Why Did We Do The Challenge?
Since discovering my own gluten/wheat sensitivity about 10 years ago, I have been on the constant search for a really good pizza (among other things like decent GF BAGELS!!!) facsimile. Particularly, I have strived to develop a thin crust pizza, similar to a New York Style pizza. Most important to me has been a nice crisp but not hard bottom crust, a thin but still chewy dough layer and a little bit of a moist transition zone between the crust and the toppings.
I have tried, with some success, the “cottage-cheese-in-the-dough” croissant recipe turned pizza crust (There is a video of this here and it works OK). But, it was not really like the pizza I was looking for, and certainly was just a bit weird. I love cheese on my pizza, but when I think of “extra cheese” it’s not usually cottage cheese. And, that whole “cake batter”- spread it out on a pan and par bake it thing was not to my liking for any number of reasons. I was neither happy with the process nor the results. I just wanted something simple and delicious, using few (and not so weird) ingredients, and something that could be assembled and baked on my stone in one shot, just like a regular wheat based pizza and that a tasted like one! Was this all really too much to ask, I ask???
My Personal Eureka Moment!
I am happy to report that I think I have it, and it is ready for Prime Time. A while back we began experimenting with a few off the shelf gluten free flour blends. By making up a very wet dough, and also minimizing the amount of gum added to the flour mix, we started getting some really acceptable results. Eventually, having more or less perfected what we felt were quite passable GF pizzas (our glutinous and gluttonous friends have concurred) using relatively simple ingredients and basic techniques, we wanted to test the technique with a wider array of gluten free flour blends that were all readily available on the store shelf. The GF Pizza Challenge was born!
The GF Challenge Objectives
- What else? Just Great Gluten-Free Pizza!
- Use only Simple and minimal components – Pretty much just GF flour, water, yeast, salt, and minimal gums. Actually, the more I learned about just what xanthan gum was, the less of it I wanted.
- Be able to roll or spread pizzas out much like a normal dough – Yea, I think we’ll all just forget any ideas of hand tossing anything gluten-free. I would lie and pretend that I had actually tried to do this, but that would just be sort of silly, and at that point I would have lost any and all credibility!!
- Be able to assemble and transport pizzas (perfectly, of course) to a preheated baking stone – OK, I confess to using my Super Peel. So, I am biased a bit, but I do really love the new Super Peel Pro made of MaplTex (spelling is correct , there is no missing “e” in there), which is just another brand of a material that is known mostly by Richlite and used by Epicurean in hundreds of items they sell. If you don’t have a Super Peel, Get one, NOW! Actually, you may get similar results on a sheet of parchment paper, which is just fine to try – we didn’t. But, that’s not the point. I never use parchment, and I don’t want to now! And, I also am not wanting to restart the debate about whether parchment paper under a pie or free-form loaf matters or not. So, we didn’t test that. If you do so, please let us know how it goes. Besides, I also really wanted to push the envelope on the Super Peel’s powers and prowess, to see just what it could actually do. Under no circumstances would I recommend using these very slack GF doughs with just a plain flour or cornmeal dusted peel. I think we can all accept that trying to do so would be true Dr. Phil moment – “So, how’s that working for you?” You can go ahead and try that too, if you must! I accept no responsibility
- Bake it on a fully preheated 550F baking stone, for a similar time period as our wheat based pizzas – with total baking time of under 10 minutes.
- End up with a finished pizza that was virtually indistinguishable from wheat based pizza. All we were looking for was a crisp but chewy crust with a nice structure – Personally, I look for three layers: a crisp but not hard crust bottom, a doughy chewy intermediate layer, and a thin transition layer of soft and moist dough that lies just under the toppings. And, it goes without saying that it must taste good and absolutely must be foldable for proper eating!!
Now, is this really too much to ask?? No, I think Not!!
Basic GF Dough Recipe
1 Cup Warm Water (approximately 110F-120F)
1 tsp. Active Dry Yeast (We used Red Star Brand)
1 ½ Cup Gluten Free Flour Blend (see ingredients and results from various flours we tested)
¾ tsp. Salt (omit if chosen flour blend has added salt)
¾ tsp. Xanthan Gum (omit if chosen flour blend has added gum)
- Preheat oven and baking stone to 550 F for at least 1 hour. We used two stones on two adjacent oven racks and slid our pizzas between them.
- Mix yeast with water and a good pinch of sugar, and set aside to proof. We set it in a water bath to maintain temperature in the 115F +/- range.
- Blend dry ingredients well.
- Add ¾ Cup water/yeast to dry ingredients and mix well. Initially, reserve the last ¼ Cup water, as each flour blend will absorb water differently. Then, adjust dough consistency by adding additional water or GF flour to attain a final (target) consistency. The consistency should be one that is barely able to hold up its own weight into a slightly squat ball. It should be somewhat like thick frosting or VERY wet whipped potatoes, and should be able to hold a soft peak (see our video).
- Cover with plastic bag or plastic wrap, and set over hot water bath. Allow it to rise for about 30 minutes.
- After 30 minutes, check consistency. Add additional water or GF flour, if needed, to return to its target consistency. In most cases, we found that no adjustment was necessary.
- Cover and set aside to rest for another 20-30 minutes.
