Several times now friends have told me that this is the “best pizza crust ever.” Such superlatives have decreasing meaning in our superlative-rich culture, when “best laxative ever” can be tossed off without batting an eye, yet, for any cook who enjoys giving pleasure through the food that he or she prepares, they are wonderful words indeed. This dough is suitable for a thick or a thin crust pizza; either way it is chewy, with great crunch from the multi-grains and a nutty, complex flavor that is superb. I will sometimes top this with nothing more than a little olive oil, Ouray cheese and a sprinkle of basil – it is delicious as a snack, or, if you are like me, add a glass of wine and call it dinner!
This recipe is adapted from Peter Reinhart’s Whole Grain Breads. Reinhart employs a 2-day process for nearly all of the recipes in this book, with an overnight soak and pre-ferment, to bring out all of the flavor and texture of whole grain flours without the necessity of a long knead or the addition of white flour. While the steps below are detailed, the process is actually quite simple, and not overly time-consuming, once you get the hang of it. I find that I need to lower the amount of water added when using the Wild Hive flours in these recipes; perhaps the freshly milled flour has a higher water content already, and hence cannot absorb as much as industrial flour, or perhaps it is trait of Northeast flours in general; I am not sure, but I have tinkered with this recipe enough to be able to achieve consistent results with the amounts specified in the recipe below. If you are working with a different type of flour, pay attention to the descriptions of how the dough should look and feel, and perform your own experiments; even though the recipe technically takes two days to make, it is a simple one and makes four incredibly delicious pizza shells. Top one or two with your favorite sauce, cheese, veggies or meat for dinner tonight, and freeze the rest for a quick & easy meal later on.
Don’t have two days? Check out Quick(er) Whole Grain Pizza Dough.
12-Grain Pizza Dough
- 3 oz (2/3 cup) whole wheat flour
- 3 oz (2/3 cup) Wild Hive 10-grain multi mix
- 2 oz (scant 1/2 cup) spelt flour
- 1/2 tsp sea salt
- 6 oz (3/4 cup) water
- 8 oz (1.75 cups) whole wheat flour
- 1/4 tsp instant yeast (or dissolve 3/8 tsp active dry yeast into water below – wait until foamy, 10 minutes)
- 6 oz (3/4 cup) filtered or spring water, at room temperature
- 2 oz (7 tbsp) whole wheat flour
- 1/2 heaping tsp sea salt
- 1 and 1/2 tsp instant yeast (or 2 tsp active dry yeast dissolved in 1/4 cup warm water; add extra flour as needed)
- 1 oz (2 tbsp) olive oil
- extra whole wheat flour for adjustments
- Make the soaker. Mix all soaker ingredients together in a medium bowl for about 1 minute, until all of the flour is hydrated and the ingredients for a thick, porridge-like dough. Cover with plastic wrap and leave at room temperature for 12 to 24 hours. If it will be longer than 24 hours, store the soaker in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.
- Make the biga. Mix all biga ingredients together in a medium bowl until a ball of dough forms. Using wet hands, knead the dough with knuckles and fingertips for 2 minutes in the bowl. Make sure all the flour is hydrated and the dough feels very tacky, but is not soupy. Let the dough rest for 5 minutes (cover bowl with a kitchen towel), then knead again for 1 minute. Transfer to a clean bowl, cover tightly and refrigerate for 8 hours to 3 days.
- Make the final dough. Remove the biga & soaker from the refrigerator at least 2 hours prior to making the final dough (so the pre-dough can warm up to room temperature). On a floured work surface, turn out the biga and cut into approximately 12 equal pieces. Lightly flour the pieces, to keep them from sticking, and transfer to a large bowl. Repeat this process with the soaker. Add the whole wheat flour, salt, yeast and olvie oil. Mix vigorously with a wooden spoon or your hands in the bowl for approximately 2 minutes, until all the ingredients are evenly distributed in the dough. Turn the dough out onto the floured surface and knead for about 3 to 4 minutes, incorporating flour, or wetting your hands, as necessary. The dough should be soft and very tacky, verging on sticky.
- Form the dough into a ball and let it rest, covered, on the work surface for 5 minutes. Line a sheet pan with parchment or a silicone mat, then grease it with some olive oil. Resume kneading the dough for 1 minute to strengthen the gluten and make any final flour or water adjustments. The dough should feel soft, supple and very tacky, almost sticky.
- Divide the dough into 4 equal pieces. Form each piece into a tight ball (taking a piece of dough in one hand, cup your hand around the top of the dough ball and rotate the dough rapidly in a circular motion, as if trying to push the dough through the work surface – you may need to wet the work surface slightly for the dough to get started). Surface tension is key here for a good rise of the dough. Transfer each dough ball to the baking sheet, roll to coat in oil, then lest rest, covered with plastic wrap, for about 1 hour. It will increase in size 1 and a half to 2 times.
- Preheat the oven as hot as it will go (550 F convection on my oven). I highly recommend a baking stone.
- Shape the dough. Flatten one ball of risen dough slightly; begin to stretch, working from the edges, not the middle, by lifting the dough and turning the round, or by stretching out with the backs of your knuckles and turning constantly. Use gentle but quick movements, trying not to deflate all of the air from the rise. Stretch the dough out to a 10-12″ circle, and place on a piece of parchment, sprinkled with cornmeal or flour. Because of the multi-grain texture, this dough is less pliable and a bit more difficult to stretch than white flour or plain whole wheat flour dough; the enhanced taste is definitely worth the effort, but if in doubt, leave the pizza shell a bit smaller and thicker; it will still cook well on a pizza stone.
- Cook the pizza. For a thick crust pizza, drizzle a bit of olive oil on the crust, load up with your favorite toppings, and slide onto the heated pizza stone with a pizza peel. Cook until crust is bubbled up, beginning to brown on the edges, and cheese is starting to carmelize. Remove and let sit for 1 or 2 minutes prior to cutting.
- For a thin crust pizza, I find it works best to pre-cook the crust prior to loading; stretch crust, as above, as thin as it will go without tearing, then slide plain crust onto the heated pizza stone. Let cook for 2 to 3 minutes (enough time for the crust to expand and stiffen, but not to brown), then remove pizza shell and load up with toppings. Return to the oven for 5-7 minutes, until the crust is browned and your cheese is starting to carmelize.
- Pre-cook dough for storage. Stretch and pre-cook the remainder of the pizza dough for storage in the freezer (this works much better than freezing the dough itself, which doesn’t seem to rise well after the freeze, and makes for much simpler meal prep next time around). Alternatively, you can store the dough balls, prior to the 1-hour rise, in the refrigerator to slow down the rise; use within 24 hours.
- Any combination of cooked or uncooked grains can be used in this recipe, so feel free to experiment with your favorites. The original recipe calls for 5 oz mixed grains, 3 oz whole wheat flour and 7 oz water in the soaker, and 8 oz whole wheat flour and 7 oz water in the biga. If you are using different batches of flour and grains, you may need to experiment to find the best flour-grains-water ratio for your flour, climate, etc.
Check here for more pizza recipes, including how to top your delicious dough!
Shaped dough balls can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 24 hours prior to the final rise. Allow to come to room temperature for at least 2 hours before shaping into pizza shells. Pre-cooked pizza shells will keep well in the freezer for up to 3 months. There is no need to thaw prior to cooking; load up with pizza ingredients and cook on a pre-heated pizza stone.