2010 March: All In

You’ve probably heard a lot about how good for you whole grains can be. It’s been touted for its health benefits. They are being incorporated into more and more food products because The Dietary Guidelines for Americans, last released in January 2005, recommend that all adults eat at least half their grains as whole grains –– that’s at least three to five servings of whole grains daily.

Many don’t realize that whole grains are often an even better source of key nutrients than some fruits and vegetables. In fact, whole grains are a good source of B vitamins, Vitamin E, magnesium, iron and fiber, as well as other valuable antioxidants not found in some fruits and vegetables. Most of the antioxidants and vitamins are found in the germ and the bran of a grain.

Foods labeled with the words “multigrain,” “stone-ground,” “100-percent wheat,” “cracked wheat,” “seven-grain,” or “bran” are usually not whole-grain products. Color is also not an indication of a whole grain.

OK, now that we understand all of this, what does it mean to us as pizzeria operators? It means that people are doing their best to conform to doing what is right for their diet while trying to still enjoy their favorite foods. That’s where we come in. As innovators and providers of what people want, we should consider filling that niche. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not suggesting that everybody is going to convert to eating whole wheat and whole grain pizza, but we can make a substantial impact to our business by offering something unique that our competitors don’t offer — or by doing it much better than they are attempting to do.

You might wonder if this is just another diet phase like many of the other diets, including the recent lowcarb craze that lasted a couple of years at best. I don’t think so (and does it really matter if it doesn’t last)? Operators that took advantage of offering something as crazy as a crust-less pizza baked on parchment paper and sold a lot of them were deemed a hero by those low-carb dieters!

Let’s face it, if you are interested in tapping into this opportunity to offer a whole grain pizza, it will take some nurturing the process and educating your customer base. It will be very important to share your new product idea with the folks who would be and should be interested in it. I’d start by bringing flyers, coupons and perhaps even some samples to every local gym and health club. Those are the folks who are trying to get or stay healthy. Many of those folks are avoiding pizza now because it would work against all their efforts at the gym. Maybe you are one of the smart operators who have already tapped into that group of people with innovative and healthy salads and wraps.

Once you’ve developed the dough that works well with your oven and baking process, you’ll need to be clever enough to put together some great pizzas that fit the diet of one who is looking for whole grains in the first place. I’ve already shared with you the health benefits of whole grains and we don’t want to throw that all down the drain by adding unhealthy and fatty toppings. I say let’s go with smaller amounts of cheese with less fat and more flavor. I’d also stick with some great veggies and consider going organic with those toppings if it makes sense in your market. I would also boast a nice, fresh tomato sauce. By doing these things, I’m suggesting your taking the idea of something that may not be such an appetizing concept simply because of it’s health benefits and turning it into a highly desirable meal that will be so appealing to guests, that you’ll soon be able to put on that hero button again!

The trick with a whole grain dough is that its characteristics are very different than our everyday pizza dough. To make the dough as desirable as possible you may need to add some regular fl our as well. Because of the whole-wheat fl our you’ll use, it’s more difficult to get the dough light and airy. Therefore your whole grain dough will need to be a thin crust by using less dough and rolling it out thinner. Because of the texture of this dough, it will also be difficult to throw or toss your dough and should simply be rolled out or pressed out on the prep table. The recipe I’m sharing with you works well in my oven and will in yours as well. It is also a base recipe. Adding additional ingredients like sunflower seeds, sesame seeds and poppy seeds add nutritional value as well as texture and flavor. I feel it heightens the value of what you are offering your health conscious diners. Again, you need to understand your market and what folks in your area are looking for and willing to buy. Just because your current customer base may not be asking for whole grain pizza doesn’t mean they aren’t very interested in trying it. You may have more frequent visits because of the health value of a whole grain pizza topped with delicious and healthy toppings. Give this pizza a try! ?

Chef Jeff’s Whole Grain Pizza Dough

3 cups warm water
1 ounce instant dry yeast
2 ounces sugar
17 ounces whole wheat fl our
12 ounces high gluten fl our
6 ounces dry quick oats zipped up in the food processor
2½ ounces wheat germ
1 tablespoon salt
1 teaspoon onion powder
Water as needed

Like making regular dough, add your yeast and half the sugar to the warm water. Whisk it and set aside until it starts to foam (about 5 minutes). Mix with all other ingredients using a dough hook in a mixer until dough is mixed well.

This recipe will yield you six 11½-ounce dough balls with which you can make six 12-inch, thincrust, whole-wheat pizzas.

Set dough aside, covered, under refrigeration for a minimum of 3 hours before using.

Whole grain Mediterranean Veggie Pizza

Yield: One 12-inch pizza

11½ ounces whole grain dough
4 ounces fresh tomato sauce
Roasted red peppers
Artichoke hearts
Sautéed fresh spinach
Caramelized onions
Kalamata olives
6 ounces mozzarella/ provolone cheese
4 ounces crumbled feta cheese

Stretch dough out to 12 inches in diameter. Sauce skin. Layer vegetable and top with cheese. Bake until cheese browns and dough rises. Cut and serve.

Jeffrey Freehof,
owner of The Garlic Clove in Evans, Georgia, is Pizza Today’s resident expert. He is a frequent speaker at the International Pizza Expo family of tradeshows.