The words I heard on the other end of the line struck terror in my pizza-loving heart. ‘I can’t eat wheat,’ my friend Alison announced in the lead-up to our long-anticipated woodfired dinner. Her voice was resigned and more than a little apologetic.
Aargh, I thought. Here we go. Rice flour; boring dough. But her next words changed things back around.
‘I’m not really gluten-intolerant, according to my doctor,’ she told me. ‘It’s just that I can’t tolerate the hybridized American wheat flours. I can do spelt, however,’ she added, almost as an afterthought.
Whew, I thought: gluten wasn’t the culprit. I clung to that distinction.
While nearly 20% of Americans say they’re wheat intolerant, the real number of people who need to live a gluten-free life is only ¾ of 1%. The rest have given up wheat for a variety of other reasons, in order to feel healthier. Some like Alison have developed sensitivities to the strains of wheat grown primarily in the U.S., which for her bring on nasty headaches.
Now I never want my pizza to cause anyone pain. So after making my regular dough, I cleaned away all remnants of local flour. To avoid cross-contamination, I even swapped out the hand towels. By the time people started turning up for the pizza extravaganza the spelt dough I’d made with 60% organic spelt flour and 40% Italian caputo flour was soft and bubbly. To shape it took a bit more coaxing than my normal dough, but the results were excellent. From the fire came pizza with a lightly browned crust that was nutty and chewy and not too dense.
As for Alison? After a while, I stopped watching her for signs. That extra-strength Tylenol stayed in her pocket for another emergency. And while I can’t guarantee the same results for the wheat-intolerant pizza lovers among you, I can at least offer up this recipe as another canon in your arsenal. Ciao!
Spelt Pizza Crust Dough
Makes 3 – 12” pizzas
2 cups of Organic Spelt flour
1½ cups of Typo 00 Caputo flour from Italy
(Both these flours are available in Seattle at Pacific Food Importers)
1¼ teaspoon of salt
1 teaspoon of dry yeast (2 teaspoons if you’re in a hurry)
1¾ cups of water at 100°
1 Tablespoon olive oil
Make the dough: In a large mixing bowl, dry mix the flour, salt and yeast. Make a well in the middle and slowly add the warm water, mixing with the handle of a wooden spoon until all ingredients are incorporated. Let sit for 30 minutes, covered with a piece of plastic, before kneading.
Kneading and first rise: Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured counter and knead for 5 minutes until soft and smooth. Clean out and dry the bowl, drizzle olive oil into it, and return the dough to it. Cover the bowl with plastic and let the dough rise in a cool place for 2-3 hours until doubled in bulk.
Second rise: Punch the dough down and let rise at room temperature for a further 2 hours.
Shape and bake: Deflate the dough only halfway, and divide into 3 pieces. Slowly spread each piece as needed into a 12” round on a lightly floured counter. Move to a pizza peel sprinkled with spelt flour, top with your favorite toppings and bake as you would any other pizza. See one way below.
To make a pizza Margherita: Sprinkle 1 Tablespoon of olive oil on a pizza blank, and top with a handful of basil leaves, 5 ounces sliced tomato and 3 ounces of sliced fresh mozzarella cheese. Bake in a hot woodfired oven for 4 minutes, turning once, or for 7 minutes at 475° in a conventional oven directly on a pizza stone or quarry tiles. Sprinkle with salt and oregano before serving.
Aaand, here are two bonus shots taken by Cookiebakerlynn and her husband: