Burn night glutton without gluten: Yeasted gluten-free pizza crust

In 2011, my last year at Burning Man, we camped with new friends that built a pizza oven on the playa. It was a hot hot year and despite the heat, I could not wait until I could play with the blow torch, fire up the oven and make pizza after pizza. A pizza goddess was born in from the ashes and dust that year and I was determined to continue to flame the fire in the default world. With a wood burning stove in the back and a pizza stone for indoor use, I took my pizza skills to the next level working on dough moisture and consistency. I came up with a wonderful whole grain but gluten-full crust. We decided that this year, on burn night, we would reignite that flame and host a burning oven for our friends who, like us, were not at the actual Burn. I decided it was time to play with flours, starches and binders again to come up with a  gluten-free crust as part of our array of offerings.  Here is a yeasted gluten-free, dairy-free, egg-free, gum-free dough sweetened for a very tasty crust.

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Several weeks back I had to take my daughter to a birthday party in the evening and accidentally left my food in the fridge at home. Kids parties are notoriously unhealthy and I had been eating clean for a while, so I wanted to maintain my standards. Of course the only food was sorry looking pizza. It had been 6 hours since I last ate so after running around with the little, I had a small slice of pizza. I should have just stayed hungry. Soon after, for 24 hours I was in severe pain. My colon was not happy. It hurt to walk, to move and I doubled over in pain every hour. My husband said I moaned in pain all night long. I don’t know if it was the gluten or the cheese, maybe both. I can have small amounts of gluten and cheese, but when I do I am careful about the quality and quantity. In this case I could control neither option, and even though I restricted myself to a very small slice, it was enough white flour and bad cheese to send my body into shock.

I love having a combination of gluten-full and gluten-free crusts when I eat pizza. Making small pies, and having a bit of each so that I can eat more pizza. When we decided to host “Burning Oven” I made dough for our whole wheat gluten-full dough.

I decided to try something different from my typical cauliflower or zucchini “crust” for a gluten-free offering. I wanted to make a dough that would rise in the oven like my whole wheat gluten-full crusts. And one that did not rely on eggs or milk. With the right combination of flours, starches and yeast, this was a success. Crisp on the outside, tender on the inside. Oh so strong in structure.

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Ok. Before I begin, you don’t need to make your own. You can use pre-made mixtures – like that offered by Bob’s Redmill. However, some people are allergic to xantham and guar gum – creates stomach discomfort and pain – and it is difficult to find store bought blends without them. Again I am trying to eat as clean as possible so of course I made my own using variety of flours that Bob’s Redmill offers (and can be found online or at a specialty grocery like Whole Foods). And while I normally eat eggs and don’t mind including egg in the dough (which gluten-free flour mixes often require), I wanted a vegan option.

I whisked together the flours and salt.

Sweet “sticky” rice flour for that gluten like stickiness. Brown rice flour for starch and a wheaty flavor. Oat flour, psyllium husk powder and ground flax seed for fiber, to thicken and nutrition (Omegas from flax. Be sure to grind them as our bodies cannot derive nutrients from the seeds whole). Almond flour for protein. Potato flour for moistness and stretch. Potato starch for tenderness. Tapioca flour for spring. And salt for flavor.

The one thing I threw into the mix that is different from most gluten-free pizza dough in amaranth flour. It’s is very dry and grainy so it does not add softness or stretch to the mix but it does add nutritional benefit. It a complete protein and further more it is high in an amino acid lysine. Lysine cannot be made by the body and must be obtained through diet. It adds fiber, iron and magnesium. It is an all around good grain from ancient times (an Aztec staple) and great for gluten free baking.

I activated the yeast. It comes freeze dried, so activation takes warm water and a bit of sugar. Often dough calls for milk or milk powder to provide sugar and protein. I use almond flour for protein (in the dry mix). For the sugar I use either 1 Tbs date puree- made from soaking dates over night and pureeing them – or 1 Tbs coconut nectar. You can use agave nectar or honey. I just try to use the food with the lowest possible glycemic index rating.

Mixed with 2.5 cups of warm water, the yeast will settle. But after a few minutes you will see lots of bubbles and froth – activated bubbling yeast.

I use a stand mixer with a dough hook to mix my dough. You can also use a paddle or do this by hand – just be sure to knead the dough enough by hand, pulling from the edges and pushing it down into the center.

