Sunday, September 25, 2011

Gluten-Free Pizza

I've posted before about my history with pizza, along with my recipe for a quick-and-dirty method for a pizza substitute. But now I'm here to tell you that I've finally tried out the real thing... and I LOVE it. I made my first GF pizza a couple of months ago, and I've made it once about every 2 weeks since then (which in my house means it has become a major staple). I've discovered that at least 2 of my girls can handle enough cow cheese to have them eat genuine pizza, and for my other daughter I just top it with goat or sheep cheese instead. She loves it and never knows any different. I told my husband she's going to be a cheese snob when she grows up.

But anyway... about the recipe. I've tried Bob's Red Mill pizza mix a couple of times now, and it was pretty good, but didn't make as much as the recipe I'm about to share. (Plus, though I haven't done the exact math, I'm sure it's probably more expensive to buy it in a mix... and you know I can't stand for that, right?!) I've tried a few different recipes besides that, and most of them turned out pretty well, but not necessarily great. This one is the best so far. Pretty sure I'm sticking with it for a good long while. It does have quite a few flours to mix together, but once you've built a gluten-free baking flour collection, these should pretty much all be in your cupboard, I think. These are all fairly inexpensive for gluten-free flours (around $4-6 each for a 1-2 lb. bag). You can substitute something else if you want, though... just make sure you substitute flours for flours and starches for starches.

Adapted from the recipe found here.


PIZZA CRUST

Ingredients:
¾ c. brown rice
¾ c. white rice
½ c. millet flour
½ c. sorghum flour
1 c. tapioca starch (or corn starch, but tapioca makes the dough lighter)
½ c. potato starch
¼ c. almond meal
1 tbs. xanthan gum
1½ tsp. salt
2 tsp. sugar for proofing yeast
1 packet active dry yeast*
1 1/4 c. warm water
2 eggs
5 tbs. olive oil
1 tsp. apple cider vinegar
2 tbs. honey

Preferred equipment: Stand mixer**
Note: This recipe makes 2 large thick-crust pizzas, or 2½ large or 3 medium thin-crust pizzas. This recipe should be easily halved. (It was halved in the original version.)

Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 170° (for rising). Prepare pizza pans or baking sheets by greasing and lightly dusting with extra rice flour.

2. Add dry ingredients (not including yeast or sugar) to a large bowl and mix thoroughly. Using a whisk is helpful.

3. To proof the yeast: Add the yeast, sugar, and about ¼ c. of the warm water to small bowl. Mix and allow to sit for about 3-5 minutes, until it thickens slightly and gets a little fluffy.*

4. While the yeast is activating, mix together eggs, oil, vinegar, and honey in a small bowl.

5. Place the dry ingredients in the stand mixer. Make a well in the center, add the egg mixture, and mix a bit. Add yeast and mix.

6. (The following is straight from the original author.) “At this point, gage the liquid level. You want the dough to look like stiff cake batter. The dough should still hold the swirls of the mixer, but it should be shiny and not dull. Add the rest of the water slowly until the right consistency is achieved. ...since different brands of flour and measuring techniques vary, it is best to eyeball this and add the water slowly to get the texture you want. You will get good at knowing what gluten free pizza dough is supposed to look like.” Now from me: I probably added a bit too much water the first time I used this recipe... The dough was more “shiny,” but it did not hold the swirls of the mixer. The downside of this is that the dough may turn out a little more doughy and not as crispy (though this was not my experience the first time I tried it... I thought it turned out great!). The positive side is that it was MUCH easier to handle while I spread it out on my baking sheet. More on this in the next step...

7. Turn off the oven. Divide dough and scoop it out onto your pizza pans or baking sheets. Now is the part where the consistency of the dough will make a difference. If you made the dough with the “correct” amount of water, you will want to dampen your hands with water or olive oil in order to spread it out. This can be a little tricky as the dough will be very sticky. However, if you have slightly more damp dough, you can flatten the dough slightly (yeah, this will be messy at first), then sprinkle some rice flour over the dough before spreading. You will likely want to be pretty generous with your sprinkling... I used about ¼ c. of flour per crust. So you won't have to stick dirty, doughy hands into the flour, I recommend pouring ½ c. or so of flour into a cup so you can sprinkle on a little more as needed as you go along. This may all sound a little more complicated, but actually I found it much easier... Also, I prefer a little flour dusting on my crust vs. an oil brushing. You could always brush it with oil after spreading if you want anyway.

8. Once the dough is spread evenly over the pans, place in the warm oven to rise for about 30-40 minutes. The author of the original recipe claims it works without a rise time as well, and actually turned out crispier and fluffier for her. However, see my note below at the * mark.

9. Turn the oven up to 400° and pre-bake the crusts for about 10 minutes. (If you are making multiple crusts, you may want to switch racks halfway through to allow even baking.)

10. Remove from oven and add toppings as desired. (See pizza sauce recipe and topping suggestions below.) Place back in the oven and cook for about 7-12 more minutes, or until desired doneness of toppings.

