Pizza, pizza, pizza! We at Sirens & Scoundrels are always ones to initiate a gathering and a “Build Your Own Pizza Party” is an instant crowd pleaser. It’s a fun way to feast while accommodating any dietary restrictions. With all the different crust and cheese alternatives available now and an assortment of toppings, everyone can have it their own way!
I have been experimenting with Cauliflower Pizza Crust because it’s a wonderful gluten-free alternative. The first time I tried to make this vegetable-based crust, I learned a lot. I found that the drier my ingredients, the crisper the crust. All of it was delicious, especially the crisp edges, but the center of the pizza had more of a polenta consistency than a crust. We ended up eating the pizza with a fork, which goes against that satiating feeling of picking up a slice with your hands and devouring it. As your resident foodie, I went back to the drawing board. I’m a fan of New York-style thin crust, so here’ s a few tips:
TIP 1: The smaller you make your crust, the crisper it is. There’s more “edge” to each slice, versus on a whole pizza pie where you have just a portion of the edge and a “doughy” center. I experimented with making individual-sized crusts, instead of a whole pie and found that this was a win.
STEP 1: Build Your Crust
2 cups packed riced cauliflower (Follow the instructions for Ricing Cauliflower: here)
½ cup grated parmesan
½ cup grated low-moisture mozzarella
TIP 2: It’s important to use “Low-Moisture Mozzarella”. In combination with parmesan, these drier cheeses will bind your crust without adding moisture to it. As a topping, they also both melt nicely without making your pizza crust soggy.
Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Line 2 cookie sheets with parchment paper. Combine all of the ingredients in a bowl. This is where your inner artist/foodie can go rogue and make your own decisions. Try my mini-pizza-crust idea. Try a bigger traditional pizza pie. Try a rectangular shape. You get to make it your own. Grab a handful of the “dough” and press a flat layer on the cookie sheet in the shape of your choosing. Bake crusts for 30-35 minutes at 450 degrees. You want your crust to be pretty “dry” in the center before you take it out of the oven. Check on the baked crust and accommodate your bake time depending on the size and shape of your chosen crust. Once done, take it out of the oven and let it cool to room temp. I found that as the larger-sized crust cooled, it would “bead” with moisture. You may need to dab it down with a paper towel to dry any additional moisture from the center.
STEP 2: Your Sauce
1 -28 oz. can of San Marzano Peeled Tomatoes (you can use any canned tomatoes, but I’ve found that the San Marzano tomatoes are so flavorful and delicious)
4 cloves of minced organic garlic (I love garlic, this is another place you can modify your preference)
1 tsp dried oregano
1 pinch of red pepper flakes
2 Tbsp of olive oil
1/5 cup of chopped fresh organic basil
Salt & pepper to taste
TIP 3: The sauce is very important to the texture of the pizza. I’m a big fan of a good homemade red sauce. The longer you cook it, the more moisture will evaporate (which you want for a crisp crust) and the flavor will intensify.
Heat an iron skillet over medium heat. Add the olive oil, tomatoes and garlic to the skillet, stirring and breaking up the tomatoes with a spoon. Let the tomatoes cook, stirring occasionally, for 20 minutes. Add the red pepper, oregano and basil. Reduce the heat and continue to let cook. Salt and pepper to taste. The longer you let it simmer, the sauce will reduce down to a very chunky consistency without much excess moisture (the clear water will separate from the rest of the sauce). If you are pressed for time, drain any excess water off, otherwise let it simmer until the excess water evaporates.
TIP 4: Dry out all of your toppings as well. There are two ways to do this. One way is to chop up your choice of toppings (mushrooms, onion, spinach etc.) and pre-cook them in a skillet with 1 Tbsp of olive oil. They will sweat out some moisture as they cook. Make sure to drain off any excess liquid and then dab them dry before placing on your pizza. The other option is to place your raw ingredients (such as sliced tomato) on a paper towel, sprinkle them with salt and let them sit. You will notice the vegetables will start to “bead” with moisture after about 5 minutes; the longer they sit the more moisture will release. Dab any excess moisture off with a paper towel.
Now that you have prepared all of your ingredients, the party can begin. Your guests can combine different sauce preferences, toppings and cheeses to design “build your own” pizza masterpieces. The sky’s the limit! Bake in the oven an additional 10 minutes at 425, until the cheese melts. Sprinkle with red pepper flakes, fresh basil, or a pinch of fennel seed to make it your own. Bon Appétit!
For more uses of the cauliflower crust, see the triumphant “Cauliflower Crust Egg-in-a-Hole” experiment: here.
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Recipe by Sarah Prikryl // Photography by Sarah Prikryl
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