Newsflash: I love pizza.
I don’t usually pop a frozen pie in the oven these days, but delicious Amy’s Pizzas (and a shocking amount of wine) got me through a really rough time a few years back. Vanessa sent us some deep-dish pizzas a la Chicago that are scrumptious. I recently made my own dough, which was awesome. We often do ‘make your own pizza’ parties when we have a big gaggle of family in town. And on nights when neither John nor I feels like doing much in the kitchen, a few fresh toppings on a tasty crust with a side salad is plenty to make us happy.
This is not conducive to Project Reduce Gluten.
Have no fear- this blog isn’t morphing into “My Life Without Wheat.” This is just a temporary little journey to improve chances of having a family, and it’s proving to test my creativity when it comes to mealtime. Truthfully, it hasn’t been THAT hard. Rice crackers are actually my preference during happy hour snack time (with an array of cheeses, of course). When we had turkey burgers the other night, I simply didn’t eat a bun, though I’ve discovered some surprisingly yummy gluten-free bread options. I’ve made dishes served over rice, have my eye on a risotto recipe, and these cookie bars were a rousing success. So yesterday, John and I were walking the aisles at Whole Foods after a lunch date and he mentioned that homemade pizzas did sound pretty good for dinner. I spied this little number and thought, “How bad could it be?”
Spoiler alert: It wasn’t bad, but I wouldn’t call it GOOD.
Forgive the ending before I even begin, but this was a good lesson in open-mindedness. I had high hopes when I read the ingredients list and saw that yeast was involved. That’s legit! Plus, the pizza on the front of the box looked incredible.
After spilling most of the live yeast all over my counter (must be the gluten shakes), it ended up in a warm bath. In a bowl, I blended three eggs, a little olive oil, and some apple cider vinegar.
In went the yeast, and in went the bag of dry ingredients (a mixture of flours made from everything OTHER than yeast).
As I mixed it, it seemed… sticky. This was confirmed when I thrust my hands into the bowl to pull the dough out and it clung to my hands like paste. “What this dough needs is FLOUR,” I thought smugly. Instead, I coated a sheet pan AND my hands with olive oil and managed to spread the wanna-be dough onto it. I reminded myself that this alteration to my diet was voluntary and that I should reserve judgment until, well, judgment time.
Next came an odd part of the process. The directions said, “Cover pan and let dough rise for 45 minutes on top of a warm stove over a pan of warm water.” Huh? My stove doesn’t have a top. So I improvised by putting a baking dish filled with water over our toaster oven, set to “Low” heat. I hoped the little yeasts would do their thing.
Meanwhile, John’s normal, wheat-filled dough was mocking me from the counter. Here’s John’s look of sympathy (note the giant jar of flour). But I still had high hopes for my little gluten-free crust that could!
After the dough sat over the toaster oven for 45 minutes or so, I was supposed to poke it all over with a fork before baking it. As I did this, the dough still seemed pretty sticky, but it had risen a bit. It did seem thick for my usual pizza crust preference, but beggars can’t be choosers. I’d think deep-dish, not ultra-thin. Still yummy, right?
About 15 minutes later, the crust was baked and ready for toppings! It looked like an unsliced slab of focaccia bread. I cut away some of the crust, knowing I’d never eat a whole baking sheet-sized pizza. I figured I’d dress up the other part with butter and parmesan for a crusty roll substitute this week sometime!
I drizzled the crust with a little olive oil and topped it with marinara, mozzarella, some yellow peppers, and big, fat pepperoni. I also added some dried oregano, garlic salt, and fresh basil. Seriously- how bad can pizza be with yummy toppings?
John’s pizza went into the oven at the same time as mine. It was a CRUST-OFF… and we both already knew who would win. We made a tasty salad, poured wine, and awaited the verdict.
When the pizzas came out of the oven, they both looked pretty good. My cute little square version was pretty puffy, but looked delish. I remembered the years of enjoying thick-crust delivery pizza as I made a plate for myself. John snapped a photo just before my first bite. I promise I was more optimistic than my face reveals.
Truth? The pizza wasn’t bad. The crust was far too thick for my preference, much more like dense bread but with less flavor. I made mental notes to increase everything– the amount of sauce, the seasonings, the cheese, the salt, the spice. The crust needed dressing up.
One piece filled me up. I thought about the things I’d learned…
Don’t believe the box. Keep expectations open. You’ll get your hands dirty, but not in the fun ‘toss the dough in the air’ kind of way. Become best friends with olive oil. Double the sauce. Double the toppings. Season freely- add herbs and Parmesan and salt. Think Chicago-style, not New York. Stay positive and remember why you’re doing this. Drink wine.
After a few more weeks of no true bread products, I bet last night’s dinner will seem downright decadent. Will I make another gluten-free pizza crust? Sure! This was just the first try- a few tweaks and it might be a lot more satisfying. That said, some things might just need wheat flour. So for now, I think I’ll make the remaining crust into salad croutons, have a cookie bar, and research risotto recipes. Pizza just might have to wait.
**Do you have gluten-free guilty pleasures? Share your tips and recipes!