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  • #1 by jtwg on 25 Apr 2021
  • I've been messing around with different approaches to whole-grain pizzas over the past year. In general it seems a lot of the thinking about whole wheat in pizza seems to be to limit it to a small percentage of the overall recipe. Today we went out for the first time in many months and had a conventional white flour pizza at one of our favorite places in town, and I found myself missing the flavor of a whole grain crust.

    I invested in a Lloyd pan for making Detroit-style, but with the lower rise from the whole grain dough I've wound up with kind of a hybrid Grandma/Detroit pizza that I've been pretty happy with. I got some invaluable advice here when I was first looking into doing whole-grain pizza from a few folks (https://www.pizzamaking.com/forum/index.php?topic=63759). I also borrowed heavily from a Roman pizza recipe I saw on YouTube from a pizza shop that uses whole grain in their recipe, which bakes at a lower temperature while still having somewhat high hydration.

    The big takeaway for me is that high hydration and lots of time seem to be the key to getting an ideal result. This is the recipe I wound up with. I would appreciate any feedback from folks who've been making whole-grain pies for a while to see if I might be missing something obvious here. I've been happy with the results, but I am always looking to improve.

    Biga (24 hrs. before you want pizza):
    Whole-grain flour 75%
    Water 56%
    Yeast 0.5% (Saf instant dry yeast)

    Remaining dough ingredients:
    Whole-grain flour 25%
    Water 30%
    Yeast 0.1% (Saf instant dry yeast)
    Salt 1.9%

    For a 12" x 12" square pan, I use the following weights/volumes -

    Biga:
    269 g flour
    200 mL water
    1.8g instant yeast

    Dough:
    90 g flour
    ~110 mL water
    0.36g instant yeast
    7 g salt

    I haven't weighed the final product, but will do that the next time I make it.

    I wasn't sure how best to handle the percentages with the pre-ferment, but this was what made sense to me and what King Arthur does. Everything is expressed as a percent of the total flour weight, with 3/4 of the flour used for the biga.

    The approach I've been happiest with is making the biga about 24 hrs. before I want to make pizza. I'll make the biga and leave it out at room temp, which in my apartment is around 60 degrees, for 12 hours. I'll then break up the biga and knead in the remaining ingredients by hand, adding half the water initially, then gradually adding the rest. I'm less precise about the water quantity in the second addition, and I'll go by feel as I am kneading. The dough should be fairly wet and a little sticky.

    I'll then put the ball in an oiled (maybe 2 tsp. EVOO) bowl and cover, and let rise for 4 hours.

    After 4 hours I'll dump the dough into my oiled baking pan (2 tbsp EVOO in 12"x12" pan) and stretch to fit. This can take a little effort as the dough will be quite elastic. Once it's all stretched I then cover the pan and let it rest for 5 hours before docking, topping, and baking. Docking is crucial to prevent bubbling and cheese/sauce displacement.

    I then bake at 550 for 18 minutes.

    I've been using a 50/50 blend of hard red winter wheat and sprouted spelt flour, but I've also done this with Patwin white wheat (another whole-grain wheat flour) and the hard red, and just Patwin white by itself. The sprouted spelt / hard red blend has been my favorite so far, though.

    The hydration really makes a huge difference, along with the extended time resting. For a while I was making a lower hydration recipe, with only a 2 hour rise before stretching. That produced a pretty thin end product. This has a decent rise for whole-grain, but the best part is the more developed flavor in the dough from the longer ferment.

    It still isn't as puffy as one would get from a white flour, but the longer ferment and resting period seems to produce much better gluten development and hole size in the dough. When I would make this with the shorter timeframe recipe the resulting pizza was fairly close-textured.

    Based on some advice here, before using a biga I did try using a soaker, just water and flour, and while it did somewhat improve the pizza, it wasn't that big of a difference. That was what gave me the idea to try this Roman pizza method I saw using a biga.

    Unfortunately I don't have any pictures at the moment, but if this is something anyone's interested in seeing I can take some the next time I make one.


    For comparison, this is the original recipe I started with, which is basically Kenji's recipe for Detroit-style pizza dough, with additional hydration for the whole grain:

    Flour 100%
    Water 80%
    Salt 3%
    Instant yeast 1.6%

  • #2 by jtwg on 26 Apr 2021
  • Made another batch of this last night / this morning. Final dough ball weight for 12"x12" pan was 652g.
  • #3 by jtwg on 27 Apr 2021
  • Here are some pix from my latest pie.

    In order, these show the biga last night, then this morning, then broken up, the final dough ball, the rise, the shaping, and second proof in the pan. You can see from the view dumped into the pan that it's quite a slack dough.
  • #4 by jtwg on 27 Apr 2021
  • Rest of the pics.

    Applied the toppings - dry mozzarella + provolone, green olives, capers, spicy sauce w/ red chile flake, garlic. Fresh from the oven. Note the blackened cheese crust. Detail of the crumb and underside.

    This particular pie is 50/50 sprouted spelt and Patwin white whole wheat.
  • #5 by nickyr on 27 Apr 2021
  • Rest of the pics.

    Applied the toppings - dry mozzarella + provolone, green olives, capers, spicy sauce w/ red chile flake, garlic. Fresh from the oven. Note the blackened cheese crust. Detail of the crumb and underside.

    This particular pie is 50/50 sprouted spelt and Patwin white whole wheat.
    It looks awesome!
  • #6 by barryvabeach on 28 Apr 2021
  • Nice results.  I usually use 100% home milled whole wheat -  used to be 100% white, lately i switch between that and up to 25% red wheat, but have never tried spelt.   I find that a long bulk ferment really adds flavor, and so I usually will be making the dough on Thursday night and then cook on Sunday.  I use a starter, not instant yeast, so my formula is quite different.
  • #7 by jtwg on 28 Apr 2021
  • I use a starter, not instant yeast, so my formula is quite different.

    Do you have a post with your formula? I have been thinking about getting into making a starter. My wife ordered some sprouted spelt and I tried adding it once and really liked the nuttiness it added. I think I prefer the blend to 100% wheat.
  • #8 by Jersey Pie Boy on 28 Apr 2021
  • Looks wonderful...thanks for specs and pics
  • #9 by barryvabeach on 29 Apr 2021
  • So my formula tonight was 262 grams white wheat,  173 grams water, 7 grams salt and 14 grams starter.    In the fridge tonight for the next day or so, put on the counter for several hours over the weekend to see a little rise, then reball, then back in the fridge.  Since I am using home milled,  you hydration may be different.
  • #10 by jtwg on 30 Apr 2021
  • So my formula tonight was 262 grams white wheat,  173 grams water, 7 grams salt and 14 grams starter.    In the fridge tonight for the next day or so, put on the counter for several hours over the weekend to see a little rise, then reball, then back in the fridge.  Since I am using home milled,  you hydration may be different.

    Thanks, what kind of pie do you make with this?
  • #11 by barryvabeach on 01 May 2021
  • Somewhere between NY and Neo.  Very thin crust, and the bottom is not pillow soft like a Neo, but not a crisp bottom like a NY street pizza, you can fold it.
  • #12 by corkd on 23 May 2021
  • That pizza looks great! You nailed it. If you get a moment, look up villa Roma’s posts on this site- they would be many years ago at this point. Excellent 100 % whole wheat neo-ish doughs, and I can attest to the result, as i reproduced it myself. Puffy cornichone I totally did not expect....
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