Gluten-Free Focaccia

It’s been somewhat of an ongoing mission of mine to create a great gluten-free, yeast-free bread recipe (that’s also dairy and egg free). It’s been a challenging task, and my patience has often been worn down in the process, leaving me to give up after the first few failed attempts each time I get back to trying.

One problem is that I haven’t found a sufficiently good way to get a loaf of bread to rise without yeast or eggs or copious amounts of baking soda, which tends to leave a distinct and lingering aftertaste when not used in moderate quantities. I haven’t given up, but I have shifted my mindset to a more reasonable approach: the bread issue is one I’m going to have to tackle by taking baby steps, rather than giant leaps.

I thought focaccia might be a good place to start. By definition, focaccia is a flat bread, which right away solves some of the leavening problems. Sure, many focaccia recipes call for yeast, but I thought that it could easily be replaced. I went through several versions using several different flours, all which turned out decent, but this was by far my favorite. I toasted some slices and dipped them in olive oil, which turned out to be very tasty. I also used some of the bread to make croutons, which I used to top off a creamy broccoli soup recipe I was testing (stay tuned for that recipe in the days to come). I even ate some slices straight out of the fridge — cold — and still enjoyed them. That’s when I knew this was a recipe worth sharing with all of you.

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Caramelized Onion and Shiitake Pizza

It happens. You think you’re doing great, happily enjoying your new gluten-free life. You feel better. You might even look better. You start even saying things like “I don’t even miss pizza.” And then it happens. You see someone walking past you on the street, or walking into work from lunch, holding a big, fat, cheesy slice of pizza. And just like that, you start to feel alone, left out, dejected.

Don’t worry, though, because when that moment comes, you can go online, look up this savory gluten free pizza recipe, and make it. Right away (it’s really simple to make, I promise).

Sure, this pizza is a little different than the ones we were all used to once upon a time. But that doesn’t make it any less delicious. First of all, the crust is basically a socca. If you’ve had socca before, you know how delicious it can be. I’ve been really obsessed with this socca-as-pizza idea lately. Last time I attempted it, though, I went with a buckwheat flour batter and more traditional pizza toppings. It was good. It hit the spot. But after making this tonight, I can tell you one thing. There’s a reason the French use chickpea (garbanzo) flour to make socca. There’s also a reason that French cuisine (even of the non-Parisian variety) is emulated around the world. They simply know what they’re doing.

This “socca pizza” is crisp on the edges, ever-so-slightly chewy in the middle, and perfectly savory on top. I used Follow Your Heart vegan mozarella and a little sprinkling of nutritional yeast for some nuttiness to top it all off. It’s the perfect treat to ward off those gluten-free (or perhaps vegan) blues and to remind you that you don’t have to choose between feeling better and eating well (or alternately, eating well and helping the planet).

A few notes: You will need a cast-iron (or otherwise oven-proof) skillet for this recipe. The “dough” is not really going to look like dough. It’s more of a batter, like a crepe batter. You can feel free to experiment with different toppings, but I would stay away from “wet” toppings or sauces unless you cook the crust for longer from the start, or else you might end up with a soggier middle.

Yield: 1 9″ cast-iron skillet-sized pizza

Socca (crust) batter:

1 cup garbanzo bean flour

1 cup water

3 tablespoons olive oil (plus more for drizzling)

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

Toppings:

2 teaspoons olive oil

1 small yellow onion, thinly sliced

3 shiitake mushrooms, thinly sliced

1 tablespoon nutritional yeast (optional)

~ 4 ounces (a little less than half a block) Follow Your Heart vegan mozzarella cheese, grated with a microplane grater

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 450. Place a well-oiled 9″ cast-iron skillet in the oven while it preheats.

2. Meanwhile, whisk together ingredients for socca batter until frothy (about 2 minutes). When skillet is hot, pour in batter and place back in preheated oven. Bake for about 30-35 minutes, or until edges are browned and middle is firm to the touch.

3. While crust bakes, make topping by heating a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add oil and onions and stir to coat with oil. Saute onions until dark brown, about 7 minutes. Add shitakes and cook for another 3 minutes, or until mushrooms are soft and transluscent.

4. When crust is cooked, spread onion and mushroom mixture over top and sprinkle with nutritional yeast (optional) and “cheese.” Bake until cheese has melted. Serve immediately.

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Crispy, Skillet Flatbread Pizza

A while back I posted on my discovery of socca, the crisp, French flatbread made from chickpea flour. I made the batter into crepes and added rosemary and olives for flavor. I promised myself I would make a true socca one day; in the oven, in a cast iron skillet. But when I finally decided that last night would be the night to make real socca, my imagination took off from there. You see, I had also recently been trying to master a good pizza crust — a seemginly unsurmountable task if you’re looking to make it gluten-free, yeast-free and vegan. That’s where my original intent to make socca turned into an I wonder if I can make this into pizza thought. Three tries later, there it was: a crisp, flavorful, satisfying thin crust pizza — sans gluten, dairy or yeast. My favorite part about this particular method is that the crust does not require a multitude of flours, gums or starches. No rolling or kneading. No rising. It’s simple! Just pour the batter into a hot skillet, bake, add topings, and half hour later you’ll have a tasty gluten free pizza that’s lite and healthy as well. I mixed buckwheat flour with chickpea flour for a nutty flavor in this batter, but you could use a variety of flours here — brown rice flour and cornmeal come to mind.

Gluten Free Crust:

2/3 cup buckwheat flour

1/3 cup chickpea flour

1 and 1/4 cup water

1/4 cup olive oil (plus a tad more for greasing skillet)

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

My Toppings:

prepared, organic pizza sauce

sliced kalamata olives

sliced jalapeno

Follow Your Heart mozzarella “cheese,” grated with a microplane grater

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 450.

2. Place lightly greased 9″ cast iron skillet in preheating oven. Let it get really hot in there.

3. Meanwhile, whisk together buckwheat and chickpea flours and salt. Make a well in the middle and add water and olive oil. Whisk ingredients vigrorously until incorporated and bubbly.

4. When skillet is really hot, pour batter into skillet (it should sizzle!). Bake in preheated oven for 30-35 minutes. Add desired toppings and bake or pass through broiler to melt cheese (carefully watch if broiling to make sure crusts don’t get too dark). Enjoy!

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