Last evening, we embarked on a test run of family pizza night, after a too-long hiatus. We haven’t done it in so long because of the milk & wheat allergies (and assumed rice/corn, although food trials proved that to be false.) It was a smashing success. We tested this gluten-free pizza crust recipe from Minimalist Baker.
(If you can’t eat rice or grains, here is a grain-free crust, which we have not tried ourselves, but looks fine.)
The final consensus was that it was quite good, despite being far more chewy than a “regular” wheat crust. In fact, Mr. Norseman could not stop raving about it, and that is high praise indeed from him. It also held up well overnight, and made a pleasant breakfast food. It browned up nicely, including on the underside, looking just like a non-gluten-free crust. (Update, three days later….Mr. Norseman is still talking about that crust and asking me to make more pizza.)
But back to the chewiness – this is something at least one reader commented on and did not like. I suspect that it is due to the tapioca flour used in the recommended gluten-free flour blend. I think that substituting potato flour for the tapioca would result in a less-chewy crust, but I am not certain. I will be subbing it for the tapioca flour the next time I make it, and will update this post accordingly. It was a bit too chewy for Little Man, who has the allergy, but the rest of us enjoyed it.
A couple of other comments mentioned that it came out hard and dry, and that the cooking time was too long. We did not experience it being hard, or dry, but I did modify the recipe and cooking time after seeing those comments. You have to account for three things when baking with either wheat or gluten-free flour: local humidity, variations in oven temperature, and the properties of the particular grain or starch that you are working with.
Starting with local humidity: this recipe asked for an additional ½ cup of water added to the dough, after adding the yeast/water combo to the dry ingredients, but before stirring it all together. I don’t know why that is, but I only added about ¼ cup of water. I knew from my previous adventures with bread baking that the humidity here is high enough that most recipes generally need less liquid than is called for. This is something you will only learn by feel and practice. Don’t sweat it if you “mess up.” It is still probably edible and you are gaining valuable experience. Experience leads to excellence. Keep at it.
Next up: varying oven temperatures. Know that ovens temps don’t always match what the knob or screen says, even the new ones. My sister’s new oven is off by 5 degrees. I don’t know about ours, but I do know that it bakes “fast” sometimes. Again, this is just something I got a feel for. I baked the pizza crust for 20 minutes for the first round. It probably could have come out at 15 minutes, as the edges were already browning. Once I put the toppings on, I put it back in for 10 minutes, intending to do 10 minutes at a time, rather than the full 20 at once. It was perfectly done after those 10 minutes. Now, maybe the original recipe just has the timing off, or maybe those who ended up with dry, hard (possibly over-baked) crusts have ovens that run “hot.” Regardless, keep in mind that you may need to adjust the baking times.
Last up: properties of the flour you work with: Rice flour will be very sticky when worked up as a dough. The tendency then is to overcompensate with more flour. (In fact, this is something that can happen with wheat dough, too, particularly high-hydration sourdough.) When baked, the end product will be tough and dry. How this applies to the recipe: you are told to add a little brown rice flour to the top of the dough if it is too sticky as you flatten it onto the pan. I added a teaspoon at a time, just to the sticky spots. That worked out beautifully. Always add less flour than you think you need!
Overall this is an excellent recipe, easy to make, an inexpensive as well. We enjoyed it enough that we will be coming back to it again.