Upper Crust: Alternative Pizzas

Alternative pizza made with easy to digest spelt and kamut
These crusts, made with more digestible grains, won't leave you feeling "bricked."

July 6, 2017

Any true “New Yawker” knows that a good slice is all in the crust. But you seldom hear about the after effects. If they were being truthful, pizza connoisseurs might sound more like this:

“Brah, now that’s a slice.”
“Yeah man, feels like a brick between my throat and lungs.”

For a side of better digestion with that pie, get on the Khorasan (aka Kamut) and spelt bus. Both ancient grains are lower in gluten and higher in protein than traditional wheat, which may be why fans say they not only taste great but go down better. According to The Clean Plates Cookbook, people with gluten sensitivities in particular may respond best to spelt because it contains a different strain of gluten than that in wheat.

We followed the trend to Brooklyn’s Monk Bar & Pizzeria, which offers exclusively organic flour, semolina, khorasan and spelt crusts. Owner Felipe Avalos (pictured) filled us in:

Q. Why did you choose to offer Khorasan and spelt crusts?

A. When I eat “regular” pizza, I feel this kind of uneasiness, indigestion and acid reflux. Pizza is my favorite food, and a friend of mine in Italy’s food industry was talking to me about Khorasan pizza. I started bringing in flour from Italy, and some original Kamut from Montana. The results have been fantastic.
The dough is fermented for several days to create the perfect taste and elasticity. Fermentation reduces phytic acid, which may also increase digestibility.

Q. Any plans to offer gluten-free options?

A. If you want to do it the right way, you really need to have a separate facility. What I’m trying to do is offer the best option. Kamut (Khorasan) is called ‘the wheat you can eat,’ because it’s so virgin, if you will. [Historically,] it hadn’t been harvested or cultivated in so long, and hadn’t been modified in any way shape or form.

Kamut and spelt breads post-fermentation. “After we bake our bread you can keep it in your home for four or five days and it’s still soft. It doesn’t get hard and stale like most store-bought breads, because of the whole fermentation process.” – Felipe Avalos

Q. Do you have a secret formula for your crusts?
A. It depends on the flours we are using. The combination of how much water, oil, sugar, and salt we put into it, how long we knead it, how long we think it needs to ferment—all depends on the flour. But even the flour that will come from one same manufacturer will be totally different from shipment to shipment.

Q. So how do you know when it’s ready for the oven?
A. We smell it, feel it, taste it, and at the end of the day the proof is when it comes out of the oven…but we’ll already know when it’s in the mixer.

(Author’s note: After eating an entire Monk personal pizza, I walked a brisk half mile with zero indigestion, and a new favorite NYC slice.)

Monk Bar & Pizzeria
291 Kent Ave. (@ S. 2nd St.), Brooklyn, NY

718 782-8810