Sourdough Pizza Crust with Local Toppings

The sourdough lives!  I have a living entity in my refrigerator.  It is still alive (since August 19).  It even has a name!

“Wet, living, fragile, sensual…funk of life.”

(Please note that I was not inventive or original in the naming of my sourdough.  I took it straight from the novel and the Café Candide kitchen.)

Sougdough by Robin Sloan is the August/September selection for Cook the Books.

Lois Clary is a software engineer at General Dexterity, a San Francisco robotics company with world-changing ambitions. She codes all day and collapses at night, her human contact limited to the two brothers who run the neighborhood hole-in-the-wall from which she orders dinner every evening. Then, disaster! Visa issues. The brothers close up shop, and fast. But they have one last delivery for Lois: their culture, the sourdough starter used to bake their bread. She must keep it alive, they tell her―feed it daily, play it music, and learn to bake with it.

Lois is no baker, but she could use a roommate, even if it is a needy colony of microorganisms. Soon, not only is she eating her own homemade bread, she’s providing loaves daily to the General Dexterity cafeteria. The company chef urges her to take her product to the farmer’s market, and a whole new world opens up.

When Lois comes before the jury that decides who sells what at Bay Area markets, she encounters a close-knit club with no appetite for new members. But then, an alternative emerges: a secret market that aims to fuse food and technology. But who are these people, exactly?

—Publisher’s Blurb

I loved this quirky book about mysterious immigrants, robots, and sourdough.   It’s an odd combination with an equally eccentric cast of characters, but Sloan makes it work.  He weaves this tale of mystery and magic together and has us suspend disbelief.   I did believe that Lois’ sourdough had special powers.

Sloan’s descriptions are inventive as well.  The Marrow Fair facility  (the home of the alternate farmers market) is described as having “the powered-down gloom of a high school at night” (98).  Having been in high schools at night, I know exactly what image he is wanting us to visualize.    The farmers market was eerily realistic with offerings of Chernobyl honey and magically masked sourdough. The speculation among the vendors that Anthony Bourdain (RIP) might be the mysterious benefactor gave me pause.

The food in the book, as you would imagine, is plentiful.

  • Slurry, “a daily ration of dystopia” (233)
  • The Double Spicy (soup and sourdough), and Lois’ daily ration
  • There’s all sorts of other things from the Marrow Fair, cricket flour, Lembas, “gemlike cheeses,” fish, espresso, mushrooms.
  • “Nobody wants death bread” (37) compared to the “Wet, living, fragile, sensual…funk of life.” (37)
  • Lois’ “serenity bread,” her first loaf (42)
  • The songs of the Mazg:  “sad, so very sad, but matter-of-factly so.  These songs did not blubber. They calmly asserted that life was tragic, but at least there was wine in it.” (49)
  • Open faced sourdough sandwiches with prosciutto, fig and goat cheese (76)
  • Chernobyl honey (101)
  • Breton cake (124)  (Kouign-amann?)
  • Sourdough à la Masque (139) with smoked salt and bone marrow from Café Candide.
  • Cases of wine, wheels of cheese, thin sausages, jams, and loaves of bread (162)
  • Anthony Bourdain references  (169)  RIP
  • Meyer Lemons (179)
  • Marrow’s still life (181) a feast of a heel of bread, bowl of plums, rump of cheese, and a whole fish (that can talk)
  • “Quintuple-hopped” beer (203)
  • Great council of fermentation:  “Beer. Sauerkraut. Kimchi!” (210)
  • King Arthur starter (221) of “happy floury folk” (222)
  • Café Candide (a Chez Panisse sort of place with it’s own Alice Wateresque proprietress by the lovely name of Charlotte Clingstone)
  • Clint Yeastwood (151)
  • Clingstone telling Lois, “Though I do think you should try pizza dough.  A killer sourdough crust.  Can your robot do that?” (191)

I am sure I missed other references, especially as the plot thickened (pun intended) with intrigue as to whom Marrow really was and if the magical Magz sourdough would overtake San Francisco.

As referenced here, I was determined to establish a sourdough culture, get it to live, and actually make something.    I was struck by Clingstone’s challenge to Lois regarding her robot making pizza dough.   Here is my version of sourdough pizza crust and, wanting to keep in the spirit of a farmers market, I loaded it with local toppings.  I know it’s not exactly a robotic arm, but I was glad to use my stand mixer and the dough hook to knead the dough.

Sourdough Pizza Crust with Local Toppings

Based on King Arthur


  • 1 c. sourdough starter
  • 1/2 cup warm tap water
  • 2 1/2 c. unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 t. Kosher salt
  • 1/2 t. instant yeast


  1. Remove your sourdough starter from the refrigerator and let come to room temperature.  If any liquid has collected on top of your refrigerated starter, stir it back in. Spoon 1 cup starter into a mixing bowl. (Feed your starter before putting it back in the refrigerator.)
  2. Add the water, flour, salt, and yeast.  Mix to combine, then knead until smooth and slightly sticky, about 7 minutes at medium speed using a stand mixer with dough hook. Place the kneaded dough in a lightly greased container, cover with a clean kitchen towel, and allow it to rise until it’s just about doubled in bulk. This might take 2 to 4 hours; it might take more.
  3. Drizzle olive oil into a 14″ round pizza pan, tilting the pan to coat with the oil. Shape the dough into a flattened disk or oval. Place it in the pan, cover it, and let it rest for 15 minutes. Push the dough towards the edges of the pan; when it starts to fight back, cover it and let it rest for 15 minutes.  Then, finish pushing it to the edges of the pan.
  4. Cover the pan, and let the dough rise until it’s as thick as you like. 
  5. Towards the end of the rising time, preheat oven to 450°F.
  6. Pre-bake the crust for about 8 minutes before topping. Add toppings (see below), then bake until toppings are hot and cheese is melted and bubbly, about 10 minutes. For thin crusts, bake for 4 to 5 minutes, then top and bake for an additional 8 to 10 minutes, or until toppings are as done as you like.
  7. Remove from the oven, and loosen the edges of the pizza with a table knife or heatproof spatula. Carefully lift it onto a cooling rack; you can serve it right from the pan, if desired, but a cooling rack helps keep its bottom crisp. Serve hot.





I am a sourdough neophyte, so I was a little unsure as to why I needed regular yeast in this recipe.  I still don’t have an answer for that but let me tell you, when I sprinkled the dry yeast on the starter, it did really look like a skirmish was about to break out.

If sourdough is too intimidating for you, at least try the goat cheese tomato sauce on your next pizza.  It’s amazing!   (Or, just eat it with a spoon.)

We do love this dough and the starter is still rockin’ along.  I usually use it at least every weekend.  I’ve made this pizza dough three times and most recently made sourdough biscuits.   I would recommend this recipe which makes a silky dough that yields a fluffy biscuit.   I am going to take a lesson from some of my fellow CTB members and make sourdough bread as soon as I am able.


And if you’r interested in the music of the Magz, check out what Sloan has done in creating the soundtrack of his book.


If you’ve read Sourdough, whip something up and join along.  Posts are due on September 30, 2018.   You can email with your post or leave a comment on the Sourdough announcement on the CTB website.


I am linking up with Foodies Read.

From September 12-October 12, Simona at briciole (a CTB Co-Host) is presenting Novel Food.   Link up to this event with all your culinary reads as well.



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