‘The whiter the bread, the sooner you’re dead.’
– Italian proverb
All bread used to be whole wheat. Then the Industrialists stepped in.
This was the mid-to-late 19th century. The industrialization of agriculture had just begun in earnest. The new distribution system needed a shelf-stable product, and the new roller mills made the removal of bran and germ 1 simple.
To be fair, these early industrialists had no idea that removing the bran and germ strips flour of all its nutritional value. They most likely had never heard the term ‘nutritional value’. If anybody had suggested the concept of nutritional value to them, they probably would have called them a dirty Quaker hippy and given them a good tar and feathering. 2
It’s time to take wheat back to the proletariat.
The whole wheat movement needs a symbol. A rallying image. Bread is fine, but kind of boring. It’s strong and reliable but none-too-witty, definitely not the guy you want to run into at a party unless he’s surrounded by some of his more exciting friends.
Whole wheat needs something with a little more… pizzazz.
I read somewhere I’m supposed to say or write every pun that comes into my mind.But really, what foodstuff have the Industrial Imperialists more thoroughly destroyed? Is there a sadder place in the grocery store than the pizza area of the freezer section? Is there a stronger image of western nutritional deficiency and rampant obesity than a leaden wedge of grease-soaked national-chain pie?
Pizza shall be a shill for The Establishment no more. He is reclaimed, brothers, and reformed, with a wholly 100% whole wheat pizza crust, a riot of fresh toppings, and a blast of the fires of revolution! He is a firebrand, embodying more than the mere sustenance of bread, but a bright symbol of that which we can take back, a wheaty, cheesy disc of glory, casting light upon our righteous path!
MASTER RECIPE FOR 100% WHOLE WHEAT PIZZA CRUST
Almost every ‘whole wheat’ recipe out there calls for a combination of whole wheat flour and nutritionally dead white flour. Most also include some combination of oil (to soften the bran) and sugar (to hide the supposed bitterness of whole wheat). After messing around a bit with recipes from Peter Reinhart’s Whole Grain Breads 3 and Jeff Hertzberg and Zoë François’ Healthy Bread in Five Minutes A Day, I have come to the conclusion that neither oil nor sugar are at all necessary for fantastic 100% whole wheat pizza crust.
Actually, not just pizza crust. My goal is to have an all-purpose ball of dough ready in the fridge, from which I can pull pieces to make pizza crust, sandwich bread, or even English muffins or waffles 4, if I so desire. This is the general concept that Hertzberg pioneered in Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day: a big batch of dough, mixed quickly with no kneading, allowed to rise and stored in the fridge to be used over the course of a couple of weeks.
The aging period in the fridge actually improves the flavor of the dough, adding some sourdough complexity. There is also evidence that a long rising period period provides breads with a nutritional boost. I’m not going to claim this is backed by any significant scientific study, but in my mind, the idea of long-rising sourdough bread as a healthy food makes a lot of sense. It’s fermentation. Microorganisms chop up all the big starches and sugars that are hard for us to digest, and simultaneously manufacture extra nutrients like B vitamins. I can only see good things happening here.
If you intend to do much baking at all, you should really get a kitchen scale. Bread recipes, from white sandwich loaves to this 100% whole wheat pizza crust, are much more accurately measured in terms of baking percentages, where flour is expressed as 100%, and the other ingredients are percentages of the flour weight.
For instance, my master recipe that I figured for the whole wheat pizza crust is 100% whole wheat flour, 90% water, 2% salt, and 1% yeast. So I used 500 grams of whole wheat flour, 450 grams of water, 10 grams of salt, and 5 grams of yeast. With a scale, this is really easy to measure. I just set my mixing bowl on top of the scale, press the Tare button to zero it out, then begin adding my ingredients one at a time, pressing the Tare button in between to zero it out again.
I’m not going to bother arguing the virtues of baking by weight vs. baking by volume. (If you want a thorough explanation, here’s one.) If you want a bread recipe to work the same way every time, and to be able to finely tweak amounts to get ideal results, you’re gonna use a scale. And if you don’t care, you’re gonna use all your cups and measuring spoons and then have to clean them all up. Personal choices. It’s okay that you’re wrong. I’ll include volume measurements in the recipe for everybody who wants to be wrong.
If you bake often, you’ll notice that the percentage of water is remarkably high. Hydration in most bread recipes hovers somewhere in the 60% to 70% range, maybe spiking around 75% for really wet doughs like ciabatta.
My 100% whole wheat pizza dough calls for 90% hydration! Why is this? First of all, it makes the dough loose enough that it doesn’t require kneading, just a thorough mixing. Second, whole wheat flour sucks up a lot of water, and it also has bran flakes that slice up forming gluten chains. 5 Adding more water both softens the bran and gives more space for the bran and gluten chains to avoid each other. 6 The intact gluten chains trap carbon dioxide during the rise and steam during the baking, making for a light, airy crumb, rather than the dense brick texture characteristic of whole wheat bread from the 1970’s.
Now that I’ve successfully chased away any readers who weren’t looking for an in-depth discussion of baking hydration percentages, here’s how you make this stuff! (Note: mass and volume measurements are not going to line up perfectly, but the percentages should be roughly correct.)
Here’s the ingredients again for your very own 100% whole wheat pizza dough:
- 500 g whole wheat flour 7 (4 cups) (100%)
- 450 g water (1 3/4 cups + 1 Tbsp) (90%)
- 10 g table salt (1 1/2 tsp) (2%)
- 5 g yeast (2 tsp) (1%)
Mix all that in a bowl until it’s totally and fully combined. Then cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let it rise for a couple of hours. Or let it rise overnight, no big deal. It might rise and then fall, but that’s actually fine, it shouldn’t affect the end product that much.
