Pizza is one of those compromise foods we make as a family. I’m pretty picky about it. I like it in Rome and Florence and liked it from the now-defunct Fremont Trattoria. I enjoy Serious Pie but it’s just not the same. Other than that you can pretty much keep your pizza.
But since my family loves pizza I’ve been working on it for years. I want a crust that uses 100% whole wheat flour but doesn’t overpower the toppings (which should be minimal.) I want the crust to be crunchy on the bottom but still have some toothiness and chew. I want it thin but with pockets. I want the toppings to change frequently since I don’t like to eat the same thing more than a few times a year. I’m not easy to please.
I think I’ve probably tried every pizza dough recipe I’ve come across and then some. We’ve had blind pizza tastings and sighted pizza tastings and conducted panels of friends to make notes on them all. We’re crazy like that. But you may not be so I’m going to spare you your own blind tastings and just give you my recipe.
It’s not at all authentic because it’s whole wheat and contains oil but I feel like it’s pretty darn good. Not blessed by the Pope kind of good but still I bet the best whole wheat pizza dough you’ll ever have kind of good. It’s essentially the same recipe as the Neo Neapolitan Pizza Dough from American Pie: My Search for the Perfect Pizzaadapted for an overnight soak with acidic medium, 100% whole wheat and some tricks to get you nice bubbles in a regular home oven. Here Willipa Hills Little Boy Blue is graced by onions caramelized with Rockridge Orchard Balsamic Vinegar. Local Black Walnuts on top would be divine.
4 1/2 cups white whole wheat flour
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon yeast
1 3/4 cups water with 3 tablespoons of whey from yogurt or raw milk making up the total liquid
2-3 tablespoons olive oil (not necessary but this helps tenderize the dough so it’s soft inside yet crunchy on the bottom)
Combine flour, salt and yeast in the bowl of an electric mixer. Add the water and the olive oil and mix using the dough hook until the dough comes together (about 3 minutes). Switch the mixer off and let the dough rest for 10 minutes. Turn on the mixer and knead it for another minute or two. By this time the whole wheat flour will have absorbed the moisture and you can tell if it needs more flour or water. The dough should be fairly wet and sticky, a little tricky to work with but this is necessary to get the final texture the way you want it.
At this point you can either leave the dough in the mixing bowl covered with a plate overnight to soak the grain and make it more digestible as well as develop the flavor or you can divide and refrigerate or freeze the dough for future pizzas. I usually make this the night before so the grain has time to soak and the flavor develops.
Divide the dough into 4 pieces, rubbing each one with olive to keep them from drying out. Place each in a ziplock or small plastic container to refrigerate or freeze. Be sure and remove your dough several hours before using it so it comes to room temperature, otherwise it will be difficult to work with.
About 30 minutes before making pizza preheat your oven and pizza stone as hot as it will go. We bake ours on 550 but if you have a wood fired oven in the backyard, 800 is ideal.
If you are using white flour it does make a difference whether you stretch or roll but we’ve found with whole wheat it really doesn’t matter. What does matter is that you get your dough as thin as possible by hook or crook. We sprinkle our pizza peal with semolina to keep the dough from sticking and then roll it out as thinly as possible with one of these.
You could certainly use a regular rolling pin but the short sides on this and the handle let you get inside pans for things like tarts and gives you some nice leverage. During the heat of pizza making my kitchen counters are often piled high with all sorts of things easy to knock over so it’s nice having such a small implement to work with. Plus the kids love using it with playdough.
My ideal pizza dough has a crispy bottom and just a bit of soft inside, ideally with nice bubbles. You don’t want bubbles so large that you end up with pita bread so the secret that lets you achieve bubbles using 100% whole wheat dough is to gently dock your crust and pre-bake it naked. I use one of these for docking pizza dough and crackers.
Once your dough is sufficiently rolled and docked you deftly shake it off the pizza peal with a flick of the wrist and onto the pre-heated pizza stone. Pre-bake the dough for 3 minutes, remove it from the oven and poke any bubbles that approach pita bread size with a fork, then add toppings.
We use cheesy white sauce, red sauce, plain olive oil, taco sauce or barbecue sauce to match our toppings du jour. Hold off on any fresh toppings that will singe in the oven such as basil or other leafs, fresh herbs or fresh tomatoes. Bake the pizza for another 3 minutes until the cheese is bubbly and the bottom is darkened and crunchy. Remove the pizza then top with the fresh ingredients and let the pizza site for 5 minutes to meld the flavors and set up before slicing.
Here leftover taco filling and queso fresco meet home canned jalapenos.
Crack open a bottle of local red wine and make a fresh garden salad while you wait. Now that’s the kind of pizza meal I can sink my teeth into.
Makes 4 small pizzas.