Sunday, September 22, 2013

Gluten-Free Pizza Dough [Matt]

Welcome to the dark side. Don't worry. I won't be sticking around here long either. 

A single parameter was set for pizza night - make the dough gluten-free. I shrugged it off thinking, 'who needs gluten anyway? What absolutely essential role could gluten possibly play in the success or failure of my pizzas?' Dumb.

I started researching gluten-free doughs and sifted through about 10 different recipes. I narrowed it down by comparing common ingredients (some recipes wanted you to buy four different flours (that I'd never use again. sweet, bro)). 

Basically it comes down to needing GF All-Purpose Flour and Xanthan Gum (which apparently only Whole Foods sells). The Xanthan Gum acts as the key bonding agent to replace that essential roll of gluten in the dough. It kind of works, I guess. 

+ Pizza dough is ready to be used once you complete the recipe instead of needing the gluten to bond for hours (if not a day) like traditional pizza dough. 
+ Spreads like a dream. You wet your hands with water, then lightly apply pressure to spread the dough out across a lightly-oiled baking sheet. It's very easy to get the shape you want.
+ Rises quicker. If you want a thick-crust pizza, you only have to wait 15 minutes for the yeast to take affect and rise. 
+ You mix the dry and wet ingredients together with a hand mixer. It saves mess, kneading and time.

Very difficult to get a crisp thin-crust, which is my preference. 
Calzone-ing is near impossible.
Flavor is closer to that of bisquick biscuits than traditional pizza dough.

Here's a direct link to the recipe I used. Normally, I rewrite these things and 'make them my own,' but GF-cooking is closer to baking - you can't mess with proportions without disaster. 

I made a triple-batch of their recipe to get my three pizzas of around 12" each.

6 Tsp Yeast
3 Tsp Sugar
2.25 Cups Water
3 Eggs
3 Tablespoons Olive Oil
4 1/2 Cups GF Flour
6 Tsp Xanthan Gum
1 1/2 Tsp Sea Salt

Again, for directions, go here.

Where I diverged from the recipe was baking time and trying to make a calzone.

I baked my two dinner pizzas on 400f for about 10 minutes on each side. The crust was just beginning to get a golden brown hue. I knew I was going to finish these on the grill later, so I wanted to just get the dough firm enough to hold the ingredients. Whether you're grilling or not, I always recommend pre-baking the dough, then adding ingredients so that you make sure the dough bakes evenly throughout. 

As far as the calzone - the first attempt was a bit of a disaster. I spread the dough on a sheet of aluminum foil in a oval shape. I then placed my chilled ingredients of Nutella and mascarpone down the center. The tricky part was then folding the dough over and getting the edges to stick. With standard pizza dough, this is just a matter of pinching, but with GF-dough, you additionally have to worry about the top of the calzone tearing because there is no real give when attempting to stretch the dough over.

The first calzone erupted in the oven - luckily the aluminum foil acted as a barrier to creating a huge mess. 

On the second pass, I folded both of the calzone sides up toward the middle and pinched them. This made it look more like some distorted version of a dumpling, but it worked. I also kept the aluminum foil on the calzone for the first 20 minutes of baking at 400f to help it keep its shape. For the last 15 minutes, I peeled down the foil and cranked the over up to 500f to get some golden browning going on the crust.

Though the dough was a hassle to get right,  I feel confident that you could tweak it a bit to make it taste a bit better (ex: garlic-butter crust). I'm sure I will make it again at some point and it's worth exploring so you can appreciate how amazing gluten really is.

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