Rolling In Dough
THE WOMAN BEHIND NORTH CAROLINA’S SMOKE SIGNALS BAKERY SHARES HER FAMOUS PIZZA RECIPE
Tara Jensen recently posted a photo on Instagram (@bakerhands) of a beautifully charred crust topped with colorful veggies. The caption read: “Pizza is my boyfriend.” For the 34-year-old artist and baker, pizza has definitely been a community builder. When she decided to go full force into her baking career by moving to a compound in rural North Carolina and turning its wood-fired oven bakery into Smoke Signals, she wanted it to be a gathering place. She started with a two-hour apple pie workshop and monthly pizza nights. Now she teaches workshops (pie, but also bread and bagels) every weekend to people who come from all over the country. And her art background is evident: she hand carves all the block prints for Smoke Signals’ packaging, and her pie crust designs are almost too pretty to eat. But, she says with a laugh, “there’s something about a hot pizza just out of the oven that does do something to a group mindset. Everyone’s happy.”
NOTE: We've included approximate volume measurements below, but for best results, we recommend weighing your ingredients using a digital scale.
Combine 4 oz. (¾ cup + 2 Tbsp.) flour and 4 oz. (½ cup) lukewarm water in a pint-sized Mason jar. Stir vigorously. Cover with the lid, leaving it a little loose. Check after two days for early signs of fermentation—bubbles and a slight vinegar smell. Discard 75 percent of your starter and refresh what’s left with equal parts flour and water. Within 7 to 10 days you should have sweet, yogurty-smelling starter with dish-soap-sized bubbles.
Makes 4 pizzas that serve 1-2 people each
Weigh out 1.34 lb (4¾ cups + 2 Tbsp.) of flour into a mixing vessel. Add 12 oz. (1½ cups) of water, 5 oz. (½ cup + 1 Tbsp. + 2 tsp.) of sourdough starter, .43 oz. (slightly over 2 tsp.) of salt, and a splash of olive oil; mix together. Scrape the bottom to incorporate any remaining flour. Once done mixing, let the dough ferment for four hours. During this time, “fold” the dough once each hour. To fold, bring each corner or edge of the dough toward the center, overlapping in the middle. A fold creates the necessary tension and relaxation for the dough to hold up during the rest of the fermenting process.
Once your dough has relaxed from the final fold, divide and gently shape your dough into 10 oz. rounds. Allow them to rest on a floured sheet pan covered with a light, clean cloth at room temperature for 30 minutes, then transfer to the refrigerator. Pizza dough can be kept in the fridge for up to 72 hours.
For this step you’ll need a pizza peel (the wide, flat shovel used for sliding pizza in and out of a hot oven), a baking stone, cornmeal for dusting, olive oil, your ready dough, and prepared toppings.
Position a rack in the middle of your oven and remove the extra racks. Place your baking stone on the rack and preheat to 500 degrees. Allow the stone to heat thoroughly. Dust your peel with cornmeal and lightly dust your ready dough with flour. Place the dough, flour side down, on your peel. Gently press into a circle, making an indent half an inch from the edge to form your crust. You may also take the dough in your hands and, using the back of your hand, gently separate it from the middle outward. Let gravity do some of the work for you as well. Place back onto the peel.
I like to stay very simple with toppings. This allows you to appreciate the flavors in the crust and the delicious reactions between dough and heat. Brush your dough with olive oil or sauce of your choice. Distribute cheese evenly and lightly top with your prepared ingredients. Give the peel a “shimmy shake” to make sure the pizza will slide off. Open your oven and slide the pizza onto the waiting stone.
Bake for 10 to 12 minutes. I like to broil each pizza for the last 2 minutes to get a blistery, slightly caramelized crust. It’s done when the bottom of your crust has started to darken and char. Use the peel to transfer it from the oven to a cutting board. Cut into wedges and enjoy!
This article originally appeared in the August/September 2016 print edition of BUST Magazine. Subscribe today!
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