Sourdough biscuits are really yeast-raised rolls. Somewhere down the line we have forgotten that. It isn’t necessary to add the ingredients for standard baking-powder biscuits to the recipe, not if you have a good starter. If all goes well, it takes about an hour and a half from start to finish to make sourdough biscuits, versus the 30 minutes or so for baking-powder biscuits. Neither is better than the other; it all depends on what you want at the moment you decide to bake.
Biscuits and pizza
Last night, as I began to make some pizza dough, I noticed there was too much starter for the single pie that was planned. I decided to split it in half, and see if a single dough mix could make such different things as pizza crust and biscuits. The preliminaries were the same as always:
Prepare the wet mixture: Add distilled water to thin the mixture a bit more than the consistency of pancake batter (a good starter will give you lots of bubbles at this point). Stir in about a tablespoon of oil (olive oil is perfect for pizza, but I used the same oil I would use for biscuits).
Prepare the dry mixture: In a separate bowl, mix together about 2 cups of unbleached flour, 1 teaspoon salt (I used a little more this time as it was a double batch, but did not go up the full 2 teaspoons), and some flour (as pizza was being made, I used less than the usual amount for biscuits).
Add the dry mixture to the wet mixture.
Add enough more flour to make the dough sturdy but not really sticky. Knead about half as long as you would for bread loaves (I aim for about 75 to 80 strokes).
At this point, I would normally add the rest of the oil to the dough, knead it until it “trued up” (about another 25 strokes), and shape it, after letting it rest for 10 minutes or so. Because two different breads were planned, however, I cut the dough in half at this point and set one half aside, covered so it wouldn’t dry up.
Make these first, because they have to rise about an hour before baking. To the dough remaining in the pan, add the rest of the oil, knead until the dough “trues up,” let rest, and shape per usual. Cover and set aside to rise. Bake at whatever usually works for you (I used a 400-degree oven for about 30-40 minutes).
After you have made the biscuits, you can wash out the dough bowl or leave it as is. Put in about 1/2 to 1/4 teaspoon of black pepper (not absolutely necessary, but it’s a nice touch, as long as you don’t use so much it overwhelms the flavor of everything else–you want a tangy crust, not something that burns your mouth), and the rest of the oil. Add another tablespoon or so. (At this point, you could make this second addition with olive oil, if you wanted.) Add the remaining dough and knee until the dough “trues up.” Cover and let it rest while you prepare your pan. If you haven’t already, preheat the oven to 400 to 425 degrees. Prepare your favorite sauce and topping (best if it is hot before you put it on the dough, if possible, but it doesn’t absolutely have to be hot first). Shape the pizza dough on the pan. Cover with topping. Back about 30-40 minutes.
It was a surprise to me, but the biscuits came out tasting like sourdough biscuits, and the pizza dough, like pizza dough. Nice!