Whole grains and multigrains can be added to formulations for a nutritious pizza crust. Other healthful options include replacing vegetable oil with olive or canola oil.
The inclusion of sesame or olive oil to dough formulations gives the crust a unique flavor, while substituting part of the flour with masa or maseca will help tie in the flavors for a southwestern pizza.
The wholesale pizza industry has come a long way from its humble beginnings. Brought to America from Italy in the late 19th century, the first pizzeria opened in New York City in 1905. Pizza gained interest in the 1940s and '50s, as veterans returning from Italy requested it in America. During the franchising era in the 1960s, pizza's popularity soared and grew to a multi-billion dollar industry.
Today, pizza remains a staple of American diets. But now it can be seen as a food that provides nutrition and exotic flavors. Pizza crusts provide ample opportunities for bakers to add healthful grains, proteins and oils to make a unique, nutritious crust.
Pizza crusts are categorized in thickness and texture. Within the thin crust category is a cracker crust and a crispy crust. A cracker crust contains a very light, open texture, and will leave crumbs after it's eaten, says Tom Lehmann, American Institute of Baking's director of bakery assistance. A crispy crust is dense, hard, and, as its name implies, crispy. It typically is found in the supermarket's frozen aisle. Thin crusts range between 1/8- and 1/4-in. thick.
Thick crusts, on the other hand, range between 1/2- to 1-in. thick. They can have raised or flat edges and are made either flat or pan-style. A flat, or hearth-style, crust has a chewy consistency. A pan-style crust requires a release agent—oil—to be added in the pan, which gives the crust a fried texture. A pan crust must be baked a little longer than the flat variety. As a result, it will have a lighter texture and a unique flavor that arises from the oil, Lehmann says.
All types of pizza crusts can be infused with grains, oils and proteins for added nutrition. The trend toward adding whole grains and multigrains resulted from the low-carbohydrate movement. Multigrain blends can be used at levels from 25% to 35% of the flour weight, Lehmann says.
Another grain growing in popularity is whole white wheat flour. This ingredient replaces traditional hard red wheat flour, which is high in tannin and has a bitter taste. White wheat has light-colored bran that gives a nutty flavor to the crust.
Replacing the vegetable oil or shortening in pizza crusts with canola or olive oil is another option for bakers. Soybean oil also can be substituted, but usually is done only in lower-cost pizza crusts, Lehmann says.
Whey protein is another option for bakers to make a healthful pizza crust. This ingredient is one of the most nutritious proteins because it contains all the essential amino acids that the body requires. A manufacturer suggests using an 80% whey protein concentrate or a whey protein isolate, which has more than 90% protein. This ingredient can replace some of the flour in a 1:1 ratio, but the formula should not exceed 10% protein, the manufacturer says. Whey protein can be added to any crust, but the manufacturer says it works best in thick crusts because whey protein binds water.
Another option for high-quality pizza crusts is to add flavors. Olive oil not only provides healthful advantages, but it also gives flavor. By brushing the ingredient on the crust, olive oil will give the crust a golden brown color and an immediate flavor impact on its outer edges. Also, when olive oil is applied to parts of the crust that come into contact with the sauce, olive oil creates a barrier that eliminates moisture migration from the sauce to the crust during baking.
Substituting sesame oil for olive oil will give pizza crusts a unique flavor. For an oriental-type pizza, sesame oil will tie all the flavors together better than olive oil, which may confuse the flavors, Lehmann says.
For a southwestern pizza, a baker can add Mexican flavors into the crust. Masa and maseca are used in corn chips and tortillas, and replacing part of the flour with these ingredients will give the pizza crust an authentic southwestern taste. Disregarding healthful benefits, incorporating lard—instead of oil—with these ingredients will enhance the flavor of the masa and maseca flours.
"When people are in Mexico, they say the tortillas taste so good. That's because of the lard," Lehmann says. "If you really want to tie the masa or maseca in with the right flavors, you need to stay within the traditional flavors of the country you are trying to mimic."
Thick crust pizzas also will benefit from brushing butter or butter-flavored oils onto their crusts. It is important for thick crust pizzas to have a powerful flavor because they constitute a major portion of the eating experience. Lehmann says this type of crust is so flavorful, a consumer would not dream of dipping it in marinara sauce.
For more information on formulating a nutritious and flavorful pizza crust, consider attending the American Institute of Baking's Pizza Crust Technology seminar. The seminar will feature many speakers, including Tom Lehmann. It takes place April 27 to 29 in Manhattan, Kan. For more information, call 800-633-5137.