It used to be that grease and cheese were the reasons dieters put pizza on the list of forbidden foods. These days, it is more likely the crust, made with wheat flour, that might be the enemy.
Whether you are gluten intolerant, on a low-carb diet to control your blood sugar, or just interested in vegetable-based cooking, you may want to check out this new variation on a very old recipe. Pizza that substitutes a crust made with flour for one made with cauliflower is 100 percent gluten-free. Unlike white flour, which rates a 71 out of 100 on the glycemic index, cauliflower is an impressive 0. In addition to the vegetables you’ll get on top of your pie, you’ll be consuming at least another serving by eating the cauliflower crust. A member of the cruciferous vegetable family and a bona fide superfood, it is believed to contain heart-healthy, anti-inflammatory, cancer-fighting compounds. It is also rich in vitamins and minerals and full of fiber.
Conventional pizza crust is nothing more than flour, water, yeast, and salt. When moistened, flour develops stretchy strands of gluten, a protein that gives dough structure so it doesn’t crumble and allows it to puff up without collapsing. Any gluten-free dough, whether it is made from gluten-free grain or from a head of ground cauliflower, is going to need something aside from gluten to hold it together.
In the case of cauliflower, a little cheese and an egg bind bits of ground and cooked cauliflower into a solid crust. Squeezing the excess moisture from the cauliflower will also prevent it from falling apart. Don’t expect a chewy, crispy, bubbly pizzeria-style result. This crust has the distinct but pleasant flavors of cauliflower and cheese, with a slightly floppy texture. You’ll probably have to eat it with a fork. But it’s solid enough to deliver the topping ingredients to your mouth, and that’s the main thing when you’re craving a cheesy slice.
As for the toppings, add whatever you like, but keep it light and relatively dry. Instead of a heavy coating of tomato sauce, scatter chopped canned tomatoes, drained of all juice, over the pizza. Low-moisture mozzarella is going to work better than damp ricotta cheese. Precooking watery veggies like zucchini and mushrooms is a good idea.
CAULIFLOWER CRUST PIZZA
1 small head cauliflower (about 2 pounds)
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese, divided
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1 (15-ounce) can diced tomatoes, drained
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 cup basil leaves, chopped (optional)
1. Place a pizza stone in the oven. Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Line a rimless baking sheet with a piece of parchment paper. (If you don’t have a pizza stone, just preheat the oven and bake the pizza directly on the parchment-lined baking sheet.)
2. Cut the cauliflower into florets, discarding the stem. Place the florets in a food processor and process until finely ground. Measure out 3 cups of ground cauliflower into a microwave-safe bowl. Cover and microwave on high for 4 minutes, stirring once after 2 minutes. Transfer the cooked cauliflower to a piece of cheesecloth and let cool slightly. Wrap the cheesecloth around the cauliflower and wring out excess water. Transfer the dried cauliflower to a large bowl.
3. Add 1/4 cup shredded mozzarella, Parmesan and 1/4 teaspoon salt to the bowl with the cauliflower and mix well. Stir in the egg.
4. Transfer the cauliflower mixture to the parchment-lined baking sheet and press into a 12-inch round. Slide the crust, still on the parchment, onto the preheated pizza stone. Bake until spotty golden brown, 12 to 17 minutes.
5. Sprinkle the diced tomatoes over the crust. Sprinkle the remaining 3/4 cup shredded mozzarella over the tomatoes. Drizzle with olive oil. Sprinkle with salt and ground black pepper. Continue to bake until the cheese is melted and bubbling, another 5 to 7 minutes.
6. Slide the pizza, still on the parchment, onto a cutting board and let stand 2 to 3 minutes to set. Sprinkle with basil, slice into wedges, and serve.
Makes 1 (12-inch) pizza, serving 1 to 2.