Posts Tagged ‘olive oil’

Wheatless, Eggless, Gluten-Free Crusts

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A tremendous amount of people have varying degrees of wheat and gluten allergies now. Some folks whisper that the genetic make-up of modern grains is the culprit and, for the most part, they are right. Some, like myself, just want to accomodate people and their aversion to wheat and gluten because they will become my customers for life so I can buy new cars, politicians, pectorial implants and a “posse” to follow me around saying, “John, you are absolutely right on all counts!” (can you tell I’m married?).

At my little place called Avalanche Pizza Bakers, I’ve used a partially-cooked non-gluten, non-wheat pizza crust from Still Riding Pizza because I have too much wheat flour flying around my shop. Still Riding is run by Elizabeth Silverman, who supplies pizza goons like me with excellent non-gluten crust made (with egg) in a dedicated non-gluten facility. It comes in a sealed bag, ready for careful topping by us. We put alot of disclaimers on our packaging because we bake it in a pizza oven with other wheat things. People with wheat or gluten discomfort have given the crust rave reviews because finally, they can have pizza with the rest of their family.

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Now, however, I’m ready to delve deeper into the wheat/gluten arena and come up with my own crust for pizza and focaccia. In the 30 years I’ve been  in the food business, I’ve learned that people must know their enemy, just like Al Pacino in Scarface, who learned never to go into a bathroom with a guy who has a chainsaw. I refer to the basic makeup of wheat and the gluten produced when wheat flour is mixed with water. So here’s a little story about  the elements that make lots of folks sick:

Once upon a time, two partial proteins named Glutenin and Gliadin fell in love. Both were brought up in a small town called Endosperm in the great State of Wheat Kernel.

Even though they were closely related (let’s just say 2nd cousins for the censors), their love for each other was intense, so they decided to bond in a holy matrimony. The wedding was a beautiful one, overseen by Reverend Water. All was going great at the reception until a cretin named Mr. Yeast crashed the party. Mr. Yeast has stomach problems, and when he dipped into the hydration punchbowl and danced around, he released lots of  gas (real bad). Luckily the new couple, now calling themselves the Glutens, created a net to stop the gas from embarrassing the whole party. Mr. Salt and Mrs. Oil were also invaluble in strengthing the net holding that ungodly gas at bay.

As the party progressed, the heat rose and the gasses grew and grew and grew, until the whole reception decided to go into a warm (a very warm) room. There, even though things got a little crusty, they worked everything out, to a crunchy end.

Okay already, I know it’s a goofy story, but as I push my hand into the finest corn flour I’ve ever seen, I realize I need to replicate the gluten net holding any gasses that yeast will release. This will be the only way for me to get some sort of rise out of my non-gluten experiment. I have promised many customers who are gluten or wheat intolerant that I will come up with something soon.

This is a daunting experiment, and I have not even cracked “book one” on the subject. I have competed in the non-gluten challenge at the World Pizza Championships, however, and know that Europeans have an affinity for certain flours such as chickpea and rice. I’m using some local corn flour and am excited because I saw this corn grown on the stalk last summer, harvested this fall, stripped off the cobs this winter and milled just recently by my friends Michelle Ajamian and Brandon Jaegar.

Luckily my first experiment turned out pretty good. Here goes, a pizza that is very good and a foccocia that has a  great mouth feel, taste and texture rivaling flour. This recipe makes 13 balls of dough.

Dough for pizza or focaccia:

4 cups finely ground corn flour

1 cup oat flour

1 cup quinoa flour

1 cup brown rice flour

1 cup millet flour

2 cups chickpea flour

1 cup tapioca flour

1/4 cup potato starch

1/2 tablespoon baking powder

1/2 tablespoon active dry yeast

1 tablespoon salt

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

4 cups warm water

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Grains on top row, left to right: millet, brown rice, quinoa, oat and corn. Bottom row: salt, yeast, baking powder, potato flour, tapioca flour, chickpea flour.

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Place all the dry ingredients in a large bowl, and stir only until the flours are incorporated. Add the warm water and mix gently with your hands. Do not overmix. Form a large ball.

Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let rest after setting the bowl in a warm place at 70-75 degrees for 30 minutes.

Now you are ready to divide this dough into 6 ounce dough balls (makes 13.) Use what you need and freeze the rest or make some foccacia. (BEFORE WE GO, REMEMBER THERE IS NO GLUTEN IN THIS DOUGH AND IT WILL NOT STRETCH, PULL OR RISE WITH ANY SIGNIFICANCE. KEEP IT ON THE PARCHMENT PAPER OR IN THE PAN.)

For the pizza topping:

Extra virgin olive oil as needed

One can of whole peeled tomatoes

3 fresh basil leaves

Pinch dried oregano

Pinch sea salt

2 ounces cheese, preferably whole milk mozzarella, grated (about 1 cup)

Preheat oven to 460 degrees and place an upturned cookie sheet on the middle rack to get hot.

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Take a small amount and form a ball (aproximately 6 ounces). You will be making a 10 inch pizza so if you do not have a scale, imagine the size being just smaller than the size of a tennis ball.

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Place a piece of parchment on the table. It must be at least 11 inches square. Oil it lightly with extra virgin olive oil.Place the ball in the middle and press down in the middle. Keep pressing gently with your fingertips until you have pressed the dough out. (TAKE YOUR TIME!) The outside edges will start to crack so you must push them back together again. Remember, the same quality (no gluten) that makes it hard to form can also be on your side when repairing holes and cracks. Once you’ve got the round to a disc shape, brush the top with olive oil. This will help for the next step, pressing it further into shape.

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Being patient, keep pressing now with more of the flat of your fingers until the dough is 10 inches in diameter. Using your fingertips on both hands, form the outside edge. Use the brush to finish the edging.

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Drain the can of whole tomatoes in a colander. Tear the tomatoes into little pieces with your hands, and let drain for 5 minutes longer. Transfer to a bowl. Tear the  basil leaves and add them, along with the oregano and sea salt. Stir.

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Top the crust with the grated cheese, followed by the tomatoes. (Are you wondering why the tomatoes are on top? I want the fullest cook possible on this dough and the possibility of a liquid coming in contact with these flours would exacerbate the already inherent flimsiness of the finished crust.)

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Place the parchment on the heated upturned cookie sheet and bake for 12 to 15 minutes, or until the crust starts to turn brown in spots. Check the bottom of the crust for golden browning. Pull from oven when the crust is starting to turn golden brown. (Note: some of the flours burn faster than others so look at the overall pizza before taking from the oven.)

Serve immediately.

Foccacia topping:

1 large or 2 small red onions

Pinch dried thyme

2 fresh rosemary sprigs

Extra virgin olive oil as needed.

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

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Cut 2 small or 1 large red onion in half lengthwise, then half again, then half again to make slivered petals. Dust with dried thyme and toss with 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil. Roast in an oven at 450 degrees for 5 to 8 minutes, until the onions are just barely limp when tossed.

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Oil a square or rectangular non-stick sheet pan or cookie sheet with extra virgin olive oil. Place 36 ounces of the non-gluten dough in the center and press gently into the pan to form a cohesive mass approximately 1/4 to 1/2  an inch thick.

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Place the onions on the dough and press down into the dough. Place petals from 2 rosemary sprigs into the dough and around the onions.

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Bake for 15 to 20 minutes until you can place a spatula under the crust and see the browning in the bottom-middle of the pan.

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This recipe should produce a nice firm and flavorful bread free of gluten, wheat and egg. Please enjoy.

Brown Turkey Fig, Guanciale and Maytag Blue Pizza

“That’s the best pizza I’ve ever tasted”,  my wife said to me as she took a bite of  this pie on a sunny October afternoon. I was somewhat put off by her excitement-as if she was actually saying “You mean to tell me that YOU made this pizza?” After snarfing down a slice, I couldn’t disagree, this pizza really is great!

The pizza in question is festooned with my crowning achievement in agriculture this year, which means I grew something that didn’t die a horrid shriveled death. The Brown Turkey fig tree that my son Sam and I planted (he calls it “Little Grumpy”) had actually produced fruit: little teardrop-shaped orbs of sweetness.

