My quest to turn out an excellent-quality pizza dough continues….and I’ve made a giant step forward by using a transitional whole wheat recipe from (my favorite) Whole Grain Breads by Peter Reinhart. He has a more than a few tricks up his sleeve for unlocking flavor & texture from whole wheat, which can result in an unfortunate cardboardy texture and bitter flavor in a baked pizza crust.
His method calls for a whole wheat soaker and a separate bread flour biga; both rest overnight before the final dough is mixed. Yes, it’s a bit long, but the recipe yields five dough portions perfect for freezing. Here’s the soaker: 1 3/4 cups whole wheat flour; 1/2 tsp salt, 3/4 cup plus 2 T water; stir together, cover with plastic wrap, and rest at room temp overnight (or up to 24 hours). Now for the biga: 1 3/4 cups unbleached bread flour, 1/4 tsp instant yeast, 1/2 cup plus 2 T water; mix biga ingredients together until flour is fully hydrated, wait 5 minutes, then knead with wet hands for 1 minute. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.
The next day, use a knife or scraper to cut the biga and soaker into rough chunks and add to the bowl of a stand mixer. Add to the bowl: 7 T whole wheat flour, 5/8 tsp salt, 1 1/2 tsp instant yeast, 1 T sugar, and 2 T olive oil. Mix on low with the dough hook until blended, then knead on medium for 5-6 minutes–the dough should pass the windowpane test.
At this point, scrape the dough onto a floured counter and cut into 5 equal pieces (about 6 1/4 ounces each). Roll each piece into a ball and coat with olive oil; wrap tightly in plastic wrap and seal all the wrapped dough portions in a zipper freezer bag & freeze. Frozen dough keeps for a couple of months. To use, defrost overnight in the refrigerator, or two hours on the kitchen counter.
And now for the pizza: the defrosted dough stretched easily and didn’t tear. I hand-stretched it and laid it out on parchment paper…..a trick I learned after many frustrating, sticky attempts. Stretched dough loaded with toppings always sticks to my peel, unless I spread an unpleasant amount of flour on the peel. The excess flour either burns (gross) or doesn’t cook at all (extra gross). So now, I just put the dough onto parchment, using the peel to transfer the pizza-on-paper to the preheated pizza stone.
A tiny bit of (I admit it, jarred) marinara sauce, a whisper of grated skim milk mozzarella, two cups of chunked portobella mushrooms, and a few ounces of fresh chevre topped my mostly whole wheat dough for a pizza even a nutritionist could love. Since both portobellas and chevre came from the newly reopened Wednesday afternoon German Coast farmer’s market (relocated to the St. Charles Plaza shopping center in Luling on US 90), it was even a pizza a locovore could love. After just six minutes on a hot pizza stone (preheated on the gas grill), it was perfect.