Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Gluten-Free Pizza!

Not Quite Pie Practice

The guys headed off for a weekend of camping, which left us girls to fend for ourselves. Hurray!

I don't think I've ever had a complete weekend with just my daughter before now.

What a joy!

It was easy and nearly instantaneous that we both wanted to go shopping during the weekend. And we both wanted to cook.

What would we cook? We could cook anything we wanted. We had the time to do whatever we wanted.

I wanted pizza! We wanted pizza!

And pizza doesn't quite qualify as Pie Practice. The dough is different. The handling of the dough is different. Pie Practice will have to wait.

I struggled for a long time, going without pizza entirely, after going gluten-free. Then I tried making different crusts, but there was always something wrong with them. Many were just simply not edible.

And then I stumbled upon a combination of gluten-free flours that I liked! No. I loved it! And best of all, my family loved it too! We wouldn't have to make separate pizzas with this crust! The gluten-eaters wanted to eat my pizza!

This the pizza crust I have adopted ever since.

Gluten-free pizza... here we come!

Gluten-Free Pizza

I have discovered the beauty of a bread maker, all thanks to going gluten-free. During my gluten-eating days, I was never really interested in a bread maker. I was afraid I would make too much yummy bread and then eat it all. I didn't want to have to resist.

After going gluten-free, the bread maker became my friend. The ready-made gluten-free breads available (when I could find them) were horrible. Bricks. Rocks. Lumps. Awful.

I started baking my own. I struggled to get something that tasted good enough to eat. But my bread maker made it easier. Easier to keep experimenting. Easier to try again.

Once I started having some success with good tasting, gluten-free breads, the bread maker made it easier to not feel so deprived. It was easier to make more good gluten-free breads.

And that same bread maker makes fantastic dough, too!

I have a tough time getting doughs to rise in my house. We keep our house a bit on the cool side, and I don't have a single, localized warm spot for the dough to rise. This is no longer a problem with the bread maker! It warms the dough perfectly, and now my doughs rise!

Rise up, dough, rise up!

Nobody wants unleavened pizza dough. Really. Even thin-crusters like myself still want leavened thin crusts.

Let it rise, let it rise, let it rise!

My current favorite gluten-free pizza crust recipe is from Tasty Kitchen, which was started by The Pioneer Woman. The recipe instructs you to use a bread machine, which I do. But I don't use pizza pans, as the recipe calls for. But we'll get to that in a bit.

First, I mixed all of the wet ingredient together and stirred in the herbs.

Then, in a separate bowl I combined all of the dry ingredients, except the yeast, stirring with my wisk.

When using the bread maker to make dough, I've found it best to add the liquid ingredients first, then carefully add the dry ingredients on top of the liquid. After that is all in the bread maker pan, then I sprinkle the dry yeast on top. 

In the pan goes. Choose the "dough" setting. My bread maker takes 1 hour and 30 minutes to make yeast dough.

Once the maker has warmed the ingredients and has started mixing, be sure to check it. It usually will need the sides of the pan to be scraped down. This is not the time to go to the movies and blissfully put it out of your mind. You want to watch to be sure all the dry ingredients get incorporated before the rising starts.

Here's what it looked like before I scraped it down much.

It definitely needed some scraping. After I scraped it down, I checked back to be sure everything was incorporated. Then it did its quiet and mysterious rising thing. This is also known as "adding gentle heat." Not very mysterious, actually.

While the dough was being warmed and worked, I prepped the toppings. We decided we wanted a Greek pizza and a pepperoni and cheese pizza.

For the Greek pizza, I used sun dried tomatoes, kalamata olives, and feta cheese.

My sun-dried tomatoes are packed in olive oil, and since I'm not keen on adding more oil to the top of my pizza, I drained them on a paper towel.

These kalamata olives are packed in water, so draining them isn't a big deal. You don't have to use pitted kalamata olives, but it sure saves a lot of effort! 

Still, I wanted my olives sliced the long way.

And if we are going to go Greek, we can't forget the crumbled feta cheese! One of my favorites.

And well, pizza wouldn't be pizza without mozzarella cheese, shredded.

And the tomato sauce was hiding somewhere. I didn't get a picture of it. It must have been camera shy. I forgive you, Marinara Sauce, or whatever your name is.

After an hour and half, my bread machine beeped at me. Here is the dough when it was done in the machine.

It has been warmed, mixed, kneaded, risen, kneaded again and now it is ready.

Ready to be rolled. You see, tossing gluten-free pizza dough just isn't in the cards. Tossing sticky, gluten-free pizza dough is likely to just get you a lump of sticky dough stuck to your ceiling.

You have to roll gluten-free pizza dough. I know, I know. It sounds wrong. It seems wrong. But it feels right. And, best of all, it is easy to roll.

Easy to roll between oiled pieces of parchment paper. Oiled, people, oiled. This is not gluten-free pie dough, which has no yeast. This is gluten-free pizza dough, which does have yeast. World of difference.

Here is one half of my dough after rolling.

Now, remember when I said I don't use pizza pans? You don't? Go back up and read that part again. Go ahead. I'll wait.

Okay, now just to reenforce it, I don't use pizza pans. I've never liked them. Too confining. Too perfectly round. Too much pressure to make my dough conform.

Then I bought a pizza stone. Oh, right. It is round too. But it doesn't have a rim. My dough can spill over the edge if it wants to. Okay, back to the stone. It is wonderful. It gets hot and lets the underside of the dough to breathe. I've never had a soggy bottom of my pizza crust using this stone.

The key to using a stone is to put it in the cold oven and then preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Let them preheat for a good long time, like at least a half hour. You want both the stone and the oven to be the same, nice, toasty temperature.

Then when you are ready to bake your crust, pull the stone out of the oven, and very quickly sprinkle coarse corn meal across it generously. Be sure to use coarse grind corn meal, otherwise it will burn before you even get it back in the oven.

After removing one piece of parchment paper, I carefully (and quickly --- you don't want the stone to cool off) flip the rolled dough onto the corn meal covered hot stone. Then, you guessed it --- quickly peel off the second piece of parchment paper.

Then I quickly (using hot pot holders, of course!) put the stone and dough into the oven. Speedy. You must be speedy in this process. That stone is losing it's precious heat faster than I'm gaining gray hairs, now that I'm staring down my daughter's teenage years. Whoops... that's another story altogether.

Back to the dough. Pull that stone out of the oven, and instead of dough, you now have crust!

Look at those air bubbles! Perfect! We added that yeast for a reason, and it clearly has done its job.

Don't worry that it is a little pale in color. That is good, since you are going to put your toppings on it and then put it back in that blazing hot oven.

Slather on your favorite tomato or marinara or pesto or white sauce, add your toppings, and then (yes, yet again) quickly get that baby back in the oven!

Actually, it can sit out a bit before going back into the oven. Your choice, depending on how many other crusts you need to bake.

Here's our finished Greek pizza. 

Can you see the feta cheese? It doesn't really melt, but starts to turn a bit brown on the edges. The first time I did this, I was surprised at the rich flavor the feta gained in the oven. I loved it! 

This time I didn't have fresh basil on hand, but if I had had some, I would have made a chiffonade of some and put it on with the kalamata olives and feta. Even tastier that way!

And we wanted some plain cheese pizza and some pepperoni pizza, so we compromised with a half and half.

These turned out great and we ate too much. But since it was just the two of us, we still had lots of great leftovers the next day!

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