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Homemade Whole Wheat Pizza

One of my favorite pizzas of all time has to be mushrooms and spinach on pesto. Born primarily from nostalgia for a San Francisco road trip and midnight arrival that resulted in finding a late-night corner pizzeria serving some of the most delicious pizza ever, I’ve heralded this combination as my winning pizza flavor for years.

Now that my culinary adventures have given me a wider palette to paint with I can’t help but muddle with this memorable favorite. First the crust – though I love a good pizza and can often eat three or four pieces without any remorse, there is sometimes a slight – shall we say – tinge of guilt post satiation that leaves a slightly bitter moment. This, I’ve decided, can easily be offset with a few choice substitutions. Whole wheat for flour dough and delicious organic ingredients for the conventional fair.

No longer the greasy pepperoni, it’s thin slices of prosciutto. No canned olive, but lovely kalamatas or pitted niçoise. Organic mushrooms, spinach and a peppery pesto made from arugula for my base. Not to forget the most important part – the cheese. I’ve decided that at some point I’m going to try making my own, but until then some local mozz will have to do.

There, that should relieve enough guilt for me to enjoy my pie in peace. Post pie peace.

Arugula Pesto Pizza with Spinach and Mushrooms from Full Circle

The dough recipe I chose for its ease and simplicity. I’ve heard different things about making quality dough. I’ve heard it should be allowed to rise for at least three days, heard that it can be made in as little as thirty minutes and be fine and that given the right combination of white and whole wheat flour it can be both crunchy and chewy, thin and perfect.

I didn’t know what to believe. I tend to be a big believer in time making all food better, the whole ‘good things come…’ motto. But I also like to eat now, when I’m hungry for what I want to make. So I’m going to try the quick and tasty for now and then I’ll report back on the more patient option later. Here’s the recipe I started with –

1 cup whole-wheat flour
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 package quick-rising yeast, (2 1/4 teaspoons)
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon sugar
3/4 cup hot water, (120-130°F)
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

For sauces I decided that a delicious arugula pesto, made from a simple combination of processed arugula and pine nuts, salt and parmegiano for one pie, and another made from similar ingredients but with sun-dried tomatoes as the base, along with a tinge of anchovy paste, and garlic.

Sun-dried Tomato Pesto Pizza with Prosciutto, Kalamatas and Feta

For the veggie option with the arugula pesto,  topping it with spinach, mushrooms and mozzarella seemed the best way to go. And for the sun-dried tomato pesto some thinly sliced shallots, kalamata olives, prosciutto, and feta.

The dough was easy enough to make. Just tossed all the dry ingredients together, added the oil and water and kneaded until a ball was formed. I didn’t want to over knead so I stopped mixing once it rolled into a nice sized ball. I then split this in half and let one rise for a half hour and the other rise for an hour.

The extra rising time did little to change the consistency or flavor of the crust and it actually was nice and thin, crisped up well and was still chewy. It didn’t rise too much in the given time and could probably use another hour or two to make a lighter, less dense crust. But the flavor was good and the wheat didn’t overpower the other flavors of the toppings, but was noticeable.

If you’re looking for a quick, thin, crisp crust I’d say this is your way to go. I have a marble pizza stone that I place in the oven and then crank it up to 500 degrees. I just toss a little cornmeal on a cutting board, place the rolled out dough on there, dress and slide it onto the stone. It’s easy, quick and makes a pretty good crust. If you prefer a crust with more body, I’d let the dough rise a bit longer, at least another hour or two, but cook it the same way. In the interest of science I made a second batch and am letting it rise for 24 hours and 48 hours respectively.

I’ll let you know how that turns out.

Just a quick word about making pestos, which can be made out of practically anything – kale, parsley, arugula, spinach. Process the greens until they are almost completely paste, but still a little chunky. Then add the minced garlic, if using, and which ever nuts you’ve decided to use – pine nuts, walnuts, pistachios, all make great pestos and work better with some combinations of greens. Once the nuts and garlic are chopped roughly, or fine depending on how smooth or chunky you like your pesto (I prefer mine chunky) then remove to a bowl and mix in cheese – pecorino, parmigiano, aged cheddar or gouda, all make great additions and add wonderful flavors to your pesto.

Be creative. Try a kale, walnut, shallot and gouda pesto on your nest pizza, you’ll love it. Eat well, feel good.