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Allergy-free baking-book review part one | Spicy taco pizza (GF)

Posted Apr 02 2012 12:22pm
When Mary Ellen from Book Publishing Company (The Farm, in Summertown, Tenn.) offered to send me a review copy of The Allergy-Free Cook Bakes Bread, a gluten-free baking book, she caught me at exactly the right moment. (If you're not so interested in GF baking, read on for the taco pizza, which can be made with a crust of your choice.) I've been eating gluten-free for about six months, and although I didn't find the change particularly noticeable in my general diet, baking is a whole other issue. I'd had a gross brownie failure, a successful cookie/cake experience, and a barely-OK bread-baking try. I was ready for something better.

I don't bake often, and don't eat many sweets, but six months is a long time without baking something, even for me. Because my experience with gluten-free baking is so minimal, I read Laurie Sadowski's book like a novel, from cover-to-cover. I appreciated her comparisons of the many kinds of flours, starches and other ingredients, her helpful information on how to customize recipes, her lists of substitutions, and her tips and techniques not just for baking, but for storing baked goods. Not only are her recipes gluten-free and vegan, she has accommodated just about every sort of food allergy you, or the friends and family you are baking for, might have.

One of the things I like so much about the cookbook is the recipes don't seem to be as starch-heavy as many of the ones I've seen. Nor are they as dependent on large amounts of fat and sugar for their success.

By the time I was ready to hit the kitchen, I was feeling much more confident. The recipes include everything from cupcakes, biscuits, doughnuts and scones to yeasted rolls, French bread, New York bagels, English muffins and pizza dough. (No cookies, though.) It was hard picking recipes to try, and I kept changing my mind. Finally, after seeing a post on Cadry's Kitchen about taco pizza, I knew what to do. I had to make pizza dough — the Essential Pizza Crust, to be exact.

The raw dough patted into shape.
It wasn't as hard to make a good GF pizza crust as I expected it to be; Laurie's directions were so helpful. I knew exactly what to expect from the dough at each stage. I might even go so far as to say making the crust was easy. There was one big thing I didn't do according to the directions, and maybe the crust would have been even better if I'd been able to make it exactly as described. Laurie lists a heavy-duty stand mixer as  a required piece of kitchen equipment, and I don't have one in my current kitchen, so I used my food processor instead. The other small change I made was to bake the pie for its second baking rather than use the broiler. And here's a tip from me: when patting out the dough, oil your hands and use your palms to gently pat the dough into shape. My fingers stuck to the dough regardless of the amount of oil on them, but once I developed a "palming technique," it was easy to shape the crust.

The dough after the pre-bake, just before I spread the sauce.
One pizza was enough for two eaters, and the recipe makes two.  After baking and cooling, I placed the leftover pizza on a paper towel-covered plate and covered it with foil before storing it in the fridge. The next night I added more sauce, more tomatoes and a few extra chips, and baked it on my pizza stone during the last 10 minutes or so of  our roasted vegetable bake-time, or until it was hot. The crust bottom was extra crispy and the pizza tasted great. Next time I may be brave enough to use the stone for the second baking, rather than the parchment-covered baking sheet. I was afraid the crust would stick, but I don't think that will be a problem.

The partially-baked pie before going into the oven for its second baking.
I mentioned earlier that I based my pizza on this one. Cadry was trying to replicate a beloved flavor from her pre-vegan days, but I had no such constraints. I'd never tasted a taco pizza, (and maybe I didn't even know there was such a thing!), so I was free to create my own flavors. I cooked a pot of black beans, and turned them over to my husband to make Cadry's spicy black beans while I turned my attention to the crust and the other toppings. I used Bionaturae jarred tomato paste to create a sauce like my father had taught me to do with water, granulated garlic, onion flakes, oregano and salt. To give it extra taco punch, I added chipotle chile powder and a bit of yeast flakes. It was thick, spicy and tasted great. For the chips, I used ones we already had — Food  Should Taste Good  multi-grain tortilla chips, though Cadry's choice of Picco de Gallo chips from Garden of Eatin' would be the way to go if authenticity is key. I layered  on sauce, beans, chips, olives, tomatoes and onions. (Cilantro, if I'd had some, would also have been included.) My husband and I loved our first taco pizza!

(Click on the recipe to see it larger. Recipe reprinted with permission.)

Allergy-free baking-book review part 2 will be about delicious chocolate chip scones.

Thanks to Book Publishing Company for allowing me to publish the recipe. Full disclosure: The cookbook was provided free to me by Book Publishing Company. I was under no obligation to write a favorable review, or any review.
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