During the ten years I've taught gluten-free baking classes, two questions are asked more than any others: "How do I make bread?" and "How do I make pizza?" Bread and pizza. My favorites. In this column we've already covered sandwich bread—it's time to make pizza!
You want a great, easy pizza crust, right? Here's what to do: start with a Chebe bread mix. My students have never gasped but, I can tell, they've come close. They know that I bake from scratch. This recipe is the exception to that rule.
Why a mix? Because of the modified tapioca starch it contains, Chebe makes an excellent pizza crust with the "chew" that's so often missing from gluten-free baked goods. Since buying modified tapioca starch is a pain, I use the Chebe mix.
I'm not a food scientist. So, honestly, I don't fully understand the process of making modified tapioca starch. My research proved somewhat futile, likely because modifying tapioca starch is a proprietary process. All I've been able to glean is that when an inorganic material is added to the starch, the characteristics of the starch change. In the case of tapioca starch, we are left with a super-stretchy starch.
How stretchy? Gluten-like stretchy. You could almost toss this dough over your head like they do at pizzerias. Prepared as the package directs, I find Chebe unpleasantly chewy. Slightly doctored, however, it makes a great pizza.
Add white or brown rice flour, baking powder, and salt to the mix. That's right—baking powder. Telling pizza-savvy SE'rs that this crust can be made without yeast makes me a little nervous. But it's the truth: this crust is excellent without yeast. Since restaurants serving safe gluten-free pizza are still hard to find, it's great being able to make this last-minute crust without having to allow it to rise.
If the thought of a yeast-free pizza is anathema to you, no problem! Replace the baking powder with one packet of active dry yeast. When leavened with yeast, the dough needs to go through about an hour of bulk fermentation (rising in the bowl) and about 45 minutes of pan rise. The baking powder dough? Just mix it up, place it into the pan and bake.
Speaking of baking, no matter which version you use, yeast or baking powder, bake the crust beforebefore you top it. Topping the raw dough and then baking makes for one really soggy pizza. I like all types of pizza, but soggy crust pizza isn't one of them.
Variations: As written, the recipe makes a New York-style pizza crust. Here are a few variations that I really enjoy.
Whole Wheat-style 1 cup brown rice or sorghum flour 1/4 cup ground flax meal
Whisk brown rice (or sorghum flour) and flax meal together with Chebe mix, baking powder, and salt. Prepare as directed below.
Garlic and Herb Crust Add one or two freshly minced garlic cloves and two teaspoons of your favorite dried herbs to the crust. Dried basil, rosemary, oregano are nice.
Parmesan Crust Add 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese to the dough
Yeast Leavened Crust
Works with either New York-style crust or Whole Wheat-style crust.
Replace baking powder with one packet active dry yeast. Whisk yeast into warm (100 to 110°F) water. Knead dough as directed. Roll dough into ball and place into greased bowl. Lightly grease the top of the dough. Allow to rise for about one hour. Punch dough and roll into greased 18-Inch-x-13-Inch. Cover lightly with greased plastic wrap. Allow to rise for about one hour. Preheat oven and bake as directed below.
- 1 (7.5 ounce) package Chebe Original Bread Mix (not Pizza Mix)
- 1 cup white rice flour
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 3/4 cup water plus an additional tablespoon or two, if needed
- 2 large eggs
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
Preheat oven to 425°F.
In large bowl, whisk together Chebe mix, white rice flour, baking powder, and salt. In small bowl, whisk together water, eggs, and olive oil.
Pour water mixture over dry ingredients. Stir with a wooden spoon to combine. Dough should almost form a ball. If dough is dry, add one or two more tablespoons of water.
Lightly white rice flour your counter. Turn dough out onto counter. Knead dough until elastic and pliable, about one minute.
Round dough into a ball.
Grease 18”x13” baking pan. Again, white rice flour your counter. Roll dough out into large rectangle. I usually roll it out about 15”x13”. In a quick movement, transfer dough to baking pan. Using you hands, press dough evenly into pan. Dough will be thin but will cover the entire pan.
Bake until lightly golden brown, about 18 minutes.
Remove pan from oven. Top as desired. Return pizza to oven and bake until toppings are hot. Time varies depending on topping.
Remove pizza from oven. Allow to cool for five minutes. Cut into squares and enjoy.