To skip to “why I cook gluten-free,” scroll down towards the bottom of the post.
Today’s long and winding post contains a lovely recipe and bite-sized tutorial for making gluten-free pizza dough (all by yourself) with “alternative” flours, as well as a simple puttanesca topping with all the savoury brininess of my most-loved pasta dish, and, as usual, a little story. I served this with caesar salad as a main course for a birthday dinner over the weekend, but it would be equi-delectable as an appetizer sliced into smaller squares.
As it’s a basic gluten-free pizza dough recipe, you can be as creative or simple with the toppings as you like. I’m dreaming of pizza margherita––the best, the classic, the guy everybody loves to love––later this week.
Roll up your sleeves. Let’s get to it.
The pizza crust is made with brown rice and chickpea flours, coming together in a snap. Proof yeast, poor yeast into dry ingredients, mix in remaining wet ingredients, stir to incorporate. You can even knead it like I’m doing in the photo below, but I just did that for the camera––you don’t need to knead gluten-free pizza dough (I do a little bit, just for authenticity’s sake).
When everything is amalgamated, grease a large bowl with olive oil and gently place you sleeping pizza dough baby in the bowl, rolling around to coat. I like to gently “spank” the dough at this point, because I like the sound it makes, but that’s up to you––entirely optional. Present your dough to the camera like I’m doing in the photo below and congratulate yourself on being a gluten-free baking deity. Then, place a kitchen towel over top and let it rise at room temperature for a couple of hours (or leave it out for an hour and pop it in the refrigerator overnight for a nap).
After you’ve awoken your pizza dough baby, it’s time to get rolling. Over the last decade of gluten-free baking and cooking, I know just how delicate the doughs can be. They don’t perform the way “regular” bread dough does, which is precisely why you have to roll this instead of stretch it (as there is no gluten to stretch, for the food science folks out there). I find all gluten-free pizza doughs (homemade and purchased) similar to Chicago deep-dish pizza dough this way.
At this point, don’t shy away from keeping it rustic, something my sister affectionately refers to as “Jamie Oliver Style” (it’s really just excusing you from a messy-looking final product, which I find rather liberating). If you’d like to see the ultimate Jamie Oliver example of his eponymous “Jamie Oliver Style,” see: here.
I recommend finishing your dough rolling directly on a very large baking sheet. Just be sure to sprinkle plenty of extra flour or cornmeal down first as it’s fairly tacky, much like a pie dough.
After baking for 25 minutes in a ferociously hot oven, the bottom gets gorgeously tanned and crisp, like it’s just returned from a winter getaway in the Bahamas. Before you know it, you’ve got yourself a gluten-free pizza. Now, give yourself a pat on the back and dive in.
I get asked this quite often:
Q: Why do you cook gluten-free? // A: I have a sibling with celiac disease
As I said earlier, I made this over the long weekend for family, and, as I’ve mentioned in previous posts, my sister has celiac disease and severe lactose intolerance. Traditional pizza is a lot like poison for her, sadly. In addition to her intolerances, she hates cooking and despises having to eat gluten-free, so I’m more than happy to try and make her some normally gluten-full foods when I get the chance. (It was her birthday weekend, so I suppose I was feeling particularly generous.) I felt compelled to share a story after reading a fantastic, rather funny interview with Joe Beef’s (Montreal) Fred Morin in Lucky Peach about his celiac disease and having to eat gluten-free. It’s a great article to read if you want to know what happens when you eat gluten and have celiac disease, too.
We found out about my sister’s celiac disease after a family trip to Paris. She was very sick and stayed in the hotel bed most of the time while my brother, dad, and I wandered around. We would bring her back baguette every night, which, looking back is a bit comical, but at the time was not helping the situation at all as you can imagine. I’m fortunate that I don’t fall into the 1% of the population with celiac disease, as I love to eat gluten-full foods, and do so often. However, her diagnosis has made me a more creative home cook, learning to love the versatility, challenge, and great taste of gluten-free “alternative” whole grains.