Add in olive oil to the yeast and mix. The olive oil helps enrich the flavor of the crust.  Add one cup of the mixed flour to the activated yeast  and mix. Continue to add in flour slowly until all of it has been added. Continue to mix until the dough comes together. Bring the mixer up to medium and continue to mix for about 6 minutes. The dough should be a bit stickier than a gluten-full dough. When you poke the dough, it should bounce back or resist like it is pushing back. If the dough is too dry, add warm water one tablespoon at a time. . Note that moisture content of the flours and starches based on many factors may vary so additional moisture may be needed. If it does not feel like it is resilient, continue to knead it

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Oil a large bowl. Form the dough into a round ball and place in the bowl. Cover the bowl and let it rest in a warm place. Let it rise for 2-3 hours. It will rise. When you poke it you should feel resistance like there is air in center.

You now have pizza dough. At this point you have a couple of options.

  • Coat the dough with oil, wrap in waxed paper or plastic wrap, place in a ziplock and place in the fridge for up  to 24 hours. You can do this whole or after dividing into equal parts.
  • Press out the dough onto a baking sheet and use a fork to poke a few holes throughout the crust.  Please note this dough is a bit more crumbly than regular dough so gently press out the the edges and make sure it is evenly spread on the pan. and place it into a preheated oven (350 degrees) and parbake for 15 minutes on the middle rack. Cover with saran wrap and freeze for up to two week or use right away. Top with sauce, veggies, cheese or whatever you want on your pizza and bake for 15-20 minutes until cheese is browned.
  •  I cut my dough into quarters (I like small pizzas) with a dough knife and rolled into balls to make small pizzas on a pizza stone or in the pizza oven.. you can see the dough is puffy and airy and ready to be eaten.

I press out the dough on a prewarmed pizza stone, top it with sauces and fixings and bake for 20-25 minutes. This one was topped with my almond saag, chopped broccolini sauteed with garlic and paneer for cheese (paneer is an Indian cheese). You can always make perfect edges by rolling them up, I leave my as is for a more rustic look.

I also have a wood burning oven. So when using that, I place a small amount of cornmeal out on my space (helps to lift the pizza with a pizza peel) and press out the dough on top of that. Then I top it and cook it in the oven, which is about 800 degrees F for 1-5 minutes.

I use the oven to bake bread, roast veggies and most importantly, cook pizza. I roasted some New Mexico hatch peppers to top the pizza with.

This beautiful pie was also topped with a sauce, tomatoes, broccolini and a dairy-free cashew based “cheese”. This cheese cooked very quickly so close to the flame.

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The crust was crisp on the edges yet soft in the center. It puffed up nicely and held together. It had a nice flavor. It is a perfect alternative pizza crust for those who need one without gluten, dairy, eggs, refined sugar, xantham or guar gum.

Happy eating!

Gluten-Free Pizza Dough

  • 2.5 cups warm water
  • 2 .5 tsp active dry yeast
  • 1 tsp coconut nectar or 1 tsp date puree
  • 1 cup sweet rice flour
  • 0.5 cup brown rice flour
  • 0.5 cup amaranth flour
  • 0.5 cup oat flour
  • 0.5 cup potato flour
  • 0.5 cup potato starch
  • 1/2 cup + 1 tbs almond flour
  • 1.5 tbs psyllium husk
  • 2 tbs tapioca starch
  • 2 tbs ground flax seeds
  • 1.5 tsp salt
  • 2 tbs olive oil

Place warm water (warm to touch but not boiling) in a bowl with coconut nectar or date puree and mix. Add in yeast, gently mix and let sit for 1-3 minutes. There should be bubbles – if not continue to wait, but if nothing happens after 10 minutes then the yeast may not not active. Once activated, add in oil and mix.

Mix together dry ingredients with a whisk in a separate bowl so they are evenly whisked. Add one cup of the mixed flours to the activated yeast and mix. Slowly incorporate remaining flour forming into a ball and kneading until the dough holds together and is resilient to the touch.

Form dough into a ball. Oil a bowl and place dough inside, cover with a towel or cloth and let rest in a warm area for 1-3 hours. Use immediately or cover in plastic wrap or wax paper, place into a ziplock and refrigerate for up to 24 hours. Otherwise, spread the dough out, parbake the crust at 350 degrees F for 15 minute, cool, cover with saran wrap and freeze for up to two weeks.

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