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My introduction to the savory-sweet contrasts of a fig pizza was in Sorrento, Italy, where I shared a prosciutto and fig pizza with my wife on our first trip there. On top was shaved Parmesan and rocket (arugula) drizzled with unfiltered olive oil, and balsamic-soaked raisins. The taste of that pizza (and the one in this recipe) flies gloriously through the whole spectrum of salty, sweet, sour and bitter, which, along with the crunchy textural quality of the crust, is a whole dinner unto itself.

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Figs are originally from western Asia. From excavations, they are known to have been around since 5000 B.C. In Italy, the best known varieties are the Gentile Bianco from Liguria, the Verdello, Ottato, and the Brogiotto Bianco. The Italians usually eat them fresh or paired with Prosciutto di Parma. Figs are frequently sun-dried, which gives them five times more calories by weight than when fresh. Italians also  soak them in blood orange juice and honey, or boil them with honey and cover with chocolate.

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The Brown Turkey fig has much more sophisticated names such as Aubique Noire, Negro Largo and San Piero. It is originally from the Provence region of France. Some sources describe the flavor as “insipid,” but not my figs. More teardrop shaped than round, they explode with sweetness.

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In usual Pizza Goon form, I ate wayyyy too many of the figs and had to bolster the pizza with a few black Mission figs from California (so much for a sustainable pie). This pizza also consisted of an adventurous grilled guanciale (pork jowl), roasted sweet red pepper, Maytag blue cheese, fresh mozzarella, baby arugula and a balsamic glaze straight from heaven.

If you do not have fresh figs, use Dalmatia Fig Jam from any specialty store or (and I know I’ll get hell for suggesting this…) buy some Fig Newtons and ever-so-gently cut the breading off of the sides. Scrape the middle into a bowl, add a little water, whisk and…yuk-a-voila, faux fig jam is born.

If you have a great fig pizza recipe, please send it and I will publish it.

Using the Easy Dough Recipe, make two 7 ounce dough balls

Guanciale or pork jowl (or 5 slices of cooked bacon, cut in matchsticks)

1 medium red bell, sweet Italian, or Toro pepper (see Toro pepper pizza)

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

2 tablespoons crumbled Maytag blue cheese

3 to 4 ounces fresh mozzarella (5 small balls of Ciliegini brand)

15 leaves of baby arugula

6 to 8 fresh figs

Balsamic glaze for drizzling

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Pre-heat the oven to 475 degrees, with a heavy duty upside-down cookie sheet in the middle rack.

Fire up the grill to high.

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Slice approximately 2 centimeters of the skin off the guanciale or pork jowl. Turn the jowl on its back and slice 4 to 5 thin (quarter sized thickness) slices.

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Place the pork on the grill and wait for the action to begin. (This practice is inherently unsafe. Why? The pork fat will drip onto the drip pan or coal and start a fire. So be careful.) The jowl will not start flaming until you turn it over. Place the pepper on the slices to get greasy and help burn the skin off and incorporate the porky flavor into the pepper. Keep an eye on the slices as they will flare up. Cook for 5 to 8 minutes or until the jowl is browned around the edges. The pepper will take a little more time to become blackened and devoid of structure.

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Put the pepper in a paper bag or bowl with plastic wrap over the top to steam for 10 minutes. Peel the skin off of the pepper, starting at the top, where you can get ahold of the skin. Without running water over the pepper, finish peeling it. Pull the stem and core out and shake off the seeds. Cut in strips lenthwise down the pepper.

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Cut the guanciale into matchsticks the same size as the peppers.

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Cut the figs into 3 slices each, by first cutting off the stem and slicing vertically down the figs.

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Roll out the dough per the instructions in the recipe. Brush the crust with extra virgin olive oil.

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Place the Maytag blue cheese, then the mozzarella, on the oiled crust.

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Place the guanciale on the cheese, followed by the red pepper strips.

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Place pizza in the oven and bake for 10 to 12 minutes.

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Wait for 4 minutes to top with the arugula and fig slices.

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Drizzle with balsamic glaze and serve one of the best fruit pizza recipes I’ve ever tasted.