February 6, 2014
Whole Wheat Pizza Crust
From tortillas to saltines, there is a whole wheat option for just about everything made with flour. Pizza is no exception: the slice joint near the office has up to four pies made with whole wheat crusts, and my local supermarket has blobs of raw whole wheat pizza dough alongside white. If you’re looking a healthier twist on the dough in our pizza feature (in the March 2014 issue, available on Eastern newsstands February 10th and Western stands February 17th), here are some tips on making whole wheat pies.
The general rule is to replace 25 per cent to 50 per cent of the white flour with whole wheat. (Personally, I go with the sweet spot in the middle.) There is a good reason why you don’t want to go beyond 50 per cent: whole wheat flour forms less gluten strands than white and will not rise as high. Too much of it will also dominate the pizza with its earthy flavour, and the texture will be decidedly gritty. I was once subjected to a pizza with a crust made with 100 per cent whole wheat flour, and it was about as delicious as the box it came in.
Once you’ve committed to a whole wheat crust, toppings need to be considered seriously. Personally, I don’t like the combination of whole wheat and tomato sauce. The earthy flavours work better with white- (aka bianco) or no-sauce pizzas especially with members of the brassica family on top. I did some experimenting, and here are two winning combinations.
This lovely pie is topped with blanched brussels sprouts cut into wedges and lardons of pancetta that were cooked in dry pan until the fat rendered off and the meat crisped up. The gooey base is Appenzeller, a nutty cow’s-milk cheese from Switzerland that melts beautifully. You could also use Gruyère or Fontina. If I were to make this again, I would use double smoked bacon instead of pancetta for a hit of campfire flavour.
This pizza was superb. It started with a thin base of lightly whipped cream, a clever trick from LA chef Nancy Silverton. (It’s basically instant white sauce and is lighter, not to mention much easier to make, than roux-thickened béchamel.) I put a little diced mozzarella – about one ounce – then topped it with roasted cauliflower, capers and sliced green onions. When it comes out of the oven, it gets an herbaceous hit of flat-leaf parsley. The piquant, verdant flavours of the toppings worked so well with whole wheat that I bet it would be a lesser pie made with a white crust.
1-3. Eric Vellend