Im an explorer in my own kitchen, a curious cook who likes to improvise.
I’m an explorer in my own kitchen, a curious cook who likes to improvise. I apply the Christopher Columbus-method in most of my cooking, using recipes like maps for inspiration. I don’t always know where I am headed but 99% of the time, my recipes are successes. I take copious notes so, like Columbus, I can find my way home again! My recipes are always well-tested so I don’t send our readers over a culinary cliff!
Here’s my latest exploration. The other day, I was experimenting with from-scratch pizza and toppings for the Oct/Nov 2018 issue of the magazine. (I can’t wait for you to see it!)
I had extra pizza dough and company coming. I recall one cookbook author telling a group of bakers that more baking surface made for better tasting gluten-free baked goods.
I thought I’d try that principle with my pizza dough. I pulled the shredded mozzarella from my fridge and the heirloom tomatoes and fresh basil from my garden.
I created a very thin rustic flatbread for my company – a cross between a pizza and a cracker.
It worked beautifully. The best part is that my new flatbread creation is so easy and delicious and no one guessed it’s made without gluten.
Here’s how I made it. It’s best to use a pizza stone and a pizza peel (paddle) for this recipe. Don’t worry if you don’t have either. Instead, use a heavy-duty baking sheet and get out two of the largest spatulas you have.
Set a pizza stone on the bottom rack and set the oven to 425 degrees or create a makeshift stone by turning a baking sheet upside down on the lowest rack. The idea is to create an even, hot surface that will bake the crust quickly.
Make up a recipe of pizza dough. You can use a mix or try this recipe from our web site. Prepare the dough. Now, here’s the trick. Brush some olive oil (about 2 teaspoons) over the surface of a sheet of parchment (or aluminum foil) and begin rolling the dough and pressing it into a free-form rectangle about 11 x 16 inches, two flatbreads that measure 6 x 12 inches each, or circle or two. This is more about method than shape so do whatever suits your fancy. If using a recipe that makes two crusts, make more flatbreads or use half for a traditional pizza. Cover the dough with an oiled sheet of plastic wrap to help roll it out. You want to press this puppy into a cracker-thin crust about 1/8th inch thick.
Just to be sure it has a bit of a yeast head, cover the dough with another sheet of parchment (or plastic wrap) and let it rise for a few minutes while the oven finishes preheating.
While it rises (allow about 15 minutes) and the oven heats, slice the tomatoes very thin, so they will cook quickly. Remove the parchment from the top and brush the crust with about 2 teaspoons of olive oil. Top with 2 cups of shredded mozzarella and scatter tomato slices over the top. Use enough tomato slices to cover the surface but don’t let them overlap. Sprinkle about ¼ cup of Parmesan cheese (per flatbread) over the tomatoes and top with herbs – chopped basil and oregano are good. Here’s the other tip. Slide a pizza peel under the flatbread then slide the flatbread onto the preheated stone. Bake about 18 minutes or until the edges are browned and the cheese has melted.
If you don’t have a peel use a couple of spatulas to slide the flatbread onto the stone. You can also roll out the flatbread on a baking sheet and set the prepared crust, baking sheet and all, on the stone.
If you can’t have cheese, mix herbs and garlic in olive oil and brush it on the crust or choose one of the many dairy-free cheese alternatives.
Columbus would have loved my discovery. My guests did, too.Originally posted August 2018