I’ve been following along with the Food Studies posts at Grist lately, and the most recent post “What’s Up with Gluten?” landed near and dear to my heart. Finally! Some sane, sensible, science-based words about gluten! Thanks, Mitchell Mattes. I commented, then mentioned I had a knack for gluten-free pizza crust (my husband was diagnosed celiac about 12 years ago), and a couple people requested it. This seemed like a better place to post it than Grist.
It is, actually, a recipe from “Gluten-Free Gourmet: Living Well without Wheat” by Bette Hagman. Her book was a lifesaver for me back in the dark ages of food allergies. Fast forward to the present, and I’m overwhelmed (and delighted) by all the food producers that include allergen information on their labels. ‘Makes my life much easier.
Anyway, back to the recipe: I’ve made this many, many times and have found a few shortcuts that make assembly easier, as well as additions that (I think) improve the outcome a bit. Besides all that, today’s The Big Game, which is all the excuse I need to make a pizza.
YEAST-RISING THICK PIZZA CRUST adapted from The Gluten-Free Gourmet: Living Well without Wheat, by Bette Hagman, copyright 1990.
This makes dough for two 12-14″ pizzas. The dough freezes nicely, so you can make one pizza now and sleep well knowing you have the makings for another one later.
1. Begin by preparing two pans for pizza. I use the underside of my lasagne pan (or cookie sheets). Why the underside? you ask – In truth, I don’t know why I started doing that. Maybe the heat reaches the pizza better; maybe it’s just because it’s easier to serve pizza off a flat surface. In any event,
I generously coat the the pans with olive oil (tip: if your pans are non-stick, you’ll find the oil doesn’t distribute well; in that case use vegetable shortening), then dust them lightly with cornmeal to give the pizzas that “tavern pizza” finish.
Don’t worry that your pans are rectangles and you think your pizza should be round; go ahead and make a “racetrack” shaped pizza.
2. Throw in a large bowl (a stand mixer if you have one is perfect for this):
2 C rice flour
2 C tapioca flour
2/3 C dry milk powder
3 1/2 t xanthan gum (Essential. Found at many grocery stores these days; try the baking aisle or the health foods aisle)
1 t salt
2 T dry yeast granules I recommend, if you haven’t baked in awhile and you have some dusty old packets of yeast in the back of your cabinet, pitch those and by a jar of the granules. Fresh yeast does make a difference.
1 T sugar
Mix with the bread hook or cookie paddle a few times to combine the dry ingredients.
3. Separate 4 eggs; we’ll use the whites in the pizza. Save the yolks for another day -
you were looking for an excuse to make custard, yes? Or maybe lemon curd?
1 1/2 cups hot water (hot tap water is fine – 125° to 135°)
3 T shortening
Water at that temperature will allow the shortening to melt.
5. Add the water and the egg whites to the dry ingredients (turn the mixer on low if you are using one), and blend at high speed for 4 minutes.
Don’t worry that the water is too hot for the yeast – the act of adding it to the mixed dry ingredients cools it rapidly. As long as you are using fresh yeast don’t worry, either, about proofing the yeast (softening it in warm water+a little sugar before use). This method described above has worked every time for me. Note that the xanthan gum provides the stretch that the gluten-free flours lack, and it needs time to soften and develop in the dough. Finally, you won’t need to let this rise; it will do so while you spread the crust and dress it.
After the mixing, you will have a dough that’s much wetter and stickier than traditional wheat dough. Don’t worry, that’s normal for gluten-free goods.
Divide the goo onto the two prepared pans, then liberally coat your hands in olive oil and gently press and prod the doughs into flat, roundish crusts that are about 1/4″ thick, leaving somewhat thicker edges to hold in sauce and toppings. Re-oil your hands as necessary to minimize sticking; the finished crusts will be shiny but not drippy with oil. I find that the dough is prone to tearing, so be gentle and patient; I also find that the heel of my hands works better than my fingers for spreading crusts. Note that you won’t get a perfect circle and it won’t look “justlike a wheat crust” but it will be fine, and it WILL taste great.
DRESSING THE PIZZA
Have on hand:
Tomato sauce for pizza (about one cup) I use a good quality spaghetti sauce, and it works just fine. If you use that and happen to have a little tomato paste on hand, add it to the sauce to thicken it a bit; if not, that’s fine too. Be careful if the spaghetti sauce is “chunky”, as the pieces, when you try and spread them on the dough, can tear it. Be careful, and take your time.
Shredded mozzarella I use about a pound per pizza. It looks like too much; it isn’t.
Shredded fresh parmesan If you don’t have fresh parmesan, you can omit this, but I highly recommend it.
Toppings as you see fit.
The most common difference between homemade pizza and good restaurant pizza is that homemade pizzas tend to have too much sauce and not enough cheese. Once the crust is spread, apply a modest layer of sauce, then ample shredded mozzarella to within an inch or two of the edge. Add toppings, then finish off the whole affair with a dusting of grated fresh parmesan (about a half cup per pizza).
Apply another coat of olive oil to the outer edge if it looks dry, then
Salt and pepper the whole thing, especially the outer edge – I know, I know, you’re thinking doesn’t the cheese have enough salt already? Ignore your concerns. The results are great. I haven’t tried any seasoned salts, but I bet they’d work well too.
6. Bake the whole affair at 400° for 20 – 25 minutes. Check the pizzas at about 15 – 20 minutes, and rotate the pans if they aren’t browning evenly.
If you’d like to make one pizza now and another later, you can freeze the dough as soon as it’s mixed; OR you can spread the dough, place the cookie sheet in the freezer and harden up the raw, spread crust, then wrap and store it for future thawing, dressing and baking; OR you can “blind bake” the undressed crust for 15 minutes and freeze it for later use. I’ve done all three with good results.
I’ve also mixed the dough and divided it into 8 “mini pizzas”, then blind baked them for future use. It’s more work but a real treat to pull one out for a quick dinner.
Let me know how they turned out!