Neapolitan sourdough pizza meets Indian atta

Arun Barua
4 min readJun 13, 2023

A Neapolitan pizza is a thin crust pizza with a pronounced fluffy “cornicione” (the outer rim / lip of the crust), topped with a sauce made from San Marzano tomatoes, mozzarella cheese and basil.

Traditionally it’s made from Tipo 00 flour, a finely ground refined wheat flour of medium strength. The flour has enough protein content to be stretchy with a super fine grain that prevents the dough from tearing even when stretched very thin.

A healthier pizza?

An undeniable advantage to making your own pizza dough is the ability to control what goes into it; for instance, using the more nutritional wholemeal wheat flour.

I’ve been adding whole wheat bread flour to my pizza dough. However, one can only go so far before the coarse bits in the flour begin to cause tears while stretching. 20% whole wheat is probably the best one can do.

Atta is wholemeal wheat flour that is ground very fine to allow for it to be rolled into thin Indian flat breads — chapatis and puris. Atta gets a bad rap in the bread world producing a crumb that is dry, heavy and dense. I suspect it’s because Atta isn’t as strong a flour as say Canadian bread flour.

For pizzas though could it be a perfect fit?

The Experiment

What does a 100% atta pizza look and taste like? How easy or difficult is the dough to work with?

The experiment was to make a wild yeast fermented sourdough pizza stretched and shaped in the Neapolitan style.

The Recipe

Being a sourdough recipe the first step is to ensure the starter is fed, active and ready to be used.

Ingredients for the dough in our experiment:

  • Atta — 400g
  • Water — 240g (60% in terms of baker’s math)
  • Sourdough starter — 80g (20%)
  • Salt — 8g (2%)

Disperse the starter fully in the water; then dissolve the salt followed by all the atta, everything brought together with a danish whisk.

After a 10 minute rest, knead the dough with three rounds of slap and fold resting the dough for 3 minutes in between rounds. Each round should be around forty slappings and foldings. Kneading finished, the dough should feel smooth and strong.

Leave it covered in a measuring jar to ferment at room temperature. In about four to five hours my dough typically doubles in volume at which point tip it out and shape it into four dough balls.

Each dough ball should be around 180g which is good enough for an 8" pizza. The dough balls go into the refrigerator set at 4C, covered, to finish fermenting slowly and develop flavour.

The Cook

The following day remove a dough ball and let it come up to room temperature for about an hour. This makes the ball go from being quite tight to fairly loose.

With the oven on max broil and a pizza stone placed on the top shelf, shape the dough Neopolitan style — doused in semolina top and bottom, then flattend from the center pushing air into the untouched edges. Finally stretched out so the middle is almost translucent.

Place on a lightly floured peel, top with a thin layer of crushed San Marzano tomatoes and launch it atop the pizza stone. 3 minutes later, remove the par-baked pizza and add the remaining toppings — basil, parmesan cheese, sliced onions and mozzarella cheese. Brush the cornicione with olive oil and drizzle a bit on top.

Pop back in the oven for another 3 minutes to finish.

The Results

Quite stunning! The dough was easy to work with and stretched well without tearing. The pizza cooked like any other pizza in the oven —well cooked bottom with a fluffy crust that was soft yet crispy and a decent crumb.

The dough was easy to stretch and shape

The taste was surprisingly delicious, on par with a regular refined flour pizza. The texture was a tad less chewy.

Thin crust with a light crumb

Bonus Tip

If you’re someone that does not enjoy the outer curst, here’s a tip: eat the crust like a breadstick with a dipping sauce.

A sourdough Neapolitan style pizza has a substantial crust which tastes like sourdough bread. Enjoy it with some hummus or your favorite dip.

52Enjoy the curst with a dip of your choice

Conclusion

Atta works surprisingly well as pizza dough flour. When homemade with natural ingredients, this pizza is a nutritious, balanced dish rather than processed junk food. The pizza in the experiment was 400 calories providing 15g of fiber (52% daily value).

60% hydration seems like the right level for atta producing a dough that can be worked like any good pizza dough.

If you give it a shot, I would love to hear your thoughts.

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Arun Barua

Passionate about Software Engineering. Go evangelist.