I had been told by my celiac friends that the gluten-free pizza at a local pizza chain was some of the best they'd ever tasted. "I make a special trip out there when I'm in Chicago," one of my colleagues said. So of course, when it came time to choosing the food for our company anniversary party, we went with their pizza.
I anticipated the meal for days. A pizza that tastes great, really? At Expo East, the trade show for the natural food industry, I had tasted about 7 different gluten free pizzas, and they were all fine, usually made with a combination of corn, rice, potato and/or soy flour. I didn't love any of them and they were masked by strong sauce and ample cheese. But this one had the promise of godhead, of everlasting youth and joy. Of a palpable qualitative difference.
And then the day came. How could it have been anything but disappointing? The crust was made from a corn base - something I avoid in my eating and in my gluten-free baking. It was soft, didn't have a great bite, and really did not taste anything like pizza crust. Even the die-hards commented that it wasn't as good as it had been in previous years. Something had changed, but what was it? I didn't know, I didn't care, but I was determined to make a gluten-free pizza I could live with.
I developed two different recipes, both riffs on a basic recipe I found in a conventional cookbook (I was just trying to understand the dry:wet:yeast:salt ratio). To the first recipe I added baking powder, which I removed in the second recipe. I used ground Salba (or Chia) in the second recipe in addition to Xanthan Gum. I like the flavor and it absorbs water 12:1. I added more water in the second recipe, and let it sit longer. The result? A yeasty, bready, chewy crust that actually tastes good on the first day as well as the second. The Salba/Chia is pretty important to the recipe, but you can replace it with another gum if you can't find any. You do need to start the dough AT LEAST 12 hours before you plan to use it, preferably longer. The flours, particularly the rice flour, needs time to absorb the water.
Cake and Commerce's Basic Pizza Dough
1 Packet Yeast, Dry
1-2/3 C Water, warm
2 t Sugar
1 C BROWN Rice Flour
3/4 C LIGHT Buckwheat Flour
1/2 C Garbanzo Flour
1/2 C Oat Flour
1/4 C Tapioca Flour
1 T Salba or Chia Seed, GROUND FINELY (you can grind it in a clean coffee grinder)
1 T Xanthan Gum (if NOT using Salba/Chia, replace with 1 T more of Xanthan)
1 T Salt
Before measuring out dry ingredients, add yeast, warm water, and sugar together. Make sure yeast is robust and lively by checking, after 10-15 minutes, if the yeast has started to bubble.
In a large bowl, combine dry ingredients. Once yeast has started to bubble, add water/yeast to dry ingredients. Mix thoroughly. The dough should be VERY WET. This is good. You do not need to worry about mixing or kneading - in conventional wheat doughs it is done to develop gluten, but there's no gluten to develop here. Form dough into a ball.
Pour a small quantity of Olive Oil into the bowl, about 1 T. Roll dough in oil, cover bowl loosely with plastic wrap, and allow to rise until double in size.
Once it has doubled, punch down dough and divide into three balls. Place back in bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and place in refrigerator overnight (or for at least 8 hours). The dough needs this time so the rice flour absorbs water and ceases to be gritty.
When you are ready to bake it, preheat oven to 550 F or as high as it can go. Use pizza tiles if possible. If you do not have tiles or a stone, place a sheetpan in the oven, flat side facing UP.
To make pizza: Take one of your balls of dough and thoroughly dust it in light buckwheat flour (you can let it come to room temperature now OR wait until after you have flattened it out). On a floured surface, flatten out the dough with your fingers until it is thin, no more than 1/4" thick. I sometimes do this step on parchment, to make transfer to a pan easier, or to place directly on the tiles (since I don't have the proper tools to make pizza at home). Cover with plastic and allow to come to room temperature - about 20 minutes - if you haven't already. Throw some rice flour on a sheet pan (it is gritty, like semolina). Place your flattened dough on it, stretching a little more if necessary.
Garnish with sauce and cheese of your choosing. Bake until bubbly and cheese starts to color.
The dough can also be used for breadsticks and bagels, if you are so inclined.