The Dough Doctor takes a look at whole-grain crusts
America’s obsession with health hasn’t slowed down. Our industry has survived low-carb and low-fat diets, but we can still remain a viable option for those seeking healthier eats. I’d like to talk about how to make a whole-grain type dough/crust.
By definition a whole-grain crust is made entirely with 100-percent whole grains, such as whole-wheat flour or a blend of different grains that have been ground/milled into flour. No white or refined flour is used in making whole grain dough/crusts.
As in the production of multi-grain doughs, the correct dough absorption is paramount to making a dough which is easily handled and produces a finished crust meeting consumer expectations. Whole grain flours are rich in bran (the outer seed covering), generally containing upwards of 20 percent or more bran.
The method used to determine the correct dough absorption is similar to that which is used for multi-grain blends. Begin by weighing 10 ounces of your whole grain flour into a suitably sized container and then add 6 ounces of water. Stir to wet the flour and allow the flour to hydrate for one hour, and then assess the consistency of the flour-water blend. You are looking for something that looks like thick oatmeal. If necessary, add additional water and blend by stirring into the mass and allow to hydrate for at least 30 minutes before checking the consistency again. Repeat this procedure until the desired consistency is achieved after a 30-minute or more hydration period.
We now divide the weight of water that was added by the weight of the flour (10 ounces) and multiply by 100 to find the absorption of the whole grain blend. For example, if we needed 8 ounces of water to achieve the desired consistency, we would divide 8 by 10 and multiply by 100 to equal 80 percent. The next step is to reduce this percentage by 5, so 80 minus 5 equals 75 percent. This is the dough absorption that you will want to use when making your whole grain dough with your chosen whole grain flour or flour blend. Using this example, to make the dough we will place 75 percent water (based on the whole grain flour weight) in a mixing bowl and mix just enough to thoroughly blend the water and flour together. This is called a “soaker” as we will now set this aside for at least 90 minutes to allow time for the flour to fully absorb the water. In most instances where these doughs have failed the dough was made with just enough water to yield a normal handling dough immediately after mixing. The problem here is that the bran in the flour continues to absorb water but at a much slower rate than what flour does. At first everything appears to be good, but with time the bran hydrates making the dough overly stiff and dry feeling with disastrous results on the finished pizza crust (dry texture, lacking in volume and less than ideal flavor).
After the soaker has fully hydrated, it is added to the mixer along with the other dough ingredients that you use in making your regular pizza doughs and mixed only until the dough begins to take on a somewhat smooth appearance, being careful so as not to over mix the dough. If in doubt, better to under mix the dough than over mix it.
As soon as the dough comes off of the mixer, take it to the bench for scaling and balling. At this time you might notice that the dough is slightly sticky. Don’t worry as this is normal for this type of dough. Use a little salad oil on the dough if you need to reduce the stickiness.
Place the dough balls into dough boxes and wipe the top of each dough ball with a little oil and then take directly to the cooler and cross stack for at least 2 hours. Next, down stack and cover or nest the boxes for overnight storage. The dough will be ready to use after 16 hours in the cooler but it will keep in the cooler for up to 48 hours.
Unlike white doughs, whole grain dough does not perform well if held for more than 48 hours in the cooler. To use the dough, remove from the cooler and allow to warm at room temperature until the dough reaches 50 to 55 F and then begin opening the dough into pizza skins as needed. Typically, once you begin opening the dough balls they will remain good to use for about two more hours. After that it is recommended that any dough balls be opened into skins, placed on screens and stored on a wire tree rack in the cooler until needed later in the day. To use these pre-opened skins, remove from the cooler and lift the skin off of the screen and then immediately place it back on again. This will help to prevent the dough from adhering to the screen. Allow the skins to warm at room temperature for about 15 to 20 minutes and then dress the skins and bake in your normal manner. Whole grain pizzas are typically baked at the same time and temperature as your regular pizzas.
Keep in mind that whole grain pizzas have a “healthy” connotation with your customers. To further build this image, you might want to consider replacing any sugar in the formula with a little honey. And while olive oil might be healthier, butter imparts a great dairy note in the flavor profile. Remember that many consumers see sea salt as a healthier alternative to regular table salt, so don’t be afraid to advertise these to your customers when making a product roll out.
Don’t overlook the toppings either. Think up some healthy-sounding pizza themes like garden fresh vegetables on a whole grain crust, or how about utilizing chicken or fish as a topping? Both of these go well with the whole grain concept, so use your imagination to fully capitalize on the whole grain crust concept. (Remember –– double cheese and double pepperoni still goes well on a whole grain crust, too.)
In addition to pizza crusts you can also make calzones, breadsticks, garlic knots and even dessert pizzas using the whole grain dough. Think of it as just another crust option, but remember its limitations.
Tom Lehmann is a former director at the American Institute of Baking in Manhattan, Kansas and Pizza Today’s resident dough expert.