Tuesday, 6 July 2010

paleo/low carb/gluten free/whatever you wanna call it pizza

I do try to eat a low carbohydrate diet when I can, not counting those times I have wine and cake (*cough*). There is a history of (pre and adult onset) diabetes in my family and being the apple-shaped gal that I am, I try to eat a low sugar diet to get the weight off and reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes. I'm not usually a fan of finding replacements for high carbohydrate dishes - don't even get me started on cauliflower "mashed potatoes" - but I came across a recipe today for flourless pizza, and thought I'd give it a go.

I love almond flour (ground almonds) and use it for baking and making pancakes. I stumbled across a recipe for pizza using ground almonds on Mark's Daily Apple, and curiosity got the better of me. I made some minor adjustments and used my favourite sauce recipe, and lo, pizza came out of my oven for the first time in a very long time. To my surprise and absolute delight, it tasted good. Obviously, this will never come close to proper pizza dough made with 00 flour and baked in a wood oven by someone who loves you a great deal, but it is a worthy substitute. I think this base would also work very well for a savoury tart (e.g. goat's cheese, tomato, basil, and caramelised onions) or for a sweet tart or cheesecake base (omit the salt from the dough recipe and add a little sugar/sugar substitute.)

Some tips before the recipe:
  • Add more sauce than you normally would for a wheat flour-based crust. The almonds absorb a lot of liquid, and the pizza can come out on the dry side if you don't use enough sauce.
  • This base has a very neutral taste. Unlike a traditional crust, you won't get much flavour from the dough. A traditional Margarita pizza, for example, probably won't work very well with this base. Go for big flavours in your toppings, like spicy meats, chillis, herbs, and strong cheeses.
  • The base will end up like a soft shortbread consistency. If you prefer a thick, chewy/grainy crust, don't press it out thinly. Once the pizza cools, the crust firms up quite a bit and becomes crispy on the outside.
  • I found this pizza to be quite filling. This recipe makes a pizza roughly the size of a dinner plate if you press the dough out fairly thinly, which I feel is enough for two people if you serve it with something on the side, like a salad.
Flourless Pizza

For the base:
1 cup almond flour/ground almonds 
1 large egg
1 tbsp olive oil
Pinch of salt 

For the sauce:
1 tin plum tomatoes
2 cloves garlic, peeled (left whole)
A few sprigs of fresh basil
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 180C and grease and/or line a baking sheet.

Combine the base ingredients in a bowl until it forms a firm ball (similar to a cookie dough consistency). Add more almond flour if necessary. Press the dough on to the baking sheet, forming a circle. Create a "lip" around the edge of the dough. (See photo, right.)

Bake for 15 minutes, or until golden brown. (See photo, left.) In the meantime, make the sauce. Add the olive oil and garlic to a saucepan over medium heat, and warm the oil until the garlic starts to sputter. Add the tin of tomatoes and basil. Let the tomatoes simmer for around 5 minutes, stirring and breaking up the tomatoes with a spoon. Pour the tomatoes through a coarse sieve, pressing it down to squeeze out all the juice. Pour the sieved tomato sauce back into the pan, and let the sauce simmer over medium-low heat until it's thickened. Season to taste.

To your cooked base, add the sauce and toppings of your choice. Return the pizza to the oven and bake for another 15 minutes, or until the cheese is bubbly. Remove from the baking sheet so that it doesn't stick to it as it cools.
Slice, serve, eat, and relish in the fact that you're eating pizza.