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A few months ago, I blogged about the desire to see more whole grain pizzas on the market. While many of the large national delivery chains are still holding out, I’ve recently come across multiple pizzerias leading by example.

One such restaurant is the Colorado-based Pizzeria Locale. This Chipotle-backed venture made headlines for introducing a new heirloom, whole wheat crust at their second location. The grains, carefully selected for their rich flavor, are partially milled in house, which has helped this delicious crust gain a loyal following. Whole grains contain oils that can go rancid quickly; so fresh milling is a huge factor in preserving the flavor of whole grains, a point emphasized repeatedly in the Chef’s Panel at our recent Whole Grains Conference. However, this is unlikely to be a widely-adopted approach for pizza joints that have thousands of locations across the country, most without access to freshly milled grain or costly milling equipment.

Luckily, I had a chance to chat with master baker Peter Reinhart about another approach to whole grain pizza; one that just might hold promise for a new frontier in baking and dough making. 

Among his many accomplishments, Reinhart is a partner at Pure Pizza, a Charlotte, North Carolina “farm-to-fork” pizzeria. One of Reinhart’s main roles in the project was to develop the dough, and offering a high quality whole grain dough was an integral part of that vision. In addition to being freshly and locally milled, Reinhart’s flour has another secret weapon: it’s sprouted.

“Whole grain in and of itself is obviously a growing market category,” explains Reinhart, but “sprouted grains give an advantage over standard whole grains.” Sprouted grains (grains that have been soaked and allowed to sprout, then dried and milled into flour) hold promise in baking, because “sprouting neutralizes or denatures the oils, so that the flour doesn’t have to be used right away.” This is an attractive option for bakers and restaurant operators who want to capture the scrumptious flavor of freshly milled whole grains, but don’t have the capability to do onsite milling or get freshly milled flour delivered daily.

Some bakers are hesitant to experiment with whole grains, but sprouted grains are proving to be a user-friendly entry point. According to Reinhart, “one of the reasons why this flour works so well for pizza and bread is that it absorbs a lot of water. These are very high hydration doughs… which allows them to stand up to the heat of the oven.” This is perfect for making pizza crust, because it “allows for the outside to get crisp, but the inside to stay creamy.” Additionally, the sprouting process “has preconditioned [the grain] to be ready to give up its full flavor.” This means that your pizza dough (or bread) will be “sweeter” and “much lighter tasting”. 

Currently, the biggest challenges facing the growth of sprouted grains are the supply, availability, and cost. Barriers aside, pizza is one of the most economical places to introduce sprouted whole grains, because the food costs are relatively low to begin with. Reinhart agrees. “Even with the higher price point for the flour, its still going to be a high profit item,” he explains.  Additionally, as large companies such as Ardent Mills and Bay State Milling branch out into sprouted grains, availability should increase and costs should come down.

Back at Pure Pizza, Reinhart’s creations include a Sprouted Ancient Grain dough (pictured above), an organic Classic Neapolitan dough, and an organic Gluten-Free Sprouted Ancient Grain dough (made from sprouted buckwheat, amaranth, quinoa, millet, and sorghum). “Each of the doughs has their own following,” explains Reinhart, but when looking at the Sprouted Ancient Grain dough, “the number of people who order it continues to trend upward.” 

Have you been a part of this trend? Drop us a line. We love sharing whole grain tips, tricks, and recipes with our readers! (Kelly)


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