Saturday, May 31, 2014

Cauliflower Crust Pizza

Honestly, the first time the hubs and I made and devoured cauliflower crust pizza, we both agreed it tasted better than normal pizza. It has a *flavor*, even if the texture isn't quite the same as a crispy thin-crust pie.
cauliflower crust pizza: low carb, huge flavor
I've made this base many times now, experimenting with slightly different methods, and can impart two key points of wisdom: 
1) you must steam the cauliflower and squeeze it out before you form the dough 
2) shredded cheese works better than any other substitutes for binding the dough 

So, apologies if you're not into cheese (sorry not sorry... great pizza has gotta have cheese). You can try an extra egg as substitute, but the crust won't hold together quite as well.

Below you'll find the recipe for cauliflower pizza crust, and then suggestions for topping combos and methods. This really is a delicious alternative to grain-based pizzas, and no more time-consuming than making a wheat-flour dough from scratch. Plus, low carb, higher veg = win, win. Enjoy!

Cauliflower Pizza Crust
makes 2 big pizza bases (about 12-inch diameter) 

1 large head cauliflower
1 egg
1/3 cup shredded cheese (cheddar, mozzarella, etc)
Optional: 1 teaspoon dried herbs (oregano, rosemary, parsley, marjaram, etc)
Baking paper to line your baking trays or pizza stones

Pre-heat oven to 215C / 420F. Place two baking trays or pizza stones into the oven as it heats. 

To prepare the cauliflower you have two options: 
1) place the heads (not stems) into a food processor and process until you achieve an even snow-like texture; OR 
2) grate the heads (holding the stems, don't grate the stems) using the large holes of a box grater, this is least messy if done over a large bowl. 

Place the grated cauliflower in a microwave-safe container, cover, and microwave for 4-6 minutes on high, stirring halfway through, until cauliflower is tender and piping hot. (Alternatively, you can place the cauliflower in a saucepan on the stovetop over medium heat, cover, and cook for 6-8 minutes).   Remove cauliflower from microwave, uncover, and let cool for at least 5 minutes, stirring occasionally to release steam.

Once the cauliflower is cool enough to handle, pour half of the cauliflower onto a clean, dry dishtowel. Gather the towel together so that the cauliflower is in a ball at the bottom, and wring the towel over a sink or bowl so that you extract as much liquid as possible. Place the squeeze-dried cauliflower into a bowl, and then repeat the twisting-wringing process with the remaining half of the steamed cauliflower.

To the squeeze-dried cauliflower, add the egg, shredded cheese, and, if desired, a teaspoon of dried herbs. Mix well to combine evenly. 

Remove the baking trays or pizza stones from the oven and line them with baking paper (or oil the trays generously... but note that using baking paper yields the best results). Divide the cauliflower dough into two equal portions, and, using your hands, carefully spread the portions out on the trays into a large, thin circle, about 12-14 inches wide. Pat together any holes that appear.

Place the crusts into the oven, and bake for 15-25 minutes at 215C / 420F, rotating the trays halfway through, until the crust is completely cooked through and browning well around the edges. Remove crusts from oven, add desired toppings, and return the pizzas to the oven for another 15 minutes, or until your toppings are done. Serve immediately.

Cauliflower Crust Pizza: Topping Suggestions

We find we like our toppings best if we sauté the vegetables in a pan for a few minutes, then place them onto the pre-baked cauliflower crust with the meat, top with shredded cheese, and bake again for a good 15-25 minutes at high heat (215C / 420F). But we pile our pies high.  If you're more minimalist in your toppings, placing them raw on the pre-baked crust, topping with cheese, and baking 15-25 minutes at 215C / 420F will be sufficient.

Because we have food sensitivities to tomatoes in our house, we simply spread a little olive oil over the crust before piling on the toppings. But of course you can use tomato sauce for a traditional pizza base.

The amounts below are for *one* pizza, double amounts for two pizzas.

1 cup chopped, cooked rotisserie chicken 
half of an avocado, thinly sliced
1 thinly sliced red or yellow bell pepper (capsicum)
1 cup baby spinach leaves
1/2 thinly sliced purple onion
2 cloves minced garlic
1/3 cup shredded cheddar or mozzarella cheese
a few dashes of Cholula or another mild chili sauce to top

1 cup cooked prawns
3.5 oz (100 g) brie, diced into 1-inch chunks
1/2 thinly sliced purple onion
2 cloves minced garlic
big handful of fresh basil leaves
freshly ground pepper

3-4 slices prosciutto, torn or cut into pieces
1/2 thinly sliced purple onion
1 cup baby spinach leaves or rocket/arugula
1/2 cup thinly sliced button mushrooms
2-3 tablespoons chopped ripe (black) olives
1 tablespoon capers
1/3 cup shredded cheddar or mozzarella cheese
freshly ground pepper

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