The Whole Truth
Today’s society is obsessed with diet culture and trying to find the healthiest option for everything. Walking into the bread department of any grocery store is one of the most confusing and frustrating decisions of any grocery trip. For the longest time brands have used key words and phrases to be eye catching and allude to its healthy properties. Whole wheat is one of those phrases. The problem with this is that most consumers don’t actually know what they mean or what makes them nutritious. The pizza industry has also fallen prey to this marketing strategy.
For as long as I can remember, I have always been told that whole wheat is healthy and is better than white bread. I even have moments where just the color will influence my decision. White is bad and brown is better. Now that I know more about grains and fermentation, I know that there are more flaws to this thinking than benefits. This is just a marketing strategy employed by companies to sell more product.
Whole wheat, to me, means just that, the entire grain. When wheat is milled, the bran and germ are normally broken off and separated from the endosperm, aka the starch. The germ makes up the smallest part of a kernel of grain and is the embryo or reproductive part of the grain. This part of the grain contains elements like fat that go rancid the quickest, which is one of the reasons why it is removed from flour. The bran is the protective coating around the kernel of grain that helps keep pests and bacteria out. Bran is also high in fiber and contains some vitamins. Since diet culture and diet foods are so profitable, they have added the bran into different breads piggy backing off the benefits it adds to white bread. The endosperm is the part we are interested in most. The endosperm is what all 00 flours are made of.
Just because a menu or label is toting the title of “whole wheat”, the percentage of bran and germ will vary greatly. Some only use a small percentage; some comprise larger quantities or go so far as to be entirely made of the entire parts of the grain. The trouble with adding more bran and germ is that you sacrifice the volume your end product will have. The germ doesn’t contain any gluten, so the more whole wheat you add to a dough the tighter the crumb will be and the less volume it will have. The bran will also affect the overall volume of dough, but it also does not absorb water well, so the more you add the harder it will be to increase your total hydration in a recipe. Most pizzerias use 00 flours which are the most refined. All the bran and germ have been removed. A 00 flour is the most refined, meaning that during production and after grinding it has been sifted the most removing everything except for the endosperm. There are other types of refinement that contain increasing amounts of bran and germ. The types of refinement are listed as 00, 0, 1, 2, and whole grain. Some pizzerias nowadays use type 0 or type 1 flours which adds to the flavor and some health benefits. This is a great way to test out incorporating whole wheat into your dough. My recommendation would be to start with a small percentage and keep the majority of your recipe as the 00 flour. If you use a preferment, try making one out of type 1 flour and then add that into your dough. This way you can incorporate some whole wheat without compromising the gluten structure.
Sprouted grain is another way to add more whole wheat into a dough. I was introduced to this years ago, and it’s still something that I do not see much outside of bread. Sprouted grain is when the whole grains have been cleaned and then soaked so that they sprout. This is sold in bricks and is normally frozen or refrigerated. The easiest way to incorporate this into a dough is by mixing it into the water so that it breaks up. Sprouted grains have not been ground, which adds a larger textural component and adds to the mouthfeel of a dough. I personally love the flavor and aroma sprouted grain adds to a dough. But again, I only use a small percentage so as not to compromise the gluten.
Another component that most people just don’t think about is that all bags of flour are composed of multiple types of wheat. There isn’t just one type of wheat out there and certain types are geared towards different flours. Pizza flours are mostly made of hard red winter wheat and hard red spring wheat. The other types are softer and have lower gluten potential which lends to things like cake, pastries, cracker and all-purpose baking.
An easy dough formula to introduce whole wheat into your pizza — New York style or anything cooked up to 650 degrees.
- 50 pounds high protein high gluten 00 flour
- 10 pounds Poolish made with type 1 flour (5 pounds flour, 5 pounds
water, .8 ounce Active dry yeast)
- 28 pounds water (60 percent total hydration including starter)
- 4.4 ounces Active Dry Yeast
- 17.6 ounces fine sea salt
- 17.6 ounces dry malt
- 17.6 ounces olive oil
Here is the dough formula in baker’s percentage:
- Flour 90 percent
- Total water 60 percent
- Poolish 20 percent
- ADY yeast .5 percent
- Salt 2 percent
- Malt 2 percent
- Oil 2 percent.
Laura Meyer is Administrator & Instructor, The International School of Pizza.