Finally and at long last, I sit down to post my pizza dough recipe. I found this in Peter Reinhart’s “Whole Grain Breads” which I got through inter-library loan. This book was heavy on the science of bread making – I was amazed at how complicated bread making can be, if you want it to be. I would recommend the book only if you’re totally into understand the why and the wherefore of yeasted breads and are on a sincere quest to improve your whole wheat breads. For me, the book provided a way to combine my desire to pre-soak my bread doughs, and get a superior result with my pizza dough. His research into ancient and new practices of break making has lead him to create these recipes that help develop maximum flavor and gluten action. And that’s why this makes such good pizza dough. I’m gonna try to simplify the directions for you, but you are going to see why I procrastinated so long to write this up, ’cause, to quote the Count in the movie, “The Count of Monte Cristo” –
Whole Wheat Pizza Crust
my additions/changes/two cents in italics
Start one day in advance
Mix together in a bowl for about 1 minute, until all of the flour is hydrated and dough forms a ball:
1 3/4 c. whole wheat flour
1/2 tsp. salt
3/4 plus 2 Tbsp. water (I replace some water with 1 Tbsp. whey)
Mix together in the same manner:
1 3/4 c. whole wheat flour
1/4 tsp. instant yeast
3/4 cup plus 2 Tbsp. filtered or spring water at room temperature (again, I add whey here)
Using hands, knead dough in bowl for 2 min. The dough should feel very tacky. Let dough rest 5 min., then knead it again with wet hands for 1 min. The dough will become smoother but still be tacky. (I don’t always mix it that long…:))
Cover dough tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 8 hours and up to 3 days.
About 2 hours before mixing the final dough, remove the biga from the fridge to take off the chill. It will have risen slightly but need not have risen significantly in order to use it in the final dough.
Using a metal pastry scraper, chop the soaker and the biga into 12 smaller pieces each (sprinkle some of the extra flour over the pre-doughs to keep the pieces from sticking back to each other).
In your mixer, put the combined the pre-dough pieces with:
7 Tbsp. Whole Wheat Flour
5/8 tsp. salt
1 1/2 tsp. instant yeast
1 Tbsp. honey (or sugar)
2 Tbsp. Olive oil
(now, here the book goes on for 3 paragraphs on how to knead the dough, both by hand or mixer. I don’t have time to type it all out for you! If you want to know his exact methods, you’ll have to get the book. I’ll tell you what I do.) I put the dough in my bread machine (it’s the only form of a mixer that I have) and let it knead the dough for a 10 min. cycle. Then you’re supposed to let it rest for 5 min., then knead the dough again for a minute, and then give it the ‘window pane test’ – that is, you hold a piece of dough up to the light and see if it is resilient enough for you to pull it apart until you see light through it. So, try it, and if it doesn’t stretch well enough, knead it some more. Be careful not to add to much flour, as he says the dough should feel “soft, supple, and very tacky, verging on sticky.”
Divide dough in 5 (4) pieces and form each piece into a tight ball. Place the balls on a greased pan, rolling the dough in the oil to coat. Cover loosely with plastic wrap.
Preheat your oven as hot as it will go (450), and place your baking stone in the oven to preheat. Let the dough rise for 1 hour while you pizza stone gets thoroughly preheated. If you don’t have a baking stone, use the underside of a sheet pan, or simply place the shaped dough on a sheet pan, assemble the pizza, and bake it on the sheet pan.
Shaping the Dough
Press the dough ball with your finger tips into a flat disk. Use floured hands and knuckles to gently stretch dough into a wider disk. Work from the edges only, not from the center of the dough. Let the dough rest when it becomes to elastic, then continue stretching to make a 9 – 12 in. disk. Place the shaped dough on the bottom of a well floured sheet pan. Add sauce, cheese, and other toppings. Slide the pizza onto a preheated baking stone or the back or a preheated sheet pan.
This is the fun part – if you have tried making whole wheat pizza crust in the past, and have been disappointing ’cause it’s so tough and hard to get thin – you’re gonna be surprised! This dough is supple and elastic, and you can actually get it to do whatever you want it to do without a rolling pin or huge muscles! You will feel very authentic as you shape the dough in the air, just as you have seen done in Italian pizza shops!
Place the pizza in the oven and close the door. Wait 2 minutes, then take a peak. If it needs to be rotated 180 degrees for even baking, do so. The pizza should take 5 – 8 minutes to bake. (mine takes 10-12). If the top gets done before the bottom, move the stone to a lower shelf before the next round. If the bottom crisps before the cheese caramelizes, raise the stone fore subsequent batches.
Remove the pizza from the oven and transfer to a cutting board. Wait 3 – 5 min. before slicing and serving, to allow the cheese to set slightly.
The author recommends for the sauce “use your favorite recipe or brand (the thinner the better since it thickens as it bakes).”
My favorite toppings are pepperoni, pineapple, sauteed onions, garlic, and pepper, bacon, or ham. I use mozzarella, with a generous sprinkling of Parmesan right before putting it in the oven.
The crust on this pizza is really quite perfect – crusty on the outside, chewy and soft (not tough) on the inside. Exactly what I was looking for. And the flavor is great – forget cardboard pizza!
I make pizza each Friday, which means I need to go start my dough right after I finish this post! I hope you enjoy your pizza as much as I do mine! Let me know if you try this recipe, and how it worked for you! I will also try to answer any questions you may have.