Thin Crust Pizza made with Wild Yeast

08/13/2013

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I recently read Michael Pollan’s newest book, Cooked: A History of Food Transformationwhich sparked my curiosity about how to cultivate wild yeast. According to him, the flavor of bread depends mostly on the yeast (think sourdough from San Francisco). The fast-acting yeast available at supermarkets work great–they can rise dough in a matter of minutes–but the flavor of local funkiness is often lost.

Pollan claimed that cultivating one’s own yeast is easy, so I thought I’d try it. All you need is fresh fruit, preferably from your back yard. I used a handful of figs from my yard. Grapes, cherries, and just about any other fruit that is easy to submerge could be used. In order to cultivate the yeast, put the fruit in water without washing it. Leave it on the counter covered with cheesecloth or a loose lid for three days.

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You’ll see the water begin to froth, and it will smell somewhat like wine.

To make the dough (makes 4 personal pizzas):

3 c cake flour (the fineness of the cake flour allows for a thin crispy crust)
1/2 t active dry yeast
1 c yeast water
1 t salt
1 t olive oil

Combine all the dry ingredients in a bowl. Place in a mound on a clean flat work surface and make a well in the middle. Add the dry yeast to the yeast water and stir. Pour the mixture in small amounts in the flour well. Because the flour is so fine, it’s difficult to stir them together. Be slow and diligent. Once you have a ball, kneed it for 5-7 minutes.

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Let the dough rise slowly in the refrigerator overnight. The next day, take the dough out of the fridge three hours before using. (If you don’t want to wait this long, use 1 1/2 t active dry yeast, and let the dough rise for 3 hours. It won’t have much of the wild yeast flavor, but it will still make a good dough.)

Once the dough has risen, cut into four pieces for personal sized pizzas. This recipe will make four. Use your favorite toppings. I used my home-made tomato sauce, and green onions and tomatoes from our garden, and wild boar sausage. I added fresh mozzarella as well.

I put cornmeal on a wooden peal (it acts like ball bearings) which allowed it to slide onto my preheated pizza stone. Cook in the oven for 500 degrees, or on a pizza stone on the grill for 10-12 minutes.

This meal is a great way to use up those vegetables from your summer garden!

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