- Flour top of dough ball and gently roll out of bowl onto a well-floured surface.
- With floured hands, gently pat dough down and spread out to approximately 6”-8” round.
- Lift with well-floured Super Peel, add and/or redistribute flour on surface, and set dough back down.
- Continued to gently spread and shape dough to approximately 10”-12” round. Lift and reset another time, as in step 9. Also, do this lift/re-set process anytime you feel that the dough may be sticking to the rolling surface. You will really get really good at using your Super Peel while doing this! If any dough sticks to the floured cloth, just scrape it off and flour it a little more.
- Now, use a rolling pin, or maybe a Giornata wine bottle, to roll out to final approximately 14” diameter and ~1/8” thickness. We are using a target of 14”, as that is the width of our Super Peel, and is also just about right relative to the target thickness.
- Lift and reset dough sheet one last time. Cover with plastic wrap and let rest for approximately 20 minutes.
- Top Pizza with choice of toppings. We used San Marzano tomatoes, fresh mozzarella (cubed), EVOO and a bit of kosher salt and fresh cracked black pepper. Then we topped ours with fresh basil for the last 45 seconds of baking.
- Use super Peel to move pizza to oven stone. If formed on parchment paper, just slide onto stone from peel or from a flat or inverted baking sheet.
- Bake for total of approximately 8-10 minutes, or until cheese starts to brown. Do not over-bake, as the crust will get drier the longer it bakes, also we noted that some of the flours we tested got hard rather than crisp the longer they baked (see results table). We did a basic Marguerita pizza, so removed the pies to add fresh basil near the end of the bake, returning to stone for about 45 seconds more.
- Cool on rack for 5-10 minutes before cutting and eating.
Let me start out by saying that we have developed this recipe and technique to suit our testing. It is based on our personal past testing experience with a couple of these gluten free flour blends. The results of all flours tested were acceptable with the exception of the Arrowhead Mills brand. As you can see, we felt that some did fare much better than others. The Arrowhead Mills brand was more of a Baking Mix (a la Bisquick) than the others. It contained several other ingredients including leavening agents. It is likely a very good product for other baking, like making pancakes or biscuits, but did not work well for with our Pizza recipe or technique.
We liked and had best results with the Bob’s Red Mill AP Flour and the Authentic Foods – Bette’s Four Flour Blend. Both received four star ratings and were quite excellent, but we felt that our results with the Authentic Foods blend was slightly but notably better. The other brands tested were acceptable, did not perform quite as well as the top two. We would like to also note that a number of the brands tested also make a gluten-free Pizza Crust Mix and/or a Bread Mix. It is entirely expected that they may perform better than the all-purpose/general purpose flour blends we used. Testing those is for another day. I am Pizza-ed Out!
Impossible, you say? Yea, not really, not for one minute! In fact, when this latest snow event ends (it is very pretty outside my window as I am typing this) and the deck clears, we will get right back to testing on the charcoal grill. The results from this test were so wonderful, that I cannot wait to fire up the Grill Dome (from: http://www.ceramicgrillworks.com) to about 650F – 700F and see what we can get from our top ranked flours in that environment. At 550F we got some good browning in just 7-8 minutes. Just maybe we will get some nice char and even better results at the higher heat. So, definitely stay tuned and check back…
In the meantime, go bake some really good Gluten-Free Pizzas. We would love to hear about your results.
Here we tested the first one of the Gluten Free flours (Brand X for now) for making a thin crust pizza to bake directly on our baking stone, in a 2 stone setup. The results were quite satisfactory. Our Super Peel was a great asset for keeping this soft non-cohesive dough from sticking to the rolling board and for transport to our baking stone.
Here is the Control Standard to compare our Gluten Free Baking to – A Gluten Pie!! We are baking a thin crust neapolitan type pie between two baking stones at 550F – 5 min 30Sec total baking time. Delicious!!
Seems that other “busyness” things keep getting in the way of Fall Pie Baking……But, I did get a chance to bake an apple pie this past weekend. It is gluten free and it was fantastic. Most importantly, Super Peel…
Hard to believe that it already past the middle of September, and I have yet to make my first apple pie of the season. Too darn busy I guess, getting all things in order for 4th Qtr Super Peel rush! I think we are well stocked, but have some inventory matters to still follow up on.
Just want to remind everyone who may be making pies now or later in the season, your Super Peel…
I will get baking this week, I promise. We’ll shoot some new videos over the next couple of weeks, with this concentration. We’ll have some pie making tips to share as well, so please stop back!
Be Well and Bake Better!
Congratulations to Brook T. of Brookfield WI, on winning the twoclassychicks.com giveaway of the gorgeous Cherry Super Peel Gift Set!
One lucky person is going to win the Limited Edition Gift Set that includes a standard Super Peel in beautiful Black Cherry. This Gift Set includes an extra Cloth Belt and one Printed Keeper Bag. ARV $80 This is gorgeous and you will love it!
Follow this link to Two Classy Chicks web site for all the details!
Gary Casper of Super Peel makes homemade margarita pizza using a dough recipe by Giornata Wines. Gary shows the tips and tricks you need to get the best results. The perfect pairing for this pizza or any pizza for that matter is Il Campo by Giornata. The Giornata Dough recipe can be found here in the Giornata Fall 2011 newsletter.