A few weeks ago, I bought a Little Caesar whole wheat pizza kit to keep in the freezer for when I need a quick meal and don’t have the extra hour to make dough. It seemed a good deal – $17.50 for 3 pizzas. Three crusts, three bags of cheese and three bags of tomato sauce. I decided to work one into my meals this week, as it’s going to be a crazy busy week and my husband has to make his own dinner one night. Pepperoni pizza on a whole wheat crust sounded good.
I make my own pizza dough most of the time. It contains water, flour, salt, yeast and oil. Sometimes I use two different flours to make it more interesting. On a whim, I checked the ingredients on the back of the box and Little Caesar’s pizza crust contains 20 ingredients. TWENTY!! AUGH!!!!! What in Heaven’s name could possibly be in the crust? Here’s their ingredient list:
“Whole Wheat Flour, Water, Invert Sugar, Honey, Vegetable Oil (Soybean Oil, Soy Lecithin), Yeast, Glucona Delta Lactone, Salt, Baking Soda, Cellulose Gum, Sodium Propionate (Preservative), Food Starch-Modified, Corn Syrup Solids, Vital Wheat Gluten, Dough Conditioners (L-Cysteine, Ascorbic Acid, Enzymes), Natural and Artificial Flavors.”
Let’s break this down… Whole wheat flour – check. Water, oil, yeast, salt – check. I would let the honey slide because that’s food for the yeast, so – check. Invert sugar? I know it’s a mixture of glucose and fructose, is sweeter than “regular” sugar and is used probably to sweeten and help the crust stay moist. I see another sweetener, too – corn syrup solids. Not wanting to open the corn syrup can of worms, I’ll just say – Gee Whiz! – three sweeteners in one crust! I find that fascinating…
Soy lecithin is a sketchy addition. It’s a stabilizer for all sorts of foods, cosmetics, pharmaceuticals, textiles, paint, as well as for personal lubricants and waxes. However, I don’t see why a product as simple as pizza crust needs one. Not loving that item. Glucona delta lactone – what the….? After some research, I found that GDL functions as a leavening agent in products that don’t have yeast. This crust has yeast. It also has baking soda, which I don’t understand the need for either. We have THREE leavening agents, so this is going to be one puffy crust!
On to cellulose gum. Cellulose gum is used as a stabilizer for dough products. It comes from – get this – trees and cotton. So Rick’s either going to be eating tree innards or his jeans. We have another stabilizer, don’t forget – our friend soy lecithin. Oh wait, we also have modified food starch. Hmmm. Three sweeteners, three stabilizers, three leavening agents, three crusts, three cheeses, three sauces… Sounds like somebody at Little Caesar’s might have OCD issues…
Ah, one of my favorite topics – preservatives. Sodium propionate is a mold inhibitor. It’s found in chicken feed, cervical creams and topical anti-fungal preparations. Interestingly, it is used in food products that DON’T use yeast as their leavening agent, because calcium propionate interferes with the leavening action of, say, baking soda and our friend GDL. Therefore, if we didn’t have them in our crust and only used yeast, we wouldn’t need the sodium propionate.
Vital wheat gluten. I can understand this one to a certain extent. It strengthens the gluten naturally found in the wheat flour, giving the crust a chewier texture. The stronger gluten then traps the waste from the yeast, resulting in a higher rise. While I find that my crust is just fine without it, I have added it to rye flour to make my rye bread less dense. I’ll let this one slide.
Two of our dough conditioners, Ascorbic acid (aka Vitamin C) and Enzymes are innocuous. Sure, throw in some vitamin C and enzymes. Make it a softer dough and help me digest it. Why not? But L-cysteine? Really? L-cysteine is a non-essential amino acid. That means that our bodies make it. If my body makes it already, why is it being added to my food? Oh, wait! I forgot our rule of three – three conditioners, three sweeteners, three stabilizers, three leavening agents, three crusts, three cheeses, three sauces. What was I thinking?
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