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Whole Grain Sourdough Pizza

Breadtopia’s whole wheat all purpose flour makes a spectacular sourdough pizza on all fronts: delicious soft wheat flavor, chewy and airy texture, gorgeous appearance. I was surprised by how similar the texture was to this Sourdough Pizza, which is Tipo 00 flour paired with whole grain turkey red flour at only 15% of the total flour weight.

The funny thing is that this discovery came about from baguette testing. After mixing up my millionth batch of whole grain baguette dough — planning to try a more nuanced scoring technique — I changed my mind and decided enough was enough, and the prior batch was perfect. But I still had this nicely fermenting dough, so I decided to repurpose it for a pizza dinner. (Baguette recipe here.)

[Jump to recipe]

My first whole grain pizzas came out fantastic right off the bat, with an airy crust and a light wheat flavor that enhanced the pizza but didn’t compete with the sauce and cheese. I didn’t want to change anything about the formula but I did want to test a few more things (cold retard of the dough and baking approaches) and confirm that the success wasn’t a fluke.

First whole grain sourdough pizzas

With my second pizza bake, I looked at how the whole grain dough held up to 24 hours of refrigerating. People love to refrigerate pizza dough balls to use later, but whole grain flour can have more enzymatic activity and ferment faster, so I wondered if it would over-ferment. Not at all. This dough felt great after a 24-hour retard and I suspect more days would be fine too.

I refrigerated the shaped dough for 24 hours and it held up great, with plenty of gluten strength and fermentation oomph.

I also wanted to compare baking the pizzas in a very hot specialty pizza oven (Ooni), which can get to and beyond the oft-quoted ideal pizza baking temp of 752°F, and baking the pizzas in a kitchen oven with a pizza stone preheated to 500°F.

I usually use my Ooni in warm months since it’s an outdoor oven, and I use my kitchen oven in cold months. Until these pizzas, I’d never actually compared the two ovens using the same batch of dough. The higher temp Ooni yielded a pizza with bigger crust bubbles and some pretty char spots, while the kitchen oven/stone pizza was still very bubbly and nicely baked, but not quite as poofy.

Pizza on the left was baked for a few minutes at over 700°F; pizza on the right was baked for 8 minutes at 500°F and broiled for 1 minute. Same fermentation, dough weight, toppings, etc.

Short bake over 700°F resulted in a more poofy crust, while 9 minutes at 500°F resulted in a more crispy base

Formula and Technique

To help ensure good crust bubbles, this whole grain dough is wetter than my usual pizza dough, which ranges from 15% to 33% whole grain flour. These “individual pizza” dough balls are also heavier at 320g, compared with my usual 285g dough balls, but some of this weight is water, and the final pizza size is actually about the same.

320g dough for these pizzas

I also do a brief saltolyse with this dough, a term coined by Breadtopia community member @benito for when you pre-mix the flour, water, and salt. This hydrating of the flour softens the bran and gets a head start on gluten development, while the presence of salt slows the amylase activity that would usually begin when the flour is hydrated. I also find that there’s less breaking up of the dough when you’re only adding starter later on versus starter and salt.

Adding starter after a 1-hour saltolyse

For this whole grain dough, I suggest more active and spread out gluten development compared with my usual hand kneading of pizza dough. This dough is too wet to hand knead, and multiple coil folds as well as lamination get the dough strong and aerated instead.

Laminating the dough

You can see how the aeration of the dough actually made the dough level in the bucket at the end of the bulk fermentation as high as the dough level in the aliquot jar, which had no de-gassing but also no gluten development.

End of the bulk fermentation

Finally, the bake time is longer with this whole grain pizza dough because of the hydration. I found a longer bake time necessary with both my lightly and heavily topped pizzas, though more so with the heavily topped ones, of course. Bake time is always going to depend on how thin you stretch the dough, how much sauce and toppings you layer onto it, and how much time you allow your stone to re-heat between pizzas.

Stretched into a round and topped

Scaling

This whole grain sourdough pizza recipe is written to make four individual pizzas, but you might want more or less grams per dough ball (or you might prefer to make fewer, larger shared pizzas). Fortunately you can scale the dough as much or as little as you want, without changing the proportions. Simply divide or multiply the ingredients as needed. For example, with my family of five, I would multiply all the ingredients by 1.25 to get 5 individual pizzas.

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