water if it contains chlorine in it. My water has chlorine. OH. That's probably why it was so stinky. The slice article mentioned this, but somehow I glossed over it.

I picked up some bottled water and I got the starter going over the next couple of days.

It still had a bit of a stinky smell, but that's normal apparently (it's called sourdough for a reason). Another interesting thing about using a starter is that the texture is way different- it's a cross between being creamy and snot-like (but in a good way, I guess).

Over the next couple of days I made 5 pizzas with the starter- some turned out good, some turned out "meh". I'm honestly not sure what made the differences (it didn't seem to be raising time, which I did at 6 hours, and 12 hours).

Did it make the pizzas taste any different? Yea, a bit. Was it better? No, not really- at least according to my tastebuds.

The sourdough scent was a little overwhelming for me, and I stared to become rather sensitized to the smell when working with the raw starter. Making dough this way is too fiddly for me, and having to buy bottled water to keep the starter going is annoying.

In short, I'm sure I could make it work out better with more practice but I'm not sure it'd be worth it. So I'm quickly back to using yeast for my pizza.