Wednesday, April 1, 2015

The perfect make-at-home gluten free pizza

Our family LOVES pizza. No - I really mean it. I grew up in Upstate New York amongst many great mom and pop pizzeria's while my husband feasted on Chicago stuffed and deep dish growing up in Chicagoland. Needless to say, we each have our own opinions on Chicago vs NY pizza but we both agree that both are just about the perfect food.

If you've read any of my prior posts, you'll find many mentions of trying gluten free pizza offerings nationwide, as well as my attempts and eventual success at making a gluten free stuffed pizza. Well, it's taken over 7 years but I can finally say I've perfected a make-at-home thin crust pizza!

I've made close to a dozen from-scratch recipes, tried pretty much every baking mix and prepared crust. I've also made many different sauces as well as tried a ton of pre-made sauces. Surprisingly, I ended up with all pre-made ingredients - the from-scatch sauces and crusts didn't beat the final winners. Here they are:

Venice Baking Company continues to produce my favorite pizza crust so I order them in 12 packs from the Venice web site and store them in the freezer. I prefer the 12" seasoned crust. Join their mailing list or like their Facebook page to find out about occasional discounts.

Just in the past year or so Classico introduced 2 pizza sauces - traditional and fire roasted tomato. Both are excellent but I prefer traditional.

I find the actual brand of cheese hasn't made much of a difference although I did learn that I need to use a lot less of the Whole Foods brand organic cheeses than Kraft. Also, I tried fresh grating solid blocks as well as grated and really couldn't tell the difference so I tend to stick to Kraft or Sargento shredded cheese (whichever is on sale). I typically look for 3 different varieties:

  • "Pizza" cheese which is typically mozzarella and cheddar. I will also just use shredded cheddar.
  • Mozzarella
  • Italian mix
We tend to make 2 pizzas - one Cheese and one with Pepperoni, sun-dried tomatoes or roasted red peppers. Our favorite Pepperoni which is plenty tasty but not too greasy is the Hormel Turkey Pepperoni.

Tip: pre-cook the pepperoni.
Pre-cooking the pepperoni will take some of the grease out and leave in the flavor. Heat a pan on medium heat and add your pepperoni. I typically use between 14-25 slices per 12" crust, depending on much pepperoni I want.
Heat for 5-10 minutes until the pepperoni starts to glisten. Turn off the heat.
Tools of the Trade
Perfect pizza requires having a great tool set. I highly recommend a good quality pizza/baking stone and pizza peel. I've been through a couple of low quality cheap-os which were disappointing. I now have a Williams Sonoma pizza stone and 16" Pizza Peel have been very happy with it. When using a pizza stone, put it in a cold oven and turn the oven on to 450 degrees Fahrenheit, bake cycle. Broil or preheat will heat the stone to quickly and will result in a strange uneven result. My oven takes a good 30+ minutes to come to full temperature so when I know I want to make pizza I always work out exactly when I have to turn on the oven.

Pre-Cooking the crust
Gluten free crusts tend to be dense and absorb a lot of liquid so  you will first want to pre-cook the crust to crisp up the edges, making the resulting pizza crispier on the outside and less soggy on the inside. I pre-cook a crust for 3 minutes.
Assembling the Pizza
Each jar of Classico makes 2 12" pizzas. Gluten free pizzas need a little more sauce than their gluten counterparts. If you have tasted most of the frozen gluten free pizza out there you will know what I'm talking about.
Sprinkle on some Pizza cheese. If using straight cheddar, use about 1/2 of what you see here:
Sprinkle on a layer of Mozzarella
and then a light layer of Italian mix
If you are adding toppings do it now
Cooking the Pizza
In my 450 degrees Fahrenheit oven, on a baking stone, my perfect pizza cooks in 8 minutes. You will need trial and error to determine your baking time. I know it's done when the edges of the crust have browned and the cheese is bubbling.

Recipe Summary
  1. Place baking stone in the oven.
  2. Turn oven on to 450 degrees Fahrenheit, bake cycle (not Broil or Preheat).
  3. If your crust is frozen, take it out to thaw while you wait for the oven to heat.
  4. Pre-bake crust for 3 minutes
  5. Spread 1/2 jar Classico Pizza sauce on crust, covering all except the very edge
  6. Sprinkle Pizza Cheese or Cheddar cheese as a light layer
  7. Sprinkle a layer of Mozzarella Cheese
  8. Sprinkle a dusting of Italian cheese mix
  9. If using toppings, add toppings.
  10. Bake 8 minutes until crust is lightly browned and bubbly.
  11. Cool on cutting board for 5 minutes, cut pizza with pizza cutter or large Chef knife, cool another 5 minutes and serve.
  12. If making 2 pizzas, pre-heat 2nd crust while assembling first pizza. Then assemble 2nd pizza while first pizza cooks. I usually make the Giggler's cheese pizza first so it's cooler when we sit down for dinner.
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