CAULIFLOWER CRUST PIZZA

I might very well be the last food blogger to try it, but after reading about cauliflower crust pizza for a couple of years, here I am to report on my first attempt at turning a classic into its lighter, gluten-free cousin. First, let me say that I don’t see it as a way to replace the “real deal.”  All those glorious characteristics of the authentic pizza crust will always have a place in our kitchen. But, if you are in the mood for something lighter or if you need to cook for someone who suffers from celiac disease, this recipe will please you more than you imagine.  I wolfed down a little more than half a pizza (!!!!) and instead of heading straight to the couch to lay down and wait for that carb-induced coma, here I am typing this post to share with you.  Behold the power of the cauliflower crust!

baked

(Broiling issues, courtesy of a Jack Russell named Buck)

 

CAULIFLOWER CRUST PIZZA
(slightly modified from Chef in Disguise)
.
Yield one pizza crust
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1 small to medium-sized head of cauliflower (about 1 cup after squeezed to remove liquid)
2 egg whites
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon dried herbs (I used dried thyme)
1/2 cup shredded cheese (I used 1/4 cup Parmigiano cheese and 1/4 cup mozzarella cheese)
tomato sauce
toppings of your choice

Place a pizza stone in the oven, or turn a baking sheet upside down and use it if you don’t have a pizza stone. Heat oven to 450 degrees. Prepare a large piece of parchment paper and spray it with nonstick cooking oil.

Wash and thoroughly dry the head of cauliflower. Cut the cauliflower into small florets, and process until they are the size of rice. Place the cauliflower rice in a pot and add enough water to fill the pot 2/3 of the way up. Bring the water to a boil, lower the heat and simmer for 3 minutes. Drain the cauliflower. Once cauliflower is cool enough to handle, wrap it up in the dish towel and twist the towel around the cauliflower and wring it. You want to squeeze out as much water as possible. This will ensure you get a pizza like crust.

In a medium bowl, combine the cauliflower, egg whites, cheeses, dried herbs and salt,  and mix by hand, you sort of knead the dough together. Transfer the crust to your parchment paper. Press evenly forming a circle. Make sure it is as tight as you can make it. You also don’t want it to be too thin or too thick.  With the help of a cutting board, transfer the parchment to the oven. Bake at 450 degrees for 12-15 minutes. Keep an eye on it after the 10 minute mark. When it starts turning golden brown, it’s done.

Remove the pan from the oven. Add your sauce, toppings and cheese. Place under a broiler till the cheese melts and bubbles. Watch it carefully or it will bun.

 

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

 

caulicrustcollage

Comments: Two things are very important when making pizza crust out of cauliflower. First you absolutely must minimize the amount of water present in the processed cauliflower or the binding agents (egg whites and grated cheese) will not be able to hold it together. When you think you squeezed enough water out, squeeze some more.  Made me think  of David Rosengarten decades ago when demonstrating a recipe for tabouli. Mince the parsley, when you think you minced it enough, mince some more. You simply cannot over-squeeze the cauliflower. Capisci? Second thing, once you place it under the broiler, watch it like a hawk. Sawsan says clearly in her blog “it will burn quickly.”  Which makes you wonder why yours truly would place it under the super powerful broiler of our oven, and then decide that Buck seemed too agitated and needed to go out to the backyard. I said to myself “this will only take a minute.” Indeed. Problem is that it also only took a minute to almost burn part of my beautiful pizza.  Lesson learned.  Do as I say, not as I did. Watch the pizza, move it around, especially if your broiler is very powerful.

charred

 

Will I be making it again? No doubt.  But probably not as the single item in our dinner, because making one pizza was already quite involved, and it would not be enough for the two of us, since it’s so light.  But I can see us having two pizzas, one “authentic” and one cauli-crust version. Or the cauli-pizza and a huge salad with barbecued ribs on the side… (just kidding).

I made this version a couple of days after having our entire lab over for a “regular” pizza party. There was one small pizza leftover, and some toppings like grilled zucchini, cheese and tomato sauce. The leftover pizza was warmed up in the oven and made Phil a happy man. The cauli-crust was embellished with the toppings that were ready and waiting in the fridge, and made Sally a happy woman. Don’t you love happy endings?

Sawsan, thanks for your great tutorial on the pizza crust! 
Next time I’ll be a better virtual student…
(sigh)

ONE YEAR AGO: Silky Rutabaga Puree

TWO YEARS AGO: Bon Bon Chicken: Light and Spectacular

THREE YEARS AGO: Red Wine Sourdough Bread with Cranberries

FOUR YEARS AGO: Award-Winning Sourdough Baguettes

FIVE YEARS AGO: Country Rye (Tartine)

SIX YEARS AGO: Penne a la Vechia Bettola

MELLOW BAKERS: PIZZA! PIZZA!

My second recipe for the month of June in the Mellow Bakers Challenge is Hamelman’s pizza dough. I was anxious to try this one, to compare it with my favorite recipe, that you can find here. Hamelman’s dough uses a biga – a pre-ferment of flour, water, and yeast – that is incorporated in the final dough, together with a small amount of additional yeast. Apart from that, the recipes are quite similar.

Last week we had a small pizza party at home, and Hamelman’s method was put to the test. It passed with flying colors, or… should I say… ballooning colors!

