Here we are, with our first recipe for 2013 with Baking with Julia/Tuesdays with Dorie: Pizza with Onion Confit. Delving into making pizza probably wouldn’t have been a personal choice to make, especially so close after the holidays. But upon closer examination of the recipe, it turned out to be a much lighter version as far as calories are concerned and minus the excessive cheese. The type of pizza crust in this recipe reminded me of my travels through Northern Italy. Just out of college, and traveling with several American students, we stopped by some local restaurants in the Northern Italian Alps, and all of them served pizza with a rather crispy crust, topped with delicious herbs, fresh tomatoes and very small amounts of locally made cheese – mostly goat cheese, or some type of mozzarella. That was my first introduction to Italian food and I loved it and from then on expected all pizzas to turn out just like the ones I was introduced to in these quaint mountain villages of Northern Italy. Yet, most of my American friends expected a slightly different version, and some probably felt disappointed, because these locally made dishes lacked the familiar touch of what they had been introduced to at home. Isn’t it interesting how our expectations, especially when it comes to food, rest on what we are familiar with. When many years later, I got my first taste of an American pizza (i.e., soft crust, dripping with cheese and loaded with meat), it was disappointing because I had identified with a much simpler, yet delicious type of pizza back in Italy. I realize, of course, that each region in Italy is known for its own specialties, and my own introduction so long ago, represented just one of many. Even here in the US, over the years, most American pizzas have changed so much and not always for the better. We now have double crusts, and double the amount of cheese and meat. Eating gluten free is actually a blessing in most situations, since very few restaurants are able to guarantee a gluten free pizza – free of cross-contamination. A true celiac, and even a very sensitive gluten intolerant individual could never risk eating anything that has been prepared, or baked alongside gluten rich foods. Especially in a pizzeria, with flour literally floating in the air and coating the typical pizza oven.
Over the years, we have experimented with several gf pizza crusts. Most commercially prepared varieties, or mixes, nearly always contain corn, another allergen for us and therefore out of the question. Bob’s Red Mill Gluten Free Pizza mix has always worked out well, but it does not lend itself to be handled like a typical pizza dough. It produces a rather soft, more ‘liquidy’ dough that has to be spread out onto the pizza pan and it also calls for the use of eggs. For all of the above reasons, this particular recipe intrigued us and we looked forward to creating a new gluten free crust, free of eggs and dairy.
By the way, you can find the original recipe (using gluten) for this pizza at Paul’s beautiful site The Boy Can Bake. You can also check out the exquisite entries by all the TWD bakers at Tuesdays with Dorie.
This recipe will make two pizzas. Allow at least three hours of prep. time for this recipe. There are two rising times of 1-1/2 hours each. Steve Sullivan, the contributing baker for this recipe calls for the preparation of a sponge, made of yeast, tepid water, olive oil and flour. For our gluten free version we used a combination of sorghum, brown rice, tapioca and sweet rice flour. The sponge is allowed to rest in a warm place (80-85°F), covered, and needs to fully develop for about 1-1/2 hours. Our sponge more than doubled in size during that time and we then added the remaining flour (made up of the same flour combination with the addition of 1-1/2 tsp. of guar gum and 1 Tbsp. of rice bran) and an additional 1/4 cup of water and 1 tsp. of oil. Again, we let the dough rest, covered, in a warm place for another 1-1/2 hours. It again doubled in size, which surprised us, since most gluten free pizza dough doesn’t easily accomplish that without the addition of at least one egg, or an egg substitute.
While the second rising took place, I prepared the onion confit, over low heat, following the directions in the recipe, but without the addition of creme de cassis – just didn’t feel like purchasing an item we probably wouldn’t use again anytime soon.
The aroma of the onions, prepared with red wine, vinegar and thyme permeated our house. The onion mixture cooked for almost an hour, allowing all the moisture to be absorbed. We let it cool while preparing the actual crust. First I cut the dough in half, tightly wrapping one half of the dough, and refrigerating it for another pizza in a couple of days. I dusted a baking board lightly with a little sweet rice flour and rolled out the dough to the recommended 1/4-inch thickness. Since we don’t currently own a pizza stone, we used our regular perforated pizza pan, greasing it with a little butter. I then transferred the rolled out dough onto the pizza pan. The dough was very pliable and easy to handle. A very pleasant and welcome surprise.
I topped the dough with half of the onion confit mixture (reserving the other half for the next pizza), about 3 Tbsp. of sliced black olives, some marinated green olives, organic cherry tomatoes cut in half, sliced shitake mushrooms and a some goat cheese with tomato and basil, and baked it in the preheated oven (450°F) for about 15 minutes. While the dough did not continue to expand while baking, the pizza smelled delicious and we couldn’t wait to try it.
Once removed from the oven, we garnished the pizza with some fresh water cress. It was easy to slice, and tasted absolutely delicious, crispy, yet tender and chewy. It is definitely a keeper, and we will be making it again in the future, experimenting with different toppings.