Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Cauliflower Pizza Crust

When it comes to gluten free, dairy free, paleo, vegan, and vegetarian copycat/substitute recipes, to say I'm skeptical is putting it mildly. By and large they never deliver on their promises. The recipes will have descriptions like "taste just like a regular brownie", or "they'll never know it's vegan", bla, bla, bla. I can always tell. To add insult to injury, these recipes always use a bunch of obscure and expensive ingredients that I end up throwing in the trash because the recipe was terrible. I was so hopeful for the Gluten Free Brownies from the Whole Foods blog. All the reviews swore no one would be able to tell there were black beans instead of flour in them. NOT! They just tasted like chocolate black beans. YUCK! 

     Don't get me wrong here. I have so much sympathy for those of you out there
     with food allergies. That is such a burden to bear. If you have to cut certain things 
     out due to your health please do. Your health comes first. I just think it's better to 
     give something up than try to re-make it. It never quite works. 

When I came upon this recipe for a pizza crust, gluten free, made from "riced" cauliflower, I didn't have high hopes. But, my very dear friend Shelley is so so allergic to gluten, that for her, I decided to give it a try. Plus, the ingredients were simple and inexpensive so the risk was minimal. Boy, howdy, I couldn't believe it. This one worked. Did it taste just like a regular pizza crust? No. But it is a darn good substitute. The texture holds up and the cauliflower is neutral enough that it just takes on the flavor of the pizza sauce and toppings. If you are cutting back or cutting out gluten or trying to cut down on carbs, I would totally recommend giving it a try. Just one thing to keep in mind is that it is way more filling that regular pizza. I was stuffed after just two small pieces. Must be the cauliflower. . .

Start by washing a whole head of cauliflower. Cut off the florets and break them down into smaller pieces. Load them into your food processor.

Pulse until all the cauliflower is ground up and looks like a grain. Be careful, don't go too far or you'll puree it and you don' want that. It should look kind of like couscous.

Dump the cauliflower into a microwave safe dish with a lid and microwave about 8 minutes until fully cooked. I stopped after 4 minutes, gave it a stir and put it back into the micro for another 4 minutes. Let that cool completely. You're going to need 1 cup of cauliflower for one 9-inch crust. One head of cauliflower will produce about 3 cups total. You can store the extra in the fridge for about a week. Or make more pizzas.

Measure out a packed cup of the cooked cauliflower* and mix it with the cheese (I used a pre-shredded Italian blend of mozzarella and parmesan), egg and spices.

*Here's where I'd change the recipe: The recipe I used didn't say to squeeze all the water out of the cauliflower, but all the other recipes say to do this. I didn't. My crust was a bit soft. I suspect that had I gotten more moisture out of the cauliflower my crust would have been crispier. Next time, after the cauliflower is cooked and cooled, I'm going to load it into a tea towel and wring as much moisture as I can out of it. I would totes recommend you do the same if you want a really crispy crust.

Pat the mixture out into a 9-inch circle. It should be just under 1/4-inch thick and packed tight and dense. I would NOT recommend using a silpat mat (like I did.) I would use parchment paper sprayed with cooking spray to line the cookie sheet. I'll clue you in as to why in a bit.

Bake in a 450°F oven for 15 minutes until crispy and golden. Remove from oven and switch the oven to broil.

Load the crust with your favorite sauce and toppings. I used a jarred Ragu pizza sauce, the rest of the Italian cheese blend and some pepperoni. Use what you like. You are just going to broil the top to heat the toppings and melt the cheese. You may need to pre-cook some ingredients before topping your pizza.

Now, under the broiler for 5 minutes tops. Watch it close so it doesn't burn. And there you have it. PIZZA. Here's why I wouldn't use the silpat: you have to be super careful when you cut the pizza so you don't cut your mat. I usually go at a pizza with my pizza cutter but didn't want to risk it. I very, very, very, carefully cut the pizza with a knife. Next time I'll do two things different: squeeze all the moisture from the cauliflower and use sprayed parchment to line my cookie sheet. Other than that, this recipe was a total success! Give it a try. Here's the link to the recipe: Cauliflower Pizza Crust.

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