Sunday 8 March 2015

Cauliflower Pizza Base

Cauliflower pizza bases have been making the rounds on blogs, and in the news a lot in the past few months. I’m a little late at joining the party as I only made and tasted my first cauliflower base pizza a couple of weekends ago, when I met up with my sister. We like to get together every few months, catch up with each others news and cook something for lunch. Cauliflower pizza is something we have both been longing to try for some time so pizza it was to be!

The base is made of blitzed, lightly cooked cauliflower that is bound together with ground almonds and eggs before being prebaked to form a ‘crust’ on which to spread your pizza toppings. Its gluten free, dairy free, paleo, flourless and grainless so would suit a wide variety of diets. It’s lower carb, is fibre packed and higher in protein than your traditional bready pizza base. So far so good.

After cooking the cauliflower and squeezing out the excess water we were left with a mix that almost resembled a dough. We combined this with the other ingredients to create a thick paste which is then baked. It turned a lovely golden brown colour and smelt really good when baking. Slightly nutty, no sodden cauliflower aroma. You make a little rim around the edge to hold in your toppings and give it that risen crust appearance, which is a nice touch.

After adding our toppings - mushrooms, artichoke hearts, courgette, peppers, olives and a sprinkle of chilli for us - it had a final bake before we tucked in.

We had a slight issue with getting it off the baking parchment, it had stuck in some places and being a softer, not so sturdy veg base rather than a chewy bread dough it was hard to get it off without tearing it. Note to self, next time use a silicone baking sheet, nothing ever seems to stick to them!

Once plated we took our first bites. It was interesting…good interesting but different. It had the flavour of pizza, but without the right texture. The crust was more of a base than an actual crisp crust. It was softer and lighter, slightly coarse in texture and reminded me strongly of a thick oat pancake in texture. It carried the flavours of the pizza toppings well, but you didn’t get that same crunch or chew as you experience from a bread dough base. It was also quite fragile, definitely a knife and fork job, you couldn’t pick it up with your fingers.

I know it sounds like we didn’t enjoy it, but we did! The flavour was delicious and we both agreed if you wanted a change from regular pizza or had a diet that normally prohibited pizza then this would be a great alternative. The base was slightly sweet and nutty, and we didn’t detect any overcooked sodden-sock taste or aroma to the cauliflower, it was very neutral. Nor did it taste overly of almonds or taste like a dessert, something we were a little worried about as it was so almond packed.

It was definitely like eating pizza baked onto a large pancake. Only the very exposed edges had stayed crisp, the rest having softened under the moisture from the sauce and toppings. That aside, we loved it and both agreed that we felt energised all afternoon without that usual bloat or drowsiness that often follows a pizza fest.

I want to make it again but try and tweak the base recipe to make it more of a crispy crust. To me that’s part of what makes pizza so great. We used a recipe from BBC Good Food, but I’ve seen others that don’t use the ground almonds and just use cauliflower and egg for the base. I think they may work better at forming a lighter, crisper, less pancake-like crust. Experimentation ahead!

Have you tried cauliflower pizza? What did you think?

Cauliflower Pizza Base
(Recipe from BBC Good Food)
1 head cauliflower (about 750g)
100g ground almonds
2 eggs, beaten
1 tbsp dried oregano
Salt & pepper
Oil for greasing

Tomato Sauce
2 tsp oil
1 garlic clove, crushed
1 x 220g can chopped tomatoes
1 tbsp tomato purée
½ tsp dried oregano
Small bunch basil leaves
Salt and pepper

Toppings of choice
1 x ball mozzarella
Courgette, mushrooms, olives, peppers, artichoke hearts, chilli etc

Preheat oven to 200C. Line two baking trays with silicone sheets or baking parchment that is greased with oil.
Remove the leaves from the cauliflower and trim the stalk end. Cut into chunks and blitz in a food processor until finely chopped, like rice. (You may need to do this in two batches).
Tip the cauliflower in a bowl, cover with cling film and microwave on high for 5-6 minutes until softened. Tip onto a clean tea towel and leave to cool a little. Once cool enough to handle, scrunch up the tea towel, twist and squeeze out as much liquid as you can. It should feel dry and almost look like dough. Then transfer it into a clean bowl.
Stir in the ground almonds, egg, oregano and seasoning. Mound half the cauliflower mix into the centre of each tray, then cover with a layer of cling film and use the flat of your hand to smooth the mixture out into an 8-9inch round. Pat the edges in to make it a little thicker and create a ‘crust’.
Bake for 15-20 minutes until golden brown and starting to crisp a little at the edges.
Meanwhile, make the tomato sauce. Heat a little oil in a saucepan and fry the garlic until softened. Pour in the tinned tomatoes, tomato puree, oregano and a few leaves of basil. Bring to a simmer and cook gently for 8-10 minutes until thick. Season to taste.
Once the cauliflower base is cooked, set aside to cool a little. Turn the oven up to 240C.
Prepare your toppings of choice. Spread the tomato sauce over the bases leaving a rim around the edge. Arrange your toppings of choice over the top and finish with some blobs of mozzarella. Bake in the oven for 15-25 minutes, depending on how thick you’ve made your bases and how much topping you have piled on!
Once cooked, leave to stand for 3 minutes before using a fish slice or palette knife to remove the pizzas from the tray. Scatter over some more basil leaves before serving.
Makes 2 x 8-9 inch pizzas, or one massive one.


Gluten Free Alchemist said...

That's so funny Katie..... I too have been wanting to make a cauliflower pizza for ages, but every time I buy a cauliflower, my husband turns it into cauliflower cheese before I get round to it!.
It looks pretty good! Your post is really informative and helpful in guiding through the process (and the pitfalls). It does make me want to get another cauliflower though (and stick a note on it saying 'for pizza only').....

Johanna GGG said...

I have tried a few cauliflower pizza bases and never found one that I love enough to repeat again and again though I love the idea and I did enjoy it but I took wanted more crispiness!

I think I stick to regular pizza these days because it is easier to get a 6 year old to eat it - though my favourite gf pizza base is made with besan

Meeta K. Wolff said...

YUp I've seen the cauliflower pizza go around a few times and am planning to experiment with it this weekend. Nice to find your thoughts here. Thanks!

Richard Gottfried said...

Someone mentioned cauliflower pizza bases recently. Good to see your post about them. We'll have to give it a try.