Whole grains as a plus for pizza crust

Recent pizza promotions have centered on subtractions, like taking out artificial flavors and colors. What about considering crust additions? Whole grain flour from wheat, sprouted flour or ancient grains may improve the nutritional aspects of pizza.

Consumers might notice, too. The International Food Information Council Foundation’s Food and Health Survey 2015 found 56% of respondents said they were trying to get a certain amount of whole grains or as much as possible.

“There are numerous whole grains suitable for use in pizza crusts,” said Harold Ward, technical service representative at Bay State Milling, Quincy, Mass. “It is greatly dependent on the finished product characteristics the developer is trying to achieve as well as customer preference. Whole grains ranging from sprouted wheat to ancient grains such as quinoa and spelt might all be good options.”

Mr. Ward said using 100% sprouted whole wheat flour may achieve higher levels of whole grain content when compared to other grains such as quinoa and amaranth.

Ardent Mills, Denver, incorporated ancient grains into pizza crusts at the International Pizza Expo in March in Las Vegas.

“At the Pizza Expo, we demonstrated a crust with buckwheat combined with an Asian flavor profile and a crust with amaranth and quinoa paired with Latin flavors,” said Zack Sanders, a director of marketing for Ardent Mills. “They’re not what some would consider traditional pizzas, but they got people thinking about some of the possibilities to attract new customers.”

When formulators make pizza crust with Ardent Mills’ ancient grains, the company recommends starting with levels of 10% to 15% whole grain flour in formulas and adjusting from there, said Don Trouba, a director of marketing for Ardent Mills.

The company also offers sprouted white spring whole wheat flour and Ultragrain white whole wheat flour that may be used in pizza crust.

“Our sprouted white spring whole wheat flour offers great baking performance, whole grain nutrition and an enlightened eating halo, which can be used to tap into this popular and growing food trend,” Mr. Trouba said. “Additionally, our Ultragrain white whole wheat flour offers whole grain nutrition but with a taste, texture and appearance that appeals to mainstream pizza consumers.”

In pizza, a higher protein whole wheat flour produced from hard red winter wheat works well for thicker crust while a lower protein hard red spring wheat flour works better for a thinner cracker-like crust, said Tim Aschbrenner, director of quality assurance for Grain Craft.

“The higher protein whole wheat flour contains more gluten, which helps products where more volume is needed,” he said. “The gluten helps develop the structure to trap the gas from the fermentation process and maintain the desired volume.”

Mr. Ward said doughs containing whole grains typically require higher absorption and less development than doughs made solely with refined flour.

Packing in eight or more grams of whole grains per serving may qualify a product for the Whole Grain Stamp from the Whole Grains Council, Boston. As of May, the Whole Grain Stamp was on more 10,000 different products in 44 countries.

Pizza companies also are seeking ways to meet whole grain requirements for the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s school meal programs.

“In products for kids, the biggest sensory issues tend to be the grainy mouthfeel and bitterness sometimes associated with traditional whole grain wheat pizza crusts,” Mr. Ward said. “Sprouted wheat and white whole wheat are the best options for minimizing the flavors typically associated with whole grains. Sprouted wheat specifically has a very mild, slightly sweet flavor profile. White whole wheat has a milder flavor along with a lighter color than traditional whole wheat.”

Bay State Milling offers an Easy GrAin pizza crust mix specifically to meet the whole grain-rich requirements of the school lunch program, said Donna Reiser, marketing communications manager for the company. By using a near-completed mix, the pizza operator may add water and yeast to create a 53% whole grain crust formulated with GrainEssentials white whole wheat extra fine flour.

“The result is a lighter color and mild flavor profile, over traditional whole wheat, which many students prefer,” she said.

Domino’s sells Domino’s Smart Slice pizzas in more than 4,000 schools across the United States. Smart Slice uses 51% white whole wheat flour from Ultragrain whole wheat from Ardent Mills.

“Traditional whole wheat flour can have a gritty, bitter flavor that doesn’t appeal to kids,” Mr. Trouba said. “Other white whole wheat flours, although lighter in color, can also be gritty. Our Ultragrain whole wheat flour and Ultragrain all-purpose flour blend T-2 offer whole grain nutrition with the taste, texture and appearance that students enjoy, a fact we’ve verified in several studies.”

Pizza crust incorporating Ultragrain may fit better into a school district budget than pizza crust incorporating ancient grains or other unique grains, he said.

“We’ve made pizzas with levels up to 100% whole grain using our Ultragrain whole wheat flour that had wide mainstream appeal,” Mr. Trouba said. “However, to balance whole grain nutrition and traditional appearance, we’ve done lots of work with blends. For example, 55% Ultragrain is extremely popular in school applications, and blends with 30% can replace white flour cup for cup while delivering meaningful whole grain nutrition. These same levels would apply to our sprouted white spring whole wheat flour.”