It’s going on 10 years now since I’ve become aware of the world of celiac disease and what gluten-free food should and should not be. During this time, gluten-free eating for the sake of gluten-free eating (as in, no celiac disease present) has grown tremendously. The good thing about upward spike is that these “alternative” ingredients, as well as a panoply of recipes, both in cookbooks (I’m currently writing one that is fully gluten-free to add to your collection) and online, have become mainstream. The bad thing about this is the extreme annoyance and frustration experienced by those who cannot eat gluten or they’ll be very sick, along with restaurant staff who think you’re just being fussy if you don’t disclose your health information to them. Labels on products have also become confusing; most foodstuffs like spices, vanilla extract, etc. all contain hidden gluten. It’s been more than once that I’ve cooked for my sister and accidentally “glutened” her.
Beyond celiac disease, I’m sure those with any food allergy, intolerance, or preference can relate to being “glutened,” or whatever their equivalent is, at one point or another. I’m the vegetarian at the party, I used to be the vegan at the party––it can be hard to not have to disclose a dining preference to everyone and their mother, even when you’d really rather just eat and talk about things like last week’s episode of Wolf Hall, or boys, which, let’s be honest, are far more interesting than a food’s protein structure. Eat what makes you feel good and get on with it.
I think these “alternative” flours and substitutions have their own inherent flavours, textures, and health benefits that should be celebrated, not apologized for. There’s nothing wrong with trying gluten-free foods, even if you don’t have an allergy. The same goes for eating hummus and not being a vegetarian. No mutual exclusivity required.
For those who can’t normally eat pizza due to a food intolerance or allergy, I hope you find comfort in this sheet pan full of crunchy, hot, doughy, carby goodness. And, if you can eat pizza but are looking for something tasty, different, whole grain, and plant-based for dinner, like me, you can join in and eat it too. Pizza, no matter its label, should always be celebrated.
To sum up: gluten-free pizza > no pizza.
- ½ cup warm water
- 1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon quick active yeast
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 2 to 3 cups brown rice flour
- 1¼ cups chickpea flour, plus more for rolling
- 1 teaspoon sea salt
- 1 teaspoon xanthan gum
- 1 cup fresh water
- 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for bowl
- Make the Pizza Dough: In a medium bowl, combine warm water, yeast, and sugar. Proof for 15 minutes until foamy.
In a large bowl, combine 2 cups brown rice flour, chickpea flour, salt, and xanthan gum. Mix in proofed yeast mixture, fresh water, and oil. Stir until combined (dough is very sticky). If it's very wet, add more brown rice flour until dough firms up.
Grease a large bowl with oil, add dough, rolling around to coat in oil. Cover with a kitchen towel and leave at room temperature for 3 hours. Use immediately or refrigerate until ready to use (overnight works).
- Roll the Pizza Dough: If the dough is too sticky after resting, knead in ¼ cup extra chickpea flour. Flour a clean counter with chickpea flour and begin to roll dough using a floured rolling pin to form into a rectangle about 2-inches high.
Flour a large baking sheet liberally with chickpea flour. Carefully transfer dough to baking sheet (a pastry scrapper or metal spatula are helpful). Roll until ¼-inch in thickness, stopping to coat with more flour, as required. Dough is now ready for use in your recipe; bake according to recipe's instructions.
- 1 recipe Gluten-Free Pizza Crust (see above)
- 1 (5.5 ounce) can tomato paste
- ⅓ cup water
- 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, plus extra for drizzling
- 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
- ½ teaspoon oregano
- ½ teaspoon dried garlic powder (not garlic salt)
- ½ teaspoon sea salt
- Ground black pepper, to taste
- ¼ cup capers
- 1 cup pitted olives
- 1 onion, thinly sliced into half-moons
- ½ cup chopped fresh parsley
- Preheat oven to 450ºF.
- In a medium bowl, combine tomato paste, water, oil, vinegar, oregano, garlic powder, salt, and pepper. Spread evenly over rolled out Gluten-Free Pizza Crust. Sprinkle evenly with capers, olives, and onion. Bake for 25 minutes, until bottom is crispy. Drizzle liberally with olive oil and sprinkle over parsley. Slice and enjoy immediately.
Allergy Information: Dairy-Free, Egg-Free, Gluten-Free, Nut-Free, Soy-Free, Vegan, Vegetarian