After the rise, put the bowl in the fridge for at least overnight. Chilling makes the dough much easier to work with.
Once the dough is in the fridge, you can use it for the next couple of weeks. Use a pair of kitchen shears to snip off however much you need (I generally took about a fist-sized chunk at a time) and leave the rest covered in the fridge. For the purposes of pizza, I cut the dough into three roughly equal pieces: two for (pretty dang large) pizzas, and one to keep in the fridge and use for something else.
So for each pizza, you want a chunk of dough about the size of your fist. Dust a countertop with some flour, roll that blob of dough around so it has a bit of flour on it and isn’t quite so sticky, and start flattening it out. Try tossing it in the air like they do in that rad New York-style pizza place you haven’t been to in forever, then realize that this is not your forte, and just flatten it using a rolling pin or just your hands.
At this point, if you’re a fancy bourgeoisie mofo, you’re gonna start preheating your pizza stone and gazing lovingly at your Michigan Ash baking peel. If you’re a real person with a real life, somebody who just wants a good hot meal and an occasional revolutionary overthrow of the establishment, you’re gonna press that crust into a greased baking sheet and thank God and country that supper will be ready in fifteen minutes.
ASSEMBLE YOUR PIZZA
You’ve created your fully 100% whole wheat pizza crust. You’ve flattened it into an appropriately pizza-shaped… shape. (Round? Rectangular? Trapezoidal? All of these, and more, could be your pizza! Don’t be constrained by the tyranny of the establishment, brothers; the circle is but one of a myriad of acceptable pizza shapes!) You’ve preheated your oven. Right? You probably should. As high as it will go; ours went to 550°F.
Now is your time. Time to let your imagination run wild. Pizza is appropriate to every season, diet, and temperament. Is it winter? (It is!) Then perhaps some winter spinach would be appropriate, maybe some thin-sliced parcooked potatoes and cured pork product, over a thin spread of preserved marinara. Spring? Pesto with fresh basil, spring chicken, and fresh mozzarella. Pizza is endlessly adaptable.
For a general topping framework, I consider there to be three elements: sauce, toppings, and cheese. The sauce, which can be oil or pesto or marinara or alfredo or plum preserves or what have you (we used a red pepper Romanesco sauce), goes directly on the crust. Toppings go on top of the sauce. Cheese goes on top of the toppings. Don’t pile on too much of anything, because otherwise you might get raw spots of crust.
Those are my general guidelines. I encourage you to break them, because we are free men, and can’t be told what to do.So I’ve got Romesco sauce on there, with pepperoni, italitan sausage, browned onions, and mozzarella. No from-frou here. This is a manly meal.
Now you cook.
Just throw your baking sheets in the hot hot hot oven and cook until the cheese is melted and starting to brown in a few spots. By that time, your crust should be cooked all the way through.
Let it cool. LET IT COOL. Impatience and immaturity lead to burned fingers and impotence. That’s science.Because Batman loves beer, that’s why. He loves pizza, too, if he’s a real American.
Is Batman a real American?
I don’t know, does he love pizza?
Litmus test for patriotism right there, folks.
Remember, this pizza is made without any sugar, white flour, weird fillers… Even if you load it up with pepperoni like I did, it’s gonna be ten times healthier than any non-salad item on a restaurant menu. A thousand times healthier than any fast food or frozen/convenience meal.
Take pizza back, brothers. Show the Imperialists that their most treasured landmark is our territory now.
- 500 g whole wheat flour (4 cups) (100%)
- 450 g water (1 3/4 cups + 1 Tbsp) (90%)
- 10 g table salt (1 1/2 tsp) (2%)
- 5 g yeast (2 tsp) (1%)
- Olive or vegetable oil
- Mix all ingredients thoroughly in a large bowl until fully combined. The dough should stick together in a large ball.
- Cover the bowl and let rise until dough has doubled (about three hours).
- Refrigerate the dough overnight. You can keep it in the fridge for up to two weeks, pulling off pieces to bake as you wish.
- To make a pizza, pull off a piece about the size of a fist and snip it off of the main dough mass using kitchen shears.
- Preheat the oven to the highest it will go. (Mine went to 550°F.)
- Put a small amount of vegetable oil on your hands and roll the dough around in your hands to cover it with the oil.
- Using a rolling pin or wine bottle, roll the dough out into a thin disc, the thinner the better. Place the crust on parchment paper on a baking sheet.
- Spread a small amount of sauce on the crust, then add toppings and cheese. Do not cover too thickly with toppings, or the crust will not fully cook.
- Bake in the preheated oven until the cheese is fully melted and browned and blistered here and there.
- Let the pizza cool before cutting and eating.
- Measurements are given first in mass, then in volume, then in baking percentages.
- The germ of the wheat berry contains oil, making whole wheat flour go rancid within six to nine months. ↩
- I am aware of the radical historical inaccuracy in that sentence, but I decided to ignore it because the mental image made me giggle. ↩
- If you are at all interested in bread baking, I cannot recommend Peter Reinhart’s books enough. ↩
- I know, waffles are a batter, but maybe I could figure a formula that lets me mix the dough with a certain amount of milk and oil so that I could make waffles, pancakes, crepes, whatever, completely from whole wheat. ↩
- I know gluten is a bad word these days, but I really think it’s all the other junk in industrial food that’s giving people problems. A lot of people who think they’re gluten intolerant have found that they can handle long-rising sourdough bread just fine. ↩
- I’m 75% sure I’m right about this. The actual mechanism that makes high hydration create better whole wheat bread could be different. But regardless of mechanism, it works. ↩
- There’s a self-service machine at my grocery store where it grinds the wheat fresh, just like the little fresh-ground peanut butter machines that are at so many stores now. If you can get flour this freshly ground, that can only be a good thing. ↩