Tuesday, August 10, 2010

100% whole-grain pizza ("au levain")

The last thing I thought I would end up doing this summer is to go back to no-knead doughs. I had been there, done that, not been convinced that it was really for me and moved on. But here we are in our little camp by the river with a flock of kids and grandkids and, despite the long list of breads I'd like to try making, I have actually much less time than anticipated for mixing, folding, proofing and experimenting.
So I am mostly sticking to the rustic batard recipe, making a batch every other day to cover our basic needs and I find myself going no-knead for pretty much everything else. What can be more convenient than mixing all the ingredients briefly in a bowl, setting the dough to rise at room temperature until it rises, sticking it in the fridge for a few days and taking out what you need when you need it (no pun intended)? Moreover this dough doesn't need to proof (I just keep the pizza on the counter until the oven reaches the desired temperature) or be rolled out.
My grandkids, even the pickiest among them, love whole-grain pizza (they don't actually know or care whether or not their pizza is made with whole grain or with bleached white flour, they just love the taste), so I tried to come up with a 100% whole grain no-knead recipe that would use levain (of which I always have an ample supply) and no commercial yeast (to avoid the risk of phytic acid blocking the absorption of nutrients) (see the last three or four paragraphs of A Convenient Dough).
I started by using too much levain and found the dough too acidic (although none of the kids commented on it and they all ate their pizza with the same gusto), so I reduced the proportion and now use 150 g firm levain for 950 g of flour. You may find you need to use a slightly bit more or a slightly bit less, depending on your levain and your taste.
I have an electric mill, so I mill my own whole grain flour, using wheat, spelt and rye berries. I mill it fine enough that I don't have to sift it. If you don't have access to a mill, you can use a mix of whole wheat, whole spelt and whole rye flours (dark rye flour) in the same proportions.
Ingredients (for a batch of dough that yields at least 4 large pizzas)
150 g firm levain (hydration rate: 60%)
950 g whole grain flour (45% wheat, 45% spelt and 10% rye)
50 g gluten
787 g water
18 g salt
100 g extra-virgin olive oil (optional)
Method (adapted from Healthy Breads in Five Minutes a Day by Jeff Hertzberg and Zoe Francois)
  1. Whisk together the flour, yeast, salt and gluten in a 5-quart bowl
  2. Add the liquid ingredients and mix without kneading using a spoon. You might need to use wet hands to get the last bit of flour to incorporate
  3. Cover (not airtight) and allow the dough to rest at room temperature until it rises and collapses (or flattens on top), approximately 2 hours
  4. Refrigerate it in a lidded container and use it over the next 7 days
  5. On baking day, preheat the oven to 400 F/204 C with a baking stone in it
  6. Take the dough out of the fridge, dust its surface with flour and scoop out a 450g (grapefruit size) piece. Dust the piece with more flour, knead it for a few seconds (to make it more cohesive) and quickly shape it into a ball
  7. Slightly oil a pizza pan (preferably with olive oil) or a baking sheet
  8. Using your hands, flatten the ball of dough onto the pan, making sure it is about the same thickness all around
  9. Add the desired toppings and bake for 20 to 25 minutes minutes or so (putting the pizza pan directly on the baking stone, checking after 15 minutes and turning the pizza around if necessary)
  10. Allow to cool on a rack.
We were sharing the pizza with our 5-year old grand-daughter who doesn't tolerate anything but sauce and cheese on her pizza. So I painted the whole pizza with pizza sauce (store-bought) and went about 50-50 with the toppings. On our side, I used raw portobello mushrooms, thinly sliced, and fresh sweet red peppers topped with Parmesan shavings and smoked Spanish paprika. On hers, just store-bought shredded mozzarella. She ended up eating most of her half (she kindly allowed her grandfather to have the last small slice).
This pizza goes to Susan's Wild Yeast blog for Yeastpotting.


  1. Great! I would love to try this recipe.

  2. Thanks for visiting, Anulka! Let me know how it turns out if you try it.

  3. I made it today. It turned out very well, dough is easy to work with and tasty. I baked one pizza for dinner and the bread shaped like focaccia for later.
    Thank You very much for the recipe and for Your blog which is my inspiration.
    If You would like to see it I will posting about it on my blog - Wednesday 16th.

  4. I`m sorry - Wednesday 18th - of course.

  5. Thanks for your kind words, Anulka. I am looking forward to reading your post tomorrow.



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