*I tried using a special “pizza dough yeast” this last time, which claimed it did not require rising time. I wasn't super happy with the results... The dough didn't rise very well. I may have added a little too much liquid, or I may have needed another packet of yeast. I think next time I will try fixing one of these issues, or I may just give the dough time to rise. I also didn't activate the yeast first, so I may do this as well, though the packets claimed that they didn't need proofing. All I know is that it worked a lot better for me the first time when I used regular yeast, proofed it, and allowed the dough to rise. The crust was fluffy, a little crispy, and not too gummy or spongy. The crust with the pizza dough yeast bubbled up a little and was delectably crispy around the edges (I also made it thin-crust-style this time, so that may have help with that), but it was a little flat and more moist-looking in the middle. Considering it was so thin, it didn't matter too much, but I wouldn't make it this way again with a thicker crust. Also, I may not have cooked it quite long enough or hot enough this last time, so my directions above reflect the changes I would have made to rectify this.

**If you don't have a stand mixer, it is still possible to make this dough, but it is a good deal more difficult. The dough likes to climb up the beaters and makes it very difficult to mix, but with a little patience, it can be done. You may want to make a half recipe instead, though.


PIZZA SAUCE

Ingredients:
1 6-oz. can tomato paste
½ c. ketchup
¾ c. water
½ tsp. onion powder
½ tsp. garlic powder
1½ tsp. Italian seasoning
1 tsp. oregano
¾ tsp. salt (or less if there is already salt in the tomato paste)

Add all ingredients to a small bowl and mix thoroughly. (This may look like too much water at first, but trust me... it will work.)

Makes enough sauce to cover as much pizza as the above recipe will make. It will be a little thin if you make the thin-crust pizza, so you may want to add another half a recipe if you like a lot of sauce. I thought it was a fine amount, though.

Topping Suggestions (in case you haven't made pizza before or haven't done it in a long time like me):
* One 16-oz. block of mozzarella cheese will cover two large pizzas pretty generously.
* Half a small bag of pepperoni will cover one large pizza generously, or two pizzas moderately. Since not everyone likes pepperoni around here, I actually split my bags into thirds and froze the portions I wasn't using (since we never eat it except on pizza). Apparently my kids like pepperoni more than I thought, though, so next time I'll probably do it in halves.
* Half a medium onion, one smallish green pepper, and about 4 oz. of mushrooms (5-6 medium) makes a perfect amount to cover one pizza (in my book anyway). I'm not a big fan of olives, but you can always add those, too, plus the pepperoni to make one smashing premium pizza.
* A sprinkling of fresh basil leaves is awesome, too, if you happen to have a basil plant in the back yard.

And though you will obviously pay more for a homemade gluten-free pizza than if you were making it with gluten, you probably will still pay less than if you were ordering out. And anyway, homemade pizza beats Domino's any day. :-)

Friday, September 23, 2011

Cornbread Muffins

Fall is on the way, complete with the cooler weather that calls for warm, comforting meals like chili... Which reminds me, I need to post another of my favorite chili recipes...

But anyway, the natural companion for chili and other warm meals is of course... cornbread. Who doesn't love munching on that crumbly goodness, normally slathered in some butter and honey (often mixed together as "honey butter" in my house)?

Of course, when you are gluten-free and you have been used to making cornbread from mixes, you quickly realize that just because it has cornmeal as a main ingredient doesn't mean it is gluten-free. Not to worry... plain old brown rice flour is a pretty good substitute for wheat flour in pretty much any recipe. But as I learned last night, you can make superior cornbread if you use just a few extra ingredients (including some tapioca starch that I finally found and tried out!) to bump up the quality of the flour substitution.

I've made cornbread GF style many times, but this time was definitely the best. It didn't crumble and fall all to pieces when you tried to put butter on it. Heck, I think it held together even better than my old homemade cornbread with gluten normally did. Plus I made it in muffins, so it came in a convenient little package that I didn't even have to cut! Definitely doing that again in the future.


Recipe adapted from this one from Allrecipes.com.

CORNBREAD MUFFINS

Ingredients:
1 c. buttermilk*
½ c. butter
½ c. white sugar
2 eggs
1 c. cornmeal
1/3 c. brown rice flour
1/3 c. tapioca starch (corn or potato starch will work, but tapioca is finer)
1/3 c. sorghum flour
½ tsp. xanthan gum
2 tsp. baking soda
½ tsp. salt


*Can be made using milk or milk substitute plus 1-2 tsp. of white vinegar or lemon juice. Let stand for 5 minutes before adding to batter.

Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 350°. Grease muffin tin (or 8-in square pan). If not using true buttermilk, prep using milk and vinegar or lemon juice (as described above).
2. Melt butter in a saucepan. Remove from heat and stir in sugar. Allow to cool a bit.
3. Combine dry ingredients in a medium bowl and mix thoroughly. (Using a whisk is helpful.)
4. Whisk eggs into butter and sugar. Add this mixture and buttermilk to dry ingredients and mix well.
5. Pour into prepared tin (or pan). Bake for 20 minutes for muffins (or about 30-40 min. for bread, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean). I recommend turning the tin or pan about halfway through if your oven cooks unevenly as mine does!

These are pretty tasty by themselves (especially while fresh and warm), but I couldn't resist adding butter and honey on mine. Mmm...!