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Cauliflower Pizza Crust

http://dawnoffood.comI’ve had a few readers ask me about Cauliflower Pizza Crust.  To be honest, it took me a while to look into this because I was kind of like, meh.  Cauliflower is everywhere.  Rice, buffalo wings, and now pizza crust.  Seriously.  How much more can we torture one little plant?  We don’t do this to broccoli, do we?  What exactly was cauliflower’s crime?  Being bland?  Yup.  That’ll teach ’em, now douse it with hot sauce and say it’s the same as wings.

With paleo this and whole 30 that, people are trying to replicate dishes they like, but can’t have because of dietary restrictions.  I totally get it.  My husband has some health issues and truly needs to find alternatives to high carb, low nutrient dishes that he loves.  But cauliflower crust?  I put it up there with chocolate pudding made with avocados.  We are jumping the shark here people. Nonetheless, I decided to look into it.  I’m not a huge pizza fan to begin with, but everyone else is, so what could it hurt to give it a go?

So, I searched the internet high and low and came across a wide variety of recipes.  The general “how” of the recipe is that you pulverize the cauliflower, boil the pulverized bits and squeeze every last drop of scalding water out of the cauliflower by hand (natch!), combine the bits with cheese, egg, and spices and form into a crust and bake.  Dry cauliflower “flour” is the goal here, with egg as binder and the cheese as a bit of substance.  I suppose the spices are to try to trick you into liking it.

So I made it.  There is something so very first world about taking a lovely head of cauliflower and pulverizing it into useless mush to make a quintessentially unhealthy fast food substitute.

This kind of reminds me of wet grits.  Anyway, you boil these lovely bits for a few minutes.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI’m not the only one, grits, amirite?  Ignore the obviously fogged picture.  Sorry!!

So, then you take about 7 minutes to aggressively squeeze the life out of the grits cauliflower.  Damn the burned hands and hot water.  Squeeze like your life depends on it, because dinner certainly does!!

Cauliflower Pizza Crust

At the end of the squeezing, I got this sad little pile of cauliflower bits.  I added an egg, cheese and spices and was able to mold a pizza-like shape out of it.

I then baked it naked for a bit, topped it and re-baked it.  The plusses, no one in a million years believed there was no flour in the recipe.  Not my husband, nor the kids who watched me make it.   I could cut the pieces and eat them by hand, remarkable considering there’s no flour in this recipe. The inside of the crust was a bit “droppy”, but the outside was fine. I think a smaller pie might have made the whole crust more crispy, as would placing it on a pre-heated pizza stone for the baking portion of the recipe.

The kids loved it! My daughter considered it a wild success.  This is huge, as her menu is rather limited. My son eats anything, so while I value his opinion, hers is much harder to win over. My husband said it was really good for what it was.  Keep back, ladies, he’s all mine.

The crust was really spot on, nicely spiced, fairly substantial.  No clue whatsoever you were eating cauliflower and goat cheese.  Truly.  Was it pizza?  It is a wonderful substitute if you are dying for pizza, but really want to stick to a low carb or gluten free option.  You will, however, fool no one into thinking there’s isn’t something amiss with the crust.

The minuses?  Ugh, the work.  The squeezing and the scalded hands.

My recipe was inspired by The Detoxinista’s version of the crust.

Cauliflower Pizza Crust
Serves about 4

4 cups raw cauliflower rice (about 2 heads of cauliflower, pulverized)
1 egg, beaten
1/3 cup soft goat cheese (chevre)
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon powdered onion
1/2 teaspoon granulated garlic
1/4 teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.

Boil the raw cauliflower rice in salted water for 4-5 minutes. Drain. Place the boiled cauliflower in a clean dish towel and twist and squeeze all the water out of the “rice”. Squeeze until there is really no more water left. It will take a lot of time.  If you decide to skimp on this part, you will be eating the pizza with a fork and knife.  The horror!!

