Please allow me to introduce you to Papesse, the Mother or Madre of pizza dough. This is no ordinary dough, but an everlasting starter that will (hopefully) be raising breads and pizzas for years to come. Pasta Madre is a time honoured method of bread making, relying on the billions of airborne spores and microorganisms floating about in your kitchen to give lift. We’ve been meaning to give it a try for years and today was the perfect day. Not only do the Italians celebrate the Day of the Mother Dough on the 2nd of February, but with 10 gallons of wine and beer bubbling away, we reckoned there must be a plethora of yeast in the environs.
In an edible science experiment, start by creating your personalised yeast culture by mixing 100g of strong white flour, 50g of tepid water and a teaspoon of honey. Knead, plonk in a bowl covered by a damp tea-towel and leave it on the kitchen worktop for a couple of days. Don’t be put off by the acidic alcoholic smell, as this is just the yeast and lactobacilli fermenting away. After two days, it is time to ‘refresh’. Weigh the dough and feed the beast with the same quantity of flour and half the weight of water. So if the dough weighs 200g, add another 200g of flour and 100g of water. Knead for five to ten minutes, leave out for another two days and refresh again. You can keep going for two weeks, but I’m guessing you don’t want to be dealing with kilos of dough, so we split the dough into two after a refresh, keep one and use the other half.
Now you can now keep your Madre in a closed container in the fridge to slow down the fermentation. Remember that Pasta Madre is living thing, so like any pet, you need to keep feeding it regularly with flour and water. When kept in the fridge you must refresh it on a weekly basis, so the good news is that you’ll have to eat pizza (or bake bread) every week! Some pizzerias and bakeries claim to have kept their starter for over a hundred years. The nuances in flavour will develop even more over time, giving your breads and pizza an amazing flavour, open texture and crust. Papesse is only a couple of weeks old now, but salute to her first pizza!