Eating Local in Phoenix

From Freshly Ground Flour to Sausage and Bell Pepper Pizza
October 4, 2010, 9:22 pm
Filed under: challenge, dinner, local, phoenix, recipe, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , ,


From bottom, left to right: wheat berries, first pass ground wheat, homemade wheat flour, organic spelt flour


This week I took on a daunting task.  After last week’s curiosity about the Great Arizona Search for Local Flour, I decided to buy wheat berries from local Crooked Sky Farms and grind my own … with a coffee grinder.  I’m going to be completely honest here: it was a bit ridiculous and pretty expensive, but it was oh, so good.  While I don’t anticipate repeating the experience any time soon, the 40 minutes spent with my coffee grinder were absolutely worth the effort.

The decision to grind my own flour came hand in hand with the decision to make pizza from scratch.  What I didn’t realize at the time was that making pizza is exhausting enough on its own without the additional work of  flour milling.  I came out of the experience tired, grumpy and covered in various states of pizza making – from the flour to the sauce and even a little cheese stuck to my arm.  Lesson learned.  But let me tell you something, pizza made from scratch with local ingredients is to die for.  Really.

The shopping for this week was pretty straight-forward.  I picked up about 1.5 pounds of tomatoes, two yellow bell peppers, some sweet Italian sausage from the Meat Shop, monterey jack cheese and ingredients for a salad that never materialized.  There were two big highlights of the trip, first it’s apple season (woohoo)!  Second, in my search for local mozzarella, I discovered the fabulous Udder Delights which not only has phenomenal ice cream made from local milk but also carries local butter and cheese!  While they don’t have mozzarella yet (they’re working on it) they did have a wonderful white  cheddar.  Cheddar can be really hit or miss but, I’m happy to report, theirs was not only smooth but had just the right amount of punch.  I highly recommend a trip to their shop in Gilbert.

Now, onto the flour.  First of all, let me just say that at $3.99 for 3 cups of wheat berries this is not a cheap purchase.  As I discovered, 3 cups of berries will yield about 3 cups of flour which is enough for 1 completely whole wheat pizza (most whole wheat pizzas have some white flour mixed in to make them less dense).  Since I made three (one with all my own flour and two with a mixture of local flour and organic flour) it meant I needed two bags worth of berries.  The first lesson I learned is that your purchase of wheat berries has an added bonus of bits of the wheat stalk and various other – for lack of a better term – things.  So give it a rinse and set it on a sheet pan to dry.  Provide adequate drying time since coffee grinders will not grind wet wheat berries.  Second lesson, a food processor will not grind the berries into flour.  If you soak them first and then grind them it will, but it doesn’t give you the nice fine texture necessary for a pizza crust.  Third lesson, you need to run the berries through the coffee grinder twice to get a nice fine texture.  Fourth lesson, coffee grinders get very hot when used continuously for 40 minutes: be careful.

Once I managed to get 5 1/2 cups of flour ground it was time to make my pizza dough.  I’m happy to report that this is, in fact, much easier than I had thought and can be done in a food processor.  With this recipe however, the rise takes 2 hours so you need to plan ahead.  While my all local flour crust turned out fine, it didn’t rise at all.  This of course made the dough difficult to work with but with some tender love and care it made a nice, thin crust.

As a final challenge, I decided to make my pizza sauce from fresh tomatoes – because I have yet to find a can from Arizona.  This step was relatively simple but, as with most things in this recipe, took longer than I thought.

All in all, this week’s recipe was a great learning experience.  And while I spent more time than intended, it was all worth it in the end.  The pizza was wonderful and the crust – though challenging – was flavorful and really tasted like it was from Arizona and not the supermarket. The best part? It was so filling that the three pizzas (which is normally just enough for four people) lasted for three meals for three people and was great cold.  So if you plan to feed four, you really only need one pizza and maybe a side salad.  I recommend trying it, but I wouldn’t grind your own flour on the day of pizza making.  Instead, grind it in advance or find an organic solution that comes from somewhere as local as possible.

Sausage and Peppers Whole Wheat Pizza

Adapted from The Great Chicago Style Pizza Cookbook

makes 1 – 12 inch pizza



1 package active dry yeast

1/4 cup warm water (105 – 115 degrees fahrenheit)

1 cup bread flour

1 1/4 cups whole wheat flour

1 tsp salt

2/3 cup milk


10 ounces tomato puree (or 3/4 pound fresh tomatoes)

1/2 tsp oregano

1/2 tsp basil

1/4 tsp salt

1/8 tsp pepper

1 sweet Italian sausage (partially cooked)

1 bell pepper (preferably yellow or red)

8 ounces cheese, grated (mozzarella is best, but I used a combination of white cheddar and monterey jack)

Fresh basil

Olive oil

Dissolve the yeast in the 1/4 cup warm water.  Set aside.  In food processor, combine the flour and salt and pulse until mixed.  Add the yeast mixture and milk, process until the dough masses against the blade and there are no pieces left unincorporated.  Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and knead for 6-8 minutes until soft and smooth.  The dough is fully needed when it gets a something of a luster to it and doesn’t feel as dense.  Dust a 3 -4 quart mixing bowl with flour and place the dough into the bowl.  Cover with plastic wrap and a towel and let rise for 90 minutes.

After about 70 minutes, put some water on to boil to begin working with the tomatoes.  Dip the tomatoes into the boiling water for 10 – 15 seconds.  Retrieve with a slotted spoon.  Working quickly, core the tomatoes and peel the skin off (it slides right off).  Remove the hard center of the tomato.  Crush the remaining parts of the tomato with your hand, saving the juice.  Transfer the tomatoes and juice to a small saucepan and bring to a simmer.  Pre-cook the sausage (I boiled mine, but you could also saute it, bake it or grill it).

After the dough has doubled in bulk, punch it down, turn it onto a lightly floured surface and knead for two minutes.  Roll the dough into a circle about 13 inches in diameter and 1/8 thick (it’s VERY important that the dough is as thin as possible, otherwise it won’t make for a good pizza).  Transfer the dough to a pizza screen by either folding in four or reversing onto the rolling-pin.  Fold the edges of the dough to make a thick border.  Cover with a towel and let rise for 30 minutes.

While the dough is rising for a second time, preheat the oven to 450 degrees fahrenheit.  Add the seasonings to the sauce and let simmer until thickened.  Once the dough is done rising for the second time, lightly brush the crust with olive oil.  Spoon the sauce onto the crust and arrange the ingredients.  Sprinkle on the grated cheese and drizzle a small amount of olive oil on top.  Bake for 15-20 minutes, until the crust is nicely browned.  Add some fresh basil on top.

Bon Appetit!


2 Comments so far
Leave a comment

This reminds me of the time we thought it would be a good idea to fry our own tortilla trips…times 1,000.

Who is eating all this stuff you make? They better not take my decadence day role!

Comment by Seamoney

And by trips, I meant chips. Language combination overload.

Comment by Seamoney

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