April 10, 2008

Pizza & Focaccia - The Joys of a Poolish

When we first went gluten free, I searched for the perfect pizza recipe, as it was the food I missed the most. I made recipes and then tweaked them over the course of a few years. My favorite pizza recipe had been the one I made from my sourdough starter. However, I was having challenges with keeping my starter from becoming bitter as it aged. Eventually, I used it all up on a last loaf of bread that my husband and I ate with a chunk of Swedish Fontina cheese and a delightful red wine (Boarding Pass, 2005, a Shiraz from South Australia).

My next challenge was to try and create the flavor of sourdough, but without the same challenges I had with the starter. Enter Peter Reinhart and his extremely helpful tips on making bread. I had purchased his book Crust and Crumb: Master Formulas for Serious Bread Bakers in an effort to create the flavor I wanted from the pizza dough. The technique Peter talk about that I used to create the dough in this pizza is a pre-ferment or a poolish. Taking an equal amount of water and mix of gluten free flours with a touch of sweetener and the yeast, I let the mixture sit and ferment for at least an hour. I add the touch of sweetener to give the yeast a good head start in trying to raise the heavier gluten free flours. The pre-ferment time allows the crust to take on a rich yeasty flavor and just a touch of sourness like you would get from a sourdough starter.

Typically I remove one third of the dough to make a focaccia for those of us who can't eat tomatoes at my house and the rest goes to make a traditional pizza. This recipe will make a 12 inch traditional pizza and a 5 inch focaccia. It is enough to feed my family of four for a meal and a snack for the kids, although most of it is consumed by our ever growing pre-teen son. I guess I'm going to have to start making a double batch of dough, if my husband wants to enjoy cold pizza for breakfast.


Pre-Ferment (Poolish)

1 pkg. yeast
1 cup warm water, 110 - 115 degrees Fahrenheit
1/2 cup certified gf oat flour
1/2 cup brown rice flour
1 1/2 tsp agave syrup

Finishing the Dough

1/4 cup brown rice flour
1/2 cup corn flour
1/2 cup arrowroot
2 tsp chia seed meal
1 tsp sea salt
1 Tb olive oil
1 Tb agave syrup

Topping Options

Pizza Sauce
Flavored Olive Oil
Fresh Basil
Mozzarella Cheese
Ground Bison
Chicken with Oregano
Sage Sausage
Or Anything You Like

Equipment Needed: A plastic or wooden spoon, a large glass, plastic or wooden bowl, pizza pan or pizza stone. Note: A pizza stone will yield the best results.

1. In a medium bowl, pour in the warmed water and the yeast. Allow the yeast to soften for a couple of minutes. Then dump in the flours and the agave syrup. Stir to thoroughly blend all the ingredients. Set in a warm draft free location for one hour. Note: Don't leave the pre-ferment for any less than 30 minutes or the rich yeasty flavor will not be there.

2. While the pre-ferment is rising, dump the flours, salt and chia seed in a large glass mixing bowl and stir together. Note: Make sure the chia seed meal is thoroughly incorporated so that you don't have small clumps of gel in your dough.

3. When the pre-ferment is ready, pour in the agave syrup and olive oil into the bowl. Then slowly pour the pre-ferment into the bowl of dry ingredients. Stir the dough together until the dough forms a round ball. Note: The dough can vary from being slightly sticky to a being slightly firmer.

4. Set the dough aside for 10 to 15 minutes while you prepare the toppings for the pizza and preheat the oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit. Note: If you have a pizza stone, put it into the oven before starting the preheat cycle.

5. For the Focaccia: Lay out a sheet of parchment paper on the counter. Scoop out one third of the dough and place on the paper. Sprinkle a little corn flour over the dough and dust your hands with it before shaping the dough. Shape into a rounded loaf and using your pinkie finger press indentations around the top of the dough. Spread a flavored olive oil over the top of the dough and let some sit in the indentations. Sprinkle on your choice of toppings. Then put the parchment paper with the focaccia on it into the oven on the pizza stone and bake for 12 minutes or until the dough is slightly browned. Makes 1 5-inch focaccia.

7. For the Pizza: Lay out a sheet of parchment paper on the counter. Scoop out the rest of the dough and place on the paper. Sprinkle a little corn flour over the dough and dust your hands with it before shaping the pizza. Pat out the dough into a circle using the corn flour as needed to keep your fingers from sticking. Spread the pizza sauce over the top of the dough then sprinkle with fresh basil sliced into fine strips. Place slices of mozzarella cheese around the top and cover with your favorite toppings. Place the parchment paper with the pizza on it in the oven on the pizza stone. Bake for 12 - 14 minutes or until the top is slightly brown and the cheese is bubbly. Cool and serve. Makes 1 12-inch pizza.


Carrie said...

I've been waiting for this post ALL week Natalie!! I cannot WAIT to try this! I am so often amazed by the amount of research you do to create a wonderful recipe! Thank you so much for this egg free and gluten free crust! This will be on the menu next week!! Do you think a mix of sorghum and millet flour would work in place of the brown rice flour?

Sheltie Girl said...

Carrie - Thank you for the lovely comments. My thoughts are that the mix might turn out a little on the strong side when you add the slight sourness created by the poolish. However, it would be worth the experiment to see if it would turn out a great alternative to using brown rice flour.

Sometimes brown rice flour can have a slight bitterness to it too when you add it to the yeast mixture, almost like the flour has gone rancid. To counteract the bitterness, I add a little extra agave syrup to the dough (between 1 tsp & 3 tsp). Do it to taste, so that the dough doesn't get too sweet. (Note: I have had this happen a few times, even though the flour should still be good based on the sale by date.)

Sheltie Girl

VeggieGirl said...

your gluten-free crust is BRILLIANT!! I especially like that focaccia that you made :0)

Simply...Gluten-free said...

Yum, what a great recipe. Who says us non-gluten eaters can't have pizza?

Shreela said...

Can yeast use inulin sugar to ferment?

Sheltie Girl said...

Veggie Girl & Simply...GF, Thank you for stopping by and visiting. I appreciate your comments and I hope you enjoy the pizza as much as my family.

Sheltie Girl

Sheltie Girl said...

Shreela - I think it will work just fine based upon the chemistry of inulin from Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Inulin). Inulin is a fructan made up of "multiple fructose units and typically a terminal glucose." (Wikipedia) I use agave syrup which is a fructose and glucose blend as well. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Agave_syrup). So I would think that inulin should work quite well. Let me know how it works and what brand name you are using. I'd like to experiment with using inulin. Thanks!

Sheltie Girl

Naomi Devlin said...


I'm just covering my eyes and trying not to read your delicious looking post in case it makes me weep!

I nominated you for a meme if you fancy doing one - it's just 6 words that describe the essence of you. Quite cute I thought.

x x x

Sheltie Girl said...

Naomi - I'm sorry to be torturing you, but I hope you can find a crust that will work for the Specific Carbohydrate Diet.

You know 6 words about me is pretty tough according to my husband, especially when the first 5 are all chocolate. I'll give it a try though!

Sheltie Girl

White on Rice Couple said...

Eating gluten free is not as challenging as I always thought. Great recipe and we'll have to make this and serve it to our gluten free friends!