Place the “rice” in a medium mixing bowl and combine well with egg, cheese and spices. On parchment paper, or silicone sheet, form the “dough” into your desired pizza-like shape. I would not make it any thinner than 1/3rd to 1/2 an inch thick. The thinner the crust, the more likely it will be “firm”. However, make it too thin, and you’ll get holes in the crust.  1/3rd of an inch would be as thin as I would go.  Bake the crust for 30-35 minutes, until the crust starts to brown and is fairly firm.

At this point, top the crust with your favorite pizza sauce and toppings. Return to the oven and remove when the cheese is bubbling.

Einkorn Flour

When I started this blog, I decided to steer clear of most food controversies.  I try to eat whole foods that are sourced from responsible producers in the USA or other countries with high food standards.  I choose organic, where possible.  I also will look for pastured, grass fed or wild caught meats.  I avoid GMO foods and don’t eat processed soy.  Notice that I don’t say “never”.   I can’t.  If I eat out, I violate at least one of these tenets.

I can’t have a diet that is primarily carbohydrates, because I am prone to diabetes.  Also, I will gain a ton of weight on such a diet, regardless of whether the carbs are “whole” or not.  My diet is mostly protein, vegetables and fruits.  I don’t cut carbs out altogether, just don’t make it the focus of any meals.  Which brings me to Einkorn Flour.   Apparently, over thousands of years, humans have been selectively breeding wheat to grow better with good disease resistance.  Sounds great, right?  Well, this selective breeding is now being examined in light of a sharp increase in people with gluten sensitivities.  Some people are trying to bring back “ancient grains” like Einkorn, Spelt, and Kamut to find a flour product that will be less harmful and more healthful.

Einkorn contains gluten and is not recommended for people with Celiac Disease.  Let me state that upfront.  All wheat contains gluten, there’s no escaping it.  What I can say is that using Einkorn did not lead to blood sugar surges that are as bad as using just plain ol’ flour.  Also, it tasted better and, rather shockingly, I felt fuller faster.  Normally, if I’m splurging on a wheat product, I want to eat a bunch of it.  One cookie? Nope.  One pancake?  Nope.  Can’t each just one.  Here, I made pancakes and was quite happy to push away from the table.  So were the kids.  We actually ate less than our usual haul of weekend pancakes.  It has a more hearty taste, but is actually has a taste and it’s good.  Unlike the other flour that’s more of a building block instead of a taste determiner.  Does this mean I’m eating a bunch more carbs? No.  But a splurge once in a while with this isn’t terrible.

If you google “einkorn flour”, you’ll find claims that it’s more nutritious and better for you than regular flour.  You’ll also see where people believe that all wheat is evil and should be avoided, ancient or not.  I pass no judgment on these claims. I’m not a food scientist.  But I can tell you that if you are interested in trying Einkorn, it behaves very much like regular flour.  You may need a bit more liquid, but it was brilliant for our morning pancakes.  So much so, that I bought more!

For this recipe, I used James Beard’s recipe for “Basic Griddle Cakes” as a base.  I choose this recipe because Einkorn was rumored to lean towards a denser final product and Beard uses a whopping 4 teaspoons of baking powder in his 2 cups of flour recipe.  These pancakes were very light and airy and could in no way be described as dense.

Chocolate Chip Pancakes
Serves: A crowd

2 cups sifted Einkorn Flour (or all purpose flour)
1 tablespoon sugar
4 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 1/2 cup whole milk
1/4 cup melted butter
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup chocolate chips (I use bittersweet)

Combing the first four ingredients in a large mixing bowl and whisk together well. In a smaller bowl, whisk together the liquid ingredients. Add the liquid ingredients to the dry ingredients. Stir gently until most of the larger lumps are dissolved and the dry ingredients are completely wet. Gently stir in the chocolate chips. If the mixture is too “dry”, add a bit more milk to loosen it up.

Pour the batter onto a hot, lightly greased griddle or large pan. Turn the pancakes over when bubbles form and the edges appear dry. Turn and cook until the other side is lightly browned. Serve with your favorite accompaniment.