You often ask me what I do with everything I bake. Other than feeding them to my husband and 3 always-hungry children (and my husband’s coworkers), here’s how it goes: When you come to my house, you get fed. Period. I’ve got product to move, and you’re gonna help me. When I go places, I tend to bring boxes of the gluten free treats that are always piling up on my kitchen counter and in my freezer.
Every once in a while, someone in a food service business tries some of our fabulous gluten free treats and insists that they should be packaged and sold. I always blush a bit, coyly say no-thank-you (I’d rather develop recipes for you!) and feed them more.
But lately I’ve been saying this: if someone wanted to help me make and somehow market my Thick-Crust Gluten Free Pizza from GFOAS Bakes Bread (recipe now right here on the blog), I’m all in. I’ll find the time! Because the thin crackers that usually get passed off as gluten free “pizza” are making me crazy. This is pizza. That is not. And after 8 tries (yes really 8!), I can tell you how to successfully stuff the crust. Just like Pizza Hut, except better (!).
The first 7 tries, I had increasing degrees of success stuffing the crust of this gorgeous thick crust gluten free pizza. I submit to you that the problems I had were not unique to gluten free pizza. It’s just kind of hard to get cheese to stay in the crust of your homemade pizza. You can put it in there, but it’s the staying part that’ll get ya.
Well, it finally (finally!) really really stayed. It didn’t explode out the back, and it didn’t just pour into the center. The longer you bake it, the more likely a bit of the cheese in the crust is going to sneak into the center a wee bit. But definitely not all of it.
All you have to do is read the instructions carefully all the way through before you begin, stare at the step by step photos for a minute or so, and then go step by step by step, just like I did.
So what’s the secret to stuffed crust pizza success? The cheese in the crust must be grated cheese. I tried using everything from cheese sticks (no good—big explosions in most places) to chopped and matchstick-style cheese (no good – lots of leaking still) before finally realizing that grated cheese was best.
The bits of grated cheese have built-in air pockets which prevent it from building up too much steam in the oven, and the steam build-up is what causes the cheese to exit the crust.
The other secret? Rolling the crust thicker in the center and thinner at the edge. That way, the stuffed crust isn’t too thick and the center holds. Take that, Pizza Hut!
About 3/4 cup (6 fluid ounces) gluten free tomato sauce (I used this simple tomato sauce, which I make at least once a week)
Fresh basil, for sprinkling
Make the pizza dough according to the recipe instructions and place the dough in the refrigerator in a sealed container. Although the pizza dough recipe instructions indicate that the pizza dough should be placed in the refrigerator for at least 12 hours and up to 5 days, if you prefer, you may make and use this dough on the same day. It will not be as easy to handle, however, but you can work with it. To use the dough the same day it is made, be sure to use water that is the proper temperature. Then, after making the dough, cover it and set it to rise in a warm, draft-free environment to nearly double its size (about 1 hour). After it has risen, place it in the refrigerator for at least 15 minutes or until it is chilled. This will make it much easier to handle. Then, continue with the rest of the recipe instructions.
Shape the pizza dough. Place a pizza stone (or overturned rimmed metal baking sheet) on the bottom rack of your oven and preheat the oven to 400°F. On a lightly floured surface, knead the dough until smoother as directed in these General Shaping Tips. Divide the chilled dough into two equal portions, and roll each into a ball. Sprinkle both lightly with flour, and cover one with a moist tea towel so that it doesn’t dry out. Using well-floured hands and a rolling pin, as necessary, pat and roll out the first piece of dough on a lightly floured surface into a 15-inch round, rotating the dough and flouring it frequently, to prevent sticking, as shown in the gluten free pizza shaping video. To make shaping easier, once you have rolled the dough out into about a 6-inch round, transfer it to a lightly oiled piece of unbleached parchment paper. Continue to roll and pat the dough into a 15-inch round, rolling the dough more thinly as you work from the center of the dough to the edges to create a more stable center and an edge that is easier to roll up and over the ring of cheese you are about to create.
Stuff the crust and assemble the pizza. Sprinkle about 4 ounces of the grated cheese in a narrow ring close to the edge of the dough, leaving about 1/2-inch clean at the very edge (see the photo). Gently pull the very edge of the dough up and over the ring of cheese all around the round of dough, tucking the very edge of the dough under itself to seal in the dough and using the oiled parchment paper to coax the edge of the dough up and over the cheese. You will have to overlap the dough in places. Gently squeeze the stuffed edge to help seal it. Using a pastry brush, brush the entire surface (including the outside of the stuffed crust) of the pizza round sparingly with the olive oil. Spread an even layer of about half of the tomato sauce on top of the pizza right up to the edge of the stuffed crust.
Bake the pizza. Place the crust, still on its parchment paper, on the hot pizza stone. Bake until the crust is browned underneath and the cheese is melted (about 12 minutes, but time will vary depending upon how crisp you’d like the crust). As soon as the pizza is removed from the oven, sprinkle it with fresh basil. Allow the pizza to set for a few minutes before slicing and serving. Repeat with the second piece of dough.
P.S. If you haven’t yet, I hope you’ll consider picking up a copy of Gluten Free on a Shoestring Bakes Bread! I sincerely appreciate your support, and together we’ll run those pathetic-looking cracker-pizzas out of town for good!