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Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Whole Wheat Pizza Crust

Everyone should master one recipe for pizza crust. I think many people avoid this divine experience because they are intimidated by the apparent time involved. Yet with this simple, easy to master skill you can make healthy, delicious pizza with whatever you have in your home. Improvising topping ingredients turns the making of pizza into a collaborative event. The active time in making pizza dough is really only 15-20 minutes, and the dough can rise in your refrigerator while you are at work, ready for dinner when you return. Making your own dough allows you to control the nutritional content of the dough, producing a much healthier yet tastefully indulgent pizza. For example, you may omit the butter, oil, and sugar that is so often found in commercially prepared doughs as I have done here. I have also added whole wheat flour and some wheat bran to give this crust a hearty yet subtle taste that compliments well with a variety of gourmet toppings. Better still, the addition of the wheat flour actually makes this a more forgiving dough to work with if you are a beginner.

If you spend some time looking up dozens of pizza dough recipes, you will soon find that they all have core ingredients: flour, water, yeast, and salt. Some additionally include sugar, honey, or herbs. Here I present a basic dough that we make regularly in our home. From this base you will find you can improvise to add any degree of variation. If you prefer a sweeter crust, try adding 1 Tbsp of honey or brown sugar (note that the yeast may rise faster with this addition). If you want to try an herb crust, knead 2 Tbsp of fresh herbs into the crust. If you prefer a white flour pizza crust, use 3 cups of all-purpose flour and omit the wheat flour and bran.


1 cup warm water
1/2 packet yeast
2 cups all-purpose flour (unbleached if possible)
1 cup (less 2 Tbsp) whole wheat flour
2 Tbsp wheat bran
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp olive oil

Servings: 4-8, by which I mean 4 adults will be stuffed. 8 adults will be fine with side salads. 6 adults will be completely happy.

Sprinkle yeast over the warm water, let it stand until dissolved.

Toss the all-purpose flour, wheat flour, wheat bran and salt in a mixing bowl until combined.

Stir the dissolved yeast and water into the flour mix with a wooden spoon, until a stiff dough forms.

Knead 5-10 minutes until the dough is elastic and somewhat smooth (see photo at top). Because of the high wheat content, this dough will not be as smooth or soft as pizza dough made with only all-purpose flour.

Hand vs. Machine Kneading: For years I have preferred to knead doughs by hand. I like the way I feel connected to decades of women around the world who have done the same, and I find the process frankly cathartic. However, I have recently been reading some of the work produced by America's Test Kitchen, and they have me convinced that convenience is not the only benefit of using hook-equipped stand mixers for dough. Whereas hand kneading is difficult with wet doughs, stand mixers can allow the baker to work with doughs without adding excess flour and disrupting the moisture balance of the dough.

Add 1/2 tsp olive oil to the bottom of a glass bowl. A trifle bowl would work perfectly, but really you want any medium sized bowl with somewhat straight sides (see the photo below). Form the dough into a ball. Put the dough ball into the glass bowl and rotate to cover lightly in the olive oil. Press the ball down into the glass container. Press plastic wrap onto the top of the dough. (Note: do not wrap the dough entirely in plastic wrap as this will restrict its ability to expand as it rises).

Allow the dough to rise until doubled in volume. This is much easier to judge if it is rising in a small glass container with relatively straight sides. The time of this will vary greatly depending on 1) whether you use quick rise or regular active dry yeast 2) how warm it is. With regular active dry yeast in a draft-free warm environment it will usually take 1-1.5 hours to double. I often prefer to do this first rise in the refrigerator, which tends then to take 8 hours, so I can make the dough in the morning and have it ready for pizza in the evening. In general, a longer slower rise allows taste complexity to develop in the dough. Using quick-rise yeast will generally halve the rising time.

After the first rise the dough will be softer and may have some visible air pockets (see photo). Punch the dough down (it will be slightly larger than its original size) and allow to rise until doubled. If you are in a hurry, you can often skip this "second rise." As with the first rise, place it in the lightly oiled bowl and cover with plastic wrap. The second rise is quicker than the first. In the fridge with quick-rise yeast it takes roughly 1-1.5 hours. Out on a warm counter top it can be as quick as 30 minutes.

Divide into four balls. Take one into your hands and gently work it into a flat disk, gradually rotating it in your hands so it stretches out evenly without forming holes. Mine are rarely if ever perfect circles. Don't let eccentric shapes fuss you, they will taste excellent just the same.

Place on a well seasoned pizza stone. Top as desired (recipes will come with ideas). Bake at 400 until crust is slightly crisp to the touch and cheese is golden.

Nutritional Information (from Based on 8 servings (1/2 pizza crust), 168 calories, 0.9 g fat, 3 g fiber, 151 mg sodium.

Coming soon:
Artichoke and Purple Basil Pizza
Garlic and Portobello Mushroom Pizza
Date and Herb Pizza


gm said...

OK...Love the blog. So nice to see a gourmet oriented foodblogger who's dedicated to health as well as taste. Recently purchased wheat bran myself as I wanted to incorporate more fiber into my dough and came across...

Pizza is a great option of course, one of my favorites, simply because it lends to so many options. Have you tried your recipe with white whole wheat?

Erin said...

Glad to hear you like the blog! I haven't tried the recipe with white whole wheat. I am not sure how the treatment process that whitens it would affect the absorbency of the flour or the final elasticity of the dough. But if you are familiar with making pizza dough, you can try the substitute and add the water carefully until it presents the 'just right' consistency.

gm said...

Update...tried your recipe this evening (scaled in half) with a Mediterranean-inspired topping, tasted great! Thanks again for the inspiration.

shorty said...

Have you tried freezing the crust for later use?

Erin said...

Shorty: I have not tried freezing it, but it sounds like a great experiment. As the recipe makes four small thin crust pizzas, and I typically only make it when we have four or more folks eating, I rarely have any leftovers. If you give it a go, please let me know how it turns out!

La vie europa said...

I saw this post yesterday and had homemade pizza on the brain....alas I sadly settled for a store bought crust, but I will DEFINITELY have to try this on my next pizza adventure. Any tips when a pizza stone is not available??

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