Whole Grain Pizza Dough

This is the recipe I use for the pizza I make at Hot Pies. It skirts the line between New York and Neopolitan style pizza. The dough uses around 50% whole grain flours (a mix of spelt and whole wheat) to lend deeper flavor. It is leavened naturally, of course, which lends a tangy flavor that complements the sweet and nutty flavors of the spelt and whole wheat flours, respectively.  

Yields 3, 250-gram dough balls best suited for 12-inch pizzas

Formula Percentages

54% white bread flour
23% high extraction** spelt flour
23% high extraction** whole wheat flour
70% hydration
3% Salt
3% Olive Oil


Final Levain Build

25 grams active sourdough starter
40 grams white bread flour
10 grams whole rye flour
50 grams room temperature water
Final Dough

225 grams white bread flour
94 grams high extraction spelt flour
94 grams high extraction whole wheat flour**
289 grams water
53 grams fresh levain, from Final Levain Build
12 grams salt
12 grams olive oil


0:00 – Mix levain
8:00 – Mix autolyse
9:00 – Add levain
9:10 – Add salt
9:30 – Slap and fold
10:00 – Fold 1
10:30 – Fold 2
11:00 – Fold 3
11:30 – Fold 4 
12:00 – Coil fold
12:30 – Shape and refrigerate
Cold proof about 24 hours
36:30 – Final proof
40:30 – Bake


1.    To build the levain, combine the ingredients in a clean container with plenty of headspace for the levain to rise. Cover the container and mark the height of the levain with a piece of tape, a rubber-band, or marker. You want to be able to tell when the levain has ripened—that is, almost tripled in size. Place the container with the levain in a warm spot to rise overnight.

2.    One hour before the levain is ripe, use a spatula or bowl scraper to combine the flours and water in a large bowl. At this stage, you only need to mix until the flour is completely saturated; the dough will look shaggy and underhydrated. This is okay; the autolyse is only intended to jumpstart gluten development flour. Cover the container with a clean, damp towel or a piece of plastic, and let rest for at least thirty minutes, and up to two hours, depending on what your schedule permits.

3.    When the autolyse is complete, add the levain to the autolyse. Incorporate them by folding the dough onto itself and pinching the relatively wet levain through the autolyse. Be gentle and careful not to tear the dough. Once the levain and autolyse are homogenous, sprinkle the salt and pour the olive oil over the dough. Continue the same folding and pinching technique from before until the salt and olive oil are incorporated—you will know the dough is fully mixed when you can no longer feel the grains of salt between your fingers. Again, be gentle. Cover the contained and leave the dough to rest for 10 minutes, letting the stressed gluten relax. 

4.    Now, we begin building dough strength. As pizza dough needs to be extremely extensible, you will accomplish this in two phases: an initial kneading phase followed by a series of folds. To knead the dough, begin by wetting your hands slightly to keep the dough from sticking to them. Turn the dough out onto your worksurface. Swiftly pick up the dough and then slap it firmly down onto the work surface so that the portion furthest away from you adheres to the work surface. Then, push the end of the dough in your hands away from you, down toward the portion of the dough stuck to the work surface, tucking it underneath itself. Repeat this movement for ten to twenty minutes—just until the surface of the dough is smooth and glossy. Return the dough to the bowl and cover. Let the dough rest for 30 minutes.

5.    After 30 minutes, you will perform the first stretch and fold. To accomplish this, slide your wet, cupped hand under the dough. Lift the dough up and away from the bowl, as high as possible without tearing the dough. Fold the dough toward the center, over onto itself. Rotate the bowl ninety degrees and repeat three more times, for a total of four folds. Cover and let rest, 30 minutes.

6.    Perform another fold. At this point, you should feel strength developing in the dough—the dough should be noticeably more elastic. Cover and lest for 30 minutes.

7.    Perform a third fold. Cover and lest for 30 minutes.

8.    Perform a fourth fold. Cover and let rest one hour.

9.    At this point, the dough should be both strong and aerated—you should notice bubbles floating just underneath the taught surface. As the dough approaches the end of its bulk fermentation, I like to perform a final coil fold to create even more tension along the surface of the dough and, moreover, to move the seam of the dough to the bottom. To perform a coil fold, wet your hands and scoop them under the dough at a point opposite yourself. Lift this portion of the dough and quickly tuck it into the space you just created when lifting the dough. Repeat this, moving from the opposite side of the bowl towards yourself until the dough has been completely turned over and you’re a left with a tight, bubble of dough. Cover and let rest 30 minutes.

10.  At this point, the bulk fermentation is complete. If after this period of three hours the dough has not almost doubled in size, let it rest for another 30 minutes.

11.  Now, you will divide and shape the dough. First, turn the dough out onto the work surface. Using a bench scraper, divide the dough into three, roughly 250-gram balls. To form the balls, tuck all the edges of the piece of dough toward the center, over and over until the dough begins to assume a spherical shape and is taught along its surface. Place the dough ball seam side down and use the bench scraper to push and pull the dough around the work surface, building more tension around the exterior as the surface is pulled underneath. Repeat this movement for each portion of dough.

12.  Take the balls and place them in a greased proofing box or on a sheet pan and cover with a lid or plastic wrap. Place the balls in the fridge for at least twelve hours and up to twenty-four hours.

13.  When the cold proof is complete, remove the dough balls from the refrigerator and place in a warm spot. After about 3 hours, the dough balls should have doubled in size and feel considerably more aerated. If you shake the container, the balls should jiggle slightly, a sign of a successful secondary fermentation.

14.  Now that the dough is proofed, it is time to stretch, top, and bake. To stretch the pizza dough, first apply gentle pressure to the center of the dough ball to flatten slightly. Gently move outward from the center to push the trapped air into the crust. At this point, you can pick up the dough off the surface and let gravity stretch the dough thin, using your knuckles and fingers to encourage. The dough should be about 12 inches in diameter. At this point, be careful not to push too hardly on the outer crust, thus degassing the round.

15.  Transfer the stretched dough to a peel dusted with rice flour. Top and bake in a hot oven. This dough is designed to be baked hot at around 800-900 degrees. At this temperature, the crust becomes sufficiently charred, on both the crust and the underside, in about two minutes.


**A note on high extraction flours: High extraction flour is flour, usually stone milled, that has been sifted so that the large pieces of bran are removed. If you are unable to find high extraction whole wheat and spelt flour at the store or market, you can use a fine mish sieve to remove the largest pieces of bran. Save the bran for topping loaves later.