In the Summer, we avoid turning the oven on, so we use our grill as an improvised oven, placing unglazed tiles over its grids, and cooking the pizza on them. This is not a grilled pizza, simply a regular pizza baked inside the grill. Once you get the temperature right, it works like a charm, each pizza will be ready in about 7 minutes. My husband was the one who had the idea for this “oven-grill-method”, yet another evidence that I won the jackpot when I married him.

So, what’s the verdict? This dough deserves to share the first prize with my default recipe – excellent texture and flavor. The only thing that prevents me from placing it ahead of Fine Cooking, is the 2 hour rise with a folding cycle after 1 hour. That makes it slightly more complicated to have pizza on a weeknight. But, it is a minor detail, and I will definitely be making this recipe again and again during the weekend.

I remind everyone that we are not supposed to share the recipes for our Mellow Bakers Challenge, so if you are interested, consider buying Hamelman’s book “Bread”, where all these recipes will be waiting for you… 😉

That evening, we made 8 pizzas, this one was particularly tasty: sauteed cremini mushrooms, roasted yellow bell peppers, and smoked mozzarella. Pizza parties are a lot of fun!

Many Mellow Bakers have already enjoyed their pizzas, if you want to see their report, jump here.

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One year ago: From Backyard to Kitchen….

TROUBLE-FREE PIZZA DOUGH

Believe me, I’ve tried plenty of recipes for pizza made from scratch. But I always return to this particular version from Fine Cooking magazine.   The dough comes together in minutes in a food processor, and even though I’m a huge advocate for making dough by hand, once I tried this method, I was sold.

EASY PIZZA DOUGH
(from Fine Cooking, issue 49)

1 package (2 + 1/4 tsp) active dry yeast
1 +1/2 cups very warm water (110F)
18 ounces all purpose flour (4 cups)
1 + 1/2 t salt
2 T olive oil

Measure the water in a pyrex bowl, sprinkle the yeast on top, and mix gently to dissolve. Add the flour and salt to the bowl of a food processor and process for a few seconds to mix well.  With the processor running, add all the water/yeast mixture. Process for about 5 seconds, open the lid and add the olive oil.  Close the processor again and mix for about 20 seconds longer.  You want the dough to form a tacky ball, but don’t over process it or it may get too hot.

Remove the dough from the processor, knead it a few times by hand and form a ball. If you want to make a  large pizza, leave it whole. If you want to make individual pizzas, quarter it, place them in a large plastic bag and refrigerate until ready to use (from a few hours to a couple of days).

Remove the dough from the fridge 1 hour before shaping the pizzas.  Roll it out with a floured rolling pin, top with your favorite home-made tomato sauce, and the toppings of your choice.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: One of my favorite gadgets is a measuring spoon from King Arthur’s Flour, that holds the exact amount of a standard American package of yeast.  I buy my yeast in bulk, so having that spoon saves me a lot of time.

pouring

Sometimes I vary the flour composition of the dough, by including some whole wheat flour (regular or white), or some spelt flour in the mix. Usually I add only 1/8 of the total amount (1/4 cup, keeping the remainder as all purpose flour).  The overall process will be the same, add them to the bowl of the food processor with a little salt, and move on…  Once it gets into a shaggy ball, not quite cleaning the side of the bowl, it will be done…

ingredientsdough

The dough is very smooth, a pleasure to work with… divide it into four balls and place it to rise in the fridge, slowly… for several hours

dough2 4balls

Some people like to get artistic with the toppings….  😉

assembled

We make our pizzas on the grill, using it as an oven – an idea from my beloved husband that works very well. We place quarry tiles (6 of them from the Home Depot) on the grill and turn the gas as high as it will go. The pizzas  sit on the tiles, still on some parchment paper.  After a few minutes remove the parchment paper, and cook the pizzas in direct contact with the tiles until ready – about 8 minutes total, depending on the heat of your grill.

ready2

BBA#25: PIZZA NAPOLETANA

pizza2

I was looking forward to this recipe, because for years I’ve been making pizza dough from a recipe published in Fine Cooking;  the BBA Challenge gave me the impetus to try something different.   Interestingly enough, my usual method is similar to Peter Reinhart’s, but it takes a little less olive oil, and is made in seconds (literally) in the food processor.

Reinhart’s recipe uses a regular mixer (or hand kneading) to make the dough, that then goes into the refrigerator for 1 day.  Two hours before making the pizza, he brings the balls of dough to room temperature.  In the book you’ll see a photo of Peter himself throwing the dough up in the air like a pro. I was looking forward to giving it a try, but my dough was just too uncooperative.   As I prefer to avoid  wearing the food that I’m cooking, I stretched it with my hands instead. 😉

Without further ado, some pictures of my pizza adventure!

The dough is supposed to stick to the bottom of the mixer, never clearing it completely…

dough1

I made four balls of dough with the full recipe….

dough2

And after spending the night in the fridge, they came back for a final rise at room temperature…  very soft and bubbly-looking…

ballsdough

Some of the ingredients we chose: mushrooms, tomatoes, black olives, sliced ham, fresh basil…  plus the usual suspects (homemade tomato sauce & mozzarella cheese)

ingredients

Ready for the oven, a mushroom and black olive concoction….

readyoven

The pizza was good, but both me and my resident food critic prefer the Fine Cooking recipe, which I’ll describe on my blog in the near future.

IMG_2664

I should point out that most of the bakers loved this recipe, and you can check two of them at these links:

for “The Other Side of Fifty”, click here….

For TxFarmer and her take on a pine nuts pizza, click here….

Twenty-five recipes down, only eighteen to go!